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VOL. 42 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 12, 2018

Interviewing with tech companies is a whole new game

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I love tech companies. With a computer engineering undergrad, I’ve spent my entire career working in the world of technology in one way or another.

I’ve recently met a number of job seekers who have had job interviews at tech companies, the type of companies with only a few hundred employees, ping pong tables, video games and free lunch.

Before their interview, we worked to update resumes and elevator pitch. But quickly, I noticed there was something different about the interview experience. And nothing could have prepared us for what happened next.

The attitude inside these tech companies is different – very different. Lots of young, flip-flop wearing employees fill giant tables where they are set up with computer monitors. There are no offices or cubicles.

Imagine working in a Starbucks or a lunchroom.

Employees look exhausted. Their eyes are red and they’re yawning while interviewing candidates.

Despite the office perks, these folks are working their hearts out day and night. And, the stress of the environment seems to come through during interviews.

Many of the interviews are what’s sometimes called a stress interview. They’re interviews designed to upset the job seeker, to get a reaction.

In the middle of the interview, the hiring manager might tell the candidate they’re not qualified for the role and that their experience is useless to the company. They do this all in a relatively rude and challenging way. Then, the hiring manager asks the candidate to respond.

I’m really not sure how a candidate is expected to respond in these situations, especially if they have any self-respect.

There’s also an obsession around money. At a tech startup, everybody wants to know how much money you want to make. If you’re coming from any sort of non-startup environment, it can be tough to pin down your salary requirements because the benefits are different. Startups often provide equity in place of high salaries.

Tech companies also are looking for someone like them. Even when a candidate has all the required experience, it is very common for the No. 1 objection to be, “You’ve never worked in tech.”

A number of tech companies also have an internal voting structure. Rather than the hiring manager selecting you, the entire team is involved. The team will meet after you interview to decide whether or not you’re a fit. At some organizations, even one vote against you can keep you from being hired.

Right or wrong, this seems to be the reality that tech companies are living in.

If you decide to interview at one, be sure to prepare yourself. On top of your normal interview preparation, learn as much as you can about the company, its culture and interview process.

To score big at a tech company, you need to be more than qualified. You need to fit in.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.