Interview Tips: You're in the interview room. Now what?


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In my last blog post on Interview Tips: Prepare well before you take off, I reckon the facts you need to be sure off, before you reach the door of your next firm, or pick the call that will decide your next lap. Now, this blog post will focus on things to do during the interview, things that can make or break your attempt. It is imperative to prepare well for what do you want, what does the company do, and where you see yourself in few years. If this sounds new to you; please take a look at my previous blog post on preparation tips.

1. Basic manners, greetings and eye contact.

When you meet your employer, do understand you are a professional who's going for an interview - not for chit/chat, not for coffee, not for catchup. The first impression with the interviewer is often the lasting one. So, while you are wearing the nice ironed clothes, it's time to sit straight and have a notepad with you. It's vital that you learn more from the discussion, and therefore keep taking notes. If there's something you don't know, jot a pointer to it so you can cross check after your talk. It will show your keenness to learn, pay attention, and follow-up on the discussion.
When you meet the interviewer for the first time, make sure to get their name correctly, or ask for their business card. Also, you can address them by their name; if culturally you are not sure, ask them if it's okay to address by name. Then, introduce yourself with your full name for the first time with a confident handshake. After the interview, convey your thanks for taking out time, and meeting with you.

Update (01-Feb-2018): Thanks to PKI for a great tip which I missed to mention,


2. Avoid long essays, and be "to the point".

I have seen many times, candidates carry themselves with utter confidence (or some excitement) but start their responses like a long narration. Sometimes it's long enough that I have to interrupt their train of thought. A thumb rule is - If the question is objective; you should answer it in 30 seconds, and another 1 minute if you want to back it up with a fact. And if it's subjective like "why this happens..." or "how would you ..." restrict yourself to summarise it in 2-3 minutes until unless being asked to tell more.

If it's a question that involves historical events, tell the interviewer which chronological direction are you starting from, and then conclude it to the point. If the interviewer wants to know more, they will ask you to elaborate. But stick to the 2-3 minutes rule per lap, and then a pit-stop. Some typical questions that you must prepare for,

  1. Why should we hire you?
    Try highlighting your skillsets and how they match the with what they are looking for.
    Find the pain points, and the technologies they are using and how your experience can help them succeed.
  2. Tell me about yourself.
    Focus on the facts that supplement your resume. If the interviewer has processed your resume, surprise them with something that's not mentioned in the resume
  3. Do you have any questions?
    Make sure you do. When you have done an excellent preparation on the firm, you definitely would have curiosities, and queries.
3. Justify your answers, if required. Good or bad, but don't be a headless reporter.

If an interviewer asks to elaborate your answer, it means they are looking for more details to assess if you can walk the talk. Don't worry about the fact that they are judging you but be right to the point on where did you get this answer. Even if you just took a guess, tell them. Or, if you remember the answer but not the rationale, convey it frankly.
Needless to say but if you try to go deep into the well of lies, excuses and fabricating stories, you may just drown in the follow-up questions. Don't dig your well deeper with more made-up facts. An interviewer would at least appreciate if you are reliable and it's understandable that you don't remember the right reasoning, or all the events but gave your best true attempt. In sales, there is a phrase - Stop putting lipstick on a pig which means stop selling second rated products, or faulty products with smart marketing as it may bring a short-term win, but long-term loss.
In the end, you want to sell yourself as a rational person, who would not take decisions without any factual information to back it up. I admire the gut feeling or intuition, but then tell him that answer was a "gut feeling" answer; and don't build stories around it.

4. Be present in the moment. Control yourself, and don't get carried away.

A vital part of the interview process is to assess the candidate's presence of mind. I usually check their basics, presence of mind and awareness of what's happening around. In any domain, it is imperative to be aware of what is happening, what are the recent headlines around security topics and how is the world reacting to the evolution in your forte.
I remember meeting a candidate for an interview, and even though it was a technical interview; my questions were from his blog. He wrote some articles on security and was hosting it on a popular CMS system. I asked a few questions around his blog - why did you install this plugin, what does it do etc. I wanted to check his awareness of the topics, and specifically the technology he is using in his blog. Sometimes what matters is your depth of a particular field, and it is often assessed by taking you out of your comfort zone of mundane questions. He fumbled but was trying to answer the questions with best of his efforts, and understanding.
He might have failed the Q/A, but because of his approach and tenacity to improvise, he was selected.

It is essential to assess how someone approaches a problem statement. So, if you think you don't know the answer but can attempt to take it on; tell the interviewer that you don't see the solution straightforward, but you can try it with logic, experience, and some thought process. It doesn't mean you get 30 minutes just to answer this. Be quick on your toes to frame your strategy and it's okay to think out loud. Keep the interviewer in sync with your analysis of the problem statement so that they can understand your approach, and where it might lead.

5. A rejection doesn't mean you lost the war; not always!

Personal Experience: I appeared for multiple rounds of interviews with a firm. First level interview was with a senior team lead kind of guy, then his manager, HR and even a management round. They were not sure if I fit the bill and they decided to have the final round with the director. Long things short, after two months of interviews, I get an email which in short meant "thanks. We don't need you.". I felt bad that after investing a considerable time in last few months, all I received was "No". Knowing the company well, and having good discussions, I knew I was a good fit but there might have been other reasons. Anyways, during these two months, I did enough research on the company; it's people, the common pitfalls the company has been into etc. In all the interviews, I asked enough questions to assert my value proposition.

I wrote them back (keeping each interviewer in the loop) - "Thanks for your time and I understand your decision. I may not agree with it on the facts that currently you have ..." I listed some problem statements, and how I can contribute effective solutions. In short, that was my last pitch of selling my skill-set and effort to iron out some wrinkles with full tenacity but humble gesture. I concluded that note with "Appreciate your time, and I wish you my best in future endeavours."

Frankly speaking, I had no other intention than to appreciate the discussions and their help in my learning curve. All in good faith and courtesy. Few days after, I got an email from HR which was positively inclined to the fact that they want to hire me. Few formalities later the firm offered a position!


Share this blog via your social media channel as a 'public' post, and comment down with the link to it. I shall share a "tailored guide" for your next interview.
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I wish you all the best and hope you find your match :)