Going for your first web development job interview can be especially daunting. It’s hard to know what to expect, and no matter how prepared you might be, there’s this perpetual feeling your interviewer will suddenly ask you a technical question that you’re pretty sure was phrased in some alien language.
But web development interviews are just like every other interview - if you’re mentally prepared, then you’ll be able to leave a strong impression on interviewers, even if you don’t know the answers to every question. If you stick to these tips before your next interview, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!
Be Familiar With Both Parts Of the Interview
Generally, web development job interviews are formed up two parts - a general interview, and a technical component.
For most entry-level positions, the first part of the interview is very stock-standard, formed up of “Tell me about you” and “Why do you want to work for us” questions. The latter part of the interview often then consists of the interviewer (the HR person) dragging in a disgruntled Senior Developer, who will then quiz you on a few definitions and specific scenarios, often making the questions as quick as possible so he can return back to work.
Programming and software development interviews might have a much longer and more thorough technical component, where you’ll have to write code and algorithms in from of interviewers, often on a whiteboard or paper, away from your computer and it’s handy text editors.
The key is to know what the interview is going to consist of before you go in. This might involve asking straight away after you receive an interview invitation, or simply doing some Googling on what previous candidates have said about the process. It’s not a good idea to prepare for ‘the disgruntled senior developer approach’, only for your interviewers to drag out a whiteboard in the middle of the interview, or to study hard on your terms and definitions, only to find out the company is looking more for people problem-solving capabilities. Interviewers will generally be happy to give you more details about what to expect in the hiring process so you can properly prepare yourself. After all, if the hiring process is too obfuscated, then they run the risk of missing out on good talented purely because they weren’t able to put their best selves on display.
One of the best ways to prepare, especially for the technical component, is to always keep up-to-date with changes, upgrades, industry trends and the latest methods. For example, in web development, responsiveness is high up on the priority list. That’s why understanding how to make your website fast and responsive (and how to do it efficiently) is one of the most important things to be familiar with.
Keeping up-to-date with the industry also shows you’re actively developing yourself and have a keen interest in the field you’re applying for. And, who knows, you might learn some interesting things along the way!
Get Your Problem Solving On With StackOverflow
While your official job description might be ‘Junior Web Developer’, the real day-to-day job you’ll be doing is problem-solving. That’s why it’s a good idea to get onto Stack Overflow and read through people’s issues and solutions, and try to solve as many problems as you can. This will allow you to sharpen up your lateral thinking skills, and allow you become familiar with how other people solve problems. Potential employers also often look at people’s Stack Overflow accounts to see how active you are at helping others out, and how you solve problems. While your Stack Overflow reputation isn’t going to be the deciding factor as to whether you land a job or not, it’s something strong to talk about in your interview.
Brush up on your basics
Even if you feel like you know your fundamentals back-to-front, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on them the night before the interview. Often, if you’ve been coding for a while, basic knowledge might have become habits, which then often makes it hard to explain when you’re put on the spot. Also, it’s not uncommon for all your knowledge to fly out the window when you get nervous. Having reviewed the basics makes sure you at least have solid foundations to rely on, especially if you get flustered.
For example, a few basic things that might be handy to know before going into the interview are:
- Units and Definitions: for example, the differences between em, rem, % and px, and when you should use what, and why
- How to optimise your code, such as how to name classes efficiently
- The most common frameworks - why you’d would or would not use them,
- Responsiveness and browser compatibility
Don’t Hesitate to Do Your Research
You can’t prepare yourself for something you don’t know enough about. So don’t hesitate to pull all the stops out when you’re doing your research. It’s also a way to make sure you’re not only a good fit for the company, but the company is a good fit for you.
Hunting around on LinkedIn for current and ex-employees of the companies is often a good start. It’s not a bad idea to message a few of the most relevant people and ask them a few questions about the company, what the hiring process was like, and if the person left the company, why they did. In doing so, you’ll not only feel out the interview process, but you’ll also get a better understanding of the company culture.
The importance of company culture is often one of the most underestimated parts of finding your perfect job, often because it’s not something you experience until you are in the role. Companies with amazing cultures will help you grow incredibly fast, whereas poor company cultures can really long-lasting negative impact on you, the effects of which are often very insidious.
Talking to current and ex-employees will make sure you’re going to a company that’s going to look after you.
Further research you could do is to read through any company media releases they put out, or even going on Youtube to see if the CEO has given any speeches. Becoming familiar with important documents and milestones will allow you to tap into company values, and even helps you understand company nomenclature, such as whether the company calls their customers ‘users’, or ‘riders’, or ‘pinners’ or any other word that might be unique to them. Using the same words in your interview might seem like a small thing, but can go a long way in establishing you’re the right fit.
Be concise, succinct, and know your story
One of the worst things you can do is blab without having any structure to your answers. That’s why when you’re preparing for your interview, read through your resume and make sure you can walk the interviewer through it concisely in 2-3 minutes.
Also, have ‘your story’ prepared - how you got started, your previous and current projects, and why you’re interviewing for the job. It should be succinct, relevant to the job in question, and should be backed up by your resume. Having this ‘story’ ready will help form the backbone of your interview, ensuring you don’t meander through the entire conversation, even if you never get asked to give your ‘pitch’.
It helps to have a few anecdotes about projects you’ve worked on, even if the projects aren’t big. Past successes and demonstrating drive and proactiveness win huge brownie points in interviews, so make sure you can tell your interviewer about them. However, don’t go into an interview and fire off the anecdotes without any regard to the questions actually being asked. Instead, when the interviewer asks you for your experience, saying something like, “I’ve worked on these three so-and-so projects. I was in charge of so-and-so deliverables and gained this amount of experience. Would you like me to go into more detail?”
Be Passionate, Honest and Personable
An interview is a 2-way exchange, not an interrogation. That means you don’t have to pressure yourself into saying all the ‘right things’. At the end of the day, you just have to demonstrate you love what you do, and you’ll fit in great with the company.
One of the keys ways to do this is to demonstrate a passion for the company. Resist the urge to be cool and aloof. This is not a good look, especially when the person sitting across from you already works for the company.
Another big no-no is to lie. If you don’t know how to do something, or don’t know what something, don’t lie about it because you never know what the follow-up question could be. The graveyard of broken hopes and dreams is littered with people who have overblown their accomplishments; massive exaggerations always have a way of coming around and biting you on the butt.
Lastly, be interested in the interviewer too! To be interesting, you need to be interested. It’s flattering to the interviewer to show you want to get to know them too. Always have a few question prepared for the end of the interview, and after it’s all done, make sure you thank everyone for their time. It’s also not a bad idea to write thank you notes!
Lastly, get some good rest the night before
I know this sounds like very generic advice, but experts give this advice over and over again. By getting some extra rest, you’re ensuring you’ll wake up fresher, more alert, and in a better mood than you usually might. It’ll help you put on your best smile, look good and generally feel better, and what you feel on the inside has a huge impact on how you look on the outside. Body language and tone forms most of our social interactions, so don’t underestimate the importance of having a good night’s rest.
Your first interview in a technical job is always going to be daunting and scary. But just remember your biggest gatekeeper in the room is you. Particularly for entry level jobs, interviewers aren’t usually looking for person who can write the most complex alogrithms, or code the cleanest code. What they’re looking for is someone who’s a good personality fit within the company, and who has the drive to learn. That’s why projecting your confidence, being personable, and showing passion in what you do are going to go a long way. If you stick to what you know and have an unshakeable belief in yourself, then you’ll go a long way.
Oh, and good luck!