How to pass your first interview
Throughout the past year, we have been setting up hundreds of first interviews for developers at companies across Europe. This first phone screening interview is often underestimated within the process. Much focus is placed on the subsequent, more technically intensive stages. Yet, the first phone screening between is often pivotal within the process. We’ve seen many highly talented developers fail, and many others give off the right impression that was key to the subsequent success of the hiring process.
I hope that some of these points will help you as developers increase the success rate of your efforts. Please feel free to comment below or share your experiences. I’d be glad to discuss further.
Good Internet. Quiet Space.
It might sound straightforward, but it’s absolutely essential to make sure that all accommodating factors are in place. First of all, make sure that the internet connection is flawless and that you’re in a quiet place, away from listening ears. This will enable you to have a proper and open conversation with the interviewer, without having to concerns yourself with disconnecting networks or the people around you. All too often do people squeeze in a first call in between meetings, when walking in the shopping mall or sitting in a noisy café around the corner from work. This hinders the conversation and gives off an impression of being underprepared or insufficiently dedicated to the process, whilst often the contrary is the case.
Know who you’re talking to.
Then, when sitting down in a quiet place with an excellent internet connection, it’s crucial to know who you’re actually talking to. Know who the interviewer is, what his or her background is and what he or she is concerned with at the company. This will give you a good understanding of the interviewer’s position in the company and his or her interests. Also, if you see that you studied at the same university, lived in the same city or have common interests in art, tap into this when appropriate during the call. This will enable you to better relate to each other and might also enable you to build a common ground and rapport faster.
Know why you’re talking to them.
In addition to this, have a clear idea about why you’d like to work for the company you’re talking to, and why you’d want to live and work in the city/country they’re based in. Moving from one company to another, let alone from one country to another during that process, is quite impactful. Companies know this as well as you do. During this first interview, they will dig deeper into your thoughts and considerations on that end, and aim to get a better understanding of what it is about their company and location that speaks to you. Clear and enthusiastic responses to these questions, if honest, will also add to their excitement to proceed with you as the right candidate for the role.
Know the company, inside out.
In order to best engage with the interviewer on topics related to the company, it’s advisable to extensively browse their website prior to the talk and look up background information on pages such as TechCrunch, CrunchBase, and The Next Web. Make sure you understand what the company does, what their business model is, how they make profit, why their way of operating is different from competitors in the market and why it works. Knowing the tech stack and the one sentence company description found through your search engine is not sufficient.
Become a user.
Also downloading the application, in case available, and playing around with it before the interview, is often a good thing to do. Be a user. This will enable you to more concretely and proactively engage with the interviewer about company, as well as your motivation to work with them. It will give off the impression of being well prepared and knowledgeable. Interviewers appreciate these small investments as much as you appreciate them having taken the time to go through your GitHub or personal website prior to the talk.
Know why they should hire you.
When delving further into the company, it would be great if you could couple this back to your own background and aspirations. When studying the technology stack of the company, think about how you could add to this concretely. When noticing that the company is active in open source projects and this is an interest of you as well, discuss this during the call. Also, you will often have one or two projects you found particularly challenging or you are most proud of. Be able to share and discuss these; many interviewers use such projects to gain an understanding of your personality, way of working and how well you’d fit into the team.
Building on this, it’s often good to have a couple of questions or concerns you might have readily available, and ask or raise these during the call. Feel free to do so proactively. Just as much as the interviewer would like to get an idea of who you are and what drives you, so does this first call enable you to get an idea of whether you’d actually want to work with them. This will also enable you to, for instance, gain a more in-depth understanding of the technologies they work with or the projects you could be working on. Raising such questions add to your impression of being prepared and sincerely interested. Clarifying any doubts at the start does so too, and will also provide you with important information that might otherwise pop up further down the line.
Lastly, I think it’s above all important to enjoy the call, and the process generally. It’s exciting to be talking to people at such exciting companies across Europe, share experiences and discuss common interests. Don’t take it all too heavy, but do be prepared and enjoy the process