Job interviews can be a big source of stress. Especially if you are an introvert. Tech interviews are challenging. Especially if there are a couple of people questioning your knowledge. Everybody can find themselves blocked or operating on a very reduced cognitive capacity in a tech interview situation.
How you can feel well prepared for a tech interview? How you can prepare yourself when you could be asked about anything?
There is always going to be stress in interviewing and that is something that needs to be accepted. Setting realistic expectations is stress-reducing.
And here are four tips that can make going to job interviews less stressful for you. Continuously, for years to come.
1. Keep Your CV Updated
Every six months or every time you are finished with your engagement on a project, whichever comes first, update your CV.
Add your latest project to the list, the technologies used and describe your responsibilities. When you have just a couple of days before a job interview, you don't want to spend hours or more working on your resume. You want to spend that time on...
2. Google the Unknown
You need to know the basics about the company you are interviewing for. What they do, what their domain is, what their products or services are. Google the unknown key terms to make sure you have a few sentences to say about them.
Usually, you will have information and a list of technologies the company uses on a project you are being interviewed for. These all are potential topics on your tech interview.
It would be great to have just a basic understanding of technologies you haven't worked with yet.
what the used technologies you haven't worked with yet are.
YouTube videos can be a great tool for giving you big-picture understanding in just a couple of minutes.
If you have more time than that, and you are motivated to go deeper, make your own notes.
3. Think About Yourself
The question you will for sure be getting is “tell us something about yourself”. On the day of the interview, I recommend you have a prepared answer.
This will be one of the first questions and I never want to be startled by it and start off on the wrong foot. Take some time to think about the current most important facts about you and the most relevant facts for the job/project you are being interviewed for. Then find three or four sentences that belong to both categories. These are the sentences you should say.
If an interview or that particular question raises a lot of anxiety for you, write your answer down. Open it on your mobile phone and read it a couple of times right before the interview to help you feel and sound more confident.
4. Make Your Own Technology Notes
Learning new technology? Revisiting a technology that you used years ago? Solving some typical tech interview questions? Learning algorithms?
Make your own notes while doing any of the above-mentioned. It helps you understand better and remember more. Keep your notes in the cloud, so you can access them whenever you need them.
Let's say there is a technology you used three or four years ago, and not once since then. If you have your own notes on hand, in a matter of minutes you can remind yourself of the basics and regain access to the knowledge that seemed forgotten.
Going through the mini tutorial you have made for yourself, with the information you find the most important, phrased in your own words, supported by examples chosen by you, is much more productive than google-ing and reading somebody else's tutorials online.
In the days preceding the interview, I find it best to go through the list of technologies that might be brought up at the tech interview.
My notes vary in length and type. I have made mind maps and drawings, text files with 5-10 sentences about technologies I haven't worked with yet, and 1-10 pages text files for technologies I used. I have made a couple of 20-page-long summaries of 400+-page-long books.
5. Not Yet Mindset
Usually, there is domain knowledge or some experience desired on the project that you don't have. Yet.
When asked if you already have experience with [technology], “no” is a bad answer.
Let's be real here, as a programmer and a lifelong learner, there are only a couple of days or weeks of your effort needed to cope with [technology]. This is why “not yet, but I am eager to start” is a much better answer.
And if there are a couple more sentences you could add, like “I would love to finally get into [technology feature or a concept it is made on]”, that would be great. Plus, you will be able to do just that if you have your notes about the [technology]. The way to compensate for a lack of desired experience is to be well-informed and to show motivation.
I believe the key to maximizing a programmer’s chances to shine on a tech interview and get the job is the feeling of being competent enough. The feeling of our own competence can grow with professional experience, but it isn't guaranteed. You can do more for yourself in this area if you set up your own system for continuous... preparedness!
And remember, your interviewers most likely want you to succeed. They want to find the person for their project and end the search.
So, good luck!