Technical Field Interview Tips

Thanks to the pandemic, most job interviews have gone virtual now. But that is not a passport to interview for your first job while in your pajamas.

Technical Field Interview Tips
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Thanks to the pandemic, most job interviews have gone virtual now. But that is not a passport to interview for your first job while in your pajamas.

People have misconceptions when it comes to job interviews. Well, let me put it this way. Most people in the technical fields such as Land Surveyors, GIS Analysts, Programmers, and Developers think job interviews are to measure and test their skill level. While that might be true that is not always the case.

Then there is the other group that only thinks that since they are already part of the technical fields, the skill level is already assumed based on their level of experience and that the interview will just be to assess their social skills. Well, that is also true but what is 100% true and guaranteed is that interviews are a mixture of both.

In most setups, you will find the technical guy (who is probably going to be your supervisor and then there is the Human Resources guy. In some, you might also find the finance guy around to ask you around your expected salary range just to see if you know your worth/value.

Today I am going to be outlining some interview tips for the GIS Analyst position which I believe will also apply to most if not all technical positions. This is all based on previous experience. Fortunately enough I got hired but the unfortunate part was that my academic qualifications at that time were under the required scope so they had to consider the second final candidate.

Here we go...

Know yourself

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The first thing they are probably going to ask you when your turn comes is to tell them about who you are.

You have already sent them your Resume and they already know something about you, then why are they asking? You will notice there is some detail that we tend to leave out in our Resume due to space and simplicity. In this case, this is most probably what they are looking for.

At this stage, you need to put yourself on a stage and tell them what you are capable of and what you have achieved in the past which will probably make them curious and want to know more about you.

If you start on a boring level, I am afraid the interview is going to be short for you. Go in well prepared and you might want to consider rehearsing that introduction part because it determines the next couple of questions that come your way.

Research about the Company or Organization and See how you fit in

Yes, you are an analyst, developer, and algorithm guru but you need to research why they need you. They are a tech company or research organization but the question here is why should they take you instead.

This question should become your opportunity to shine and become an outlier. An outlier in the sense of standing out among the crowd and providing all your unique skills on the table including those problem-solving skills.

A unique and powerful answer for this could be something like;

<Company Name> specializes on <Item-A>, <Item-B> and <Item-C>, and with my unique skills in <Skill-1>, <Skill-2> and <Skill-3> I find myself being in a better position to solve <Problem-A> and <Problem-2>

What you probably did not know is that most organizations become more interested in a candidate when they discover the candidate has some knowledge of the Organization and has done their research.

Most people make a huge mistake here by thinking and assuming that their 10-year experience resume will do the trick on this question. You might have worked at a similar firm for about 10 years but what these guys need to know is how your contributions will help boost the business and that is certainly not your 10 years. Your 10 years just prove that you have been doing this more than most and probably won't need much training but will that bring innovative solutions?

This brings us to our third point.

Show Innovative Thinking and Design

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I will always remember this question from a previous interview;

How do you intend to solve the HIV situation through your GIS skills?

I must confess. I never saw this coming. These are the kind of questions you will get in such a field.

What they simply need to see is your level of innovation and problem-solving. Those 10 years will be meaningless if you certainly cannot answer questions like these. Innovation is the new skill in town and most businesses rely on innovative employees. Gone are the days of using odd and old methods of doing things.

Prepare for a Practical Test

Moving away from the social skills they were testing, it is time to assess your competence. This will probably be the first thing they do for all candidates. In most tech companies, this is the first screening process.

The practical test is a total turn-off for many, especially the 'I will learn this on the job type'.  

Learn what on the job?

What are you doing right now?

Why are you even applying for the job if you do not know what you are doing?

By asking yourself this set of questions, you will eventually become a better candidate. Skill development is a crucial component when it comes to one's career. It is however true that what they teach you in Undergraduate school is going to be different from an on-the-job experience. Probably that is why most prefer to be in an apprenticeship.

In this instance, you need to learn to apply those theoretical skills and knowledge and see how and where they apply in your line of work.

Know Your Worth

Remember about the finance guy who might be sticking around the interview? What he is simply there for, is to see if the amount you are going to say you want;

  • is reasonable for the role you applied for
  • and if you truly deserve that amount based on how you were answering the HR and Technical guy's interview questions.

Another component here is to assess your confidence level when you say you need $100K per year. We all need the money in the end, I mean that's why most of us go to work, isn't it? But is that amount what you deserve.

You and only you can know that. No one else can tell you how much you are worth other than yourself.

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Photo by Prateek Katyal

In addition to all that has been said, practice makes perfect. Find a friend or a colleague and try to set up an interview environment just to kill the nervousness, especially for first-timers.

This could also be the perfect time to find yourself a Career Coach.

Career coaches are experts in skills such as career planning, resume building, negotiation, and interviewing.

With the right career coach, you get all the guidance, interview skills and they also get to become your mentor in your career.