In terms of job availability, computer science and other IT-related fields have more opportunities than just about any other industry.
However, just because companies are looking to hire more individuals than ever before doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily easy to get a computer science job.
As always, companies are looking to hire the best of the best, meaning that if you want to land a job, you need to be prepared to shine in your job interview.
Computer science job interviews tend to be different than your typical interview. In addition to the usual questions designed to get a feel for your personality and experience and how well you will fit into the company culture, you can also expect to demonstrate your technical skills to prove you have what it takes to perform the job tasks.
While this does add some stress to the interview process, it’s also a good opportunity for you to really show your talent and impress a recruiter. In fact, while the entire interview process can be a bit nerve-wracking in general, if you keep the following tips in mind, you will have no trouble at all and will soon be responding to job offers.
1. Prepare for Different Types of Interviews
These days, it’s rare for a company to rely on just one or two interviews with a candidate to make a hiring decision. Most companies interview potential hires several times, with each interview serving a different purpose.
For example, some companies begin with a screening interview, usually a short conversation designed to get a sense of your skills and experience for the purpose of determining whether you are a viable candidate. These usually take place at job fairs or over the phone, with an HR representative, who will pass on information about the best candidates to the hiring manager.
Subsequent interviews will most likely be in person, although some companies are using video interviews via Skype or FaceTime to meet with candidates at a distance or to overcome scheduling challenges, and you should prepare for just about anything.
Usually, you can expect to have a typical behavioral interview, as well as a test or simulation type interview, a peer interview with the team you’d be working with, and even an interview with other departments or leaders within the company. Each of these interviews requires a different approach, so prepare for anything.
2. Prepare to Explain or Demonstrate Your Hard Skills
As mentioned, computer science interviews almost always require a demonstration of your actual skills in addition to presenting the practical technology skills that you’ve learned through your schooling. This may come in the form of written tests of your knowledge and qualifications, a practical exam that requires you to perform some of the key job functions, or some combination of written and practical exams.
In most cases, if you have earned an advanced computer science degree and you are confident in your skills, you will ace this part of the interview. Still, review the job requirements beforehand, and brush up on any skills you haven’t used in a while to ensure you are prepared.
3. Prepare to Explain “Holes” in Your Resume
If you are lacking in experience in certain areas, or if there are periods in which you were not working or worked in a different field, be prepared to explain why, while also highlighting the skills and experience you do have.
Typically, if you perform well on the practical aspects of the interview, and demonstrate your knowledge in key areas, these gaps will not be an issue, but you need to be prepared to address them all the same.
4. Prepare to Explain How Your Skills Help the Business
Most companies aren’t interested only in your skills and that you are capable of performing basic job tasks. They want to know how those skills are going to benefit their business.
Research the company thoroughly to determine the biggest challenges they are facing and their goals and mission, and explain how your skills and experience will help the company in those areas. Companies want to know what you can do for them, so be prepared to make that clear.
5. Demonstrate Your Soft Skills
Finally, most companies are looking for technology staff who have soft skills in addition to technical skills. They want to hire individuals who have communication, leadership, and teamwork abilities, so as you discuss your qualifications, be sure to highlight your skills in these areas.
Be ready to provide examples, either through projects you’ve worked on or coursework you’ve completed, to support your claims and show that you’re the right person for the job.
Job interviews can be intimidating, but when you are prepared, they are less so – and you’re more likely to receive an offer. Practice your answers, do your homework, and go in to the meeting confident, calm, and ready to nail it.