The United States has had a tech talent shortage for years. And following an early-pandemic dip, the number of open tech jobs has increased significantly — call it the “wild west” of recruiting.
If you’re a member of that pool of tech talent, this is good news for you. That goes both for experienced technologists who now have the opportunity to shop around for a desirable position and for entry-level technologists who have just gotten certification.
Some coding training programs include extensive interview training and job placement services. But for those in a situation where they’re on their own, facing a first tech interview or preparing for a virtual interview for the first time, Technical.ly has pulled together some advice from experts we have featured over the years.
No brain teasers, we promise.
1. Research the company culture and values.
“Culture is such a huge part of our company operating at peak performance,” Sage founder Peter Yeargin told us in November. “If we don’t have people that believe in our values and that work well with each other, the entire system comes to a grinding halt.”
Determining what the company stands for and values is usually just a matter of scoping out its About page, social media and press releases. And if the hiring manager sends you information about the company, not reading it can hurt you in the interview.
“We send an invite with a lot of information,” Sean Barksdale told us when he was senior technical recruiter for CSC in 2019; he’s now a manager of talent acquisition for Comcast. “In the interview, I ask, ‘Why CSC?’ Eighty-five percent said, ‘You’re the Computer Science Corporation.'” (False: CSC stands for 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.”
2. Treat a virtual interview as you would a face-to-face interview.
Even for experienced technologists, the virtual interview may be a new experience that raises anxiety. Meanwhile, The Great Resignation — an ongoing shakeup of the job market following two years of pandemic work and lifestyle shifts — is raising the stakes for tech companies that need to impress candidates and deliver on salary, benefits and lifestyle accommodation.
After a short phone interview assessing whether the candidate is a fit skills-wise, Power Home Remodeling VP of Application Development and Infrastructure Jenny Gray said she sits down with candidates for a one-hour video interview to get to know them their work and to get an idea of what they can bring to the company.
Really listen — not just to respond, but to understand. Engage with the interviewer.
“It helps to talk about it as a piece of the bigger picture of the company,” she said.
You won’t be able to memorize answers to common questions — and you shouldn’t be doing that for any kind of job interview, anyway.
“Don’t pre-plan your responses,” said Dan Stabb, manager of admissions and professional development at coding bootcamp Zip Code Wilmington. “Really listen — not just to respond, but to understand. Engage with the interviewer.”
Prepare for a video interview the same way you would an in-person interview, including dressing professionally. Make sure your background is free of clutter (and use a Zoom background if necessary).
A big caveat here: While interviewers should keep in mind that they’ll be asked to talk about more than their technical skills, it’s also true that interviewers should keep in mind that not all interviewees are comfortable with those open-ended “Tell me about yourself” questions. Neurodivergent professionals may do better answering personal questions that have been shared ahead of time, so they have time to prepare their answers — or not having a face-to-face interview at all, even virtually. Read Technical.ly’s deep dive on how workplaces can be more inclusive to neurodivergent people.
3. Remember that soft skills count.
Some online coding camps assure students that they’ll be prepared for a tech job once they have the certified skills, but one thing we hear over and over again is that soft skills are just as important. If you’re experienced, you likely have honed them. If you’re new, it’s important to understand that employers aren’t just hiring based on a certification or even a degree.
“We can teach the hard skills of our openings through the use of training, shadowing, mentoring, and professional development courses,” said Melissa Richardson, VP of team success for Kleer. The new hire just needs to have a willingness to learn and an openness to coaching: “Tech skills are important, but when you find the right combination of raw materials in a candidate — passion, drive, coachability, and so much more — and you harness them correctly, that’s when the magic happens.”
Other soft skills an employer may find valuable include problem solving, critical thinking and intercultural fluency.
4. Ask questions.
Potential employers expect you to ask questions. After all, there’s no way you know all there is to know about the company, how you might fit or what your long-term professional goals are after one or even a couple of interviews.
“If they say ‘do you have any questions?’ — ask a question,” said Patrick Johnson, talent acquisition manager at The Bancorp. “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.”
Check out this roundup of questions that stand out in a job interview. A highlight:
“I had a candidate ask a compelling question recently: ‘How well do my manager’s goals align with IT leadership’s goals?’” said Morgan Lawrence, program manager at URBN. “We had just discussed the goals for the specific role they were interviewing for, as well as the goals for the team they would be joining, but the candidate took it a step further with their question. A question like this demonstrates the candidate is thinking strategically and it shows they have an awareness of how the alignment at a leadership and executive level (or lack thereof) can have a direct impact on a team’s ability to be successful.”
5. Show self-motivation.
Most tech employers want innovators, not just bodies that will follow directions. If you’re struggling to find a tech job even with a certification, that’s worth remembering.
“I think [the tech industry] is starting to realize that really people who can self-motivate, can learn from and motivate others, can really be there to transform the company, are the people that are really going to be the ones that really help you,” said Alexei Czeskis, VP of engineering at ID.me, a Virginia-based tech firm that added 1,400 employees to its team in 2021.
Knowledge is power!
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