If someone is sufficiently impressed by your résumé to want to talk to you, the next step is one or more screening interviews, usually followed by an on-site interview. This section discusses the various stages of the interview process and how to dress for success.
Screening interviews are usually conducted by phone and last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. You should take the interview in a quiet room with no distractions and keep pen and paper handy to take notes. Screening interviews may also take place on the spot at a job fair or on campus as part of a college recruiting process.
The initial screening interview is with a company recruiter or human resources representative. The recruiter wants to make sure that you’re interested in doing the job the company is hiring for, that you have the skills needed for the position, and that you’re willing to accept any logistical requirements of the position, such as relocation or travel. If you make it past the recruiter, there’s normally a second screening interview in which a technical person will ask you a few knowledge-based questions. These questions are designed to eliminate applicants who have inflated their résumés or are weak in skills that are key to the position. If the feedback from the technical interviewer(s) is positive, the recruiter will get back to you, usually within a week, to schedule an on-site interview at the company’s office.
Your performance in on-site interviews is the biggest factor in determining whether you get an offer. These interviews consist mostly of a variety of technical questions: problems requiring you to implement a simple program or function; questions that test your knowledge of computers, languages, and programming; and mathematics and logic puzzles. The majority of this book focuses on helping you answer these questions and succeed in your interviews.
Your on-site interviews usually last either a half day or a full day, and they typically consist of three to six interviews of 30 to 60 minutes each. Arrive early and well-rested at the company’s office and take a washroom break if at all possible before any of the interviewing starts. You’ll likely be greeted by either the recruiter you’ve been dealing with or the hiring manager. You may get an informal tour before the actual interviewing starts, which is a good way to see what the working conditions are like at that location.
Your interviewers are often the members of the team you would be working with if you were hired. Most companies have a rule that any interviewer can block an applicant from being hired, so all of your interviews are important. Sometimes you may interview with two separate teams on the same day. Usually each group you interview with will make a separate decision about giving you an offer.
The company usually takes you out for lunch midway through your interview day. A free lunch at a nice restaurant or even at the company cafeteria is certainly something to be enjoyed, but don’t let your guard down completely. If you make a negative impression at lunch, you may lose your offer. Be polite, and avoid alcohol and messy foods like ribs. These general guidelines apply to all company outings, including evening recruiting activities. Moderate drinking is acceptable during evening outings, but show restraint. Getting drunk isn’t likely to improve your chances of getting an offer.
At the end of the day, you will usually meet with the boss; if he spends a lot of time trying to sell you on working for the company, it’s a pretty strong indication that you’ve done well in your interviews and an offer will follow.
Job applicants traditionally wear suits to interviews. Most tech companies, though, are strictly business casual these days. The running joke at some of these companies is that the only people who wear suits are interview candidates and salespeople.
This is one area where it’s critical to do some research. It’s probably not to your advantage to wear a suit if nobody else at the company is wearing them, not even the salespeople. On the other hand, if you wear jeans and a T-shirt, interviewers may feel you’re not showing sufficient respect or seriousness, even though they may be wearing jeans themselves. Ask around to see what’s appropriate for the company. The location of the company and the nature of its business are important factors to consider: a suit is de rigueur when interviewing at a bank or brokerage, unless of course you’re interviewing on the West Coast.
In general, though, a suit is overkill for a technical job interview. A standard technical interviewing outfit for men consists of nondenim cotton pants, a collared shirt, and loafers (no sneakers or sandals). Unless the job you’re interviewing for has a significant business or consulting aspect whereby formal dress will be required, you generally don’t need to wear a jacket or a tie. Women can dress similarly to men. No matter what your sex, go light on the perfume or cologne.
Be sure to turn off or mute all electronic devices before the interview starts. If you forget to do this and a device starts ringing, buzzing, or vibrating during the interview, apologize to the interviewer and immediately disable the device. Whatever you do, don’t answer a call or read any messages during the interview - if you can’t give the interviewer your undivided attention, he or she won’t be inclined to recommend you for the job.