5 biggest mistakes developers can make in a job interview

Here are five common mistakes and tips on how to land the sought-after roles.

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Developer roles are some of the most in-demand job positions in tech. While programming languages and coding are critical to the profession, those skills don't necessarily mean you'll land the job.

SEE: 5 developer interview horror stories (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Tech hiring managers are looking for more than tech talent. According to a recent CompTIA report, IT managers want employees who can problem solve (55%), work in teams (48%), identify with user experience (34%), and have strong communication skills (31%). 

These abilities fall under the term "soft skills," or interpersonal skills, which often don't come as naturally to technically-minded employees. The modern workforce wants these qualities, however, and hiring managers begin looking for them during the interview process, 

To help developers reach ultimate success during their interviews, hiring leaders offered advice on habits and tactics to avoid when interviewing for a job. 

5 mistakes in developer interviews 

Here's what hiring managers don't want to see in your interview: 

1. Bad-talking previous employer

One of the biggest mistakes developers can make during an interview is talking poorly of current or past workplaces, said Jen-Ban Ho, CTO of SaaS platform TicketManager.

"If you use your interview to go on a tirade about how you despise every person you've ever worked with, why would I want to hire you?" said Jon Hill, CEO of The Energists. "It's amazing to me that some programmers don't realize how bad this makes them look.

"No hiring manager is going to want to bring that type of energy into their office," Hill added.

2. Poor communication

Strong communication is crucial to functional teams, which is why hiring managers are looking for developer candidates with communicative abilities, even in breaking down code, said Joseph Bienvenu, web developer and graphic designer at Moxie Media. 

"An interview involves a lot of discussion and communication between the interviewer and interviewee. Web developers especially need to explain their reasoning for certain solutions to proposed scenarios clearly," Bienvenu said.

"A developer can produce exemplary code for an interviewer, but the interviewer is still going to expect a thorough justification and interpretation for that code," Bienvenu added.

At the same time, developers also need to be able to recognize when to cut the tech jargon. Interviewers might not always be at the same technological level, said Zoë Morris, president of Mason Frank International, a Salesforce recruitment organization.

"Make sure you know who you're speaking to and tailor your responses accordingly," Morris said.

"Not all questions require a flood of technical terminology, so a question that's designed to look at your soft skills doesn't require that," Morris said. "It may show off your competency as a developer, but if your interviewer isn't on the same wavelength it'll be to your detriment rather than your benefit.

"Try and speak clearly and simply, rather than using jargon," Morris added. "Filling answers with tech language doesn't show any passion or interest in a potential employer, it's simply backing up the details on your resume, which will be done during a competency test anyway."

3. Jumping to conclusions 

Interviews can be nerve-racking, but developers must avoid letting that apprehension take over their thought processes, said Tomás Pueyo, vice president of growth at Course Hero. 

"The biggest mistake I see when interviewing tech candidates is jumping to solutions before understanding the problem," Pueyo said. "Candidates are eager to answer questions, so they believe the faster they come up with a solution, the cleverer they will sound. But this is not what our job is about."

"In tech, we deal with massive amounts of data, solving problems that are frequently unclear. A key marker of wisdom is taking a step back, gathering all the available information, understanding it, and only then jumping to solutions," Pueyo added. 

4. Coming without questions

While interviews do focus on questioning the interviewee, the candidate should also have their own questions prepared, Hill said. 

"As a hiring manager, I expect the candidate to come with their own questions. That's how I know that they're enthusiastic about the company, and that they're eager to learn and improve," Hill noted.

"If a candidate comes without questions, I'm unlikely to hire them. You'd be surprised how often it happens," he added.

5. Bashing technologies

Another big mistake developers make is talking badly about various technologies during the interview. Sometimes, hiring managers will ask what they think of a certain technology to test their responses, Ho said. 

"Avoid phrases like, 'Only losers still use X or Y software.' You never know what legacy systems they could favor or are still using," Ho said.

"Plus, the interviewer might be baiting you. Be forewarned and don't take the bait," Ho added. 

For more, check out How developers can negotiate a salary increase on TechRepublic. 

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Successfully passed job interview

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