Job interviews are always a hot topic at Tech Ladies, but we’ve seen an increase in how many of you are making them a priority in this uncertain market. And we love to see it!
Interviews can be time consuming (and, let’s be real, a serious pain 😅) but there’s never been a better time to prioritize getting really good at interviews.
Over the years, we’ve coached thousands of women on how to best prepare and perform in an interview. There’s some advice we find ourselves giving over and over again because we’ve seen firsthand just how impactful they can be—and we want to share it with you!
Here’s our best advice for nailing your next interview. Plus, the most common interview questions and how to prepare for them!
Top Tips for Interviewing
Nail your intro/elevator pitch
Ah, the dreaded question! “Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?”
This question (or a version of it) is likely to come up in every single interview you do, and it’s a really important one to get right! That means it’s absolutely worth investing some time to prepare your response to this question.
It’s tempting to summarize your whole professional background to make sure you don’t leave out anything that could help you seal the deal. But less really is more!
We recommend using the present, past, future framework to offer highlights.
Here are two examples for technical and non-technical backgrounds:
“I’m Kat and I work as a Lead Software Engineer at [Company]. I started as an engineer four years ago and was promoted to a lead role last year. I work across the tech stack but primarily in Python on the backend, along with mentoring more junior team members. Prior to this role, I worked in Customer Success at [Other Company] and then attended a software engineering bootcamp. My longer term career goal is to leverage my emotional intelligence with my technical expertise in a technical leadership role.”
"I'm Wendy, and I lead Hiring Services at Tech Ladies. I connect our community members with career opportunities with hiring partners who share our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Previously, I worked in technical recruiting and hold a graduate degree in Counseling with a focus on career development. Going forward, I will continue to use my hiring and coaching expertise to change the ratio in tech."
Practice responding to common interview questions
Preparing your answers ahead of time will not only help you ace your next interview, but it will help you feel more confident and less nervous about interviewing.
Interviews often follow a common script so use that to your advantage!
We recommend practicing your answers to the following questions:
- How did you hear about the position?
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Why should we hire you?
- What are your greatest professional strengths?
- What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
- What is your greatest professional achievement?
- What are some of your favorite productivity tools?
- Tell me about your day to day at your most recent position.
- What's your dream job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What other companies are you interviewing with?
Hint: Don’t tell them! It’s irrelevant to your discussion with this company. Just tell them you’d prefer not to say and leave it at that.)
- What is your leadership/management/design style? (Adjust depending on the role.)
Prepare for behavioral questions
Many interviews also rely heavily on behavioral questions. You know the ones! They usually start with, “Tell us about a time when…”
Interviewers ask this type of question because examples of past career success are likely to indicate future career success.
Preparing for these questions can feel intimidating because they’re often vague questions that require really specific answers. The good news is that most of them are just variations on the same three!
We recommend preparing a different “accomplishment” story to highlight the following:
- Adaptability: A challenge at work and how you overcame it
- Time Management: A time you didn’t meet expectations and how you resolved it
- Emotional Intelligence: A situation where you didn’t see eye to eye with a colleague and how you resolved your differences
Your job is to demonstrate your strengths and career accomplishments. To do so, utilize the STAR Method: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
When you wrap up your answer by sharing the Result, focus on what you contributed instead of what the team contributed. Own your success!
Also, don’t forget to close each story by tying it back to a strength you previously mentioned, or how that skill/experience will help you be successful in the role.
Bring well-researched questions
Do your homework on the company! We can’t emphasize this enough.
Good interviewers will leave time at the end (or even throughout the conversation) for you to ask questions about the role, team, or company.
Come prepared with great questions that you can ask in these moments—and make sure they’re not ones that can be answered with a Google search or a quick look at their website. 👀
For example, here are some examples of questions you could ask about the role itself:
- What kind of challenges will I face in this role?
- Tell me more about what you hope this new employee will contribute to your company. What could they do in their first few months that would really demonstrate success to you?
- I'd love to know how you manage your team. How would you describe your leadership style so I can understand more about what it's like to report to you?
- What are the qualifications for this role that are most important to you?
You should also think about the things you’re prioritizing in your next role (e.g. autonomy, flexibility) and come up with a question that will help you screen for each “must have.”
If you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself, “What do I not know right now that I need to know in order to move forward in these interviews with confidence?”
Creating a prioritized list of the subsequent questions will help you be efficient with your time when the interview runs long.
Optimize for your next interview
Immediately after your interview, make a note of which questions you didn’t know how to answer, or the ones you think you could have done a better job answering.
Write out a response you can use next time, and practice confidently delivering it before your next interview.
Remember that you’re screening the company, too!
Lastly, remember that interviewing is simply a data gathering process for you and your potential employer to see if you're a fit for a partnership. You both get to determine at the end of the process if you want to move forward in partnership or not.
You’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you!
Avoiding Common Interview Mistakes
Now that we’re aligned on general best practices for acing your next interview, let’s talk about how to answer those specific questions that trip so many of us up.
How do I tell an interviewer that I don’t have experience in a specific tool or area?
First of all, don’t sweat it! No one has every skill/framework/experience that a company is looking for.
Once you’ve accepted that, you can shift your focus to confidently (a) reminding them of your transferable skills or experience, and (b) demonstrating a growth mindset.
We recommend keeping these gems ready:
- “I don’t have much experience in x, but I’ve worked with y, which I understand to be really similar. How is x used on your team?”
- “I have limited experience in x but I’d be excited to grow in that area by [taking these steps to upskill].”
- And, if you flat out have no idea what they’re talking about, “I’m not familiar with x. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?”
When should I disclose a disability or accommodation?
You’re not required to disclose disabilities or accommodations during the interview process so we always recommend listening to your gut.
Generally, we recommend that you ask more general questions to evaluate whether a role/company is going to be a good fit for your specific situation, and get more specific as you get further into the process.
For example, if you have a chronic health issue that requires you to take frequent breaks throughout the day, general questions about how the team works together can help you understand how challenging that might be.
Consider questions like:
- What’s the average work day like?
- What kind of schedule does my team work?
- How does the team collaborate on projects?
How you request accommodation is also a very personal choice, but we usually recommend that you wait until after you are hired to do so.
You can then have a conversation with an ally in HR (or the most appropriate team) to let them know how you will be doing your best work, and what you will need from them to be successful.
At that point, you are already an employee and it’s literally their job to help you be successful!
How do I explain a gap in my work history?
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you took time off, especially it’s for a personal or confidential reason. That’s your own business!
The trick is to have a prepared answer ready that you can deliver confidently when asked.
We recommend replying with something like, “I needed to take some time off to recharge my batteries so I can bring fresh energy to this role and really hit the ground running.”
How do I answer questions about my salary?
It’s illegal in many areas to ask about your previous salary history, but that doesn’t stop many companies from asking about your salary expectations.
We get it! Companies want to make sure they can afford your awesome skills… But we also know that women consistently undersell themselves, and that this contributes to the gender pay gap [link].
We regularly host workshops to help our members negotiate their salary but, when it comes to navigating this particular interview question, there are some standard ways you can answer.
We recommend the following:
- “My salary expectations really depend on the scope of the role, which I’m excited to learn more about through this process. In the meantime, can you share the range you have budgeted for the role?”
- When pressed again, “I’m not comfortable disclosing a number at this stage but happy to hear any range you have in mind so we can make sure we’re aligned.”
- When they can’t/won’t give you a range, “Got it. Can you tell me when in the process the salary range will be shared?”
We hope this helps you put your best foot forward in your next interview! And, if you're looking for help with interviews for tech roles in particular, find out how to prepare for technical interviews here.
Don’t forget to check out the Tech Ladies Job Board to find great companies prioritizing diversity and inclusion. ✨