Interview

Your Guide to Answering Tough Technical Interview Questions

You know that your upcoming interview might include technical questions – often these questions can make or break your ability to successfully land the job.  

Don’t miss out on your next big opportunity. Make sure that you are fully prepared for even the toughest questions.

Read on to find out more about how you can effectively prepare.  

Critical Preparation Strategies

Know Your Resume. Anything you put on your resume is fair game for the employer to ask about. Make sure that you can articulately speak to your experiences and skills. Never put anything on your resume that you don’t feel comfortable explaining or talking about.

Research Terms from the Job Posting: Review the job posting carefully. Are there any terms or skills listed that you aren’t familiar with? Don’t just ignore those. Do the research to make sure that you have a solid understanding of what the posting is asking for.

Identify Your Related Skills: You may not have exactly what the employer is looking for. But you might have something similar. Take inventory of what technical skills the posting asks for and then figure out your closest equivalent skills and experience.

Practice, Practice, Practice:  Interviewing is like a muscle – the more you do it, the stronger you will become.  Google technical questions related to your field to create a question database. Create flashcards or book some interview coaching to hone your interview skills.

10 Tips for Mastering Technical Questions

1. Understand the question: Ask for clarifying information if necessary before answering.

2. Use examples: If you have related experience, use those stories in your answer. If you are new to the field, you can use examples from your courses, labs, volunteer, or personal. But, keep in mind that employers will weight work and education over other types of experience.

3. Demonstrate your thought process: Employers are evaluating your thought process, not just the final solution you present. Lay out any assumptions that you might make in your decision making. Outline possible alternatives. Talk about why you would choose the route that you did.

4. Get clarification: If you aren’t sure about something along the way, ask for more information.

5. Stay calm: Yes, you want to provide the right answer. However, the employer is also watching to see how you act under pressure. Stay focused, polite, and calm even if you feel flustered. I talk more about staying calm during interviews here.

6. Organize your thoughts: Employers appreciate candidates who can clearly articulate their ideas. Present your ideas logically and coherently.

7. Focus on soft skills, too: The interviewer wants to know if you can do the job, but they are also looking for other skills as well such as openness to learning, teamwork, communication, curiousity, safety, and problem-solving abilities.

8. Be honest: If you don’t know, just say so. However, you might know something related so transition your answer to talking about what you do know. You could also mention your willingness to learn.

9. Write it out: If you are trying to explain something complex, it might make sense to draw diagrams or write out examples of your work. Also, if you have a portfolio, you could draw on tangible examples to illustrate your point.

10. Don’t get fancy: Go with the solution that is obvious – don’t try to come up with something brand new as you risk getting it wrong.

To your future career success, 

Kristin

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

When a Career Coach Goes to an Interview

I advise clients on interview strategies, often with very positive outcomes. But talking about something and doing something yourself can be two very different things.

So, what happens when a career coach finds themselves on the other side of the table?

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This past summer, a professional acquaintance of mine posted a part-time, contract career advising position up at a local university. Having heard about the progressive work this careers centre was doing, I decided to apply.

As any good job seeker would do, I created a targeted resume and cover letter. I then messaged my contact on LinkedIn to let him know that I had applied.

I didn’t hear anything for a while. Just at the point when I wasn’t sure that I was going to get a callback, I got one. Whoo hoo!

Interview Preparation

My next task was interview preparation. I know that stress can mess with my mind and reactions during interviews, thus making preparation critical for me.

1. Question Brainstorming:  I brainstormed as many interview questions as I could think of including this critical question. I knew this team valued theory and practice so I created some questions for that. I then wrote out responses for each answer.

2. Practice: I had to take my own advice – I advocate for clients to record themselves answering interview questions.  So as awkward as it was, I video-recorded my responses. I then listened to my answers to ensure they were complete while also catching any annoying verbal habits (Apparently, I often start my answers with "So" or make this weird clicking sound) or poor ways of explaining information. 

3. Research: I did as much research as I could about the department. I looked through the website and their blog. I reached out to current employees.

My Interview Day 

1. Logistics: I researched where to park ahead of time and I knew which building I had to go to. It took longer to get to the building than I expected so I was glad that I gave myself lots of extra time.

2. Timing: In the past, I have shown up ridiculously early to interviews. This time, I practiced restraint. I waited in another part of the university until closer to my interview time and arrived in the Career Centre only 10 minutes ahead of the interview time. (Tip: Employers don’t always know what to do with candidates who arrive extra early.)

My interviewers, Tony and Deanne, made me feel comfortable. They cracked a few jokes which broke the ice. As Tony and Deanne asked me the interview questions, I felt mostly prepared. But for two questions, I felt that I could have had stronger answers.

One of the questions was related to what career theories and student development theories I use in my work. Initially, I panicked as I didn’t know anything about student development theory. But I took a deep breath and realized that I could focus on what I did know instead.

I bit back my honest tendency to point out my deficiencies (can anyone else relate to that?) and instead spoke about all the career theory that I integrate into my work.

Secondly, I was asked to share about a time that I facilitated a workshop. Launching into my explanation, I forgot to clearly wrap up my story with what the outcome or result was. Thankfully, Deanne was gracious enough to prompt me by asking a clarifying question.

I prepared several of my own questions for the end of the interview, but only asked two. In previous interview settings, I had gone overboard with asking questions so I wanted to ensure that I got good information without over-burdening the interviewers.

After the Interview

My goal for the interview was to provide great responses but to show up as my authentic self. I wanted to ensure that if I was offered the job, I would be a fit within the team.

After the interview, I reflected on my responses, wishing that I had added this or not said that. But there was nothing so egregious that I felt that I needed to offer additional clarification.

Within 24-hours, I sent a thank you email, outlining my enthusiasm for the work along with my references.

Then I waited. Tony was great at keeping me in the loop regarding their progress. My references also kept me updated on when they received reference calls. (Tip: Ask your references to let you know when they get a call.)

Finally, I got the call, offering me the position! Working as a Career Educator for the past few months, I’m delighted with my decision to join this team.

Best of luck with your next interview. To find out about my interview preparation coaching, click here. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with her at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

 

Why the Post-Interview "Thank You" Note Matters So Much

You completed your interview and the next step is to send a “thank you” note. But if you think that the intention of the note is to simply to say “Thank You,” you are missing out on several key opportunities.

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The main purpose of this communication is to reiterate your interest in the position. The interview process allows both you and the employer to determine if there is a good working fit. After the interview, you need to let the employer know if you are still interested in the position and why.

Use this note to talk how you could add value to the role and fit within the company. Some companies value this expression of interest so much that they will not consider you as a viable candidate unless you send it. 

Did you miss the mark on an interview question? It's not too late to share extra information. In your note, reference the question and expand on your answer.

Though some people may tell you to send a physical card, email is an acceptable way to follow-up after your interview. But regardless the method you choose, make sure that you respond within 24 hours of the interview as the company may want to make a hiring decision within a short timeframe. A hand-written card has a greater chance of not making it there on time. Even if your card arrives promptly, what if the individual only checks their mailbox once a week or less?

Though you want to keep your note personable and friendly, don't make it too casual. It is still business communication. And keep it short. A few brief paragraphs will do.

After all the hard work you have put into your job search, don't miss out on this one last critical step to market yourself.

If you are stressing about your next interview, consider our affordable interview coaching. You'll feel much better, knowing that you are fully prepared. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.