The job interview experience is not an easy one, but the good news is that with the proper approach it could become steady. In this talk, I will cover the tools and a process to thoroughly prepare you for the interviews so you will nail them with confidence, enthusiasm, and less anxiety. So join me at this session, and let’s discover together how to ace a job interview in three (and a half) steps that will bring your dream job.
Okay, let's start. I'm really happy to be here. And just like Kevin mentioned earlier today, we will talk about some tips to ace a job interview. In order to do that, I will share with you a short summary about my employment history. I changed in the last 12 years three companies.
I started as an Android developer. Then I started five years later to grow a team of mobile developers. I had at that moment eight mobile developers. And, after that, I changed the company, and I became a squads lead developer. I managed three teams, three cross-functional teams. That was for about three years. We developed an app that was the first telecoms subscription from a fully digital telecoms subscription from Romania. I'm an engineering manager at Adobe, and I have two teams that with whom I work right now.
And, just like we I mentioned earlier, I will cover some steps that you will follow in order to have a successful experience with a job interview. I prepared for you 3.5 steps in order to do that. We shall talk about what shall we do before the interview. How shall we prepare? Then how should we plan the day of the interview? And what shall be done after the interview was done? And, surprise, the latest step, the 3.5th step, it's a "secret" element that I will share with you at the end.
Now, let's talk about the interview. Besides the technical ones, where the interviewers or the employers usually try to assess your technical knowledge or skills, coding skills, or maybe system-design skills, or just maybe phone inter view skills, where you are answering questions regarding two different topics from the technical side, there are also some non-technical interviews, and usually there are three big categories.
There are the behavioural ones, some companies call them "soft skills interviews", or "people skills interviews", and there are the assignments, when you get sometimes a use case, or a scenario, and you need to provide the solution, and there are also the role-playing ones, but I didn't add them here.
Until now, in my career, I covered these two types, and today, we will focus more on the behavioural one. So on the behavioural one, actually, the employers want to see how you have performed and behaved in the past in both positive and negative situations. For that, we will cover those steps. So, what shall we do before the interview? How to prepare. And we have three things that we shall cover.
First of all, we need to learn about the process. And here the recommendation is to clarify with the recruiter, or the person with whom you're keeping the conversations regarding that new - that employer, clarify with that person the process of the interviews. What is the next interview? How long will it take? Who will be involved in that interview? What kind of skills are assessed? And make sure you know exactly what shall happen during that interview.
After you clarify this part, you are start reviewing the job description, the job requirements. Usually they have some requests about being a team player, or maybe working for cross-cultural team, and something like similar with these two. So start reviewing the job requirements, and, for each point, try to prepare two or three samples from your best experience.
Okay, if they are curious about how you were a team player in the past, try to remember two or three situations that will cover that in order to be prepared, and remember all the things that happened behind. If you are at the beginning, for sure, it will be easier, but if you have more experience than maybe you have ten years, or more than ten years, then you change three or four companies, it will be difficult to have on that to support that answer, so this is why it is good to have examples prepared.
Also, after you learn about the requirement from the job description, try to organise yourself and, based on how much time you have, try to have a plan. Decide which topics to cover each day, or each week, depending on how much time you have.
Okay, then it is important to learn also about the company. Search on their websites. Try to understand what is their vision, what are their values, their principles. And also try to see some matching samples from your experience that will emphasise those values. For example, at Adobe, we have some capabilities, be focused, and be creative. And, for this scenario, you will try to find some situations that will cover these capabilities, because, by having these matching, you will be able to prepare your answers that will match also the interview expectations.
Also, find some key words. You will find them on the website or in the job description, and try to use those key words in your answers. Maybe have something like "cross-functional team", or "performance", or "user experience", or "customer experience", try to focus and emphasise those in your answers. Usually, it is helpful to start practising with a friend, or a colleague that will help you and give you your feedback in order to improve your answers, and make sure you cover all the relevant teams.
After you covered those two areas, you shall also learn about yourself: what I mean by that is, when you have an interview, it is really important to know yourself better. Also to know what are your strengths, your interests, were your values, your experiences, because these are the things that you bring to that job, and, in order to have all these things covered, other than preparing those, uncovering those points from the job descriptions, try to remember two or three situations from your past experience that are very rich in challenges, or in lessons learned, or innovation, or creativity, and try to use those scenarios in order to give and to match those situations to multiple questions, because it will be difficult to find specific situations for each question. So try to analyse your past experience, and discover these three or four situations that are very, very rich in content and lessons learned.
Also, don't forget to take care of yourself, because usually this interviewing experience, sometimes, it's not so easy, or it's stressful, or you have also a job full-time, you have a family, you have other things to cover, and to resolve, so it is important also to take care about yourself to sleep enough, to take breaks, to exercise, go outside, eat healthy, so don't forget to check these things, because your mood will help you also to have a smooth experience.
Now, talking again about knowing yourself, what I recommend to you, and this advice I got also from a coach in the past, is to try to do a personal SWOT analysis. I mean try to get a piece of paper, split it in four areas, and, in it, define your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities, and the threats.
In terms of strengths, to identify them, you could list them for feedback, you could consider your skills, your achievements, your passions. And also try to pay attention when you are the most productive. You can ask others to give you feedback and let you know what are your strengths. Another option to discover your strengths is to use the strengths-finder, a tool, that I really recommend, and, for example, for myself, I think I have done this test two or three years ago, and I was aware about some strengths, but, for the other ones, I knew that I have some skills in those areas, but I was not so aware about them. So, it helped me to understand better what are my strengths, and also the good part is that the book and the test offer you some ideas about what things you could add, or what things you could do next in order to make sure that you use properly your strengths, so I truly recommend you that Gallup test.
On the weakness test, maybe based on your skills, you like to talk at conferences, maybe a new project has arrived in your department, or the industry is growing, and there are a lot of opportunities, and threats, anything that could be an impediment - maybe some changes, maybe reorg, or something like that.
After you've done this SWOT analysis, you will get a better understanding about the areas that you are very good at, and the areas that you should work on, and then be ready for the plan for the interview. When you prepare the plan, I recommend you, for example, in my case, in the past, I used to create goals, to have objectives. I had a Trello board, and, at the beginning of the year, in December for the next year, I created that board with what I wanted to achieve in the next year. And all the time I had an entirely list of things I would like to chief. Part were done and some were not. A
fter reading Atomic Habits, it is good to set those goals and you need a system to achieve the goals. This is related to the habits. I realised I should build some good habits. For example, if I wanted to read more. Okay, how can I do that? My approach was in the morning I enjoy drinking hot coffee, so this was a habit already for me. So I decided that, okay, because I already have this habit, let's try to connect it with an idea with my goal of reading each day a few pages from a book. And so what I did was to, what I did was in the morning, I would prepare my coffee, and, after it's done, I take my book and when I'm drinking coffee, I also read. So this is how I make sure that I check that objective, and each day, I read at least ten or 20 pages based on how much time I have.
So try to identify your goals, and build some systems, some habits, that will help you to achieve those goals, and also be aware about the bad habits, because sometimes we have also bad habits. I had challenges at the beginning with the social media. And I remember that I spent - I just wanted to check what is happening, because I had a short break, and, after that, I discovered that 30 minutes later I'm still there.
So what I've done, I uninstalled those apps, and I also for the ones that will become the next replacement for the social media apps, I added some limitations in order to make sure that I will not access them, so try to break the bad habit and build good habits. Okay. It is also possible to prepare some things in advance, in order to not be necessary to be very creative in that moment, because especially for my case, I can tell, if I'm nervous, or anxious, I'm also able to be creative and to bring with, to come with the smart answer, or to offer a relevant answer, even if maybe I knew the answer, but in that moment, sometimes I find it difficult to bring it up.
So what you could prepare in advance is to have a pitch ready, because usually they ask you to present yourself, and here, especially when you talk about your achievement, you should include numbers, to make them more relevant, and also sometimes, they ask you to offer feedback about the process, about that interview, about something related to your experience.
And now, talking about what kinds of questions to expect, usually, there are three kinds of questions. There are the behavioural questions: tell me about the time when, so related to your experience. Hypothetical questions: something you need to do - or what you would do in that situation. And small-talk questions, where you can talk about your hobbies, movies, trips, depending on the interviewer. Talking about the behaviour in the hypothetical questions, you should consider some area.
For example, it is possible to ask about a situation when you interact with a difficult person, or you had a difficult situation, or project, or task or decision, how you make decisions, how you create some solutions, how you handle ambiguity, lessons learned, success stories, how you give or receive feedback, how you prioritised your work, your task, and also, based on how many years of experience you have or based on the job on which you applied, or you are giving the interview, these questions will go also on this part with the delegation and empowerment, especially on the top - on the senior levels, or the leadership levels, and also about mentoring and learning - how you mentor other people? How are you learning? How are you building some learning plans for your colleagues, and so on? These are the areas that you could consider to prepare yourself to be asked about.
And you should also take into consideration that usually these interviews are two-way conversations, because, okay, the interviewer needs to understand if you are a good fit for their company, or for their team, but you should also learn if they are a good fit for you.
So I recommend you to have some questions prepared, and these questions could be identified by starting to think about what are the things that are important for you at our next job? It will start from something that you don't have, or for some things that you like to have more. I don't know. Maybe you want to have a work-life balance, move to the next level of your career, learn opportunities, development, so try to understand what is important for you, and, based on that, try to formulate the questions and have them prepared. You could also have them on the paper, or written in a document, how do you prefer in order to make sure that you will have the opportunity to address them, and you don't forget to ask one specific question.
So these questions will be about the team structure, the stakeholder, the manager, and also about the processes, learn about the project, it is legacy, they're working with agent or not, they have an on-call procedure, how the onboarding will happen, what are the learning opportunities, and so on. Try to understand exactly what is it important for you.
Now, then the second step: on the day of the interview. The recommendation is to focus only on the interview experience in that day, and try to make a very limited number of decisions. I mean, try to know exactly from advance what you will eat in that day, drink, or wear, because if you discover in the morning, yes, that you love to drink coffee and you don't have coffee at home, and you go to the store, and there you will find a queue, and then maybe you don't have enough money on your card, and you go to access your mobile to put some money on the card, and you already have a bad mood, and you're anxious, and you're nervous, and these things will impact your experience.
So try to have everything prepared before the interview before that day. Make sure you are feeling comfortable. If it is online, try not to have clothes with lines or patterns that will make the inter view difficult - the interviewer look at you, or things to make noise, because it's not good to hear a pen or something like that during the interview.
And, if it is online, with try to set up your camera. Usually, it's okay, just like you see in my case to have some space above your head, and margin in of the screen, and also try to centre yourself in that camera. Try to check the lights, the microphone, and if you decide to use the neutral background because maybe in the back you have a bed or something that you don't like to show in the interview, with , and you use a virtual background, test it, don't wear white clothes because they will see only your head and it will look weird. If it is online, make sure you know how to go there, and have 30 minutes buffering to make sure that you're not in a hurry.
You should have next to you a notebook or a document if it is online where you could add notes, or maybe add the questions, and the resume or job description because they may ask you something in detail because you don't remember exactly, and usually the water is very helpful to have next to you.
Now, how to answer. You got the question. First of all, make sure you understood the question. So make the clarification and confirmation. "Let me check if I understood correctly" and try to rephrase what you have understood. Also, you could ask for extra time to think about that answer. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something. It is better to say you don't know rather than pretend you know something.
Be aware about your assumptions, because sometimes you could make some assumptions when you offer the answer, so let the interviewer also know about that. Also be mindful about your body language. And here I'm talking also about my experience of the as an interviewer,. I once had a candidate who was very nervous. Doing something like that, was very, very nervous, very active, and it was very difficult for me to follow her, and also to focus on what she is saying, so try to be mindful about your body language.
Now, how to answer others' questions, especially for this behavioural question, try to keep your answer focused, because the interviewer will have a script, and you want to make sure that you cover all that script. Here you have three methods. You have the STAR method, where the describe the, situation, task, action, and the result. You could use the CAR method which is the shortest version: context, action taken, and the result.
The other thing that could be helpful is I've done a course, "Think on your feet", it is a communication course, which I really enjoyed, because it offers you six different methods that you could apply when you get a question and you don't know exactly what you will answer. And this methodology, based on the fact that you first of all you fried to analyse what you should answer, and try to answer based on that method.
And I prepare here some templates. For example, for the STAR method. "Time me about a time when you performed well under stress." This is the scenario that you are describe. If you use the STAR method, it will sound like this "One time lift, I had a family emergency, needed, and her project was left unfinished and without a manager." So you covered that context. Then the task. What do you need to do? My manager instructed me to take on the project, and I had days to complete the project that should have taken several weeks. Why have you done? I was able to delegate part of my goals to my team-mates and the result is action in my daily goals, I was able to dedicate for mime to the project, and allow me to finish it, and finally, I got the promotion.
So try to, when you get the question, try to split your answer on these four areas, and for the CAT template method, when your team-mates complain about their job, explain about the context or challenge, what have you done, and the action, and finally, the result, what did you achieve? By using the structure, you will keep your focus on the question. Let's say that the interview is done.
Then number three, what to cover at the end. You are ask when you get the feedback about that interview. It is recommended also to send a thank you note to the person with whom you discuss ed in the interview. At the end, try to note the questions that you gather in the inter view, and maybe practice for the next interview if this one will not be a successful one.
And another recommendation will be to have prepare something like a retrospective about your experience. Have you set some realistic goals when you prepared? Did you have enough time to do that? Have you prepared enough of that, or have you had enough research to present yourself? Have you presented yourself in the best possible manner? What did you forget to add and what was not so great? Try to identify some actions that you shall start, stop, and continue doing.
And now, the "secret" element, the step 3.5. It is confidence and enthusiasm. Don't forget to be confident, trust yourself, because you shall be the biggest promoter, and, remember to have courage and challenge yourself. And, I think an important thing here is to enjoy also the journey, not only the destination. Because, yes, sometimes, maybe that job is not the right thing for you, and maybe the match is not the right one, but, for sure, during that time, when you prepare for the interview during the interview, and after that, you learn a lot of things.
You discovered some things about the new company, you discovered some things but, you discovered some new questions that the interviewer addressed to you, so enjoy also the journey, and not only the objective of it, and, finally, if it is difficult, take a break, and start over. Don't renounce, try to be persevering, because you've got this!