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Troubles with interviews (and their solutions)

This past week, I’ve conducted six free interview coaching sessions with developers. I offered the 30-minute sessions to subscribers to my list (you can get on that, if you want to be in the loop next time), and used Calendly to schedule the times.

Why offer the sessions?

I’ve given lots of interview advice (and it takes up a large chunk of the Beyond the Resume book), but when I hear about someone who’s had a job hunt as a developer for an extended period [to me, more than a month], it sounds like a fascinating bug to look into, to see if I can help.

Running these coaching sessions was a concise (and fun! helping people is great) way to explore the problems real developers are having in interviews, whether they were actively hunting or just starting their job search.

I ended up speaking to developers with a range of experience, from new bootcamp grads to developers with so much experience that they weren’t sure what to look for.

So, what were the problems?

Varied! The “candidates” presented challenges encompassing all stages of the hunt. Happily (for me and for readers), Beyond the Resume covers all of these areas of the job hunt.

Where to start?

What do you look for when you don’t know what to look for?

Scenario: You have a bunch of skills you’ve acquired over the years. Some things you like more than others, but you’re really stuck on figuring out what people call it when they look for people with your skills.

Besides doing some exercises on your own to better figure out what you might be looking for (yes, some of those are in the book), I recommend talking to people. If you’re in an area with a good number of meetups or user groups, go to topics you’re interested in. Ask what people do. If you find what they do interesting, ask if you could meet up for coffee in the near future to learn more about it.

Not only are you finding out more about a role you might be interested in (what is this person’s title? how do they spend their days? is it something you want to do?), you’re also building a relationship with someone who might be in the position to refer you to your next role.

This also goes for the bootcamp grads who are new to the industry. Talking to people to find out what you want/don’t want to do is a great strategy when you don’t have enough experience in the industry to know what titles will apply to your next role.

How do I find people/companies?

How do you go about finding opportunities?

Scenario: You’re ready to make a move but have no idea where to look.

You can start at finding listings and work backwards: after all, better to get to the company through a warm introduction, and you also have no idea if a listing is valid and open or already filled. Definitely a good place to start.

However, you can also start from the other side: find people who are into what you want to get into and talk to them.

If you can think of a community, there’s somewhere they hang out online.

Answer questions online. Become a fixture in a community. Help people, meet people.

Presenting yourself

Scenario: You send off an application and never hear back.

Scenario (II): You feel like an interview went well, but you hear “Sorry, it’s not a great fit. Thanks for your time” as a response, or worse, no response at all.

Presenting yourself comes in multiple forms: when someone’s thinking about talking to you and when you’re doing the talking. Your online presence is fairly simple to vet: run a Google search, make sure you like what comes up, if you don’t, fix it (your portfolio, etc.).

In person is a bit more difficult, but luckily, it also has a simple solution: practice. Participate in mock interviews, organize a mock interview section for your local user group or a Slack community, apply to startup jobs where you’re likely to get to the first round at least, so it’s not as big a deal if/when you bomb the interview.

Technical interviews

The dreaded technical interview.

Scenario: You write JavaScript. You’re mostly self-taught, and good at what you do. Your interviewer asks you a question involving depth-first search. You explode, die, and everything is terrible.

One thing to get over is that the last part of that nightmare scenario is never going to happen. You bomb a technical interview, and what happens? You don’t get the job. That’s pretty much the extent of the consequences. You’ll survive. So long as you’re polite, kind, and articulate, no one’s going to spread bad rumors about you.

There are also lots of good tactics to help you solidify your understanding of the problem, and even have an opportunity to get help from the interviewer, while still presenting a professional demeanor. Look for those in the beta edition of Beyond the Resume 😉


Dare I say that I was pretty gratified from these, because most, if not all, of the advice I ended up giving was right in Beyond the Resume, which is coming out in its beta form next week.

It’s also clear that the interview process doesn’t start at when you are on a phone screen or at an on-site interview – the interview process starts when you start looking for that company and talk to the first person who – maybe – will be making the introduction that leads you into the hiring process.

And if you want to hear from the developers themselves, they had some nice things to say:

You got me into the zone where I reacted just like I know I would in an actual job interview.

It was great to get fast feedback from Pam.

If you want to make sure you approach your next job hunt with tactics that work to help you spend your time more efficiently, do check out Beyond the Resume 🙂

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