If you’ve just graduated from college, then you are probably already familiar with the art of creating a resume and have been steadily looking for software development jobs.
However, creating a resume is only a tiny step in the journey to getting the job you want. If you’ve filled out the application, sent your resume in, and been called for a first interview, then the fun is just beginning.
Preparing for an interview in software development requires most of the same strategies and preparation as other job interviews; however, there are aspects of software development job interviews that are unique to this field. The tips below will cover both common interview strategies and special considerations for software development interviews.
1. Do Your Research
You need to do your research on the company that is interviewing you. Be sure you know their products, their mission statement, any large changes that have happened in the company recently, etc. Your interviewers will assume that you have done research when you do the interview, so if they find that you do not know the company inside-out, it is usually grounds for disqualifying you as a candidate.
You can get started on your research by going to the company’s website, checking social media accounts, and reading the “About Us” page. Additionally, you can even doing a Google search to find articles, press releases, and other tidbits of information. You can be sure that the company is going to do a job background check and research on you, so why wouldn’t you do your research on them as well?
Aside from knowing about the company, you also must also know everything that there is to know about the job itself. This includes being sure that you know how to address anything that was mentioned in the job posting that you do not have on your resume – these will stand out like a sore thumb to the interviewers, and they are very likely to ask you to explain them.
Finally, it is not a bad idea to head over to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website and take a look at what the market rates are for the type of development job you hope to get. This information will help you negotiate a fair salary and get good benefits.
2. Be Prepared for Tough Technical Questions
The interviewers want to know how you deal with roadblocks and challenging scenarios. The questions they ask are meant to be difficult and stressful, but don’t let that get to you. This is your opportunity to differentiate yourself. If you have a plan and are emotionally prepared that the questions will be difficult, you will perform far better.
Step one is to fully understand the problem/assignment/question. That does not mean to read it once and get going; that means to read it twice and then outline it. The outline part might seem overkill for a simple prompt, but it is absolutely vital. It will allow you to be sure that you address every aspect of the problem at hand, and it will also impress the interviewers by demonstrating how focused, logical, and well-organized you are.
Once you have outlined the prompt itself, it is time to outline a strategy to solve the problem. Don’t start coding until you fully understand exactly what you want the final product to be.
A job interview is not the place to have to go back and tinker with things. Still, after your first draft look for edge cases and begin to think of questions the interviewers might ask about your work. Be sure you know how to address both.
3. Create a Portfolio Website
In the past, before the Internet, candidates would carry a big portfolio binder into the interview showing pictures, samples, and certifications, but you can now create your own stunning portfolio website instead.
It does not matter if you are building your own site from scratch or using a WordPress-based theme, what is important is the website’s final appearance, content, and functionality. While an interviewer would probably be content to ask you a few questions about your previous work, showing them a portfolio website on your tablet that showcases all your best work will make a profound positive impression. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
3. Dress Appropriately
What you choose to wear to your job interview can often make or break your chances of getting the job. Do your research and choose clothes based on how dressy or casual the workplace is.
If the workplace is casual, you could wear a nice pair of khakis and a nice shirt for men, and nice pants or a nice skirt and a nice blouse for women. Always dress slightly above the dress code of the software development position you are applying for. This will help them see you as someone with potential to grow.
4. Practice First
Before the day of your interview, or even just a few hours before, ask a friend or family member to help you practice. You can find many sites with sample interview questions to print out. Sit down with your friend and practice with them asking you questions and you giving them the right responses. Not only does this help you get ready for your interview, but it’ll also help with the case of nerves you’re probably having around that time as well. Ideally, practice well ahead of your scheduled interview so that you can get in several practice sessions to polish up your interview skills.
5. Make a Positive Impression During the Interview
You only have one chance to make a first impression and when it comes to getting a new job, you want to make a good one. Make sure that you speak clearly and shake your interviewer’s hand firmly when you meet them, making eye contact as well. Make sure that you sit up straight and don’t slouch.
You would probably do well during the interview if you just answer all the questions you’re asked. However, you can easily win the interviewer over by asking some great questions about the company and the industry. Interviewees are particularly impressed if you initiate a discussion about the company’s corporate culture because hiring managers are looking for the right culture fit in addition to your skills and experience.
6. Be On-Time–or Early
Imagine the poor impression a candidate makes if they’re late for their interview. Now, imagine you being the interviewer. How would you feel? Would you want to hire someone who can’t even be on time for the interview? Of course not. Because then you can’t trust them to be on time for work either. Make it your goal to be on time or early. It’s better to be five minutes early than five minutes late.
7. Make Sure to Follow Up
When you get home from your interview go ahead and send the interviewer a thank you email for giving you the chance to be interviewed. It’ll show that you’re a polite and thoughtful person, and keep your name and face fresh in the interviewer’s mind while he’s conducting other interviews as well.
These are just a few tips to help you prepare for your software development interview. Remembering the tried and true advice like do your research, dress appropriately, practice before the interview, and arrive on time will get you far; however, you need to also be sure to have a plan for the tech-specific aspects of the interview: be prepared for tough technical questions, build a great portfolio website, and do not get rattled by the intentionally difficult questions asked by interviewers.
Getting a software development job is hard work, but if you put in the time, it is well worth it.