I recently had my first mock cultural interview on Zoom. A couple of months ago, I graduated Flatiron’s Software Engineering program and I’m working with their career services dept. to prepare me for the job search.
I don’t have much experience interviewing, and undoubtedly, interviewing is something I’m going to need to practice if I’m going to land a job in tech.
My interviewer and career coach, Lynn gave me a lot of good feedback. There were many things I could improve, but that’s okay it was my first time mock interviewing.
First, my answers need more structure. This was one of the biggest problems with my interview: many of my answers were long.
I did prepare for the questions, but during the interview I was rambling on for long periods. I think this is because my answers aren’t structured. I have a bunch of disorganized information that I try to fit into my answer. Instead, I need to highlight a couple of things, organize other information around those main points, and leave out anything else that detracts from my main points.
I think long wording is something people struggle with when they first start giving talks. They say too much. I went to my first Toastmaster’s meeting the other day and both of the speakers that gave talks went over their allotted times; one guy went over his allotted five minutes by ten minutes! At the end of the meeting, the Toastmaster addressed exceeding time limits and said many beginners struggle with keeping their talks short, but they get better as they practice more. So that’s something to keep in mind.
I began noticing my excessive wording while I was making demos for my projects. The first couple of demos I made for my projects went on for around ten minutes — the instructions for the demo were for it to be less than a minute long. It was so difficult trying to keep them short; the best I could do was about three minutes.
By being organized and emphasizing 2 or 3 things, I can be more concise and precise with my answers.
Next, I need better eye contact. It’s difficult; I keep looking up and away because I get so nervous. (Also, eye contact is generally something I struggle with; it’s too intense.) Towards the beginning of the interview, I struggled with looking at Lynn on my monitor (or camera — I never know which way to look), but towards the middle and end, I was getting better at looking at the listener. So I think with more practice, I’ll become more and more comfortable just like anything else.
Going back to looking at the camera or the person on the computer screen, I think I’m going to try and look into the camera both when I speak and listen because the other person will see me looking at them and that’s how people normally talk in everyday life. Plus, looking into the camera makes it easier for me because I find it easier to listen and talk to people when I’m not looking at them (i.e. phone calls).
Explicitly state who you are, not just your credentials
Finally, I need to work on my 30-second elevator pitch (my response to “Tell me about yourself”). I need to highlight my value. Lynn told me that in my elevator pitch, I basically list my work/school history and my credentials, but I don’t explicitly state WHO I AM, WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME, and/or WHY AM I VALUABLE?
Instead of saying, “Well, I’ve been driving trucks for about two years now. I found out about coding boot camps about a year ago. We studied how to build X, Y, and Z…,” I can say “I’m a truck driver and web developer. I enjoy building applications that provide a unique shared user experience and also enjoy designing applications that have real-world applications. This is a project that I’m working on that I’m excited about. These are my credentials.”
I’m EXPLICITLY stating who I am and what I can do, not implying what I can do by listing my credentials! What interviewers are trying to find out when say “tell me about yourself,” is “what makes you qualified or the best person for this job?”
In conclusion, practice makes perfect. The more times I do real or mock interviews, the more comfortable I will be being interviewed, and the less nervous I will be.
I also think I could work on my answers. I could break down what exactly the questions are asking, and make my answers more organized and precise.
Next, I need to start thinking about the technical interviews!