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How To Pass A Technical Job Interview With Flying Colors

Today's market is hot. Once again recruiters are hungry and polite, but this doesn't mean you can easily get a new job.

If last September I was calling the Java job market healthy (see http://java.sys-con.com/read/46228.htm), today's market is hot. Once again recruiters are hungry and polite, but this doesn't mean you can easily get a new job. I'd like to share with you some rules and techniques that can increase your interview success rate.

The process of getting a job consists of three separate tiers; let's call it an IPO pattern:

  • Getting the Interview
  • Passing the interview
  • Getting the Offer
I can't stress enough how important it is to work on achieving each of these goals separately, one step at a time! Your résumé is the most important entity of tier I. Adjust it for each position you are applying for (keep reading, I'm not asking you to lie). Make sure it's short and to the point (I've been developing software for more than 20 years and my résumé is only two pages long). If you are a Java programmer, nobody needs to know the details of that 10-year old PowerBuilder project. Don't even mention your work experience from the 1980s (this rule does not apply only to Bill Gates). Keep good notes of each thread of the I tier and always update your résumé based on the feedback.

The interview is scheduled and now your main goal is to make it a tier P, and not F! Do your homework and prepare a talk on some interesting and challenging Java problems that you might have experienced in one of your projects. If you didn't have any super complex projects, just pick up a topic from one of the multiple online Java forums. Remember, your interviewer has a difficult task: he or she needs to assess your technical skills within 30-60 minutes, so help! Try to get as many technical details about the job as possible from your recruiter. If they do Java sockets, research the work with non-blocking sockets; if they're into multithreading, read about the new concurrent package offered in Java 5.0. For example, if you have prepared a talk on the internals of the Java garbage collector, you're not allowed to leave the interview without talking about this. But what if the interviewer won't ask you about GC? It doesn't really matter. Find a way to switch the conversation to GC and do your best. The interviewers are happy because they don't need to think what to ask next, and you're happy because you've had a chance to talk about a well-known subject. Will this technique work all the time? No. But it'll work most of the time.

If you're a junior developer, spend some time answering the multiple-choice type of tests that are usually required for certification exams. You don't need to get certified, but all these books and online mock tests will help you pass similar tests offered by some job agencies. Find some sample interview questions online (I've also prepared a sample set for you at http://java.sys-con.com/read/48839.htm).

Here's another tip: during the interview don't critique the application architecture of your potential employer. You'll have plenty of chances to provide technical advice after (and if) you're hired, so just focus on getting an offer.

During the interview be energetic and show your interest in this job. Even if you are a Java guru, don't behave as if you're doing them a favor just by coming for an interview. Personality matters. People don't like prima donnas.

Tier O: you've got an offer! Now think hard if you want to accept the offer or turn it down. Have I ever mentioned that you should look for a new job not when your employer decides to let you go or your contract ends, but when you have a stable job, the sky is blue, and the grass is green? This gives you a tremendous advantage: you can consider the offer without being under pressure from unpaid bills. Don't accept an offer just because the new job pays an extra $5,000 a year, which translates into less than $300 a month after taxes. But do accept the offer that will give you a chance to work with interesting technologies or business applications even if it won't pay you an extra dime. Take charge of your career and actively build it the way you want.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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JDJ News Desk 07/18/05 09:17:48 AM EDT

How To Pass A Technical Job Interview With Flying Colors. If last September I was calling the Java job market healthy (see http://java.sys-con.com/read/46228.htm), today's market is hot. Once again recruiters are hungry and polite, but this doesn't mean you can easily get a new job. I'd like to share with you some rules and techniques that can increase your interview success rate.

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