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Gaining the Technical Confidence to Crush an Interview

Managing Expectations
Hiring
Juniors
Career Path

2 November, 2021

Chris Sellek
Chris Sellek

Staff Software Engineer at WillowTree Apps

Chris Sellek, Staff Software Engineer at WillowTree, describes his troublesome process to land a job when he graduated college and how he gained the technical confidence to perform well during interviews.

Problem

I graduated in 2010 when the economy was doing poorly, and there was a lack of jobs. It took me 18 months to find a job, even though I had an impressive resume. I had previous experience and couldn’t figure out why potential employers weren’t hiring me. Looking back, it is evident to me, but at the time, nobody was helping me prepare or giving me any feedback. I needed advice on the interview, resume, and company culture process to land my first job.

Actions taken

The first step in finding a job is to create your resume. Don’t try to make it visually pleasing as employers are only interested in your relevant experience. Many juniors will feel like they have to garnish their resume, including details that may not have anything to do with the job or industry in question. Only add the information that is necessary and relevant to the job, company, and yourself. As a junior, including personal projects on a resume is beneficial and will beef up the experiences section. Resumes are the first thing an employer sees; creating a standout, a no-nonsense resume will present your best foot forward.

To prepare for the logic portion of the interview, I recommend using Codewars, an online program dedicated to improving your coding skills. Technical interview questions are often based on real-world applications and link to solving a problem using code. Codewars provides you with interview-style issues and asks you to write a solution using various coding languages (you can choose which language to focus your training on). It is not only beneficial for your problem solving, however, as it shows curated answers that will help you learn coding shortcuts and "hacks" specific to the language you're working in. Interviewers will be impressed with your capabilities if you use shortcuts to solve these logic problems during interviews, as your skills will stand out.

After you’re hired at a new company, you should begin to figure out how to do things the company way. Determine the expectations that dictate when you should try and figure something out and when you should ask for help. If I cannot find information via a simple Google search, I am usually missing a term for context that I should inquire about. Of course, when I have the time, I sit down to conquer these problems head-on and gain valuable problem-solving skills.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t pretend to know technical matters that are above your head, especially as a junior. Interviewers know more than you do and it won’t paint you in the best light. Be comfortable admitting you don’t understand something, as it will show that you are teachable and honest.
  • If you’re interviewing at a decent company, they will understand that you are nervous and how that may affect your performance. In reverse, by understanding that everyone gets nervous during interviews, you should hopefully be less anxious.
  • Although discouraging, many companies will not get back to you even if they say they will. Don’t get hung up on specific companies, though, even if you didn’t land the job with a certain organization; there are plenty out there.

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