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13 insider tips for acing your job interview

Steven A. Lowe | Dec. 2, 2014
Esoteric puzzles, landmine questions, 'cultural fit' -- these 13 tips help you navigate the IT interview process with confidence.

IT interview tip No. 5: Understanding the underlying principles of interview puzzles is the key to crushing them
One of the more controversial -- and anxiety-inducing -- hiring practices these days is the use of puzzles during interviews. Perhaps because of this, the puzzles themselves often find their way onto the Net.

The last thing you should do is memorize the answers to the questions you find when researching a particular company. Read them to understand what kind of questions you might be asked, what kind of answers they might be looking for, and what the underlying purpose of the questions might be. Memorizing the answers can easily backfire; it takes only a small change to the question to render published answers incorrect -- not to mention the fact that rattling off answers to complex questions without taking time to think is highly suspicious. People who memorize answers without understanding underlying principles are easily exposed, and interviewers know it.

Instead, use your research as a guide to uncovering the underlying purpose of the puzzles. Silly questions about cannibals and canoes may be intended to see how you think through a logic puzzle, or it may be to see if you push back against stupid questions, or it may be to see if you think out of the box. Each company has its own agenda for asking these kinds of questions; study published puzzles with a mind to unlock them.

IT interview tip No. 6: Connect with current employees
As you prepare for your interview, be sure to make use of social networking outlets like LinkedIn. Send an invitation to connect with a few people in the company accompanied by a short note explaining that you have an interview soon and would appreciate some tips can confirm, deny, or expand on the research you've already done. You can ask about what to wear, what to expect, and so on, but the key to not coming off like a creep is to limit your correspondence to one question per contact; make it easy for them to connect and respond. Humor certainly helps in reaching out, but above all, be yourself.

IT interview tip No. 7: Don't tilt at windmills
If you find that the kinds of things a company asks in its interviews are ridiculous, irrelevant, or offensive, reconsider whether you really want to work there. It takes a lot of work to prepare for an interview, and if you find that a company's process or culture makes your skin crawl, it may be in your best interests to walk away.

True, practice makes perfect. And if you've been out of the job market for a while, going through a couple not-quite-right or even uncomfortable interviews can help you get back in the saddle. But the strain of chasing a bad fit can ultimately be very unrewarding and potentially demoralizing, not to mention a distraction from finding exactly the right position for you.


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