How to Get Prepared for That High Tech Job Interview

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New York ALT.NET Group hosted a great user group session at the Microsoft center in Manhattan on high tech interviewing skills; what to expect and what is required of you to close out the offer.

The panelists were from Microsoft, Barnes and Nobles, and two tech recruiting companies. Microsoft being the epitome of the tech, and as huge as they are, they were all about hardcore tech skills in a very competitive space. Barnes and Noble was little bit different from Microsoft, in that, they had more corporate feel to the process. The other two recruiting companies also added some great tips on what to look for when engaging recruiters. Below are some of the lessons that I found valuable:

Getting Jobs at a Big Company

At Microsoft, thousands of resumes are being posted on http://www.microsoft.com/careers. When a talent is needed, hiring managers would browse through the resumes applied through the Careers portal and select potential candidates. A typical interviewing process takes the whole day. If you survived over lunch, that means you have a good shot. Of course, once the interview is done, they would send the formal notification to you.

Referrals

Majority of the panelists put good emphasis on having good referrals, especially if it is from the company that you are currently employed at.

Microsoft had a slight differing view. Microsoft doesn’t put that heavy emphasis on the referrals and fine details of the resume itself since there is no way to verify everything the candidate has written about himself/herself. Instead, they want you to show what you are really capable of. You are expected to open up that compiler and show them what you can do. Even for the senior level positions, you are absolutely required to have the down-to-earth tech/coding skills. In this regard, extra curricular activities such as contributing to blogs and involved in open source community really count more than what referrals can ever do. Many MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) do get hired by Microsoft this way.

The 10-second Rule

The panelist from B&N shared great tips on how to pass the 10-second rule. Hiring managers are often overwhelmed with the huge pool of applicants. Hence they employ “elimination” process. The hiring manager would literally spend 10 seconds per resume, skimming through, picking up clues to decide whether the candidate has the potential to get hired. Once selected, these candidates will get a phone interview. To pass this test, he suggests that the candidates’ resumes should show the following characteristics:

Representation. It is important that the resumes look professional. He would know if the person used “template” to build his resume or actually put time compiling and formatting it. Sloppy resumes are the first ones to get eliminated.

Concise. 5 page resume will be a big minus. Instead, experience for each job should have a bullet point that can best represent the candidate’s capability. Then, each jobs should have the company name and years worked, spelled out as hiring managers look for the longevity.

Recruiting Agencies

Recruiters usually use job sites to get qualifying people. Once qualifying candidates are identified, good recruiters will want to get on the phone and meet the candidates to gauge their chance of closing out the hire by asking about the basics (e.g. OOP concepts, language-specific jargon) and that you have the problem solving skills (e.g. seeing how you would go about building a chess game). No doubt that high tech jobs require hardcore skills. This is the time that you as the candidate should show off your skills. Last but not the least, qualifying candidates are given an overview about the company, what it’s like working there, giving a chance for candidate to gauge whether the company may be a right fit or not (e.g. the culture, management style, the team).

General Tips

Know who you are interviewing with. Find out whether you are being interviewed by an HR staff whose focus may not be too technical than the actual manager. Knowing the motivation of the one who is interviewing will be critical to preparing for the interview.

Dress code. 5 grand suit won’t be too fitting for a startup company. Casual ware won’t work too well with banks. Dress up for the company you are interviewing for and dress up little bit nicer than one normally would dress up.

Job description asks for a lot. Although it is essential that you are equipped with the skills and experience that the hiring manager looks for. But the reality is that job descriptions are usually written to cast a wide net, to bring more qualifying talents for interview.

Stop seizing to challenge yourself. If you worked for a company for a long time, make sure that the resume demonstrate contrary to complacency. Companies always look for those that can push the limit of conventional boundaries and be able to reinvent themselves.

Buyer’s market. Since the tech boom of 2000, there really hasn’t been shortage of tech talent. This means that the tech industry is competitive. You need to perform, excel, and be well rounded!

For Hiring Managers

If you are hiring, the following tips will get you to the right track.

Leverage phone interviews. Before wasting valuable face time with the candidates, screening them through phone interviews is an excellent way to weed out qualifying candidates from bad ones. With the right questions, you will be able to get a feel of the candidates, the experiences described on the resumes, and whether he/she has the basic tech skills covered. Because phone interviews are an essential part of the whole hiring process, relying on a junior staff, those without proper training, to conduct a phone interview is a common mistake that many companies make.

Hiring is a two-way process. Candidates will always try to sell themselves but you as the hiring manager represent your company, especially more so, if you are like Barnes and Noble, a nationwide brand. Each candidates should be treated courteously and with all due respect. In that regard, it is a must to leave the bias outside of the room.

Avoid costly mistakes of not hiring the right person. You absolutely don’t want to hire those that break the code, or system. Hiring done without proper steps taken, or done in haste, can be costly and often detrimental to the company. Not only will you lose the time to train the staff, but also you will have to fire the staff, which is not a pleasant task for anyone to perform.

Last but not the least…

How do one go about weeding out good recruiters from bad ones? The panelists suggest to check out their references by asking around and get a feel of their track records. New York City community is very small and words do get out rather quickly. Other qualities also include honesty, doing due diligence around taking interest in the candidates and better prepare them.

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Philip Bae

An avid technologist, entrepreneur at heart, has the determination to make this world a better place by contributing the most useful articles to ThingsYouMustKnow.com, one article at a time.

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