Do you feel stressed every time you’re getting ready for a job interview?
Of course, you’re not a single person on the list. 93% of (US) candidates confess they’ve experienced anxiety about everything related to a job interview.
The thing is, humans typically feel stressed out whenever their skills are put to the test. The urge to stand out and impress puts us under pressure and makes us doubt our skills and knowledge.
Good for you, we are here to help you combat insecurity about yourself as a job candidate. We believe success starts with meaningful preparation - from understanding the real purpose of the job interview to using proper interview response techniques.
Ready to kill your next (developer) interview and land a dream job?
Top 7 Tips to Ace a Software Developer Interview
The recommendations you’re about to read did not come out of nowhere. They are based on real experience of the Spark X CEO & founder Artem Misiura.
Artem has been in charge of 200+ tech interviews between software devs and top employers. He reveals multiple cases of rejecting talented devs with a perfect portfolio for reasons like poor self-presentation, insecurity, or giving the “i-don’t-care” attitude.
This suggests that half of your success as a job candidate indeed comes from work “behind the scene”.
Tip 1: Prepare a Solid Elevator Pitch (Intro)
An elevator pitch in a job interview is a brief introduction (no longer than 60 seconds) that summarizes:
- who you are
- what you do
- why you’re a good candidate for this role.
Basically, an elevator pitch is a catchy self-presentation every time you’re asked to “tell about yourself”. They contribute to creating a positive first impression, capturing the interviewer's attention, and setting the tone for a successful interview.
How to Prepare a Killer Elevator Pitch?
- Start with a clear statement of purpose. It should summarize your career goals and what you're passionate about in the field of software development.
- Highlight your key skills and achievements. In 1-2 sentences, talk about your present or last job position. Then, briefly describe other roles or/and projects that add up to your tech experience. They should demonstrate your ability to deliver results as a software developer.
- Tailor your pitch to the company and role. Research the company and role you're interviewing for, and tailor your elevator pitch accordingly. Highlight specific skills and experience that match the company's needs and the role requirements.
- Use concrete examples and metrics. Figures talk better than words, especially when it comes to skills and achievements.
- Keep it concise and to the point. The perfect timing for an elevator speech is 30-60 seconds (but no longer than 1 minute). Avoid college part-times, internships, or any jobs that seem irrelevant to this employer.
- Practice, practice, practice. Improvisation NEVER works as well as a practiced intro. Learn your elevator pitch until you can deliver it smoothly and confidently. Practice adds confidence to your voice and helps to avoid stumbling.
- Keep it calm & confident. Before starting your pitch. take a deep breath. Strive to look confident no matter how anxious you are. Smiling can facilitate a bond between you and the interviewer.
Tip 2: Use the STAR Method for Behavioral Questions
Employers would often use behavioral questions in non-tech interviews. They are designed to disclose how you acted in specific work circumstances in the past.
- “Tell me about a time you made a mistake”
- or “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your manager”
The best way to answer behavioral questions is by using the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. It helps you to answer any relatable questions in a clear and concise manner.
How to Use the STAR Method for Behavioral Questions?
- Situation: Begin by describing the situation or problem you were faced with in the past. This should be a specific and relevant example that demonstrates your skills and experience. Use real cases and not hypothetical scenarios (the exception is when you had no relevant case to talk about).
- Task: Describe what you were trying to achieve. Be clear about your real goals and why they were so important to reach.
- Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation and achieve the task. Be specific about each step you took and the skills you applied.
- Result: Finally, describe the results of your actions. Turn your achievements into numbers and statements about your positive impact on the project or team.
The STAR approach can help you demonstrate your ability to solve problems, work collaboratively, and deliver results. It polishes your answers into clear and structured statements that highlight your skills and experience.
Tip 3: Practice Answers Beforehand
Practice makes perfect. Preparing your answers beforehand can help you feel more confident, improve your delivery, and ensure that you convey your skills and experience effectively.
How to Practice Answers Before an Interview?
- Research common interview questions. Make a list of questions that are typically asked in software developer interviews. Some common questions might include: "Tell me about your experience with [specific programming language or technology],” "How do you approach problem-solving?" or "What is your greatest strength as a software developer?"
- Write your answers. After you make a list of the most common interview questions, write down the answers. Use the STAR method to structure your responses, and make sure you provide evidence that illustrates your skills and experience.
- Practice with a friend or mentor. They can give feedback on your delivery and help you improve your responses. Record your practice sessions to identify areas for improvement.
- Time yourself. Practice answering questions within the time constraints of a typical interview. Make sure each answer takes no more than 1-2 minutes.
“Insider” tip: If you are afraid to forget answers on the go, prepare a brief outline of each answer and have it with you during an interview.
Tip 4: Be Involved in a Dialogue
Every interview, be it to hire a software developer or someone else, should be a two-way dialogue. But the problem is many candidates consider interviews rather a scary test. They focus more on delivering correct answers and forget to maintain a proper dialogue.
Even if the interviewer is about to ask you many questions, try to bring you to the topic of discussing the role, the company, and the team.
How to Get Involved in a Dialogue?
- Listen actively. Listen carefully to the interviewer's questions and make sure you understand what they're asking about. Ask clarifying questions to make sure you are on the right track.
- Ask thoughtful questions. Before stepping into the role, prepare a list of questions about the company’s values, project plans, corporate culture, benefits, or anything you’d like to know. Not only it demonstrates your interest, but it also helps you better understand the job and project.
- Share your knowledge and experience. Do it only if it’s relevant to the role and the company. Provide examples of how you have solved similar problems in the past or how you have contributed to similar projects. If you demonstrate a solution to a certain tech task, describe it in steps.
- Make a research about the company. Employers will definitely appreciate it if you throw in some interesting facts about the company. They will know that you took the time to learn more about the company, project, or role.
- Show enthusiasm. Ask questions and express your interest. This will demonstrate your motivation and help you stand out from other candidates.
A dialog involvement can help you build rapport with the interviewer, create a positive impression, and increase your chances of landing the job.
Tip 5: Give Your Best Attitude
Your attitude can greatly affect how you perform in a software developer interview. According to the Bullhorn study, 57% of interviewers consider how a candidate’s personality matches the company as they make their final decision.
This means employers may not remember the correct answers but they’d surely remember how it felt to talk with you.
How to Give Your Best Attitude During an Interview?
- Be punctual. This shows that you respect the interviewer's time and are serious about the job.
- Show enthusiasm. Ask questions and express your interest.
- Be positive. Use positive language and maintain a positive attitude. Avoid negative comments about previous employers or experiences.
- Correlate to the energy of your interviewer. Show how you can validate presumptions, provide workable solutions, consider criticism, lead and build rapport, and show your collegiality.
- Thank the interviewer. After the interview, thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. Follow up with a thank-you note or email to reinforce your interest in the job.
By giving your best attitude during your software developer interview, you can build rapport with the interviewer and create a positive impression. This will increase the chances of landing the job.
“Insider” tip: Research the company’s values to know what points to emphasize how good of a match you are.
Tip 6: Set Up Tech Attire (Camera + Extra Screen)
In today's virtual world, having the right tech attire for the interview is essential. This includes setting up a good camera and an extra screen to ensure a smooth and professional virtual interview experience.
How to Set Up Tech Attire for Your Software Developer Interview?
- Test your camera and microphone. Before the interview, test your camera and microphone to ensure that they are working properly. Make sure that the lighting is good and that there are no distracting background noises.
- TURN ON THE CAMERA. Unfortunately, some candidates show up to interviews with no camera leading to a few misunderstandings between the company and a client.
- Use an extra screen. Consider using an extra screen for your interview. This can help you display your resume, notes, or coding samples without having to switch between windows. Also, an extra screen comes in handy when you need to search for some information on Google.
- Use a reliable internet connection. Make sure that your internet connection is stable and reliable. Consider using an Ethernet cable instead of relying on Wi-Fi to avoid connection drops.
- Minimize distractions. Choose a quiet location for your interview and eliminate any potential distractions, such as pets or children.
Tip #7: Learn from Your Own Experience
Experience is the best teacher. It helps you to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate and develop strategies to improve your performance in your next software developer interview.
- Reflect on past interviews. Take some time to reflect on your past interviews and think about what went well and what didn't.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may be strong in technical skills but weak in communication, or vice versa.
- Develop strategies to improve. For example, if you struggle with communication, practice your answers with a friend or mentor, or enroll in a communication course.
- Practice, practice, practice. Build confidence and improve your performance through practice. Ask your friend or mentor to simulate an interview and provide feedback on your responses.
“Insider” tip: try to organize your first couple of interviews in the companies of your least priority. One way or another, you will not regret failing or not doing enough.
Finally, don't focus on rejections. You can't fit any job in the market, and that's okay. Ask for feedback, if possible, and consider what points to improve for your next rounds.
Now let’s have a quick recap of steps to do before, during, and after an interview.
Before the interview:
- Make a brief self-introduction (elevator pitch) for no longer than 1-2 minutes.
- Practice answering common questions using the STAR method.
- Research more about the company, project, and the role.
- Prepare an extra screen.
- Double-check the video and audio quality.
During the interview:
- Be concise when answering questions.
- Show enthusiasm and involvement in a dialogue.
- Ask your interviewers questions about the role and the organization.
- Show a friendly attitude.
After the interview:
- In case of denial, ask for feedback and use it for the next interview rounds.
Hope our advice help you stay organized, keep calm, and show your best side despite the stress around the interview process.