Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beat the technical interview! (Part 3)

Here's an article that makes the process of securing a software development job (which for us usually lands on the .NET/C# side of things) more fun by treating it like the "cheat codes" to a game in which you're the protagonist preparing to go up against hiring managers.

The Software Manager Boss.jpg

Level 3: Boss, Software Manager

By: Ben Weiss, Digital Marketing Strategist at Infusive Solutions
Special thanks to Sean Kennedy, Director of Software Development at Steadfast Financial, LP and Ian Yamey VP of Software at Park Assist, LLC.

When grappling with the software manager in level 3 of the interview, one of the first things to remember is that while this professional will often have a technical background, these interviews typically evaluate candidates on a more macro level. 

On that note, it is generally assumed that if a software developer has advanced beyond the “tech out,” they have sufficient technical acumen for the role and now must be vetted for overarching problem solving skills.
Software Manager Cheat Code.jpg

With that in mind, here are a few cheat codes to deploy when preparing to go up against a software manager: 

Don’t just answer the question

Because of the many intricacies that accompany software development roles, a candidate with encyclopedic code knowledge may not be enough. 

Rather, these professionals must supplement their wealth of existing knowledge with the mental agility to address a complex problem with a level head and calmly design well-engineered solutions with a logical step-by-step approach. 

Those skills are difficult to test for and consequently, many software managers will ask questions that might sound hard or even absurd just to see how a candidate reacts. 

One such question might be something along the line of “How many pizzas were delivered in Manhattan last year?” While this may sound unreasonable at first glance, the best development candidates will grab a pen and paper and start devising a strategy to arrive at an educated estimation. 

For example, you might start with the fact that Manhattan is roughly 23 square miles, estimate the number of pizza joints per square mile as well as a rough number of pizzas delivered by each establishment every day to arrive at a rough conclusion. 

This approach is far superior to just throwing out a number or looking into the distance with your eyes glazing over. In fact, you’ll virtually always be seen as a superior candidate than the next person who may have experience and a well-padded resume but whose inability to tackle the problem logically will suggest they can’t think outside the box and are only successful when given specific instruction. 

Ask about the big picture

On a similar note, software managers perceive the best candidates to be those that want to understand how their technical niche will impact the larger vision of the company. 

Consequently, they’ll be looking for an indication that you don’t just want to get your job done, but get it done in a way that makes life easier for the rest of the organization and even more so for its customers/clients. 

One strategy software managers may use to gauge such is asking a candidate to do the simple task of drawing an action figure. In this instance, the average candidate will just draw the first thing that comes to mind. However, the best candidates will ask questions like ‘Is the action figure targeted at males or females? What is it made out of? Should it have accessories?’ 

These types of follow up questions are fantastic to suggest to software managers that you’re the type of person who wants his/her work to fit into an established vision rather than someone who just wants to complete a series of tasks and go home.
The bottom line is that you should be cognizant that many questions in the higher rounds of the interview process may not be what they seem. 

Detail how you stay informed

Considering how quickly technology evolves, software managers are looking for development candidates who are engaged with thought leaders in their field and stay abreast of new trends so they can seamlessly evolve their style and skills along with the industry. Consequently, if you express that you regularly visit MSDN and follow Scott Guthrie’s work, that will leave a far more resonant impression upon a software manager than if you say you only read sneaker blogs in your free time. 

Moreover, while you may not need to be proficient with the latest version of C#, for example, software managers are nonetheless looking for candidates who understand what’s new and exciting about latest and greatest software iterations. 

As such, even if you haven’t used the newest version of the technology yet, be sure to research the new features so you at least appear informed. 

Show a desire to learn and create impact

Average software development candidates want a job. Awesome candidates want a job at which they can become a better professional, make a difference and be noticed.

To showcase you’re an awesome candidate to a software manager, ask questions about what kinds of things you might be able to learn on the job or how you as a developer would be able to transition an idea to an implementation stage. These exhibit a willingness to constantly grow and improve as well a desire to make your mark at the company, both highly sought after characteristics.

So now you’ve gone head on with the software manager and came out victorious, ready to complete your quest for gainful employment as a developer after meeting the final boss: the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
You May Also Want to Read Previous Part : (Part 1)(Part 2)