Diversity & Inclusion

4 lessons on interviewing for tech jobs, aka the art of being imperfect

Because you can never have too much get-a-job advice.

Resume reviews at NET/WORK Delaware 2019. (Photo by Dominique Nichole)
Correction: The spelling of Sean Barksdale's name has been corrected. (3/22/19, 9:47 a.m.)

Another NET/WORK Delaware is in the can, and we’ll go ahead and make the call that this was probably the one with the most value for tech jobseekers yet.

For a few hours, the atrium at CSC in Wilmington was filled with tech talent and some of the state’s top tech employers, including  Capital One, Chatham Financial, CSC, Inc Now, JPMorgan Chase, M&T Bank, Vanguard, Wilminvest, TECH IMPACT and  Zip Code Wilmington.

There was networking, of course, as well as perks like resume reviews and free headshots by Dominique Nichole. (Seriously, the headshots alone were worth well more than the $10 entry fee).

For the first time, NET/WORK Delaware added a panel of pros to discuss the hiring process from the talent-seeker point-of-view, including:

  • Dan Stabb, Zip Code Wilmington
  • Patrick Johnson, The Bancorp
  • Catherine Burch, Christiana Care Innovation Center
  • Dana Mieras, Chatham Financial
  • Sean Barksdale, CSC

Here are some of their insights, for those who missed it:

You’re not perfect, and that’s OK

“We’re not looking for the perfect person to walk in the door,” said Mieras.

The tech industry evolves so quickly that talent isn’t expected to hit every last item of the job listing’s wish list. Far more important is an applicant’s ability to apply what they do know to the job, willingness to learn and creativity.

And don’t try to overcompensate if you’re not proficient in a language or software the company uses.

“Don’t say ‘I’m going to become a master at this’ or come off as too perfectionist,” said Burch. “Be able to pivot. It’s OK if you don’t know something, as long as you love learning new things.”

The NET/WORK Delaware 19 panel

NET/WORK Delaware 2019’s panel on interview tips. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

Curiosity is a plus

“Always ask questions,” said Johnson. “If they say ‘do you have any questions?’ — ask a question. We look for inquisitiveness. In reality, no one’s looking for someone in the tech field who just wants to stay in the same job for 20 years.”

Similarly, “we’re always looking for creativity and curiosity,” said Burch. “If you have a field of applicants where no one has all the skills,  the one who is curious is going to stand out.”

Barksdale was succinct: “Give me people who like to break things and fix them.”

Don’t try and ‘game’ the interview

You’ve probably heard stories about tech companies that use riddles and teasers when interviewing applicants. Some do, and some don’t — but either way, trying to prep for a job interview like it was the SAT isn’t going to do you any favors.

“We had a candidate reading a book like ‘how to crack a code interview’ right in the lobby,” said Mieras. “He thought we were going to give him a bunch of brain teasers.”

A better way to prepare? “You can always call and ask ask, ‘What can I expect?'” Mieras said.

“Don’t pre-plan your responses,” said Stabb. “Really listen — not just to respond, but to understand. Engage with the interviewer. Don’t undervalue the power of eye contact and a good handshake.”

Research the company before the interview

This is one of the most basic tips, but it can’t be over-stressed — even if you think you know what the company is about.

“We send an invite with a lot of information” said Barksdale. “In the interview, I ask, ‘Why CSC?’ Eighty-five percent say, ‘You’re the Computer Science Corporation.'” (False: CSC is Corporation Services Company.) “Understand the company you’re interviewing for, and explain why you’re interested in them. If you can nail that, you’re at least prepared for an interview.”

Companies: Chatham Financial / CSC / Zip Code Wilmington / ChristianaCare

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