This week I was visiting the University of Waterloo to interview students for mobile developer co-op positions within Rogers Digital Media. It was a great experience to talk to each of them about what they are studying, what their goals are, their passion for programming and where they want to go with their careers. It was interesting that the university does not teach iOS or Android development, only C#, C++ and a little Java. Any experience that the students had in mobile was self taught or from previous co-op work terms. One thing I noticed across all was their interview skills, some were great, but others could use a little improvement. Below are some tips on how to interview well for a programming job.
- Firm Handshake – One of the most important traits you want to show the person interviewing you is that you are confident in yourself and your skills. Walk into your interview feeling confident and upbeat. An employer is more likely to hire a candidate who begins the interview with a strong handshake and warm smile than one who fidgets due to nervousness. If you are nervous, take a few slow, deep breaths before the interview to try to relax.
- Something to Show – Developers produce work, so bring your work to the interview. Employers want to see what you’re capable of. Ensure that you have tested your app before going into the interview, nothing worse than showing something that doesn’t work.
- Work Environment – Be prepared to answer questions about the environment that you’ve worked before. How was the team structured? What development method did you use (Agile vs Waterfall)? How did you get your requirements? How did you test your work? Employers get to know a lot about your development style by knowing these answers and it gives them a good idea how you’ll fit into their environment.
- Problem Solver – Programmers are great problem solvers, so have two or three examples of a problem you ran into in your previous work experience and describe what you did to overcome them. Employers want to know how you work through your problems.
- Common Questions – Be ready to answer the following standard interview questions: “What is the hardest challenge you have faced in your current position?” and “What do you consider your biggest weakness?”
- Passion – The most important thing to communicate is your passion for what you do. Employers want to know that you like your job, that you will look forward to coming to work. People who have passion for their job spend personal time learning more to improve themselves and they want to do the best job possible. A good way to display this is by showing side projects you did on your own or talk about extra classes you have taken or topics that you have researched or have a special interest in related to the position you’re applying for.
- Ask Questions – Just as much as an interview is used for employers to get to know you it’s just as important for you to interview them. Is this really a place that you want to work? Find out how they work with others in other departments. Find out exactly what you’ll be working on. What’s the rest of the team like?
Think of work like a relationship, one you’ll spend 40 hours a week (or more) in for the rest of your life, that’s even more time than with your family and friends. Your goal shouldn’t be merely to get a job, but to have fun and create a connection. Don’t rush into anything unless it feels right on both sides.