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Your first developer interview | Q&A

It’s such a crazy time and many of us will be job hunting due to sad circumstances 2020 has brought us. At the end of September I was made redundant which meant I have had to start job hunting again.

I remembered my very first junior developer interview from 2018 and was wondering how will job interviews look while we’re all locked-up and things are really weird.

Questions that popped up went something like this:

1. Does it mean there will be more remote opportunities?
2. How should I present myself this time around?
3. What does one wear to an interview as such?
4. Is my mic/cam good enough?!
5. Do I really know how to behave on Zoom?

So many questions, many more than what I had answers for, therefore, I thought I’d make a blog post about it since it might help out ease anxiety for someone else too 💛

How does an interview normally look like?

Before all this COVID-19 madness, I’ve been to three interviews before securing a position at my previous job. All positions I applied for were for trainee and/or junior positions at the time.

If I had to break it down into sections, I’d pick these:

1. Being asked about yourself
People like to get to know you. Don’t be afraid of sharing your passions with the world. Tell them what you love, tell them what you hate. I felt very uncomfortable doing this and thought it was fairly unprofessional to share such details – I don’t think like it anymore and if I’m the interviewer (the person leading the interview I guess) I’ll always give more importance to things you like to do and ask you about your favourite games for example.

2. Being asked to produce some work
A lot of companies will ask you to create a simple landing page following their design and copy instructions. Often those are sent to you over email and contain a time period in which you have to hand them over. The very first one of these I’ve ever done was SHOCKINGLY BAD 😂 but, ladies and gents, it didn’t matter. I had a chance to present myself in a face-to-face interview even though I’ve done a bad job back then (I still have this as a private repo on GitHub). It really was a great practice for the future and I’m glad I tried when I did, even though I wasn’t ready.

3. Being asked to do a 1h coding test
This method is quite popular with certain types of companies. You’d be presented with an IDE of their choice, a task and two people watching over your shoulder every key you press. I don’t have to tell you how uncomfortable these are, but know that they aren’t common practice. These days most companies understand that you can’t really get anything decent done within an hour (while being watched) and aren’t trying to make you attempt doing it. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, deffo go for it and I’m sure there’re will be places where you can shine but, personally – It’s a no from me.

4. Presenting yourself
Apart from your likes/dislikes people will have to check what are you comfortable doing and what are you not. How do you act when there is something you don’t know how to do? Are you comfortable taking ownership of mistakes? Are you comfortable asking questions?

Best thing for these situations is to be yourself. Be honest, say you need help if you do, talk about what do you struggle with, but under no circumstances are you allowed to put yourself down and belittle your efforts 😛 I’ll have to steal all your cookies if you do 😛 Be brave but don’t get big-headed!

What was interviewing during 2020 pademic like?

About the same but less anxious I’d say. There is no travel involved since it’s all held over Zoom or Google Hangouts which I particularly enjoyed as having seizures doesn’t make my transport any easier 😛

Main differences would be discussing the meaning of ‘remote’. You’ve really got to be careful and ask twice before you land yourself in a situation of ‘flexible-working’ rather than ‘remote positions’.

There are still coding tests, both types I’ve talked about above, and this time ’round I got to make two of those. One of them was a landing page you might have seen on my GitHub which was marked ‘authentic to design’.
I’ve left it on there as a simple example of what you might be asked to make, if you’d like a reference point. These ‘landing page’ tests were quite frequent and I really enjoy making them.

Ah, clothing, yes! I don’t know what to tell you.. I’m no fashion expert but I did think about people sat in their kitchens and living rooms answering calls wearing full dress up suits and similar. I have none of that and in all honesty it wouldn’t represent who I am – so I’ve gone for something simple!

I had a yellow blouse with short sleeves that makes me happy and a pair of jeans, though noone could tell 😛. For some other ones I wore a nice wool sweater on or a long sleeve shirt + jeans of course. Nothing with text on it. Nothing with memes. But casual at the same time 😛 What did other people wear? The same as me, I’d say. Comfortable and nice clothes you’d normally wear at home, nothing fancy, nothing spectacular or fancy, but you got to make yourself look decent – no dressing gowns!

How did it look on Zoom/Hangouts vs in person?

I was very nervous to start with as it was a new experience but after a while it didn’t seem so different. I had recently bought a new cam/mic set up and felt paranoid every time I’d join a call in case I didn’t ‘select’ them as input/outputs.

To help myself be a bit less nervous I’d write up a list of questions I had and made sure I have a pen near me so I can be spinning it around and playing with it as a form of distraction so that I can form actual words later 😛

Can you remember your pre-covid interviews? What kind of things have you been applying for during lockdown and how did it go for you?

If you’re just getting ready to take over the world of tech, my article on Psychological Safety in tech teams might be of use to you💛

Get in touch over Instagram and let’s have a chat!

Until then, stay safe 💛

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