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By Jackie Lyon, Board of Directors, Girls in Tech MKE

We’ve all been there, prepping for the elusive interview. That most amazing job that you found on a job board that practically has your name in the title and you can picture yourself working the role like you own the place. Reality check: I got the interview but will they like me? Do I have the magical “it” the manager is dreaming of? Where and how do I even begin to prepare?

On August 4, 2016, Girls in Tech Milwaukee met to discuss the very “scary” tech interview with some interview experts, Ann Kopetsky, Recruiter with Robert Half Technologies and Nereus Dooley, Owner of Doubleberry Design & Development. As a job hunter myself, I’ve spent the summer on the interview circuit and I have had some doozies and some dillies of interviews. You know that saying, gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find that perfect job, or something like that? Here are the tips I picked up along the way and with Girls in Tech…

It’s ok to “online stalk.” Sometimes.
Yep, do your research. Social media is great for so many things, you can get to know someone without ever actually meeting them. You can get a peek at company life on Twitter or Facebook without ever stepping foot in the office. LinkedIn is a great professional resource, read what people and companies put out there for you to see. Do you know anyone at the company, do your contacts know anyone at the company? Reach out to them. What do you have in common with your interviewees to make a connection? You have to work with them every day so what can you break the ice with? Glassdoor will provide employee insights through user stories. What’s being said by current or past employees? Is there a theme? If you’re working with a recruitment agency do your best to squeeze as much information out of them about the role, interviewers, company, and interview style as you can before that interview. Is it a group interview or one-on-one? Do you have to demo work? Do you have to take a test? Do you need to prepare a presentation? What are they looking for? Why is there an opening? What are the work pain points? What’s the tone and org culture like? Is it going to be a little bit fun? Is it the right amount of professionalism? Will the role challenge me enough? Is it collaborative? Can I be myself? What will I learn? Will I have balance?

Listen and observe, you interview the interviewer at the interview!
That’s right, with all that research you did, you better have some questions to follow up with. You will likely spend a great portion of your awake time at work, so what is it like in the office? Who are your co-workers? Is the workspace sufficient? Is there energy in the air? Are people talking to each other? What are they wearing? Do you hear laughter? Crying? Do people look stressed out? Is it whiteboard heaven? Is that free coffee? Can you see the light of day? Wait, it’s just a single stall ladies room?? What makes the company unique from other employers? Why do people stay with the company? Are there opportunities to integrate with company life outside of your day to day role? Why should you pick this company?

Do I have lobsters crawling out of my ears?
Read your interviewers, how are they reacting to your responses? Are you speaking their language? Are your answers resonating with them? Make eye contact and actively listen. If you are getting poker faces or worse yet you find yourself in an interrogation situation and you’re wondering if you can say anything right at all, keep calm and ask a question. If you can redirect focus for a moment and get an answer to one of your questions, take that moment to take a deep breath and smile. Put your work experience into play, these are your stakeholders. How can you earn their buy in? Can you earn their buy in? What do you want to be sure they know and understand about you? What’s your value proposition? What differentiates you from the pack?

Aaaaand that’s wrap up. Now what?
Interview is coming to a close, so try to get feedback to see where you stand. Ask what are the next steps. Empower yourself and ask your interviewees if they have any concerns about what you’ve discussed, can you clarify anything? If you have the contact info, follow up with a thank you for each of your interviewees within 24 hours of meeting (email, snail mail). Summarize what you learned at your interview and what value you can add. Can you share a resource about a topic you discussed? If you want the job, be clear about that; there’s no need to be aloof, it’s a job not high school dating.

Final thoughts not by Jack Handy…
Plan ahead and know where you are going. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive. Maybe drive there before your interview to scope the route and parking. That goes for interview outfitting too. Wear something that you feel good and confident in (and be sure it’s clean). Rule of thumb, wear at least business casual but it’s best to be over dressed than underdressed.
Don’t forget your deodorant.
Be early but not too early, maybe be right on time not to throw off anyone’s schedule. If you get there too early, stay in your care and get to your “happy place”, take some deep breathes, drink some water, review your research and your questions before heading in. Know your background, your skillset, your value adds, your name, your interviewees names, the company’s name, the role you are interviewing for.
Be passionate, be confident, be positive – you’ve done the work now go see if it’s a fit.

Your turn, tell me what you think. Have you had unique inter experiences? What are your tips to prep for a “scary” tech interview?