Looking back at the interviews I went through in the past, hoping to get an idea of why I haven’t yet been rejected, as well as after running a few interviews myself, there are a couple of factors that stand out that surely helped to make it happen. The easy answer would be that I was overqualified for all the jobs I applied to but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
TL;DR: The best way to crack any interview is to… not. That’s just the wrong approach. Stop right there. Don’t go on trying to crack the system.
Interviews should be bidirectional and are an invaluable opportunity to assess whether spending most of your awake time working on a common goal with this specific group of people is the next best way to invest your time and energy.
Let’s dive into some of the factors that I often see being neglected when it comes to job applications.
Alignment comes in many forms and shapes: culture, ambition, personality, standards, vision, etc. You might be in a phase of your career where a specific tech is your focus and life. All you want is to spend your day tackling issues that are given to you and produce fine work. However, the company might be more inclined to someone who can combine and balance that with a more product-oriented mindset. None of the sides is at fault, you are simply misaligned. Assess what the company’s needs, current stage, and employees are to figure out whether your circumstances meet.
Why are you applying to this specific company? “Hi, I am John Doe and I am the world’s leading expert in XYZ, with thousands of years of experience, I know a hundred programming languages, there’s nothing I can’t do, I am the perfect candidate”. While these might all be true, you have forgotten half the equation. What is this group of people doing that excites you in such a way that makes you eager to want to work alongside them? If you don’t have an answer, then reconsider applying in the first place. If you do have an answer, bring it out and share that enthusiasm.
Skills and skills
The cultural alignment might be on point, you might not imagine being more enthusiast than you are right now, but if you don’t have the skills, that’s probably not going to work. It’s not just about the skills you have already acquired, however. Being a voracious learner is one of the best skills you can have, which will likely compensate for some pieces of knowledge or experience that you don’t yet have. So don’t either think you got it because you check all the points neither that you already lost it because you missed one. Don’t misjudge the importance of soft-skills either. It’s not just about writing the best code, it’s also about the way you communicate, the way you listen to and approach your colleagues, whether you give or take energy, etc.
One of the worst outcomes of an interview would be to be hired because of the wrong impression you passed. If you are to be hired, aim to be because of who you are as a whole. The things you have to learn, the eagerness to do so, the awesome skills you bring onboard, your introversion, whatever it is. Now, don’t go too far, of course. Just don’t keep yourself behind an ultra-professional persona that seems anything but human neither go on ranting about some former experience. Let others see a glimpse of your best self and thus allow them to make a fair judgment and decision.