How to make a lasting impression in a tech interview: 3 tips

Landing a job is difficult, especially when the company is only looking to hire one candidate out of many. Here's what you can do to stand out.

How to improve the technical interview At Code PaLOUsa 2018, Josh Greenwood, a software developer at consulting agency Test Double, explained why the traditional tech interview process is broken, and how to fix it.

While the national unemployment rate is currently low, competition still exists for landing a job —whether a hiring manager is choosing between two candidates or 20. Competition will only become stiffer as more young people enter the job market.

More than 60 million Generation Z job seekers are expected to enter the workforce in the next few years. The oldest members of Gen Z—young adults born between 1997 and 2000—are already competing for top jobs, according to a recent Glassdoor report.

SEE: Hiring kit: Technical writer (Tech Pro Research)

For many people, job interviews are a source of anxiety, said Brittany Hale, senior enterprise recruiter at Mondo. The circumstance itself is naturally nerve-wracking—each person being analyzed and compared to one another—but it's unfortunately the name of the game.

But there are ways candidates can make themselves stand out, said Caroline Stokes, founder and executive headhunter at FORWARD Executive Search & Executive Coaching. Instead of letting the stress of an interview overwhelm them, candidates should instead channel that energy into being a better applicant. Here's how:

1. Get excited

"I think the biggest thing is the enthusiasm," said Hale. A lack of excitement about the job is a huge red flag for hiring managers, because they want candidates to turn into employees who are excited about the work they are doing.

"If you go in there and you're just excited, you make an effort to be personable, it makes a difference," Hale added. "Even if it's a little out of your comfort zone, you want to put that effort out there to show you're very interested. That is usually what sets candidates apart."

An interview is a chance for you to present the best version of yourself. Hale suggested doing a mock interview with a friend or practicing in front of the mirror, to make sure your face and attitude matches your feelings. At the end of the day, candidates are trying to sell themselves, she said.

2. Go beyond the resume

The point of an interview is to show who you are off paper. Nine times out of 10, the hiring manager already has a copy of your resume in front of them during the interview, said Hale.

Whether it's bringing a portfolio or telling a story, candidates who make an effort to show their experiences and personality go further than those who just list off past job titles, said Stokes. For example, candidates can discuss a past accomplishment and how they got there, or go into a problem they handled and why they handled it that way, she added.

Portfolios are more useful for digital artists or designers, but tech candidates could present a good GitHub or Stack Overflow, said Stokes. Examples of mentorship could also prove helpful, as it would show hiring managers how you interact with others.

"When you're hiring for a technical role, it's not just about being able to write the most elegant code, it's got to also be about, how do you mentor your team?" said Stokes. "How do you communicate? How do you influence? How do you make these projects come through with as little friction as possible?"

3. Ask questions

The last 10 to 15 minutes of interviews are almost always reserved for candidates to ask questions. "This is really your time to shine," said Hale.

Asking questions is crucial for candidates. By not asking questions, the candidate looks like they are either unprepared or not interested, she said. "Whether it's questions about the long term financials of the company, or where they see it going in five to 10 years, you've read about their initiatives online and you'd love to hear more about this specific mission of theirs," she added.

This is a great opportunity for the candidate to show that they've both done their research and are making an effort to show the company who they are. Hale provided the following example of an ideal question to ask: "I'm looking for stability and growth. I've noticed your employees stay for five, six, seven years. Why do you think your employees stay for so long? Or what do you think it is about your company that makes it so attractive?"

By presenting the question in this way, the candidate communicates what they are looking for, and that they are a solid option if the company wants someone who wants to grow over time, Hale said.

Check out these TechRepublic articles to find out what questions developers, data scientists, and project managers should ask potential employers during a job interview.

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Image: iStockphoto/vladans

By Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.