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Ask Slashdot: Re-Learning How To Interview As a Developer? 218

Posted by timothy
from the I'm-a-people-person! dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier in my career, when I switched jobs every year or so, I was pretty good at interviewing. I got offers about 75% of the time if I got to a in person. But times have changed... my last 2 jobs have been, longer term gigs.. 5 and 3 years respectively, and I am way out of practice. My resume often gets me the phone interview and I am actually really good at the phone screen.. I am 12 for 12 in the last 6 months phone screen to in person interview. It is the in person interview where I am really having issues. I think I come off wrong or something.. I usually get most of the technical questions, but I am not doing something right because I don't come off very likeable or something. It is hard to get very much feedback to know exactly what I am doing wrong. I have always gotten very good performance reviews and I am well liked at work, but if there is one area for improvement on my reviews it has always been communication. So I ask, can anyone give out some advice, I have tried toastmasters a few times, but does anyone have other tips or ideas? Has anyone else had a similar experiences?"
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Ask Slashdot: Re-Learning How To Interview As a Developer?

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  • Maybe it's not you (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:05PM (#46551613)
    Maybe it's not about you, but that the job market isn't flourishing that much anymore.
  • Listen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pem (1013437) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:06PM (#46551629)
    Too often, people overcommunicate.

    Listen and watch. If you are answering the question you thought they asked, instead of the question they thought they asked, they will probably be somewhat annoyed.

    Try to pick up on that, and either figure out what they were asking, or ask for clarification. Let them get in a few words, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:07PM (#46551637)

    Sounds more like the proverbial age discrimination that exists in the tech world.

    Resume - great; phone interview - great; but then the interviewers get one look at you...

  • Drink more. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fatgraham (307614) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:10PM (#46551679) Homepage

    I don't know how friendly and open you are, anonymous person, but I've done pretty well in my last couple of interviews; Accepted immediately, first (face-to-face) interview.
    Prior to those last two jobs, I hadn't had an interview for 8 years. It took me 12 interviews before I managed to get a job.

    Basically, be more friendly, relaxed and relatable. Complain a bit about previous employers and how this new job will fix those problems (you may have to use your imagination), everyone has problems. A lot of the time, what puts perfect candidate A before candidate B is that "they could have a beer with them". Nobody wants to hire someone they're not gonna enjoy having around the office.

    Since drinking heavily, I'm a lot more approachable, and apparently, a lot more employable.

    Hope this *hic* helps.

  • Loner syndrome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hessian (467078) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:14PM (#46551701) Homepage Journal

    To employers, it's of secondary concern that you're more competent than the other guy.

    Primary concern is whether you can be a cog, e.g. will you get along with other team members (which they translate into "enthusiastic, cheerful and forgiving") and will you be able to understand, cooperate with and stay out of the way of your superiors. A big part of this is trying to avoid hiring an employee who also creates problems in addition to doing his/her job.

    I suggest thinking vapid and friendly, like a labrador retriever, when you go into a job interview.

  • Be engaging (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loupgarou21 (597877) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:17PM (#46551727)

    I typically get job offers from almost all of my in-person interviews. What works for me is being very engaging in the interview. Appear genuinely interested in the company. Don't wait for the "do you have any questions for us" part of the interview before asking questions, ask questions throughout the entire interview. Ask questions about the corporate culture, ask questions about their internal workflow, ask questions about parts of the company other than the one you'll be working in.

    Also, come off as very human during the interview, especially when they ask you about yourself. When they ask you about yourself, don't just rehash your resume, they can read that for themselves. Instead, talk about your interests, your hobbies, your life. "Well, I've been a programmer for 13 years, I have a BS in computer science from the U of M, I've been married for 3 years, I play softball and pain miniatures."

    The interview is way less about them gauging your technical ability, and way more about showing your interest in the company and how you will fit in with their current team.

    Yes, be prepared for the technical questions too, but that's really the minor stuff

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:30PM (#46551839)

    Read up on defensive or aggressive versus relaxed/friendly postures (position of arms, leaning too far forward or back etc).

    Also, actively listen, and try to understand what is behind some of the questions they ask. Make sure your more opinionated answers are not the kind that risk offending someone who is in the room.

    Oh, and as toastmasters probably taught you, avoid saying ummm ahhhh, and keep your answers brief and to the point.

  • by sarkeizen (106737) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:46PM (#46551971) Journal
    Here's my $0.05. I've been a hiring manager for a number of developer positions.

    i) Practice: Have a few pat answers for open ended or probing questions. Like when you get asked "Can you give me an example of..." pick a good example - one where you look good (I can't tell you how many times someone picked an "example of resolving a conflict with their coworker where they looked pretty bad"). Then bounce it off your NON-tech friends. Take their advice, even if it sounds weird or not how you would naturally talk. Then practice until you can make it sound natural.

    ii) Question. It pays to ask a question or two about the questions being asked of you. Not every question but it shows you are listening and can be even used to show off knowledge you have but haven't been asked.

    iii) Listen when they are talking. Try to get an idea of what these people are looking for.

    iv) At the end you are often asked if you have any questions. Use the information about iii) to get them talking. Find something you have in common. Suggest some solution. i.e. get them talking about their biggest problem areas for software, hardware (whatever you're being hired for and ask them "Have you tried..."). Don't go on too much about a single technology. I don't mind it when someone slips an extracurricular into their interview but it should be a one off. For example, I interviewed a person who did some Ada programming in his spare time. Which is cool but he referenced it two or three other times and it started to sound like an attempt to distract from the question.

    Bonus: Avoid jokes. Seriously. Unless you really can take the temperature of your audience it's hard to pull off and it can easily be taken the wrong way and counted against you . Remember that when you tell jokes to your peers at work they already know you (to some extent) and are attempting to think the best of you. An interviewer is trying to differentiate between you an everyone else. If someone from HR is on the interview panel and you tell a joke (or relay an experience) that makes you look like you have a problem or might be mildly sexist, ageist, racist. You can easily find yourself on the bottom of the pile when it comes to a decision.
  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:56PM (#46552031) Homepage

    Now this is a post that I never thought I'd see on Slashdot.

    Somebody, in all seriousness, suggesting that someone wear makeup.

    Would that Commander Taco see this.....

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @01:15PM (#46552185)

    However, once you are in your 50s, you should not be doing coding anymore, you should be applying for management positions and then grey matter actually helps.

    We have a couple of great programmers in their 50s, one of whom is soon to reach his 60th. Not everyone wants to become a manager - and not every programmer will make a good manager.

  • Eight years older (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scsirob (246572) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @01:16PM (#46552193)

    The problem with being eight years older is that you are, indeed, eight years older. Past a certain age it seems that the only jobs you will be able to get is through your network. All else being equal, a complete stranger who has to evaluate you against someone eight years younger (heck, you were a good developer at that age, right?) will definitely chose the younger person. More agile, easier to morph.

    Work your network. If you are as good as you say you are, use your reputation instead of your skills.

  • by Bite The Pillow (3087109) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @01:46PM (#46552429)

    Or maybe it is you. 10+ years in, you made it 5 years at a single place. I don't see commitment. If you were younger and cheaper I might not care. Now I do.
    Based only on what you said, I would interview you but take someone else unless you were a perfect fit.
    There is a lot I don't know, and no one here is going to tell you anything you don't already know, except that you're asking the wrong people. People are too polite to give you a real reason, especially if it was just a gut reaction.

    Turn to networking, where you know someone inside who can fight for you, and explain what happened. Even if you don't want the job. Because having a mole is your only hope now.

  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @02:00PM (#46552495)

    Don't ever bother with jobs that have long, very specific skill lists. Those are always already filled, they are just HR jackasses wasting your time back-filling their hiring process.

    There is no fixing it. They are not about to fess up that they intend to waste your time.

    They have pissed me off to the point that I submitted bogus apps and made appointments I knew I would never show for. Just to return the favor with lots of interest. Had time on my hands. In the end I let them know why I was wasting their time, not who I actually was.

    If everybody who had the time, submitted a bogus app to these bastards every time they do this bullshit, we could put them out of business. Now that I think about it, I might setup a website to help. Submit your HR drone being an asshole leads, or submit your bogus application package to one (or more) leads others have found. We could drown the BS artists in crap.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @02:49PM (#46552769) Journal

    they know younger isn't better. but they know they can get young people to work crazy hours for no extra pay. Older people know it's a scam just to get free labor.

  • by Kiffer (206134) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @03:27PM (#46552987)

    ... if someone tells you something is broken don't tell them that it was working earlier, say "I'll find out what's happening and get back to you ASAP" and maybe something like "... I should have been notified if it was a server crash, hopefully it's not too serious and we can get everything back in order a soon as possible, to minimise the downtime".

    Never tell someone who comes to you with a problem that there is/was no problem.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @04:18PM (#46553295)

    3 years isn't long, but in the programming industry its pretty standard. 5 years is a fairly long stint somewhere. Much more than that is a real long sting- if I see 7 or so years at a place I wonder about his ability to switch to a new job. Its a series of less than 2 years (or less than 1) that worry me- less than 1 means he's always looking for the next job, less than 2 means he's easily bored.

    A year to get up to speed? A senior programmer should be contributing something by the end of week 1, and should be fully up to speed on language and architecture by 3 months. If someone takes anywhere near a year they need to be fired- they aren't pulling their weight (junior and intermediate level programmers get more time, of course).

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @04:23PM (#46553339)

    Why the hell would you want to do that? If you like coding, keep doing it. You'll be miserable as a manager if you don't have a passion for it but do have one for programming. You're better off retiring than that.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @09:50PM (#46555063)

    I see 10 years of experience as a valuable thing, you've been around long enough to see a lot of mistakes and know to avoid them. 10 years in one place isn't- you're likely stuck in your ways. The fact that you were willing to do the same job for 10 years shows a lack of ambition or mental curiosity in other realms in the field of programming.

    In fact your post proves me right. "Stable job" "all the way to retirement". You're looking for safe over interesting, over doing something worthwhile. Those aren't the types of companies I would even interview at, and not the type of programmer I'd hire. You're even looking at it in terms of doing it for a salary increase- my last job change was a pay cut to go to a startup. Not because I expect to become rich (I know that at best I'll break even), but because its more interesting, more fun, an idea that could really make things better, and I have more leeway to do things how I want and define how this company runs. You might be technically competent, but unlikely to be a culture fit.

    And ignoring the culture fit part- most people I know who want safety that much require it because they're average to below average and don't want to risk being on the job market, and depend on institutional knowledge to be useful. There's a few exceptions, but I'd say that goes for 80-90% of them. I wouldn't refuse to interview someone like that to see if they are the exception, but it would be a yellow flag and I'd need to be convinced otherwise in the interview to give them an offer.

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