International : Junior IT Interview Candidates : Know Thyself!

A friend came out from an interview. He said he did great, he completely nailed it! Since I was worried about his SQL skills, I asked him if he got asked about SQL. He said yes. The question was : “Do you know SQL?”. Anxious to know how he answered, he replied : “I said I know SQL unless they can prove me wrong.”. OMG!!! Did you go there to fight someone? You are looking for a job, not for a fight! par Mékoné Tolrom (Presse), le 12/3/2017 10:05:32 PM

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With an ever changing field like High Tech, nobody expects a job candidate to know everything. Even within the compound of one position, so many required skills are listed that honestly very few candidates can have them all. Programming interviews are focus on one main thing : data structures and algorithms. Even if the company is looking for a programmer in C#, he will be wiling to hire someone with good skills in Java. The candidate can solve interview using Python language if he wants. It’s all boiled down to if you know how to solve problems using programming. Obviously, if it’s a short term contract where the programmer must get dirty right away and deliver, he will need to know to exact technology he will be working with. However, in system administration for example, you can face questions in many areas.
During the interviews, you can be excited, excited to talk about a technology you master or you are passionate about. However, do not launch an exaggeration campaign after you believe you nailed the interview and go wild like talk shows with a handful of listeners or viewers on YouTube. Usually they start with good information and say anything when they acquire a large audience. You can try this 3 level answer tactic. This tactic is based on the fact that nobody assumes you know everything; some knowledge are equivalent or can be translated to other domains; the company wants a good profile for its position and the candidate wants a position that fits his profile and desires. It’s a win-win situation if the company is happy after hiring and the employee is also happy.
Answer level 1 is “I don’t know!”. Seriously! If you are been interviewed not to write code but to be an infrastructure guy, you will face questions on many areas : networking, database, scripting, web, hardware, purchasing, etc. Question: do you know Puppet or Chef? It’s not because you heard a friend talk about Puppet or Chef or you read an article about these technologies, you will answer Yes. If you answer yes, either you will not be able to answer follow up questions and prove that you don’t know or you get hired without proving you know and you will be stuck when it comes to real work with that technology. Please answer as-is : I heard about it and read a couple articles about it but I did neither use it nor had a formal training on it. Period. Simple and honest, the interviewer will move to another question unless they are hiring for an expert in Puppet/Chef and you lied in your resume.
Answer level 2 should also be an humble one. Question: do you know how to prepare Windows Azure or AWS environments/infrastructure for a service deployment? Not hard to answer. Let’s say during your recent curriculum, you took a class or had a capstone project where you build servers in a cloud environment and deploy something like a website. It’s a small project, it’s not a large company scale deployment. Tell it as-is. If you are being interviewed in a large company, they can give you a chance to onboard because you at least did something with that technology. If you get down to work or work with it every day when hired, they know you can be good at it. Please do not give them an answer that make them feel you are at an expert level.
Answer level 3 is for guys that come in to make things better. Not only they know the technology and have enterprise level experience with it but they can look at how the environment is designed and offer better solutions. They can be so good at SQL administration, they can say this way is not efficient and there are better options. If you are at that level, I am sure you have enough experience and know how to handle questions.
Most of job descriptions are full of wishes : let’s add this skill; this skill is nice; we may also want to consider this skill! This is good and bad at the same time. Good if some courageous candidates apply with diverse backgrounds and there is no priority among the skills required. It’s the case of a large company that wants to build a multi skilled team. Bad if required skills are not prioritized and candidates shy away. The best for candidates to know for what position to apply is to know the company. You can research about the company and know the technologies they are using, the Linkedin profile of the current employees, the interview questions in Glassdoor (for example), etc.
If you are lucky that required skills are prioritized in the job description, please fill the gaps, fill the gaps, fill the gaps! Print out or copy paste the top required skills in a notepad and make sure you are ready to talk about each of them. Read a chapter on the subject, watch a video, work on a little project, etc. On top of having skills, job search and interview strategy makes the difference!

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