5 Tips for Interviewing Well

I’ve been interviewing people (mostly programmers and management/leads) for about 7 years. I would guess I’ve interviewed over 100 people (if you include college recruiting job fair “mini-interviews”). In that time, I’ve seen and heard some amazing things. I won’t share horror stories, because that’s not terribly helpful. Instead, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways to interview well. Without further ado:

1. Show up.

This seems obvious, but let’s elaborate a little bit. Show up on time - early even. But not too early, as that’s often more annoying than showing up late. 10 minutes early is fine; 30 minutes is not. You may want to ask the company you’re interviewing with how early to show up, as sometimes there might be paperwork to fill out. Be prepared -have extra resumes, samples of your work, etc. Know something about the company you’re interviewing with. You shouldn’t have to ask “What does your company do”, unless it’s one of those super-secret startups that wants you to sign an NDA to walk in the front door (in which case, run for the hills).

2. Make a good first impression.

Dress sharp: when unsure, wear a good quality suit that fits well. It’s perfectly fine to ask the company you’re interviewing with what the appropriate attire would be; these days, corporate dress codes are all over the map. You should always strive to be dressed at least one or two levels above the person you’re interviewing with (unless they’re wearing a suit - no need to don a tuxedo).

3. Ask questions.

Nothing makes a job candidate seem less enthusiastic than when they ask no questions. Here’s a tip though, don’t ask too many questions about money. It can make you appear greedy, and people will start to question if that’s the only thing that matters.

4. Don’t complain.

If you’re leaving a bad situation (boss is a jerk, company went down the drain, etc), it’s tempting to complain about your situation. Don’t. Nobody wants to hire a whiner, which is exactly how you’ll come across. It’s ok to talk about things you didn’t like, but don’t dwell on it. Talk about the things you liked about your job as well.

5. Don’t lie

You can recover from just about anything else on this list, but this one is fatal. If you pad your resume, you will be found out - don’t even bother. Furthermore, “I don’t know” is an appropriate answer to a question. If I ask if you’ve done X with ABC database, don’t try and bluff. Just say “No, I haven’t yet had the opportunity, but I’d like to learn how”. I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve passed on several otherwise qualified candidates because they put some skill on their resume that they didn’t actually have. Lying never, ever works in the long run.

Above all, be yourself. Be relaxed, be natural, and be honest. You’ll do fine.