Wibi Interviewing: Top 12 Interview Tips
Part of building a company requires the acquisition and retention of talented employees. Step one is getting candidates in the door, and then finding out more about them. Over the last five years, I’ve gained a lot of experience interviewing potential employees in an effort to understand their areas of expertise, their personalities and whether they might be a good cultural fit. While I likely still have a lot to learn about screening job candidates, I wanted to share a few best practices for anyone considering WibiData as a potential employer:
- Keep your resume short. One page is ideal for a professional role at a private company. Two pages is acceptable if you are aiming for a senior management role.
- Be comfortable speaking about your most recent job in detail. It’s very important that you can speak about what you did in your last job, what the result was and why the result mattered or made a difference for your company. If you can stick to these points while providing the most essential context, you should be able to answer in a clear, concise and compelling manner. This is one of the first opportunities for you to show that you can focus on prioritizing to solve problems that matter.
- Technical skills are not the only thing that matters. The ability to work at a company and with a team well is important. I look for examples where a candidate pulled extra weight for the team. This could be a time when they did boring or tedious work because it was in support of a long-term company goal, a time they were open-minded about what they were building to better serve the customer's needs, or a time they learned a new system in a hurry to meet the deadline. These are all examples of behavioral interview questions. While "continuous learning" or "initiative" are good things, it’s important to back each up with examples from your previous roles. These transfer from any role or responsibility, regardless of whether or not it was technical.
- Don't call attention to your weaknesses. If I think you're inflating your resume, I'm going to suss that out. It's shocking the number of times people will self-rate themselves as “expert at…” or “experienced with…,” only to admit that ‘“oh, maybe they played with this system over a weekend or read some blog posts about it.” If you claim you're an expert in something, I might ask questions about how that thing failed in production and how you debugged it. If you haven't deployed it to production, and it hasn't crashed hard on you, you are likely not quite at the expert level yet! Claiming yourself as “experienced” means you're prepared to use that technology, system, language or other technical skill in a professional capacity in your first week on the job.
- Cover letters are influential depending on the position. At WibiData, cover letters are optional for technical and individual contributor roles. If you are aiming for a management position, however, it is a good idea to include a cover letter. Just like your resume, limit it to one page.
- Writing samples are important for marketing or communication roles. Choose two or three representative documents of varying styles. A short blog post, a slide deck, a one-page marketing brief, a whitepaper, a research paper or similar should work. Definitely double-check your grammar and brush up on your Strunk & White. If your writing will potentially represent the company, then your supporting documents must not be riddled with typos or grammatical errors.
- Grammar matters for all roles. Regardless of the role, flawless spelling and grammar can only help you. Typos make you look lazy or sloppy. What is your code going to look like, if you can't construct a paragraph well? What would your comments look like in the codebase?
- Be prepared to code a solution in one of the languages on your resume. If you put a specific language on your resume (Java, Python, Erlang, Awk, etc.), I might ask you to code a solution to a problem on the whiteboard in that language. At least one member of your interview panel probably knows each programming language you might list. Be prepared. It's okay to self-rate as "expert, fluent, proficient or experienced" in language X and "learning, improving, or entry-level" in language Y if you want to highlight your continuous learning and improvement. In that case, I'm far more likely to focus on language X than Y.
- Code in the language you are asked to code in. If I suggest a language and you ask whether you can use a different one... I'm going to say ‘yes’, but it is probably not to your benefit. I have had people ask if they could write their solution in C instead of Python. I usually say ‘yes’, because now my curiosity is piqued. Twenty-five lines later and they have filled the whiteboard and have barely validated the method's arguments for sanity.
- Don’t overthink the solution. If you write more than 20 - 25 lines of code on a whiteboard, you're probably way over thinking the problem. Solutions to my questions usually take 15 - 20 lines. This is a time to take a step back and reapproach the problem from a more holistic perspective.
- Your Github and LinkedIn Profiles are both part of your resume. If you have a Github profile and I'm on the fence about your technical ability, I might be persuaded by seeing quality code in an open source repo you maintain, or contributions and pull requests you've made to help other projects out. If you don't have a profile, it's time to show off some hacking you've done!
- Finally, keep at it! Use some early interviews as practice for the companies you care more about. Get warmed up before you submit your resume to the company advertising your dream job.