How To Ace An Interview Without Choking

How To Ace An Interview

Without Choking

Gone are the days where candidates have the opportunity to directly meet the head of the company to discuss why they are the best fit for the job. Modern hiring practices consist of software platforms where algorithms, not coded to account for professional demeanor or measure life experience, eliminate candidates based-off of a lack of traditional qualifications like degree title and university prestige.

Then if you are lucky enough to make it past the algorithm, your next screening to show-off your professional acumen will be with a hiring manager. And while actually speaking with a real person feels more natural than being weeded out by a faceless line of code, oftentimes hiring managers are still honing in on those traditional qualifications.

The challenge for potential candidates in the hot seat is to steer the interview in a direction to focus on other attributes that make them qualified for the role.

Not to discount those qualifications, but there are so many other factors worth noting in an interview aside from the quality and prestige of education, and previous employment. Both are oftentimes are overlooked. The challenge for potential candidates in the hot seat is to steer the interview in a direction to focus on other attributes that make them qualified for the role.

In my experience, I have seen tech companies rule-out exceptional candidates simply because their traditional qualifications – like academic pedigree – are not signed and sealed from an Ivy League university. It seems kind of counterintuitive since so many modern day tech companies were founded by innovative entrepreneurs who did not necessarily follow the straight-and-narrow educational path they now demand of others.

While hiring managers need to recalibrate to focus on hiring through a non-traditional lens that values skill-sets, professional and personal projects, and even life experience; there are three things candidates can do to command the hiring manager’s attention to focus on other attributes.

Acknowledge Your Mistakes and Lessons Learned

Everyone encounters failure at some point in their career. However, acknowledging where things may have gone wrong and embracing the lessons learned will not only display maturity but showcase your humble ability to reflect and learn.

Talking empathetically about how you handled a situation with a client or a time when you’ve successfully collaborated and communicated with a colleague can give the hiring manager the impression that you can healthily handle all responsibilities of the role.

I do not think there is an industry more receptive to professional failures than technology. Ideas flounder, startups run dry and what is left are technologists learning from these lessons to create more opportunities for themselves. The core of any company’s growth, tech or non-tech, is the ability to learn from both successes and mistakes. As individuals, we mess up all the time – we are humans. While the challenge may be acknowledging your failures, the key is to discuss the lessons learned from it and how it has shaped you into the employee you are today. Learning how to strike a balance of honesty and confidence while talking about ways to avoid future problems will stay with a hiring manager long after an interview.

Flaunt Your Accomplishments

I have seen both Ivy League and non-Ivy candidates lead with professional and personal successes before even mentioning their academic credentials. Technologists are addicted to creating and inventing new projects, and many of these projects are continuously evolving. Do not just tell the hiring manager about your project, show them. Better yet, talk about the strengths and weaknesses of your project and how you intend to overcome these challenges by applying your skills – the same skills that probably make you qualified for the job. 

Then shine a light on your capabilities  – those formal and informal – achievements. Point to examples of action you took or work you accomplished.

Interpersonal Skills Are More Important Than You Think

One thing we hear all the time from our hiring partners is how important interpersonal skills are for tech roles. Stereotypes paint technologists as hoodie wearing coders who do not interact or communicate with others. This stereotype is not only wildly false but diminishes the immense value of an interpersonal technologist. And in my experience, these interpersonal techies are the most successful and fun to work with.

If you want to raise a hiring manager’s eyebrows, hone in on your interpersonal aptitude by talking through the flows of how you communicate both technical and non-technical language in a job setting. If you have the experience bridging communication gaps, absolutely mention how important this was for the health of your team and overall company.

Display Emotional Intelligence

When I talk with companies about their recruiting and hiring practices we often dive into the subject of the importance of emotional intelligence – EI – in the workplace. Google defines emotional intelligence as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. You probably know people who fit this description – perhaps you’re emotionally intelligent yourself.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, indicated that emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 job skills in 2020. Hence, why companies are putting a high premium on candidates who display emotional intelligence.

If you are an emotionally intelligent person – it may be challenging to showcase your EI skills in a short interview with someone who you’ve never met before. Nevertheless, there are a few things you can do to highlight your emotional intelligence. Talking empathetically about how you handled a situation with a client or a time when you’ve successfully collaborated and communicated with a colleague can give the hiring manager the impression that you can healthily handle all responsibilities of the role.  

Talk About Your Out-Of-Office Self

You are more than just a job title. Of course, work is a huge part of life but hiring managers genuinely want to know what you do outside of work. This also gives them a sense of your personality and how your interests could add or diversify a team.

Now more than ever, companies are recognizing the importance of off-site team building activities and some companies are even allocating budgets for employees to get out of the office and have some fun. Tell your future team about your outside interests and maybe one day you can even show them!

I have been working in business and technology for nearly fifteen years. The best advice I can give any aspiring technologist is to showcase your niche skill-set or unique experience be that personal or professional that differentiates you from the pack. Also, add a flare of your personality and, social and emotional skill-sets. By doing this, you will leave a hiring manager impressed and curious as to how your skills can contribute to the overall growth and development of the company, which of course, is the ultimate goal.

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