Interview Advice…by me

So if anyone out there has been keeping up with my blog, this week and last week I’ve been conducting interviews with ‘freshers’ (people fresh out of university) looking for around 6 people to be trained up by me in the art of programming, design, usability and quality control.

Side note: In the UK, it is often said (semi-tongue in cheek) that those that have the ability will use it, and those that don’t have the ability will teach it. So in a classic case of those that can, do, those that can’t teach, I can neither design nor programme computer code, and yet I will be instructing others in these arts.

I have now conducted 18 interviews and seen a wide range of candidates. Below I will detail some of the things that I was looking for and what I wasn’t looking for from the interviewees.

Note that these things are probably specific to computer programmers and graphic designers. I’m not saying this is how all interviewees should be, and if you decide to apply some of the stuff I talk about and don’t get the job, don’t come blaming me!

What I wasn’t looking for

Let’s start with what I wasn’t looking for…

a) I wasn’t at all interested in the career objective at the top of resumes about what the candidate’s goals are.. Once you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Anyone can write a paragraph with buzz words like “challenging role”, “develop my skills”, “fast pace environment”, “work for the growth of the company”. It’s all contrived and not written with any passion.

If there is going to be a career objective in the resume, I would suggest writing something more honest and without the buzz words. Be different!

b) I definitely wasn’t looking at, or gave any relevance to, what the candidate had put down as their hobbies and interest. Unless you have a hobby or do an activity that is directly related to the job you are going to be performing, I would go as far as to say don’t even include it on a CV. Too many resume’s I read put their hobbies down as “watching TV”, “hanging out with friends” and “listening to music”.

c) Academic qualifications. This might sound quite shocking, but I wasn’t too interested in academic qualifications either. I was far more interested in seeing the persons motivation and enthusiasm for the subject.

What I was looking for

Now let’s see what I was looking for…

a) The biggest thing I was looking for was an honest enthusiasm for the job the candidate was applying for with a proven interest to learn about the specific role. If they were able to talk about it and show how they were motivated enough to learn about new things outside the normal academic education (doing things off their own back), then they had my attention – far more than those that had extraordinary academic qualifications but showed no evidence of having the motivation to carry on the learning outside academia

b) Another factor I was looking for was the undertaking of projects either through university or personal endeavour related to the job role the candidate was applying for. In this case we were interviewing for PHP programmers and graphic designers.

For the programmers, I was very interested in seeing what projects the candidate had done by themselves and not been told to do by the university.

For the designers, my interest was seeing a full portfolio that demonstrated a wide range of skills in photoshop and other graphics packages. Unfortunately most designers fell down in this area 🙁

c) The final thing I was looking at was the openness and friendliness of the candidate. Some candidates were a closed book, others came across as quite arrogant. What I was asking myself was “would I like to work with this person”. This is going to be mostly down to the personality of the candidate.


Who knows, maybe I’m way off track with my interview technique and quite naive in my approach. But this is the first time I’ve ever been the interviewer, so if any of the older readers has any advice that I should take on board for next time, I’d love to hear it!

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