Stack OverflowReally "wow" them in the interview
[+423] [0] Juliet
[2008-11-30 20:14:25]
[ interview-questions jobs ]

Let me put it to you this way: I'm a top-notch programmer, but a notoriously bad interviewee.

I've flunked 3 interviews consecutively because I get so nervous that my voice tightens at least 2 octaves higher and I start visibly shaking -- mind you, I can handle whatever technical questions the interviewer throws at me in that state, but I think it looks bad to come off as a quivering, squeaky-voiced young woman during a job interview.

I've just got the personality type of a shy computer programmer. No matter how technical I am, I'm going to get passed up in favor of a smooth talker. I have another interview coming up shortly, and I want to really impress the company.

Here are my trouble spots:

  1. What can I do to be less nervous during my interview? I always get really excited when I hear I have a face-to-face interview, but get more and more anxious as D-Day the interview approaches.

  2. My employers wants me to explain what I used to do at my prior employment. I'm a very chatty person and tend to talk/squeak for 10 minutes at a time. How long or short should I time my answers?

  3. On that note, when I'm explaining what I did at prior jobs, what exactly is my interviewer looking for?

  4. At some point, my interviewer will ask "do you have any questions for me while you're here?" I should, but what kinds of questions should I ask to show that I'm interested in being employed?

  5. My interviewer always asks why I'm looking for a new job. The real reason is that my present salary is $27K/year [Edit to add: and I've yet to get a raise since I started], and I want to make more money -- otherwise the work environment is fine. How do I sugarcoat "I want to make more money" into something that sounds nicer?

  6. I have only one prior programmer job, and I've worked there for 18 months, but I have the skill of someone with 4 to 6 years of experience. What can I say to compete against applicants with more work experience?

I took a low-paying $27K/year programming job just to get my foot in IT, and I've been trying to leverage that job as a stepping stone to better opportunities. I get interviews because I consistently out-score senior-level developers in aptitude tests, and my desired salary range is right in the ballpark of what most companies want to offer.

Unfortunately, while I've been a programming as a hobby for 10 years and I'm geared to graduate with my BA in computer science in May 2009, employers see me as a junior-level programmer with no degree. I want to prove them wrong and get a job that matches my skill level.

What can you advice me? I'd appreciate if it could help me get a better job.

(41) Consider asking your current employer for more money if that is the real issue. I don't know where you are geographically but if your skills are as good as you say they will want to keep you. Most likely they will have to pay more the 27K next time and training a new employee. - minty
(1) Of course you will need to be cool and collected when you request more money. Shaking with a squeeky voice sends a message that you don't think you're worth more money. Look them in the eye be direct (don't beat around the bush) and present what you think your are worth. (Practice with someone 1st) - minty
Minty, I dont find that to be universally true - au contraire, many employers dont see it that way, their attitude is more "... and you should thank me for letting you have a job" (especially now more than ever, except 2000-2004....) - AviD
This is a great question!!! Thanks!! - bentford
(5) Yes, it's better to say "my previous employer couldn't afford me" than "they insisted on paying me peanuts". - Mark
(8) So did you ever get the job? - Cuga
(2) @Nosredna : " I think it looks bad to come off as a quivering, squeaky-voiced young woman" - CaptainCasey
I'm a little confused. Did you get your degree in last May (May '09) or are you graduating next year in May 2010? - Zach B
(4) I got my degree in May '09. Oh, and I got my job too, only to have my job outsourced to Mexico earlier this month December. Fortunately I'm geared up for another job this January :) - Juliet
(1) Ask your doctor for a prescription for metoprolol. - nohat
$27K/yr??? And you want more? :( I really do need to work in another country - AntonioCS
(1) @nohat + 1, myself I would suggest a shot of whisky. - kenny
Are you familiar with something known as "soft-focus"? Using soft-focus can make face-to-face conversation much more comfortable for some people. - Rice Flour Cookies
(2) @AntonioCS ... seems like you need to do a google search on: software engineer salary survey. sounds like you are about 20 years behind - JoelFan
@AntonioCS ... "need to work another country"... another google search for you... united states immigration policy - JoelFan
(1) Watch it, there exists skills that only come with seat time. You may be a great coder, but even a mediocre programmer who has seen a problem before may outclass you on certain work. I was once a new guy who wondered why I wasn't paid as much as less-talented guys with 5 years of experience. When I had 15 years experience, I understood there was a difference. - seattlecpp
This might not help at the moment, but in the future: If you have good experience in functional languages (especially Haskell), then you will be wanted so much, even by companies searching for programmers of imperative (object oriented) languages, that you might earn salaries above $100K/year (pre-tax). In that case, the interview-chit-chat does not matter anymore – but they will test your programming skills. - comonad
Your voice and probably shy behavior under some types of stress, in interview situations, in exams, and most likely in talks with unaccustomed important persons might not only depend on psychological factors: In my case, such a behavior is caused eating things with traces of milk. You might want to try the GfCf-diet (no traces of: Gluten, milk, soy for at least 4 days; grapefruit(?), kaki(?) and drupe-seeds like pepper/coffee/pistachio for at least 2 days), which helped me a lot. But beware: Iff the diet works, then you might experience new types of slips of the tongue until your brain adopts. - comonad
@comonad: "especially Haskell". ROTFL! - Jon Harrop