Interview cheatsheets: Technical specialists

Posted on 28/06/2019 by Jay Banghar


Congratulations! You’ve secured an interview offer, which means that someone out there thinks you could be a good fit for a role at their company. All you have to do now is convince them during your interview that they made the right choice.

Our cheatsheet series provides tried and tested tips for candidates, which you are encouraged to read through before approaching your recruitment consultant for more personalised interview prep.

This week, we’re focusing on experienced technical specialists.

Before the interview

1. Read up

With your skill level, interviewers are likely to probe deeply regarding your reasons for joining them (as opposed to a competitor) and your perceptions of the role (and how accurate they are). These are questions that should not be evaded nor circumvented if asked, so it is best to come across as well-informed rather than ignorant or unprepared.

Familiarise yourself with all aspects of the business such as their culture, clients, customers, services, products and background. Illustrate a substantial, big-picture image of how your taking the job can contribute to the company’s vision.

It is not enough to know how to answer questions about yourself. Having sufficient objective knowledge of what someone in the job might actually do also provides a good foundation for answering other questions. The bottom line: know the company and the job well.

2. Rehearse

Even if you have your content memorised, you may sound confused or unsure if the interview is the first time you say it out loud. Practising multiple times out loud is a good way to ensure that you do not stumble or give irrelevant answers. Rehearse with a friend or in front of a mirror, and ask for feedback on how you conduct yourself. Body language can be just as important as words!

Anticipate questions that you are likely to be asked - questions from previous interviews, questions predicted by your consultant, etc and prepare a broad range of multi-purpose answers. It is a good idea to go through your resume beforehand so that you can easily recall facts about each item when asked. For open-ended questions such as “tell me about yourself”, seize it as an opportunity to tell the interviewer your best selling points. Ask for time to think if necessary, but above all, do not go in unprepared.

3. Pay attention to your appearance

Interviewers infer many things from your appearance, whether they are accurate or not. Sloppy dressing equates to a sloppy work attitude; flamboyant or attention-grabbing clothes equate to a lack of situational awareness. The safest bet is business casual attire for most companies.

Avoid heavy perfume/cologne and inappropriate or excessive accessories, as these are noticeable in the workplace (and not in a good way). Remove facial piercings and cover up tattoos as best as you can. These will help you to avoid giving an adverse impression to conservative interviewers.

During the interview

1. Know your stuff

As an experienced professional, interviewers will ask about your projects and experience in detail to assess how well you can be expected to fit into the organisation. If you do not have a recruitment consultant prepping you on specific topics that may come up, you can start by comparing your experience to the job description. Try to translate your learning points into a realistic projection of your actual on-the-job performance.

Give concrete, quantifiable and detailed evidence of your skills and contributions to your previous employee wherever possible, e.g. how and what you have done with a product/domain, direct/indirect contributions to revenue generation, etc. Avoid talking about your weaker areas. If you happen to encounter a question which you cannot answer, do not attempt to lie to the interviewer but mitigate by giving the next best possible answer. Brush up on your skills to prepare for situational questions that test your application.

Give accurate assessments of your personal job expectations and working style to assist in determining your suitability for the company environment.

2. Be confident and concise

If you lack confidence in yourself, you cannot expect interviewers to have confidence in you. It is your job to reassure them, not the other way round. Be secure in your achievements - you were offered an interview for a reason - and do not undersell yourself.

If you feel nervous, avoid overcompensating by rambling or talking about your feelings. Instead, focus on objective and credible statements about yourself. Be sure about every point that you raise and leave out unnecessary details. Interviewers have time constraints and it is impossible to fit all your experience into one meeting. Arrange these points in order of impressiveness (like a highlight reel) and be succinct to retain the interviewer’s attention. Provide information where relevant - but do not expect the interviewer to pry important details out of you!

3. Understand the interviewer

You may not be the only candidate being interviewed, and your interviewer may be tired or distracted. Provide energy and a breath of fresh air during the interview will make it less tedious for them, and you’ll make a memorable impression at the same time. Make use of the opportunity to get to know the interviewer (just as they are getting to know you), and search for commonalities to establish a good rapport with them.

Remember that an interview is a two-way street, and that the interviewer’s questions can only elicit so much information. Actively assess what the interviewer seems to be looking for, respond with initiative rather than in a stitled Q&A format (“Would you like to hear more about <insert experience>?”) and engage the interviewer (“I’m so glad to finally meet you in person”). Work together with the interviewer to come to a positive conclusion about your suitability as a candidate.

4. Be professional

Raise only matters that are of direct concern to the job you are applying for. Avoid emotional, personal and negative responses and filter your answers appropriately.

If your interviewer asks you inappropriate questions, such as personal questions that do not have a direct relation to the job or taboo topics (religion, politics, etc.), do not engage directly and attempt to steer the interview back on track. For example, state that you are unsure how this question relates to the job you are applying for, or try to answer the ‘question behind the question’ - if the interviewer asks if you are going on holiday soon and the answer is yes, you could talk about how you will ensure your work schedule is unaffected by it.

After the interview

1. Ask questions

When the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them, ask at least one intelligent, genuinely curious question. Do not ask trivial questions that can easily be answered, or questions about salary or anything along those lines.

Asking a well-targeted question that shows you have genuine interest and curiosity in working for the company will place you in a good position in the eyes of the interviewer, not to mention that interviewers are often eager for an opportunity to speak well of their company.

2. Follow-up

It never hurts to send a thank-you email within 48 hours of the interview. Give positive feedback about the interview process and show appreciation for the interviewer themselves. It shows maturity and courtesy on your part, to reach out without knowing the interview outcome. Talk to your consultant about the interview process and assess what you could have done better. Self reflection on the interview in hindsight is an opportunity to improve your skills too.

Having diligently made it through this cheatsheet, don’t hesitate to consult with us if you have any further doubts and we wish you all the best in your interview!