Hi, my name is Ralph Depping and I’m a programmer with S3, last year I wrote a blog post with some tips for people going for Tech Interviews. I’ve found myself in a few, and I thought I would share the tips. Maybe you can check my blog EmbeddedInCork.net where I cover many topics, from programming insights to news in the embedded software world.
Tips for Tech Interviews
Nothing here is revolutionary, rather it’s some advice based on my own experience of attending a number of technical interviews for embedded jobs.
- Be on Time
- Make a Good Last Impression
- Avoid Technical Jargon
- Can I Work With This Person?
- Do Your Homework
- Be Prepared to Address Salary
Although this is one of the more obvious points regarding interviews it is still worth re-stating. Allow plenty of time to find the correct location, taking into account possible traffic delays. Also make sure you know where the interview is actually taking place. One recruitment company sent me to the offices of the company instead of the hotel where the interview was being held. Fortunately the hotel was near the office and I had enough time to make the short trip and still be on time. On a related note don’t show up too early. It may make people uncomfortable to have you sitting around for a long time at reception.
The old saying regarding the importance of “making a good first impression” also applies to “making a good last impression”. I’ll always remember a test the BBC carried out. They showed two different versions of the same interview. In the first instance the interviewee started well but finished poorly. In the second instance the interviewee started poorly but finished well. One half of the viewing public saw the first version and the other half saw the second version. The public were then asked if the interview went well for the interviewee. It turned out based on the public votes that leaving a good last impression is more important than making a good first impression.
Although it’s a technical interview avoid using too much jargon. The person will be more impressed with your ability to describe the work you’ve done in a clear and concise way than trying to dominate the conversation with obscure technical waffle. Remember that you may know more than the person interviewing you in a particular area but you won’t score many points by trying to show off.
One of the key questions that both sides to an interview should be asking is “Can I work with this person?”. Ticking all of the experience and educational boxes is rarely enough to ensure a successful working environment. An interviewer will be wondering what it will be like to work with you on a daily basis. Ensure that during the interview you don’t loose sight of what the day to day working conditions will be like. Think of a couple of questions in advance that will highlight a typical working day. Is it high pressured or relaxed? Do people tend to spend lunch together or do most people just grab a sandwich and eat it at their desk? Try to relate to the people at the interview as they may end up being co-workers in the near future.
The most obvious aspect to this is to research the company you are applying for. However if you can find out the name of the interviewer(s) better again. It’s amazing the amount of detail that can be found these days on the Internet. Google is a great starting point, but consider searching more specialized sites such as linkedin or zoominfo If they have a relatively common name that throws up numerous results trying narrowing the search based on the company name or the geographical area the company is located in.
One of the hardest questions to address in an interview can be that of salary. This is especially the case for new graduates, for whom this is probably their first experience of interviewing for a job. Make sure you’ve done your salary research. If your using a recruitment company they are often in a position to negotiate on your behalf and should have a good idea of how far a potential employer is willing to go in terms of salary.
One way of shifting the discussion and giving a potential employer more scope is to discuss the overall renumeration package. Salary is one aspect (and of course the major one) but things like pension, health insurance, gym membership and even additional holiday entitlements all add up. Recognize that taking on a new employee is a risk for the company and they want to make sure they don’t start you off on a bloated salary as it is hard to roll back from that point. If salary is becoming a major sticking point consider offering to prove your worth over a 6-12 month period. At the end of an agreed period if you’ve lived up to your own hype then the company should be willing to reward you appropriately. If not then do you really want to work there anywhere?
Tech Interview Links
- An great article from the other side of the fence, how to recognise a good programmer during an interview.
- Although some of the suggestions are, in my opinion, a little over the top i (I can’t see a HireMe book taking off in Ireland) Nailing Your Technical Interview does have some great advice on areas most of us wouldn’t naturally consider.
- Finally for those just looking for more C programming related interview questions then apparently these are some of the interview questions that Microsoft ask.