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5 steps to acing your technical interview, from a developer who did it

Posted by Travis O'Rourke, Head of Hays Talent Solutions, on behalf of Dmitri Khanine, on Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017

Hays Canada Blog: 5 Steps to acing your technical interview, from a developer who did itIf you’re back to the job market after a while or looking to move into another technology, getting a technical interview may seem like winning a lottery. However, sometimes job seekers rush into it, blowing their chances and setting back their career.

What simple steps can you take right now to find out exactly what you may be missing in the technical field where you are going to seek employment?

If you were in a contract or permanent role for a while, you may be good at what you were doing and might hope for luck and just take a chance at a technical interview. That’s not setting yourself up for success.

Not only are the tools and technologies changing really fast, the kind of problems your last organization was solving may not be the same type of problems employers are looking to solve right now. Don’t have to take chances and blow good opportunities, when just and a few hours of research can make all the difference between acing your technical interview versus coming across as incompetent. Following these steps will also make you more comfortable after you get the job.

Next time you looking for a technical role:

1. Know the expectations
Start by downloading and reviewing all of the recent job postings in your area that call for technologies you were going to use. Don’t just glance at them or scan through. Copy and paste them into a grid and do your analysis. Besides confirming your expectations of the demand you were anticipating, it will give you an idea of the broad types of roles currently available in your market and in your chosen technology.

2. Set your objectives
Pick the type of role you are after and re-read the job postings looking for specific skills and the challenges employers are looking to solve. Many times you will see specific projects and business goals mentioned in these job postings, so do your research.

3. Leverage your network's expertise
Reach out to your friends, past connections, former peers and supervisors or even LinkedIn group members if you need to. Talk about specific business problems that projects were focused on resolving and specifics bits of technology these organizations were actually using. Ask about the outcomes and lessons they have learned. Imagine yourself in a team lead or an architect role being responsible for each of these projects, thinking of what bits of technology would you use and how they would fit together.

4. Research your weaker points
Use the internet to brush up in the areas you have identified. Complete online tutorials and work on your test projects until you feel that you gained the big picture view and you are comfortable with most popular development tools, feeling that you are ready to start.

5. Take a targeted approach
Don’t overdo it. The internet will always be by your side and some learning and looking things up is expected in any type of role. You are going for understanding of the typical business problems, how specific technologies are used to solving them and the actual steps you need to take to make this happen.

Those are the steps - so what does it look like in the real world?

What would you add? Join the discussion on our LinkedIn page.

Best practices in practice: How I got the developer role I wanted

When I recently finished my contract I decided to look for a new role as a Salesforce CRM consultant. I learnt the technology at my previous job and was pleased to find Salesforce in high demand. However, having some experience, even in a high demand technology, and getting a high paying job using that technology are two very different things.

To ensure success, first I spent the time surveying the marketplace. What type of salesforce roles were open? What positions employers were looking to fill? There were two types of roles: developer and administrator – the same broad types of roles existed in many other technologies that kept me employed for decades. I focused on developer roles because they tend to get better compensation, more flexible hours and I find development more challenging and rewarding.

So I looked at all the salesforce development jobs posted on Hays, looking for specific skills employers wanted and challenges they were trying to solve. For skills, Force.com development was big and so was the SOQL query language as well as the frontend technologies like the Angular JS JavaScript library. In terms of challenges, there were two main categories: extending and maintenance of existing Salesforce CRM systems and conversion of existing systems to Lightning, the latest UI technology recently introduced by Salesforce.

I had experience with Force.com and SOQL but no exposure to Lighting so that made it easy for me to choose, but I haven’t had a lot of exposure to Angular. I had, however, had some recent experience with Bootstrap, jQuery, other popular JavaScript libraries.

The problem areas started to become clear. I had to become familiar with Angular JS, the UI library that a lot of job postings were calling for, and I had to find and fill smaller holes in my Salesforce skillset. I was comfortable with my Force.com development tasks at my last job, but knew that may not be enough to pass an interview and be comfortable at a new role. I knew that my experience had holes, but what holes?

I didn’t want to learn at an interview – there are only so many interviews you can fail. And I didn’t want to take on a job unless I felt confident that I could ace it.

I relied on my past experience leading a development team at a bank to think about what I would want from a candidate. I would want someone with a good understanding of how the major parts of the technology worked and fitted together; who was aware of the typical problems and what tools we used to solve them. That person would know what development environments are most popular, how to use them, how to get to the source code and start the debugger, how to write a basic database query.

That helped me set a direction for developing my skills. I asked experts in my network about the high level business problems, why they picked salesforce as their solution, what challenges they had and how were the solutions working out for them. Then I thought of specific tools and technologies within salesforce CRM that I needed to know to be successful at implementing each of these solutions.

There were Apex triggers, custom objects and visual force pages and a few more things I needed to brush up on. Imagining myself in a lead developer or an architect role for each of the business solutions they described, made it crystal clear what I needed to know and I knew exactly what bits of technology I had to be aware of.

I spent a evenings and a weekend studying and working on my test projects and then updated and posted my resume and started to apply for jobs. In just three days I received an invitation to an interview, and the technical interview came two days later with their technical lead. I was pleased to hear the questions I anticipated him asking and I received my offer in another two days.

Taking that time up front allowed me to be better prepared, and to ultimately get a role that fulfilled all my goals.

What would you have done differently? Join the discussion on our LinkedIn page.

Looking for your next contract? Search available jobs, or contact us today.

Dmitri Khanine is an experienced and passionate Business Analyst, User Researcher, Consultant and BA Coach. He is an Oracle ACE, published author and frequent speaker at industry events.


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