How to screw up a Tech Interview

Today at TechMasters Jeff Urban did a great talk that addressed the soft skills a technology professional needs. As someone who has delivered many of these types of interviews for various positions and companies I could relate to what he offered and thought I’d add some observations of my own. Whether you are new to the industry or switching jobs these are some key tactics to make sure it doesn’t happen.

1. Show up Late. By ignoring the timeliness of your appointment you are saying loud and clear where you place the importance in the scheme of things. This applies especially for the blind interview, in which you are meeting with someone for the first time. Unless you have a very deep well of reputation and credibility to draw from this one can be an immediate killer.

2. Politics. One of the great ways to make sure you don’t get the job is to rant about your favorite issue and to call out politicians and people by name. or make analogies that rely on a particular bias. Just ask Hank Williams Jr.

3. Lie about your experience. If you have 10+ years of Windows 8 development experience with Metro and 15 years of .NET, having helped build ARPANET and invented the internet, so much the better for you…in your world. But for the rest of us a little honesty and the courage to say when you haven’t done something will go a long way to building credibility. Not saying that the references are always going to be checked, but they might. It’s better not to ask people to lie for you.

4. Ignore the culture. Every company is unique, from the dress code to the coffee break. You won’t know what it’s like to work there unless you’ve worked there, but assuming a more casual environment can be a fatal flaw. A lot of companies do corporate casual, which doesn’t mean torn jeans and concert t-shirt. It’s a safe assumption to overdress than under. 

5. Don’t answer the question. Nothing is more frustrating that asking a simple question and getting a long winded response that doesn’t address what was asked. If the interviewer asks the same question more than once you might clue into that you need to listen. Take the classic sage advice of Poor Richard – you’ve got 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them accordingly. Listen to the question  before you respond.

These are a few of my own pet peeves. I’m sure there are lots of others. In any case, if you are hoping to land the dream job, then do your homework and make your best play. And don’t make one of the classic blunders, like getting involved in a Land War in Asia.

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