How to ace the phone screen interview It is common now to face a phone screen interview, or ‘screening’. This is where a company has an interview on the phone with you. Companies do it for a number of reasons too. A practical reason may be that a candidate currently lives some distance away from the company. At this stage (where the company is just looking for people to interview), it makes sense to screen candidates via phone. Other reasons include the need to pare down the number of applicants for interview so that you have the most suitable candidates in the interview room. This saves a company time and money. How to get it right Most of the time, a tech company will give you advance notice that they are going to run a phone screener. If this is the case with you, that’s great, because you have time to prepare. Prior to the interview, put together a list of strengths and weaknesses, and your responses to some of the more ‘expected’ questions. The very worst thing you can do is go into a phone screener unprepared. Having that list of answers and responses to hand will make you much more confident. Another good piece of advice is to practise the phone interview. This is possible if you can enlist your friends and family to run through a mock interview with you. Prepare a list of questions and your responses and then get someone to conduct an interview over the phone. This will give you experience so that you can sound more relaxed and conversational on the phone. Make sure you are ready for the call too. Find a quiet, distraction-free place where you can truly focus on the questions and on making the right impression. You can’t do this if you’re in a noisy room or distracted by other things. Your CV is a key document. You can assume that the interviewer will be referring to it throughout the interview. Make sure it is close to hand while you are on the phone, so you can address any queries about past positions or other details in the document. You’ve probably done your homework already about the company and how it operates. A screener is the perfect way to see how much you know about the company. It will pay off massively if you can answer questions with a clear view on the company and its history. You could discuss a major project that the company completed, one that you have read about. A tech interview, perhaps more than most interviews in other industries, is focused on the technical skills you can bring to the company. During a phone screener, you will have to be on the ball as regards what the company is hoping to achieve. Prepare, and make sure all you need is at hand, and you should find that you are confident and relaxed enough to ace the interview.
Curveball Questions In Tech Interviews And How To Answer Them We all know what it’s like. In fact, anyone who has ever had a job interview before will have actually experienced the ‘worst’ kind of question. We’re talking about the ‘curveball’ questions, those questions that are just so unexpected and random it can seem like you’ve stepped into an alternate reality, one where questions about everything except tech are the norm when you have an interview. Do not fret, we’ve taken some of the most curveball questions out there, and we thought we’d show you them, and hopefully show you how to answer them. If you were an animal, what would you be? This one is a bit of a classic. It’s weird, but quite manageable once you know the motivation behind the question. They are simply hoping to find out a little more about your personality and how it will fit into the workplace. If it’s a leadership role, mention some characteristics of powerful creatures, but be careful not to seem aggressive. Leadership also requires wisdom and empathy, and those two aspects should help you identify animals that make sense for the role. Are you a risk taker? This is a tricky question, because some companies don't like the risk taker type. You understanding the company you are applying at is vitally important here. If you know the company culture, then you will know how to answer the question. If they like taking risks, then jump into that culture in your answer, making sure they know that it's something you do too. If it isn’t a risk-taking culture, consider how you answer it, focusing on some aspects of risk-taking, but nothing that is going to cause any problems once (and indeed if) you start working for them. Why shouldn’t we hire you? This question is guaranteed to scare some candidates to death. It’s one of those questions that you just don't expect to have to be in a position to answer. However, it is actually a lot simpler than you think. It's not worth panicking over, and it could do wonders for your chances of securing a job. Convince me to hire you You might argue that this is something you are doing throughout the duration of the tech interview anyway, but you may get this specific question. Don’t panic. Instead, think of just two or three reasons why the employer should take you on. Having just two or three reasons means that you should be able to keep it concise and clear. This will make it more effective and much more likely to get you the results you want. They’re not looking for exaggeration, or empty messages that aren't specific. Think about the job spec you saw and give two or three ‘reasons’ with that spec as the guide.
How to use the STAR technique to answer tech interview questions It is often the case that tech interviews present some of the toughest questions in recruitment. The behavioural interview questions are some of the toughest as well. These questions ask you to discuss your actions and thinking at key ‘flashpoints’. When a particular problem arises, those who make clear and concise decisions are the most desirable employees. However, it’s a very challenging aspect of the interview. If you use the STAR technique though, you should find that you are able to handle the toughest behavioural interview questions. The STAR technique is not hard to master, and if you work hard to get the principles ingrained into your thinking, you should find that it gets easier the more you practise. So what is it all about? The first letter stands for Situation. Remember that the interview panel will be looking for examples of times when you solved problems, or when you showed leadership, and so on. Your very first job is to find that situation where you displayed those character traits and skills. So work hard during your preparation on digging up some situations that show you in your best light when it comes to skills and decision-making. The quicker and decisive responses are what will make you a good candidate. Once you have covered ‘S’ you should then look at the Task you had to do. Did you have any responsibilities? Did you have to help another colleague with their work? Outline the task you were given to do and this will help paint a picture in the panel's minds. The next part is all about Action. Here you must describe, in as concise a way as possible, what you did in the situation, or how you solved that particular problem. This should definitely not be about anyone else in the team or management. The spotlight is on you. This is one of the key moments in the STAR process. If you can articulate what it is that you actually did, you are outlining your skills and experience for the interview panel. This gives them a clear and direct insight into what you could offer the company. So far you’ve worked on situation, task and action. After these three areas we come to the last part of the STAR process. The Result The Result part is all about you showing what you achieved with your current or previous employers. It is concrete proof that you get results, and as such it is worth rehearsing what you are going to say at this point in the interview. The results are what the employer needs to know about. The more concise you are at this point the better. It is most likely the one thing they really remember when they are making their judgement. Putting all of those elements together into one STAR approach should help you get through even the toughest behavioral questions in a tech interview.
How to handle the whiteboard challenge The whiteboard challenge is something that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of any would-be IT professional. It’s intense, it’s quick, and it can leave your head reeling unless you know exactly what to do. So what's the whiteboard challenge? The whiteboard ‘live coding’ challenge is all about you thinking on your feet and making decisions. Your aim is to show the interviewer that you have the kind of technical knowledge required to work for them. What most commonly happens is the interviewee will be expected to workout a problem in some code. The candidate is allowed to have a whiteboard to show calculations with. The whole thing usually lasts around an hour. Everyone on the other side of the table, and there may be many - will judge your performance. It’s worth pointing out that the panel is really looking for evidence of problem-solving skills and working under pressure. This is why they ask you to outline the response on the board. What’s interesting is that you can quite easily prepare for the challenge just by understanding the company well. It may not mean that you can work out which challenge they will set, but you can go a long way towards understanding the requirements before you set foot in the room. There is a very good chance, for example, that they will set you a challenge that simply tests your ability to do the kind of jobs they need doing. So if you know how the company operates, and more importantly if you know the role you are applying for, you should expect a challenge that is completely doable from your point of view. The principle is clear. If you are applying for a job that requires you to fulfill a particular role or manage a process, chances are you will be expected to solve a coding problem in that area. However, if you are applying for an entry-level position, it is worth bearing in mind that your task might be ‘entry-level’. This could mean some simple coding in areas that are relatively easy compared to those that require specialist knowledge. This may seem obvious,but some people walk into such a coding challenge expecing to really flex their coding muscles, when all they have to do is come up with simple solutions. So do your homework on the company and the role before you start preparing for any whiteboard challenge. Some further points It is worth bearing in mind that companies who have a whiteboard challenge session are simply testing your problem-solving skills. If they throw you a curveball, they will want to see that you can deal with that and come up with the goods. This is why some companies actually tell you the problem beforehand. They are fine with doing this because they are looking for someone who is able to outline and solve the problem on the whiteboard. Be aware that you will not have your laptop or other devices to hand, so you will have to rely on your ability to think your way through a problem. But don’t be intimidated. If you know the job and the company, you should be able to produce a response as good as any other applicant.