How to nail the technical job interview

By Chris Nerney, ITworld |  Career

Interviewing for a job is a stressful experience for just about anyone who's not being aggressively recruited, and thus fairly certain about getting an offer.

Technology professionals are no different. No matter how confident you may be about your tech chops, you never know what questions you'll be asked, what skills you'll be required to demonstrate, or how you'll relate to the people conducting the interview. On top of that, you usually have no idea how you stack up against other applicants.

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Of course, technical job candidates have absolutely no control over the competition by the time they walk into that interview room (or get on that conference call). What they can control is how they handle the interview.

We asked several career coaches for tips on how tech pros can shine in their job interviews, and we also found some interesting advice online.

First, let's stipulate that you already are aware of the importance of dressing appropriately, being on time and researching the company you're interviewing with. What else can a tech pro do to turn their interview into an exciting (and hopefully lucrative) offer?

Passion play

It's been said that 80% of success in life is just showing up. But showing up simply isn't enough when you're trying to land a job in the fiercely competitive world of technology. Rather, you need to go the extra mile in conveying your desire for the position.

"Sell yourself, and sell yourself hard," says Bud Bilanich, a career success coach, speaker and author who bills himself as "The Common Sense Guy."

Write some code by hand on paper the night before. Writing code by hand, and writing code by IDE are very different ...You don't want to get derailed on a simple question because you can't remember the syntax for a command line program in C#.

Puramu Elitist, The Bleeding Edge

"One mistake a lot of technology professionals make when they're interviewing for a job is assuming that because their skill set aligns so closely with an enterprise's needs, they don't have to push to ‘close the deal,'" he says. "But the truth is, it's hard to be too aggressive in letting the interviewer know you want the job."

Specifically, Bilanich advises, "Come to the interview prepared with three or four solid reasons why you want the job, not just why you have the perfect tech skills for the position. Find a way to express them forcefully to the interviewer. For example: ‘I am really happy to be here speaking with you today. I'm a big fan of your company. I admire your (creativity, solid position in the market, etc.). I want to work here because I'm a creative person who will flourish in your environment.'"

Be the solution

Search giant Google is well known for hiring talented people and then finding jobs for them. Most companies don't have that luxury; they're looking to fill a specific position, and thus desire candidates with certain skill sets and track records.

Which means you not only must "sell yourself hard" as a boundless bundle of vibrant talent, you must sell yourself in terms of the specific "problem" the people interviewing you are trying to solve.

Thus you should consider an interviewer's "biggest pain point and show them how you'll make things better, not more complex," advises Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.com, a career site for technology and engineering professionals.

That, however, requires an understanding of the interviewer's role, she says.

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