Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

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

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?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

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

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

    by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe it's not about you, but that the job market isn't flourishing that much anymore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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,

    • Alternatively, maybe he actually isn't nailing the questions. Most tech interview questions are designed to see just how far down the rabbit hole you go. It's very easy to get "the right" answer, but not to have impressed anyone by finding the more efficient answer, or the complex but optimal answer.

    • If he's reaching the interview phase, it isn't the job market.
      Almost nobody want's to interview more candidates than necessary. It's a huge hassle and the cost is pretty damn high.

      Baseline is that in an interview I try to determine a few things:
      1. Ability to perform work. Can you be in consistently, and perform work that is of an adequate quality/quantity to be worthwhile?
      2. Ability to work with the team. Are you going to damage morale, will you communicate in a manner that doesn't cause excess prob
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Nope, it's they see he is old and outdated so they dont want him.
      It is a lot harder to abuse and bully a 10+ year veteran than a snot nosed CS grad.

      "You know if you dont work 20+ hours a week off the clock, we will have to let you go.. Yes this is a industry norm, everyone does it"

      Veteran tells the boss ,"stuff that in your ass, Let's see what the labor board likes about you cheating them out of taxes."
      New CS grad says, "Yes sir, can I sleep under my desk too that way I can work 24 hours a day sir?"

  • don't try for H1B jobs where the person is for show and you have no hope of getting the job.

    • don't try for H1B jobs where the person is for show and you have no hope of getting the job.

      For those that don't know yet, H1B jobs are the job ads that largely appear in tech journals or on tech journal web sites.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    but it might help to improve your English.

    • And punctuation. If his CV reads like his original post, I'm amazed he got as far as the phone call.
  • 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...

    • by leptons ( 891340 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:46PM (#46551969)
      I had to dye my hair for the first time ever during my recent job search, because I was being interviewed by 20-something and they aren't as likely to hire someone in their 40s if they look like they are in their 40s.

      There is a misconception in the industry that younger == better, but nothing could be further from the truth. The younger ones invariably cause many problems by making mistakes that more experienced people have already made and know to avoid.

      I will by dying my hair again only if/when I need to look for another job.
      • 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.

      • My experience must be unique then. I started losing my hair in my early twenties, so I've always looked about 10 years older than I am. Dying it was obviously not a solution. Still, I did OK with job interviews and never really had an issue getting jobs. Now that I have my own business, I still do OK getting new clients.

        Age discrimination definitely exists, but I don't think it's across the board. As an employer, I'm far more put off by other things, like bad breath, horribly fucked up teeth, wrinkled

  • 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.

    • by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:34PM (#46551857)

      I once interviewed a guy who complained that he almost didn't make the interview cause he was still hung over from last night...

      We didn't hire him.

    • Re:Drink more. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Magnus Pym ( 237274 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:40PM (#46551911)

      Likeable is good, but complaining about past employers is a TERRIBLE idea. It is very very hard to do this without coming across as a whiner. Most interviewers immediately pick up on the implied negativity. `You are complaining about them today, you will surely complain about us tomorrow'.

      Project positivity. You are not running away from anything. You are running towards something... the new job. Employers don't necessarily want to pick up and be saddled with orphans, refugees or the weak. They want healthy, well-adjusted individuals who can stand on their own feet and be productive.

      Also, note that interviewing has changed over the past few years. Behavioral interviewing is all the rage, led by a few large, successful companies. In this situation, candidates are asked to describe specific things that happened to them in past jobs (or specific problems they have worked on), and the interviewer tries to get a feel for how the candidate behaved in that situation (overcoming adversity, dealing with ambiguity, working on seemingly intractable problems), and to extrapolate to how the candidate would behave in similar situations in future. If you really are experienced, you probably have a number of examples like this from your past. Research a few large companies (Google, MSFT, Amazon), they are very open about their interviewing strategies and the qualities they expect from an employee. Keep a few examples of behavior polished and ready.

      And good luck!

      • Behavioral interviewing is all the rage, led by a few large, successful companies. In this situation, candidates are asked to describe specific things that happened to them in past jobs (or specific problems they have worked on), and the interviewer tries to get a feel for how the candidate behaved in that situation (overcoming adversity, dealing with ambiguity, working on seemingly intractable problems), and to extrapolate to how the candidate would behave in similar situations in future.

        So basically, to

    • Complaining about previous employers is usually frowned upon.
      That only makes sense if they have your cv in front and one of the interviewers mentions a particular employer and/or project and admits he had worked there as well (and left for 'bad reasons').

  • 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.

    • I suggest sending the Labrador Retriever to the interview.

    • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:59PM (#46552065) Journal

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

      "Yes, I can write threaded code involving.... SQUIRREL!"

  • 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

    • I agree and also would like to suggest this tip, research the company before going in. I read my companies bio before going in and as a result could ask more interesting questions during the 'do you have any questions' part of the interview. Needless to say, I got the job.

  • I like to ask probing questions to get a feel for what the work environment is like, the stability of the business, and other peripheral topics not directly related to the specific job opening. Take the mindset of being the one evaluating them to see if they will be a suitable employer.

    • Yes, I often enjoy turning the tables on a bad interviewer. The funny thing is that on the somewhat rare occasions in which I decided I really didn't want this job and would rather tank the interview they have always seemed the most interested.

      If anyone is having trouble finding a job, try making as many social mistakes (as in non-technical) as you can. Show up a little late, question their authority, ask for extra time off during the interview. I think you'll find it a very enlightening experience.

  • Ask for feedback (Score:4, Informative)

    by cjeze ( 596987 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:24PM (#46551781)

    What I always do is to ask for feedback after they decided not to hire me, or if I don't hear from them within a week.

    What was it that decided against me, what could I have done differently.

    Ask kindly and explain to them you want this information so that you can improve your own interview process. This worked very well for me, especially when it wasn't obvious why I didn't get the job. One time I did this I was even offered a job just because they had forgotten about me.

    Also. Always look for jobs. It is never illoyal to go on interviews, just don't lie or take a sick day, plan for it. I am always on the watch for the dream job and everybody should too. Going on job interviews has many benefits, particularly you get to find out what you're worth, and if you get a good offer you can use it as leverage next when discussing your current salary :)

    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      What I always do is to ask for feedback after they decided not to hire me, or if I don't hear from them within a week.

      What was it that decided against me, what could I have done differently.

      Ask kindly and explain to them you want this information so that you can improve your own interview process. This worked very well for me, especially when it wasn't obvious why I didn't get the job.

      This is great advice. I know someone who did this and was told (quite reasonably) that they hadn't done anything wrong it was just that they had someone who fitted the profile slightly better. They then asked if he'd like to be put on a list of people to be contacted should any other offers arrive (something that was never mentioned before). Three months later he was told that the same position was vacant again, interviewed, and given the job.

  • You're asking us about your personality, over the internet? Uhm. That doesn't work... My advice? Don't ask us, you'll get generic advice. Go spend a few hundred bucks and see a therapist, just in case. If the concept of therapy bugs you, call it professional outside perspective. Their whole job is reading people and digging at the underlying issues...
  • by lrichardson ( 220639 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:26PM (#46551811) Homepage

    It's not you.

    I've had some odd interviews over the years. One in which the head of IT was a Luddite - and proud of it. One in which the phone and HR interviews went well, but the interview with the manager left me wondering if she had psychological problems ... later, from my headhunter, I learned her sister was going though a very bad breakup, including stalking, and I was very similar to the ex.

    And, of course, sometimes the interview is for show. They've got someone they want, but have to keep HR happy, and demonstrate they considered other candidates.

    My best advice is a) research the company/position, b) be honest, and c) try and be positive. Note that 'being honest' doesn't preclude omitting horrendous things. e.g. "I made an internal transfer as soon as I realized my boss was a lying, backstabbing hypocritical s.o.b., and was much happier with my new position." can be reworded as "I made an internal transfer, after achieving some great things in my first position, because the new job offered more opportunities for professional development."

  • by zoward ( 188110 )

    You shouldn't be asking Slashdot why you're not interviewing well, you should be asking the people who didn't hire you. When you get the phone call saying "no thanks", ask them why you weren't hired. You'll probably get a non-committal answer from most, but there are some will tell you what they think you did wrong.

    Good luck.

  • 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.

  • Read "What Color Is Your Parachute." The author lists several particular problems you might be having with interviews (do you pick your nose? do you smell funny?), and also discusses how to analyze what went wrong in the interview.

    If the problem really is lousy interpersonal skills, that can be improved.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @12:43PM (#46551929) Journal
    Two things.

    First, don't make the mistake of pushing off discussion of salary to the end of the process - Check the price range they want to pay right up front, before you even waste your time with an in-person interview. It doesn't matter if the job listing describes a senior software architect with a combination of skills that would easily take 20 years to master - If they want to pay intern's wages, they don't want you.

    Second, you got old. It happens. We can, however, take a tip from our better halves (presuming you as male) to partially remediate that on a temporary basis. Dye your hair, dress considerably little less formally than you learned to do decades ago (if you can't stand the idea of going to an interview without a suit, at least go for a colored, relaxed-fit sport coat rather than the good old standby of black or charcoal), and you might even consider letting the missus help you with just a hint of makeup (don't worry, it won't stick out unless done horribly - Many younger guys have actually started wearing makeup regularly).

    Once your coworkers see you in action, your skills matter more than your age. But that requires getting in the door first.
  • 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 SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @01:07PM (#46552133)

    I understand your last two jobs were longer, but you have a trend.

  • 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.

    • Re:Eight years older (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lgw ( 121541 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @08:43PM (#46554775) Journal

      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.

      My resume says "20+ years of experience", and I get recruiters contacting me constantly. People want me to help fix the problem in their shops, to be the one doing the morphing, not to be the one needing any sort of molding myself. Or they just want someone who will simply do the job right without needing any supervision - take some of the load off of overworked managers. I've learned that latter is a warning sign - managers should be trying to fix their structural issues when it's that crazy.

  • When I interview someone, I ask them to explain something to me. A good candidate can provide a concise overview of the topic and then work through it in a coherent manner, seeking and taking in feedback from me to see if they're explaining things at the right level. Just wandering around the topic isn't so good. It's okay to say what you know and what you don't know.

    Another thing I do is to ask them to solve a problem (either a simple but slightly tricky coding problem or a problem about a technology we

  • by loom_weaver ( 527816 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @01:32PM (#46552319)

    I consider interviewing to be similar to sales. You're selling yourself and you need to be able to effectively counter objections. It's a skill that very quickly becomes rusty.

    One book I found helpful is the Adams Job Interview Almanac as it helps identify the reason why questions are asked.
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Adam... [amazon.com]

    Doing so isn't easy and is a skill that must be practiced. In the current commercial for AT&T with the 4 women and 1 man professionals, would you be able to understand why each question is asked and be able to answer effectively?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Saturday March 22, 2014 @01:55PM (#46552455)

    My thought is that once you get a face-to-face interview they have already selected you, and the other 5 to 10 candidates, based on their technical skills. The whole purpose of an in-person interview, then, is to determine how well you communicate, how friendly you are, and whether you have anything in common with the interviewers. While technical questions may be asked, it's more of how you answer that matters.

    Do you ask follow-up questions?
    Do you ask the interviewer, if a peer, how they would handle the same problem?
    When speaking to the interviewer, do you try to find common ground? (i.e. golfing, movies, family, American Idol, latest sport trades, etc.)
    Do you show interest in the problem? or do you have a been-there-done-that attitude?
    Are you showing a willingness to learn? Despite the old saying, even an old dog can learn new tricks.
    Did you prepare? Did you find out as much about the company as possible (i.e. national vs international, HQ locations, latest products, etc.)?

    Perhaps none of these are the problem. It could simply be that you are not up on popular culture. Nothing shows your age more and isolates you more from younger colleagues than not being current. Do you get asked modern cultural questions? Can you answer them?

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      My thought is that once you get a face-to-face interview they have already selected you, and the other 5 to 10 candidates, based on their technical skills.

      At every large company I've worked at, we've hired about 1/3 of the people brought in for technical interviews. It's all about demonstrating technical ability in person, live, and on the spot, while showing that you don't become a jerk under stress.

      People who not only solve the problems (problems that really aren't that hard outside of the time and other pressures), but show passion for doing so tend to get hired. People who "go into geek mode", forget the stress of the interview, and just work with you

  • Read the book Knock 'em Dead. Seriously, it's a great book.

    The other thing is to remember that an "interview" is just a meeting. You are both deciding whether you want to work together, for years ... pretty important. Makes sense to have a meeting about it. But that's all it is: a specialized type of meeting.

  • You're probably more specialized than before, straight out of college most assume you'll do well at "general development" and the assignments they have in mind are more of that nature too. Now they're looking at someone with many years of experience working with X, how is X relevant to them? I've jumped "subject matter" quite a bit and I feel it's because I've been able to make my experience seem relevant. Personally I feel I've stretched it very thin at times, but I guess a little is better than nothing. A

  • Practice behavior-based interview questions out loud. Have a friend ask them and give feedback if possible. They will help you give a great interview. If you still don't get the job, you may not be a fit.

  • If you're changing jobs every year, then the problem probably isn't with your interviewing skills.

  • The title of this post could be interpreted as sarcastic, but it is totally possible to improve your people skills, especially if you think that's where your problem is. Early on, I considered myself a total socially awkward introvert, but turned that around by reading books like this and working on my social skills. Sounds corny, but it works. Classic advice, good book: http://www.dalecarnegie.com/da... [dalecarnegie.com]
  • Step 0: Have a friend do a mock interview with you.
    Tell your friend to pick a question like the ones you've been getting.
    Solve it on a whiteboard.
    In addition to getting some scenario practice, your friend can point out if you're coming across in an awkward way.

    Step 1: Listen
    Listening is more important than talking in good communication.
    I interview a lot of software engineers. Sometimes candidates get so excited about an idea they have that I can't get a word in edge ways to point out they missed a requireme

  • Be friendy, humorous and honest. Play the senior card. Practice interviewing. That is, have many, apply for all jobs that could fit somehow. 90% of the specs in the ad are bogus anyway and are collected and written by people who can't even abstract a desktop icon from a file on the harddisk, let alone acutally know what they are talking about or asking for in a hire.

    Display self-worth by not having to prove yourself anymore.
    When you're losing your inner game just think: "If you don't hire me, that's your problem, not mine. I'm just being nice to you."

    If you're in your mid-fourties, start wearing shirts and perhaps even ties (I'm going to start wearing my first tie soon), along with the matching pants and shoes and maybe a jacket to match. Skip the next 2-3 generations of high end grafics cards or other geek gadgets for a quality wardrobe. Get a good book on dressing well and perhaps pay a professional tailor to give you some advice if you are a total fashion n00b. It may even be time to give those printed t-shirts to the red cross or use them as oil rags.
    Get and maintain a good haircut and pimp your grooming skills. Talk smart and less that a usual nerd and keep your voice calmer that you're used to. This all works particularly well if you've already got some gray hair to show. I call this 'the gray hair bonus' - played well it has a solid direct positive impact on your salary.

    I got my last job by being friendly and honest and telling some interesting war stories about my times as a developer. We talked for 1,5 hours, had a lot of fun and in the end I got the job. 1 phonecall, 2 short emails (one being the contract for me to review) and a nice long chitchat. They didn't see a single piece of official paper from me. That's how interviews should go at 40+ when you've started programming in 1986 as a 16-year old.

    If you're an IT expert you'll get a job, one way or the other. Don't worry to much. Take the edge of age discrimination by being approachable but with a senior aura. Your boss should to feel safer and better understood when you're around, because you're 'the experienced guy' on his team. That works best when you're around his age and are friendly and forthcoming when pointing out flaws in his software production.

    My 2 cents.

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.