A little anxious about your job interview for a senior programmer position? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Few people feel sanguine walking into job interviews. Even programmers with a decade’s worth of experience can still feel nervous about this recruitment process.
It probably harks back to unpleasant undergrad experiences with oral exams. Or the fear of being unable to check and edit answers to test questions before submitting them!
Luckily, a bit of preparation can go a long way to helping you feel more confident before an interview. This can put you in the right frame of mind to field queries, giving you an edge over other candidates.
If that’s what you want, you’re on the right page. Here, we’re giving you key tips on preparing for a job interview as a senior programmer.
1. Remember That You Got the Interview for a Reason
This may not seem like the first piece of advice you should get for job interview prep as a senior programmer… but trust us when we say it is.
A lot of senior devs panic when they land an interview for a job they want. Some go so far as to review languages or memorise data structures they haven’t seen in years.
But if you’re actually worthy of being a senior programmer (and the fact that you landed an interview suggests that!) you don’t need to do any of those things.
You see, you’ve already put in your time - you’ve been programming for years, probably worked with various languages, problem-solved countless times, and earned your stripes.
In fact, at this point, you’ve probably faced so many programming challenges that any coding or whiteboard question you get during the interview should be doable with a little thinking.
So, calm down and take a deep breath. Forget about memorising like a college student cramming for an exam.
You know your trade and you know you’re good at it. Now you just need to stay level-headed enough to show that to an employer.
2. Learn to Relate Achievements in a Problem-Solving Way
You’ll be asked about projects you’ve done or code you’ve developed. It’s normal to relate those matter-of-factly, answering questions like What, Where, and When.
But people looking for a senior developer want more than technical competence. They want people who are able to problem-solve and weigh trade-offs when making decisions.
That’s why you should learn to talk about your experience in terms of How and Why as well.
That means you shouldn’t stop at telling interviewers what you’ve built. Tell them how you built it, what challenges you faced, and why you used the languages or technologies you did!
In other words, show off your problem-solving and decision-making skills. This is a great way to demonstrate that you’re really “senior programmer” material.
Any junior programmer can do software development under guidance, you see. It takes a senior one to consider how best to do it, why, and what compromises have to be made in the process.
3. Research What the Company Does
This is important for several reasons.
First, it can help you sell yourself from an emotional perspective. That matters even for programming positions, because it’s impossible to subtract the human element from hiring.
Besides, if 2 candidates are neck-and-neck in terms of technical and professional skills, an emotional edge can make all the difference.
In such cases, the applicant who seems more passionate about the company or its mission will often be the winner. That’s why knowing what the company does or what its goals are can be useful.
After all, who would you rather have: a great programmer who’s lukewarm about your business or a great programmer who’s practically an evangelist for it? You might say it’s no contest!
Besides this, knowing what a company does can help you answer interview queries better. You should also research what languages they use, what makes up their tech stack, etc.
That way, you’ll have an idea of what they need from you and you can then focus on those things in your responses.
4. Practise the Interview with a Fellow Programmer
This is when friends who are also senior programmers can help.
Ask them to give you algorithms or whiteboard questions. Problem-solve the challenges and ask them how well you communicated your thinking process afterwards.
Why focus on how you communicated your thinking process? Because in most cases, interviewers will be less concerned about “the right answer” than “the right solution”.
That’s why you want to display how you work out a challenge. A fellow developer can also help you evaluate the technical steps you took, how much sense your process made, etc.
5. Prepare to Sell Your Soft Skills
Soft skills like adaptability, teamwork, and the like count for a lot nowadays. In fact, a fair number of companies demand them from their senior programmers.
So, be prepared to sell your soft skills. A superb (and organic) way to do it is to work a testament to them into your responses to questions.
Let’s say an interviewer asks if you’ve ever struggled with debugging critical parts of a stack. This is a fantastic setup for an answer that shows off both of these things:
- Your problem-solving skills for the parts of the solution that you handled yourself.
- Your collaborative skills, if you weren’t too proud to involve colleagues or your team in the solution. This is a crucial soft skill!
Relating things like these lets you provide proof of the skills you may have noted in your resume, both technical and otherwise. That’s why you should master this trick, especially for selling soft skills!
6. Consider a Talent Coach
Finally, for really specific advice on how to prepare for an interview with a certain company, you may want to think about talking to a talent coach. There are some who specialise in helping pros get hired by the companies they’re aiming for.
If you take this route, it’s best to go for those who specialise in your field - you’ll want talent coaches who focus on the tech industry.
A great option would be to register your profile with Skilledd, a company which matches software engineers to companies looking for tech talents.
Why Skilledd? They do more than help you get interviews for senior programmer jobs.
Skilledd has in-house talent coaches who will help you prep for interviews with various companies. They’ll offer 1-to-1 guidance that can help you eventually land the job you’ve been aiming for.
If you want to learn more, visit Skilledd’s site to see how their talent coaches can help you with interview prep. (Registration is free, by the way!)