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A rebuttal against terrible interview advice

· Agile Zone

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Whilst looking through twitter yesterday I came across an article on JavaWorld: “6 ways to nail the job interview”. In it, Doug Mitchell (the CEO of Argenta Field Solutions. Nope, me neither) dissects how “Gen-Y candidates, though tech savvy and digitally plugged-in, didn’t seem to have a clue about how to dress for, prepare for or conduct themselves in an interview”.

Take a few minutes to read the article.  Go on, I’ll wait.  Done? Good. Now forget everything that it said.  This is the sort of article that really annoys me because it’s just plain dangerous.  The fact that the term “Gen-Y” is used should be an instant red flag translating to “old person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about”.  Developers (particularly the top up and coming talent such as the readers of CJIQ) are not like most people, and their interviews are not like most interviews.  Getting the big CEO to give the stamp of approval may make him feel better but it’s a terrible move for a company.  If the guy or girl can come in and code up a storm, and the tech lead is happy with their fit, then that should be an instant approval.

Tech lead: “So can we hire him?”

CEO, reclining, smoking cigar: “Sorry, I rejected him”

Tech lead: “Why? He was an amazing programmer, he paired well with the guys and he’s got tons of great ideas that are going to help us!”

CEO: “He didn’t wear a suit and he didn’t know anything about the company so I showed him the door. Kids today! *starts ranting something about all this social media nonsense*”

Do you realise how ridiculous this is?!  Great developers are incredibly hard to find and we now live in a world where flexible working and office casual dress code exists. Companies (and CEOs) need to adapt to this changing nature or get left far behind.

Let’s look at each of the 6 ways discussed:

1. Dress for the role you want: With this I technically agree. You don’t want a role where you have to wear a suit. Have you seen developers in suits? The suit never fits and they end up looking like a kid going to a funeral.  Interviews are stressful enough without dressing like a clown.  Trousers and a shirt are absolutely fine. Don’t do the top button up either. No tie!  I’ve actually had people rock up in jeans before, and that’s ok (albeit a little risky; stick with trousers if you can).  I understand you’ve got a busy life and, if you’re really good, then what you wear really doesn’t matter.

2. Leave slang and dialect at the door: “Keep it professional, formal and polite” says our new friend Doug. What a great way to build rapport with your new team and company! Don’t get me wrong, saying “yo dawg” is a big no, but that’s just good life advice.  You’ll quickly get a measure of your interviewer but most will be trying to understand if you will make a good fit on the team or not.  Be friendly and open and try to work with them on a personal level. You want the interviewer to leave and say “I really like that person”.

3. Bring printed copies of your resume: Seriously?  If the company looking to hire you can’t make the time to hit the print button before they come to an interview when you’ve taken time out of your day to come to their office for and to spend time preparing for then screw them.  They’re not worth your time.  Companies need to treat candidates with respect.

4. Become an expert in the company:  Candidates interview for tons of companies.  I do not expect you to become a master of mine.  If you’re getting towards the final stages, or maybe it’s with a smaller company, then it can’t hurt to take the time to have a look on wikipedia or the corporate website.  That’s just a good idea so you can understand if you want to work there or if you’ll find it interesting.  But as a way to judge a candidate in an interview?  That’s just the CEO massaging his own ego. No other employees care.

I also enjoy how this part encourages small talk. But obviously, professional, formal and polite small talk.  But don’t take it overboard! Nothing worse than building a really good relationship with the interviewer.

5. Never badmouth your previous employers: Partial credit for this one.  The thing is, you’re leaving your current firm for a reason, and that reason isn’t going to be rainbows and kittens. Chances are you’re not happy with something there, and the interviewer wants to know that.  You then both know what you expect from the next role and can be sure you’re a fit.  It’s even fine to highlight flaws of your old team or company during the interview, as if it’s constructive then you’re clearly demonstrating you know what good looks like and what you want from your new role.  I would probably avoid a 5 minute tirade against your former firm though.

6. Ask about the next steps: 1 point! Absolutely ask about the next steps. It shows you’re keen and want to continue onwards and it means you’ll know the timeframes before you get your next answer.  One out of 6 ain’t bad eh?

Alas I fear that articles like this will result in hoards of polite developers in ill fitting suits arriving to interviews everywhere. Hopefully if you’re reading this you’ll know better, and that’s going to get you the job.

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Published at DZone with permission of Sam Atkinson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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