Professional Development

How to blow your tech interview in 5 all-too-easy steps

Five tech and HR experts and share their biggest pet peeves when it comes to job interviewees.

How can you keep candidates' experiences positive?

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So, you have an interview for a new tech role (or are trying to land one) and you’re looking for tips on how to nail it.

You’re qualified, certified and ready to work. You got this.

That is, unless you drop the ball with a mistake that steers your resume, if you’re lucky, to the “maybe” pile. And let’s be real – it only takes a couple of hard “yes” resumes to turn that into the “no” pile. has talked to lots of hiring managers, HR pros and technologists over the years, and many have shared examples of potentially job-costing mistakes people make during the tech job application and interview process.

Here are five things they’ve told us can easily thwart you:

1. Repurposing a non-tech resume

“The biggest mistake that I have seen while offering resume help is that they use resumes from previous employers to try to kick off their tech resume,” Jocelyn Harper said in a February 2020 interview. Harper is a senior software engineer most recently with PayPal, as well as an author and the creator of the Git Cute podcast. “Your tech resume is different from any other position that you are applying for — from the information that you want to include on it, to the keywords that you will want to use in your skills and job descriptions, down to the very composition of how you have your sections.”

2. Asking questions that expose you as unprepared

There are several “red flag” questions that can turn of interviewers in a flash, according to Miguel Guerreiro, then-engineering manager at Jornaya (currently senior data engineering manager at indigo) at his NET/WORK Philly workshop on tech interviews in February 2020.


Questions that suggest that you haven’t done even the most basic research, such as “what does the company do?” and “what are the job responsibilities?” will make your interviewer see you as a less-than-serious candidate. Review the company website and job description beforehand and make sure you know the answers to such basic questions.

Other questions that might raise a brow include asking if they check job references and give drug tests.

3. Badmouthing ex employers

Brittany Pipa Nisenzon, the metro market manager for the IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology, shared some of her pet peeves back in May 2018. One major one was talking about how awful a former employer or coworkers are during an interview — something that will still throw out a red flag today.

“Just because the market is favorable and your skills are in demand, doesn’t mean you can overlook important steps in the process,” Nisenzon said. “Tech professionals still need to spend time the necessary time preparing for interviews, customizing their resumes for the specific position they’re applying for and conduct themselves in a manner that is going to leave a good impression with the hiring manager.”

4. Blending in

This is a tough one. With so many jobseekers out there especially on platforms like LinkedIn, it’s a challenge to stand out. Jolie Brown, then a senior career coach at Flatiron School and currently a senior career coach at George Washington University, offered some suggestions in May 2020 — and they didn’t include sending them expensive gift baskets or gimmicky items like a shoe (in the door) in a box.

Less desperate-looking, but potentially effective, ways to stand out include simply telling your story, sending a short video instead of a letter to a hiring manager, and keeping your social media current with new posts and content that can build name familiarity.

5. Sloppiness

Tech is less fussy than other industries, it’s true, but a job interview is a job interview, and you need to present yourself like you care.

Lancaster-based human resource manager (and mom to reporter Paige Gross) Amy Jacobs told us what turns her off the most during the hiring process:

“A spelling or grammar error,” Jacobs said. “If I see a sloppy cover letter, I simply move on to the next one. It shows you that you really didn’t take the time. Also, when a candidate shows up in ripped jeans and a T-shirt. I know a lot of tech jobs and companies in general have a casual dress code like we do, and I’m certainly not saying you need to come in a suit — I tell applicants they can wear jeans if they’d like to — but we like to look professional. If you’re showing up like that to an interview, what are you going to wear on a normal day?”

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