3 Baltimore tech pros on how to ace a job interview

Do your research. Show passion. Ask questions. Leaders from Asymmetrik, BurnAlong and Facet Wealth share how they approach the interview.

In the crowd at NET/WORK Baltimore 2017.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The road to getting hired often starts with taking stock of skills and finding a job description that matches. But landing the role requires the ability to fit with the company’s goals and culture, too.

The job interview, of course, is the time-tested approach where both of these things come together, but the approach remains an art. Both company and candidate are balancing the need to learn and make decisions about something they’re going to commit to for a long time in a limited window.

To get some perspective on how local tech companies are approaching the interview, we talked to leaders of three hiring companies who will be at NET/WORK Baltimore on March 14 about how they approach the interview and the values they’re seeking.

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For Annapolis Junction-based technology and analytics company Asymmetrik, there’s benefit in being able to explain a technology on the simplest terms. CTO Amit Singh frequently asks candidates to explain the concept of a database to an 8 year old, said Brand Manager Toni Fung.

“He enjoys seeing the different ways a technical person can translate concepts to non-technical folks,” Fung said. “This is a great opportunity for a candidate to show off their creativity, communication skills, and they way their mind works to distill down concepts to their essence.”

"An engineering candidate who shows how their side projects have taught them new technologies will definitely catch our eyes."
Gorkem Sevinc, Facet Wealth

In seeking to assess whether a person’s skills are a fit, the process also involves testing. At Harbor East-based personal financial planning startup — and 2019 realLIST honoree — Facet Wealth, Chief Architect Gorkem Sevinc these can vary for engineers, product owners and business team members, but there are several opportunities to stand out built into the process.

“For example, engineering candidates go through whiteboarding exercises with us during the in-person interview,” Sevinc said. “We give them critical-thinking challenges. If they pass those, then we give them a coding challenge that might take between three and four hours, and helps them impress us with their ninja coding skills.”

Plus, they want to see what folks are working on and how they’ve learned.

“An engineering candidate who shows how their side projects have taught them new technologies will definitely catch our eyes,” he said.

That passion comes through when talking about the technology.

“It’s fantastic to see candidates get excited during an interview about a hard problem they’ve worked on or a technology they’ve explored,” Fung said.

Asymmetrik’s team inside its Annapolis Junction headquarters. (Courtesy photo)

At tight-knit, young companies, interviews are often involving many members of the team. So along with the engineering test, Owings Mills-based health and wellness startup BurnAlong (also a realLIST honoree) includes a group interview.

“It really is a group decision when hiring,” co-CEO Daniel Freedman said. The question is, “is this person going to be a strong addition to the team and the culture we’re building?”

While every culture is different, BurnAlong seeking team members who are optimistic, enthusiastic, passionate and who view themselves as team players: “When someone needs help or there’s something going on you never hear people say that’s not my job,” Freedman said. “That’s what you want to see.”

It’s also clear that familiarity with the company is important to show. Freedman said doing research on the team, company and people a candidate will be meeting goes a long way, especially for a product like BurnAlong’s platform for group fitness classes, which is widely available.

"The best hires we've made are people who really felt passionate about the mission."
Daniel Freedman, BurnAlong

“To me it’s surprising to see when people haven’t used the product when they’re applying for a job because it makes you wonder, would they put the effort in with clients and customers?” Freedman said. If the don’t take the time to research a place they want to work, “what does that say about the kind of effort they’d put into a job” he said.

At BurnAlong, a passion for the mission is just as important. The company is ultimately focused on helping people and improving lives through fitness and wellness, Freedman said.

“The best hires we’ve made are people who really felt passionate about the mission,” he said.

At Facet Wealth, Sevinc echoed that preparation is key.

“You must know the company and position well to interview for a position, and have at least some familiarity with the industry we are in,” Sevinc said. Yet that doesn’t mean candidates shouldn’t be curious: “We also love it when they ask a lot of questions.”

When it comes to the qualities they’re seeking throughout the interview, Asymmetrik puts a value on curiosity and initiative. Fung said this often comes through in the questions that are asked.

“We love when candidates ask thoughtful questions that show that they’ve researched the company, and want to know how they can contribute their unique skills to Asymmetrik,” Fung said. “We consider interviewing a two-way street: It’s equally important for the candidate to evaluate whether Asymmetrik is the right fit for them as it is the other way around.”

After all, the employee and the company will be working together toward a common goal. Freedman said the background knowledge shows that an employee has “given it thought to say, this is what I love, and this is where I can add value.”

Meet Baltimore's most exciting tech companies. RSVP now hbspt.cta.load(2084427, ‘f1d069d3-2285-47f1-ac8d-c56c9995d4e1’, {});

Grow and accelerate your pipeline. Exhibit at NET/WORK hbspt.cta.load(2084427, ’38b6c238-3b56-4a37-bd3a-585362f3419a’, {});

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