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7 deadly sins of technical interviews and 5 tips to crush the competition

(TECH NEWS) When you’re preparing for technical interviews, there are a number of things to consider, including these 7 tips of what NOT to do.

Newly-hired woman explaining to fellow employees of her desire to quickly make another career change.

The economic world has never before been so mismatched. In October of 2019 I was let go from my Oil & Gas position. Through no fault of my own, I might add. The downturn for oil started in the summer of that year and a financial impact from other countries contributed to the beginning of a major downturn for the industry. Thousands of professionals lost their jobs in probably the worst downturn O&G has scene ever. Then of course we had a global pandemic to contend with.

During the ensuing 16 months of part-time work, I not only worked as a Wal-Mart employee (don’t ask!), but also a maid, a bartender, a writer, a hawker, and pretty much anything that would allow me to survive to the next paycheck. I’ll be giving back to friends for their generosity too for a while to come. Nothing I did professionally was making any headway so just like thousands of other people on the planet I was stuck trying to find employment while being drowned in bills.

After hundreds of applications, I do not exaggerate, I was able to land a number of professional interviews. Unfortunately, I only received limited interviews because of my advanced degrees. The number of times I heard that I was over-qualified would have made a nun curse.

During these interviews however, I remembered a great deal about good practices. Here, we categorize the 7 worst things you can do in technical interviews:

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  1. Not communicating effectively: This is surefire way to not get a job. You have to know how to communicate to get anything done.
  2. Not admitting when you don’t know the answer: If you get caught not knowing some information, just admit that you don’t know and demonstrate that you know how to learn it. Or that you know where to find the correct information. If you lie and they figure it out, you’re screwed.
  3. Cramming the night before an interview: This is a surefire way to tire yourself out and be in worse shape than if you hadn’t crammed at all, remain balanced.
  4. Memorizing code for algorithms & data structures: You have no real clue about what you’re going to be asked. Filling your head with useless information right before technical interviews that could destroy your chances of answering something effectively.
  5. Overlooking the “cultural fit” interview: Technical interviewers almost all come from a background of doing it themselves. This being said, they are typically not really looking for your full technical knowledge background, that’s what your resume is for. They want to know if they’ll want to spend most of their week with you, or whether you can handle stressful situations and fast paced changes. Having someone who is extremely technical but who can’t actually handle a social situation is almost always worse.
  6. Starting with the optimized solution: Always starting off with the optimized solution can show a very structured and inflexible mind. Show off your versatility, not just that you get straight to the point.
  7. Overlooking programming foundations: Instead of going off on fancy things, start with the basics – if they start asking about more advanced thins then that’s the opener for you to get creative. If you just jump over the basics they wont know where your base is.

These 7 shortfalls of technical interviewees are well established. They each come from well-known interview practices. Knowing how to communicate effectively is a must, no matter what job you’re interviewing for. Taking time to relax and stay calm before an interview and not cramming your brain full of information you may have no idea is going to be talked about. It’s a good list for technical interviews to be sure.

The thing I always try and remember in any interview, whether it be for the C-suite, or for McDonalds, I have a few rules to keep in mind. Not that they always got me what I wanted but it’s something to start with for those of you reentering the work force for whatever reason:

  • Be yourself: If your main goal is to hide character flaws, then ultimately one mistake could give them a bad impression. If you go into the meeting being yourself, you can at least be truthful on your strong or weak points to ensure best fit.
  • Be prepared: You know yourself, or at least I’d hope so. You know whether its best for you to study the week before or the night before technical interviews. Make sure you know the position you’re interviewing for and the company itself. You don’t have to memorize everything but you need to be prepared.
  • Be calm: You might be the nervous sort who has to pace on phone interviews. Well, if you are, just keep that in mind. I know for a fact that those interviews that I took on the phone without video, I paced around my room continuously. Whatever you need to do to appear calm and coordinated, do it.
  • Be observant: Reading the room is an essential skill for anyone trying to get a job. You could be blabbing the secrets of becoming a millionaire to someone who just doesn’t want to hear it. You wouldn’t get hired. You have to be able to know what’s going on around you.

As the world is, finding job is just a difficult process. You have to remember to not give up. That is the only thing that will stop you, quitting. Use any and all connections that you’ve made to keep moving forward. Don’t hesitate to use social media either. It’s there for a reason. Good luck!

Robert Raney is a geoscientist whose been writing and painting for years to get his creative fix in. While working on his thesis in theoretical planetary physics he was also creating fantastical worlds on paper for fun. He's an at home Texan Houstonite who currently works slinging drinks at a local LGBTQ+ bar in the gayborhood, when not fielding oil & gas jobs that have taken him around the world.

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