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📓 Non-Technical Interview


Introduction​

Interviewing skills are an essential part of the job search. At Epicodus, you'll have the opportunity to participate in a mock interview with a member of our staff, and practice answering some typical questions. If you have an existing job you want to cater your mock interview towards, please let your advisor know before your interview. To frame your mock interview, you can use this sample job posting for a junior-level position at a small company. The more seriously we take it, the more we can learn as we move forward. There are some basics to consider as you prepare for any interview:


Questions​

During the mock interview, we'll have questions that cover a few areas. These are by no means formal interview sections, and some interviews may focus on one area or another, but as a general rule these are present in one form or another in just about every interview. You'll have one or more questions from each section in your mock interview. For the purposes of the mock interview, we'll conduct the interview as if you were applying to work at the sample job posting linked above. Consider this the first time you are interviewing at this company.

As you prepare for any interview, you can use the job posting to identify the key skills (both technical and non-technical) that the role is looking for. From there, you can look up common questions that relate to that skill, and prepare ahead of time with answers and examples from your experience that you can later draw from in the interview itself.

Personal Questions

​ These are "get to know you" questions about yourself, and about your previous education, experience, and motivations.

  • Tell me about yourself. What's your background?
  • Why did you get into programming?
  • What made you pick Epicodus?
  • Where do you see yourself in the future?

Your goal should be to explain the ways life has been preparing you to become a developer. General biographical information should be kept to a minimum, instead focusing on the path that has brought you to coding and to apply for the role you are interviewing for. This is a great time to refer back to the Telling Your Story lesson and the elevator pitch you created to identify the key skills and experience you bring with you from your past experience. If you have prior programming experience you can talk about any coding you did as a kid or in school. If you're new to coding you can emphasize parts of jobs where you worked with computers or spreadsheets, and tell about any computer skills you developed on your own.

Either way, make sure to emphasize the skills that have served you well as a student and developer. For example: problem solving skills, critical thinking, organizational skills, and so on. You want to show the interviewer that you're passionate by illustrating how these skills have come up in different ways throughout your life. All together, this overview about yourself should be packaged as an elevator pitch: succinct, relevant, and to the point. If you find yourself using an example from your past that isn’t directly related to programming, close that response out with a sentence or two on how you still use those skills in programming today. Perhaps your time as a server sharpened your communication skills that you use during scrum, or your planning skills as a manager help you direct coding sprints to this day.

Programming Questions​

These are discussion questions which give you a chance to showcase your knowledge about programming tools and concepts. This is different from a technical question.

  • What problems do you see with current web development tools?
  • What do you like about current web development trends?
  • How do you stay active in the tech community?
  • What are your strategies to approach a problem that is initially beyond your capabilities?
  • What frameworks have you used?
  • What testing tools have you used?
  • Tell me about a project you’ve been working on. Have you encountered any challenges? What would you change or improve about the project?

STAR Method​

The STAR method is an excellent way to make sure that you are directly answering the questions you’ve been asked with specific, memorable responses. These are generally less about your technical skill set and more about your work ethic and ability to collaborate with others. It means:

  • S: Describe a situation you faced relevant to the interviewer's question. (“In my position as a [job title] at x company…”)
  • T: Outline the tasks you had to accomplish. (“I had to accomplish y thing,” “There was a problem where we had to…”)
  • A: Describe the action(s) you took in response. (“To resolve the issue, I decided to…”)
  • R: Go over the results of your actions. (“As a result, we implemented a successful…” “From this experience, I learned to…”)

It's a useful guideline for telling stories and giving examples that demonstrate your capabilities in an interview. In general, your responses to most questions should be 60-90 seconds each. Try practicing responses to the following questions and timing yourself to make sure you’re within that time window. If you are worried about forgetting your stories, feel free to write them down in a document that you can refer to during the interview. Just make sure to use them only to jog your memory rather than read from a script.

Using the STAR outline, give an example of a time....

  • You accomplished something you didn't think you'd be able to. What was it? How did you achieve it?
  • You made a group more efficient, productive, or motivated in tackling a challenge. What was the situation? How did you rally your group members? What was the result?
  • A project or assignment's priorities suddenly changed and you had to adapt.
  • You faced issues working with a partner or team. What did you do to resolve it? How did it work out?
  • You had to make a decision with incomplete information. How did you determine what to do?

Projects Questions​

When asked about a project during an interview, it is good practice to ask if you can screen share a walkthrough of your project. When done effectively, it showcases confidence, passion, helps you stand out, and flips the interview into a position where you are taking the initiative. If you know what platform your video interview will be conducted on, practice using its screen share function in advance so you’re not figuring it out on the fly.

Interviewers want to know how you think about and approach code to see if you are a good fit for their development team. Don’t be afraid to go into detail about any of the following topics when talking about your project:

  • Planning of the project
  • Architecture
  • READMEs
  • Challenges or roadblocks
  • Creative solutions and workarounds
  • Future improvements or features you would like to add
  • (If a group project) Teamwork, what role you took on, agile development experience

Workplace Questions​

The interviewer will want to know about your motivations and experiences in the workplace. These questions are a good chance to highlight your communication, teamwork, and work ethic.

  • What kind of culture do you want in your workplace?
  • What are some of the challenges you faced while pairing?
  • Give an example of how you resolved a disagreement with your pair.
  • How would you communicate with team members that are not developers?
  • Tell me about the intern project you worked on.
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why should we hire you?

Open Discussion​

Just about every interviewer will close out by asking if you have any questions. You should have at least a couple prepared ahead of time. Even though you are the one asking questions, you are still sharing what you care about as an employee through the types of questions you are asking. The most effective questions show an interest in the company, its product, mission, and in being a positive addition to the team.

It's important to have some questions prepared that will help you decide if this company is a good fit for you. Make sure to ask about things that haven't been covered in previous conversation, or could be answered by a simple review of their website and the job posting.

  • Can you give me an example of a recent challenge or project you've been faced with?
  • What are the priorities for this position?
  • If I am offered the position, what kinds of opportunities will I have to work with senior developers?
  • What are the greatest challenges for those in this role?
  • What opportunities will I have to learn new skills/continue my education?
  • What is your favorite part about working here? Least favorite?
  • Is this opening for an existing position or new one?

In addition to questions about priorities, projects, and other aspects of the job, you can also ask your interviewer about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Many companies will have DEI statements available on their websites that let you know their values and intentions for DEI at their company. These questions can help you determine whether those intentions lead to meaningful impacts on the team and company, and whether or not this company is a good fit for you.

  • What is the retention rate of people of color on this team?
  • What is the promotion rate of people of color at the company?
  • How do you measure your work in DEI/racial justice? How do you know you're achieving your goals?
  • How do you measure an inclusive environment at this company?

Interview Basics​

Before you walk into the interview, make yourself a list of your top 3-5 skills that you absolutely do not want to leave the interview without them knowing about you. The most effective interviewers have their responses modeled around highlighting these top 3-5 skills in their introduction, responses, and conclusion. Don’t be afraid to mention these same skills multiple times throughout the interview. Repetition is a great way to cement concepts; consider that your interviewer may be speaking with numerous candidates over a short period of time. You don't want key details from your interview to get forgotten over the course of a day or week. As the interview is winding down, make sure you go through that list and that you've touched on all those things. Otherwise it can be really easy to walk out of an interview and only realize later that there were really important selling points you should have added.

This is not the time to ask about salary, vacation time, or other benefits. If they offer that information you can ask if those things are negotiable, but this is not the time to do the actual negotiating. Save that for once you have actually been offered the position.

Be aware of non-verbal cues. It can tell you as much about how an interview is going just as much as what the interviewer is saying. You can usually tell if you're overstaying your welcome or if an interviewer is receptive to extended conversation by their expression or body language. Conversely, if you notice that your interviewer keeps asking you follow-up questions that are similar to what they have already asked, you may not be effectively answering questions in your responses.

Above all else, remember that the employer came to you because they have a problem and they want you to be the solution. They're investing time in interviewing you because they are in your corner and they want it to be a positive encounter.

Body Language Tips and Tricks

Body language is a non-verbal form of communication that can express feeling through posture, positioning, facial expressions, and other mannerisms. It is often subconscious, but your body language and the way that you present yourself in an interview can help you make a good impression, and project confidence and capability (even if you’re feeling nervous!)

We’ve gathered a few tips, tricks, and advice that you can use throughout an interview to help you make a great impression:

If eye contact is challenging or uncomfortable, try to look at the bridge of the interviewer's nose, which can give the illusion of eye contact. Eye contact also does not have to be constant. Particularly when thinking about an answer to a question, it can be natural to shift your view away from the interviewer, but try to bring that view back when answering the question or listening to the next question.

Additionally, if it's a video interview, there's a lot more flexibility with this and the illusion of eye contact can be easier to maintain. Try looking towards the camera more than the screen (and by extension, interviewer), since it will appear as though you're looking directly at the other person, while potentially alleviating that stress point of actually looking at them. If you’re using an external webcam, make sure that it’s positioned so that you’re facing it. If you’re unable to adjust your webcam to be facing you, you should let your interviewer know at the start. Always preview your video before joining an interview.

Position your work area so that there aren’t distractions in the background (people going in and out of the frame, posters or objects not appropriate for professional settings, excess clutter or garbage) and to the extent that isn’t possible, try out blurring the background or using a virtual background and limiting any possible interruptions.

To maintain confident posture, make sure your feet are firmly on the floor and you are seated all the way back in the chair to avoid slouching. Take a breath and relax the shoulders. A friendly smile is a great way to start off the conversation!

Have nervous body language? Experiment with various ways to keep yourself moving during the video call that aren’t distracting to someone listening to you. A great example of keeping your body engaged in the video call is taking notes physically or electronically. Especially if you are taking electronic notes, be sure to let your interviewer know so they don’t think you are distracted.

Don't be afraid to take a beat or two to pause, breathe, and then respond to a question. The phrase "That's a great question, let me think about it" is a life-saver and can buy a little time. Maintain a calm tone of voice and think about approaching an interview like a regular conversation, which can take the pressure off and help you to relax.


Evaluation Objectives​

When you participate in your mock interview, we'll be evaluating your performance, just like your code review. You will be reviewed on the following objectives:

  • Dress appropriately for an interview.
  • Conduct yourself in a professional manner
  • Have an answer for personal questions that highlights your journey to becoming a programmer.
  • Have an answer for programming questions that highlights your knowledge and grasp of programming concepts.
  • Have an answer for workplace questions in the S.T.A.R. format.
  • Have a relevant question for your interviewer. For the purposes of this interview, you can prepare a question about Epicodus.
  • Stay relaxed, and enjoy the opportunity to teach someone about yourself, and learn about a company.