So you got a call back, and now it is time for an interview. (If you missed the first part, check out this blog on starting your job search.) Interviewing is my favorite part of the process. This applies to being the interviewer as well as the interviewee. The only way to gauge a person is through a conversation, preferably in person.
I’ll cover various interview tactics as well as several tricks and tips.
The Technical Questions
The technical portion of the interview can be a daunting experience for many, especially if you are interviewing with someone who has significant experience and credentials in the field.
The most important thing to remember is your fundamentals. I don’t care if you know a specific Cisco IOS command. I do care if you understand TCP/IP fundamentals. I expect you understand spanning tree as well as differences between packet filters and stateful firewalls.
In my interviews, I always have 20 questions, and about half of them are technical in nature. The technical questions start at a basic level.
I’m looking for how deep a particular candidate can go.
Many of the questions change depending on the position and as technology changes. One of my favorite questions is about the differences between multi-mode and single-mode fiber. The range of answers over the years has astounded me.
But beware when the technical interviewer is not knowledgeable or simply looking for a specific answer. Providing detailed and expansive answers is the key to tackling this situation. This is common in larger companies that conduct an initial round of interviews to trim the candidate pool. Rarely is there a perfect answer to a technical question, but these weed-out technical interviews are hard for everyone.
The Behavioral Questions
In addition to technical questions, you will also be asked many general personal questions, some of which can be tough to answer. Usually the hardest of these
fall into the category of “Behavioral Interview” questions. A few of my favorites are:
- Tell me about a time where you were part of a group project that failed.
- Describe a situation where you disagreed with your supervisor.
- Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
The interviewer wants
to determine how you reacted to these situations in the past, to get a sense of how you might handle them in the future. There are many websites out there with sample questions; read them and plan your answers.
The good news is that many of these questions can be answered in multiple ways. Since you will probably go through many interviews, it helps to have a set of “stories” that you can tell about yourself.
Like your resume, these stories should be truthful and have specific details. Maybe there was a
project that was going sideways until you stepped in with a solution. Maybe you missed that config error, but you wrote a python script so it would never happen again. By telling this story it will help the interviewer better relate to you and make you a better candidate.
Do Your Homework & Ask Questions
So you have answered all their questions, and you get the dreaded “Do you have any questions for me?” Your answer should always be yes.
Always prepare a few questions you can ask. It could be about company culture, or a “day in the life” of a peer engineer. You can even use the same questions with multiple interviewers. It may give you some insight if there are dramatic differences in the answers.
Also, it is critical that you research any company that is interviewing you. You should know their general business and the expectations of the position. The last question I ask anyone is “Tell me what we do.”
Because I am usually interviewing Pre-Sales Engineers, I expect them to have some base knowledge of my company. It takes 15 minutes to read a white paper or review a company. I believe that any quality employee will take the time to do their own investigation.
Now you are through the interview process and waiting for the offer letter. In the next blog, I will take you through the offer process and beyond.