Tips for your first programming interview

Tips for your first programming interview

One of the perks of my current role is that I get to assist in the interviewing of candidates for programming positions within the team.

For example, if we’re interviewing for a senior role it forces me to brush up on my own skills to ensure that I have sufficient knowledge on the relevant topics in order to accurately gauge the candidate’s capability. I look forward to these interviews and spend a fair amount of time preparing for them. Usually my first step is to head to Google and search for the latest interview questions doing the rounds. Questions that stump me are added to my list (after I’ve done my share of reading on the subject) along with other questions that seek to expose the candidate’s problem-solving abilities.

This chance to refresh and add to my own knowledge is what I see as a perk.

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have the junior positions. These are typically for students straight out of a tertiary institution or those still in their first few years of programming. It’s for these candidates that I write this article.

I’ve clocked a considerable number of hours in the interviewee seat so I fully appreciate the stresses that come with interviews. During recent interviews I noted a number of ‘mistakes’ that candidates repeatedly made and it got me thinking about some of my very first attempts at seeking gainful employment. Seems I wasn’t immune to these mistakes either so I thought it best to jot down some tips to assist first-time job seekers as they make their way through the IT jungle.

Know who you’re dealing with
Whether it’s a global corporation or a start-up in a garage, there’s bound to be some information about your potential employer available. Read up on them to get an understanding of what their core business is and also perhaps an insight into the company’s culture.

Have a copy of your C.V. on hand
If you’re going via a recruitment agency it’s more than likely that they’ve ‘tweaked’ your C.V. to make it appear more in line with the client’s requirement. As a result they could have potentially added or removed information that adversely affects you.

Ask questions
It’s your first job and although it’s better to be unhappy than unemployed you also want to avoid getting yourself into the wrong environment. Be sure to ask questions about the kind of work you’ll be required to do and the support that will be available to you. You want to get yourself into a team where there’ll be a number of developers that you can learn from. Try gauging the interviewers to get a feel of the working environment. The last thing you want is to find yourself working under strict martial law.

Be honest about what you know
It’s an entry-level position. No one is expecting you to know everything there is to know. So don’t go about dropping buzz words unless you’re certain that you can answer any question that’s thrown your way. Honesty is the best policy.

Reinforce your work ethic
You’re selling yourself here. Talk about your willingness to learn and grow. Highlight your commitment to staying the course during rough times by providing examples – possibly from weekend jobs or during your studies. It will help to be sincere as well.

Use these points to prepare yourself for your next/first interview. Being prepared will help the interview flow smoothly and will make it apparent that you’re taking it seriously.

Above all else, remember to have fun. Good luck!

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