Dave Fecak has served as the President and Founder of the Philadelphia Area Java Users' Group since 2000. He is an active blogger on software engineering career topics at http://jobtipsforgeeks.com, and author of Job Tips For GEEKS: The Job Search ebook (http://jobtipsforgeeksbook.com) Professionally, Dave has been a recruiter and consultant for 15 years helping startup and early growth firms to hire software engineers (primarily focused on Java/JVM, Python, Ruby, functional languages, and mobile). Dave is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 72 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

How to (Partially) Control Your Technical Interview

06.14.2013
| 3285 views |
  • submit to reddit

Generally speaking, when you walk into an interview you are at the mercy of the interviewers.  Although you may be given some general information regarding the interview format and probably have an idea about the questions or exercises you may encounter, there are endless possibilities on the topics you may be asked about over a two or three hour session.

As was stated before, any item on your résumé is fair game, so one way to potentially avoid queries on unfamiliar topics is to keep those words off your résumé.  Regardless of what is or isn’t on your résumé, it is quite likely that you will be asked questions pertaining to subjects that are not within your areas of expertise.  Trying to fully eliminate the exposure of certain vulnerabilities is an exercise in futility, but there is one rather effective method to at least attempt to mitigate the risks.

There is an increasing trend in the technical hiring world for employers to request firm evidence of a candidate’s abilities that go beyond what a traditional résumé includes.  For programmers, this typically can be achieved through a code sample.  Front-end designers and developers may be expected to show off some UI or website that they built, and architects may be asked to share documents. Mobile developers may hear this more than any other group, and are routinely asked “Do you have any apps available?” as part of the vetting process.

One way to partially control the content and direction of your interview is to provide interviewers a work sample that will presumably become a point of discussion.  This will turn what could be a technical interrogation into a version of show and tell.  Even if the exchange about your sample only takes fifteen minutes, that is fifteen minutes of the interview where you hopefully will shine, and it is fifteen minutes less time for the interviewers to delve into other topics that are probably less familiar.

To employ this tactic, be sure to make it known at some point early in the process that you have samples of your work for review by request.  A GitHub link at the top of your résumé, a URL to download your mobile app, or a link to sites that you developed are much more graceful than large file attachments.  You can choose to extend an invitation to view these projects as early as your résumé submission, and when scheduling the interview you can express your willingness to discuss the projects in more detail and offer to bring a laptop with samples.

Independently volunteering to show representations of what you have produced will give an employer the impression that you are both willing and able to demonstrate the quality of your work.  That act makes the applicant appear more open and trustworthy than someone who hesitates when asked for some samples.  Recruiters and hiring managers alike will welcome résumé submissions that are accompanied by additional supporting evidence of a candidate’s abilities.

When you enter the interview, you can mention that you brought samples to show if the team is interested in seeing your work.  This will typically be received quite positively and could lead to a deep dive into familiar territory.

This post is an excerpt from the recently released ebookJob Tips For GEEKS: The Job Search, available to purchase from iTunes iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and (soon?) Kobobooks.  A sample from the iBook in PDF format can be found here.

Published at DZone with permission of Dave Fecak, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)