There are countless resources on “how to rock/ace/nail your interview.” The reality is that a lot of that process is out of your control. Not the answer you want to hear, I know, I know. But knowing that it's the employer's needs (and not necessarily your résumé), that dictates the success of the interview is valuable knowledge on its own. So I’ve broken down the 3 things that employers look for and the best way to prepare for them:
Tests and assignments assess the “hard skills” of a candidate - that part is straightforward. “Soft skills” like time management, managing people, and being able to communicate your ideas are just as crucial to the job, and often given less prep time. When preparing: yes, brush up on your hard skills, but also think of specific examples of times where you showcased your soft skills. These come in the form of “tell me about a time" or "give me an example of” questions. There's an incredibly easy way to know what hard/soft skills employers look for: examine the job posting! People often forget about the posting after they apply, but they often provide huge clues as to exactly what employers are assessing.
The truth is, the day-to-day execution of any job is always a little different from its job posting, and this is especially true for developers. Employers are happy to tell you about the exciting projects they work on and their team socials, but they know that’s not what drives the company. They know it’s important to find the people who are going to thrive within the realities of the company. This refers to things like the physical office space, constant change, management styles, work hour expectations, workflow, client demands, et cetera. A good interviewer will directly assess these. They will do this by asking about your previous experience with these realities, and open-ended questions like “tell me the best/worst manager you’ve worked for and why.”
Really listen to these questions to get a sense for some of these realities: if there are questions around working overtime and last minute deadlines you can expect this will come with the job. Know your comfort level with them and how you can show that with your answers.
In truth, there's not much you can do to prepare for "fit" other than to be yourself. This can be tough, especially if it’s down to you and another equally qualified candidate. How do employers choose? Think of it like this: you go on a couple first dates, and all the dates go well, with no reason to dislike anyone. But one of them just has something that makes you like them over the others. It comes down to gut. In this scenario *it's important to remember that this is a reflection of their preference and not your competence. *
At Lighthouse Labs we try to expedite the "fit" assessment with our Employer Speed Dating, so employers and students can focus on the other things that make a great hire. I find the best way to "be yourself" is to be prepared for all the other aspects of the interview, so you can be calm enough to let your personality shine. And remember, just like in love there is a job out there for everyone!
Want more career advice from Char? Apply now to Lighthouse Labs!