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Greta Etheldra for FINN

Posted on • Updated on

Acing Interviews

TLDR; If you are looking for tips to increase your chances of getting past an interview, this is the article for you. We have tips on how to impress your recruiters and your future engineering managers.

Applying for a job can be stressful, especially attending interviews. That’s why we published this article to help you engineers out there looking for a job to increase your chances of passing an interview.

How FINN does tech recruiting

The recruiting process at FINN is made up of at least 4 steps. Broken down, it looks something like this:

How the application process at FINN looks like: First a CV Screening, followed by a personal interview, then a technical interview and a final interview to conclude the process<br>

Based on what is written on a CV, recruiters will determine if a candidate meets the minimum competencies and experience needed for the job. We look out for keywords – for example, what frameworks you are familiar with, how many years of experience you have and the nature of projects you have worked on.

If you fulfil the minimum requirements, you will proceed to the next step: the personal interview. (For internship applications, you will go through an extra step in between, which is a standardised online cognitive test on a platform called Bryq.)

The personal interview is conducted usually by a recruiter or, in rarer cases, by the Hiring Manager, who is a Tech Lead or a VP (Vice President) for one of our engineering teams. In this 45-minute interview, you would get to find out more about who we are and what we do. This meeting also serves as an opportunity for us to find out more about you as a person, your career progression and your working style.

Passing the personal interview will bring you to the technical assessment step. Based on the position you are applying for, you will either be faced with a take-home assignment and then a technical interview, or with a technical interview that includes live coding. In this meeting, you could also be faced with technical discussions about recent technologies, or a system design exercise for more senior positions. This is your chance to impress our Engineering Management with your technical skills.

Last but not least, in the final interview, you will meet with your potential supervisor and perhaps also your future Product Manager. They would want to know what you could bring specifically to their team. Through this interview, you will also get the chance to clarify any open questions you may have in mind in order for you to be able to make the final decision on whether FINN is the right choice for you.

Now, how do you ensure you make it past these three interviews?

Interview Etiquette

Let’s start easy with some basic interview etiquette.

#1 Be punctual

Being on time (or even better, early) is one way to show you value the other attendees’ time. A survey done by Jobvite shows that 58% of recruiters regard tardiness as a deal-breaker.

Oftentimes, recruiters have multiple interviews lined up back-to-back in the span of a few hours. Such a tight schedule makes it important that interviews start and end on time, to avoid a snowball effect of being late for the next one. As interviews are limited to a specific duration, being late will only put you at a disadvantage, as you will have less time to let the interviewer know about yourself.

#2 Inform early if you are cancelling or rescheduling

If you know that you will be more than 5 minutes late for an interview, it would be better to reschedule the interview. This is to ensure that you have an equal amount of time as any other candidate to present yourself in the interview, as well as to ensure that the interviewer will not be late for their next interview.

We understand if something urgent pops up on short notice and you can’t make it to the call. After all, we all have things going on in our lives beyond just work. Should you need to reschedule or cancel your interview, it is expected that you inform the recruiter prior to the start of the interview – not during and definitely not after the allocated time. Rather than fruitlessly waiting for a candidate that is not coming, the interviewer could better use the time to finish other tasks. Freeing up your time slot early would also allow other candidates to secure an earlier appointment, instead of having to wait another few days for their turn.

#3 Be in a conducive environment

We want to be able to hear you! In order to make the most reliable judgement based on the interview, we want to make sure that we catch all that you have to say. That’s why we highly encourage you to be in a quiet, calm and well-lit venue with a stable internet connection for the interview. Eliminating background distractors also ensures that you can be 100% focused on the conversation.

Cafes may serve as great working spots, but they are not the most ideal location for an interview due to potential background noise. Find yourself a spot at a coworking space instead. Some coworking spaces, such as the ones from WeWork and Impact Hub, even have phone booths for you to attend video conferences or make calls – perfect for an interview!

Sit yourself down comfortably and make sure your device is on a stable surface. Entering a conference using your phone is subpar to using your laptop or tablet. However, if you really need to use your phone, prop it upright on a stable surface so that it captures a full view of your face and the video output is not shaky.

#4 Test your set-up before you start

Before starting your interview, make sure that your audio and video set-up works. On Google Meet, you can check your audio and camera before entering the conference call by pressing the button on the lower left. As mentioned earlier, we want to catch everything that you say, so make sure that any faulty devices or a bad network connection don’t stand in the way of that.

Do a soundcheck: Use the Google Meet Greenroom to check if your audio and camera functions are working.

Impressing our recruiters

Our recruiters are often the first point of contact that you have with a company, including FINN. Here’s what our tech recruiters have to say about performing well in an interview.

Come prepared

… to talk about yourself

In the limited time we have together, we want to find out as much as possible about your skills and what you have to offer.

Have an β€œjob elevator pitch” or a short introduction ready as an opener. Tell us your name and how we can address you, briefly share some information about what you are looking for and what experiences you have to back you up. Keep it sweet and simple (that’s one of our engineering best practices), leave the industry slang and technical jargon at the door, and stick to 30 to 60 seconds.

Never assume that your interviewer knows everything about you through your CV. Always be prepared to elaborate. What could help is, prior to the interview, to list down all your relevant work experiences, and for each position or experience describe: what were some memorable projects you did (and state why they were memorable), what were some tough moments you had and how did you overcome them. You can follow the STAR method to ease the process of coming up with points and structuring them. Having all these points in your head is a good guarantee that you will be well-prepared, regardless of what questions come up. It keeps you from blanking out.

… with knowledge of the company

Interviews should not be the first place you learn about the company. In terms of practicality, there is not enough time during an interview to explain the A to Z of the company. Most of the time, interviewers want to build on your knowledge of the company and correct misconceptions. Frankly speaking, coming with zero understanding of the company displays a lack of interest and initiative on your part. 47% of interviewers would not go through with a candidate that comes in without any knowledge of the company.

Set aside time before the interview to look through the company’s website and LinkedIn. Research what the company’s business model looks like, what kind of people are working there and what values the company adopts. Then use the meeting as an opportunity to build upon and correct your knowledge of the company. An interview is a two-way street – your future employer wants to see if you fulfil the expectations of the role, while at the same time, this is your chance to decide if the company’s values resonate with yours and if you align with their vision.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

As was already mentioned, you can gain a deeper understanding of the organisation and your potential role in it during the interview. There is bound to be information that is not as readily available on public platforms, for example, career progression or future plans of the company. This is the time for you to get the missing pieces to a clear picture of the company, which is essential in helping you answer the question: Is this company the right one for me?

Questions from candidates are a good indicator of enthusiasm and passion. Not asking questions is not a red flag, but asking the right questions creates the impression that you are serious about considering being a potential member of the team.

Make your answers as β€˜you’ as possible

Recruiters go through tens – if not hundreds β€” of interviews for a single position, which means they may hear the same points from multiple candidates. What does not help your case, is to not elaborate on how your answer stems uniquely from your experience or relates specifically to your personality.

Many people are especially afraid to talk about their weaknesses and struggles. As a result, they may leave out the details and may give a painfully general response. When recruiting for a role, we are less interested in finding a perfect employee and more interested in finding a perfect match. We understand that everyone has their own weaknesses. Hence what matters more is what you are capable of doing in spite of your shortcomings and that you are willing to work on them. Being able to speak truthfully about the not-so-good qualities and moments in your working life hints not just at your honesty, but also at your self-reflection and self-awareness.

Delivery is key

A positive attitude goes a long way: Greet your interviewer with a smile and don’t forget to say thank you at the end!

A positive attitude helps to lighten the mood of the interview. It is always good to be friendly to your interviewer and ask a good old β€œHow are you?” in the beginning of the interview. Also the littlest β€œThank you” at the end of the interview goes a long way. A light mood will help the interviewer process information better and will also help you to have a clearer mind and speak more comfortably.

Maintaining a neutral tone is imperative when putting your points across. On one hand, in celebrating your accomplishments, speak about them in a reflective manner. On the other hand, bring up lowlights about your previous positions and companies with tact. Your future employers will not appreciate you cursing at and shaming your bosses and colleagues. Graciousness is a virtue.

The way you present yourself is key in winning favour from the interviewer.

Talking tech

How do our Tech Leads and VPs determine if you’ve got the skills to fill the role during the technical interview?

Do your due diligence

Don’t come into the technical interview (or any interview) empty-handed. Revise engineering concepts that you might have let slip away from your brain if you need to and don’t forget about the best practices that you have adopted along the way. Prepare to talk about your experience engineer-to-engineer. This means that you should be able to explain your projects in greater detail than during your personal interview and explain why you made certain technical decisions and which technical challenges you faced. If you did a take-home assignment before the technical interview, refresh your memory on what you did for the assignment and be ready to speak about your work. Re-read and understand your code – it’s your code, and you should be able to talk about it with confidence.

Straight to the point

Every question asked by the interviewer is linked to a single concept that they want to test. A good answer is straightforward and concise. Performing well in a technical interview does not equate to showing off as much technical knowledge as you can in 90 minutes. Rather, it’s about showing that you are able to take input from a fellow engineer and give an appropriate output.

Honesty is the best policy

When you find yourself not knowing the answer to a question, it is much better to be honest, than to fake it and hope you make it. A possible way to go about a question you are clueless about is to admit that you don’t know the answer (perhaps because you have never worked with the particular technology before) and to give an appropriate suggestion that reflects your thought process on the subject (β€œif I were to do it, this is how I imagine I would tackle this.”).

On another note, the questions that come out in your technical interview are very much dependent on the frameworks that you put down on your CV. Our Tech Leads and VPs will assume that you are familiar with what you wrote on your CV and therefore expect that you are more or less able to explain the core concepts of the framework. Don’t oversell yourself on your CV, just to underwhelm in an interview – hiring managers will often catch these exaggerations eventually.

Some interviewers view the technical interview as a discussion. Don’t be afraid to share your opinion and be transparent about your working methods, even if they don’t necessarily align with that of your interviewer. Just make sure that you are able to articulate your reasoning for your argument. The thought process is of more value than the result in itself.

Know your audience

While speaking in tech terminology with fellow engineers is not an issue, it might become one when you are talking to people who possess a lower level of technical expertise. In a technical interview, some interviewers are looking to see if you can explain certain technical topics to non-technical personnel, such as a Product Manager or a Business Lead. Having to replace engineering jargon with lay terms should not be difficult for someone who has an in-depth understanding of the concept in the first place.

All in all

Interviews are indeed not easy and can be a source of stress. However, with sufficient preparation and a positive attitude, you should be able to perform well in your next interview. Nothing comes without effort, so invest some time into your next application and we wish you all the best!

If you are looking for new opportunities in the Tech field, visit our career site to browse our open positions.

Check out our career page for open positions in Tech!

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