Looking for jobs and going to interviews is very much like dating, except for the fact that you still end up going home alone. It’s only going to turn into a second interview or an actual offer, if you click. And it comes down to a single rule for that click to happen: being yourself. I could seriously stop writing this article right now, because that’s really it, the one and only rule:
Be yourself. That’s who we’re gonna work with after you’re hired, anyway.
Dress however you like.
Nobody is curious about the show you’re planning to put on or what colour your shoes are. If you’re the type of developer who wears slippers and shorts in the office and that’s how you like working, that’s who you are, then that is how you should go to the interview. It’s an excellent way of filtering out companies that would never fit your style, so be Slipper-Shorts Joe. I know people who walked into an interview just like that, got the job, and stayed happily for many years. If on the other hand you’re a Barney Stinson, then get that ducky tie out and suit up!
No self-confidence boost needed.
You are only as good as you actually are. There is literally nothing you can do to gain 5 extra years of experience overnight so stick to what you know, accept your current professional level and be frank about it. Trying to seem more than who you are will only land you face-first into the dirty mud of incompetent developer shame. And that, now that WILL obliterate your self-confidence! You don’t want that. Be yourself and be proud of it, even if you’re a junior fresh out of college or some Treehouse and CodeSchool development path, and still can’t tell the difference between a variable and a constant.
You’re not shy. Just inexperienced.
Being an introvert or shy has nothing to do with tanking an interview. First of all, the more interviews you go to, the more used you get to what interviews really are: a conversation between two potential professional partners — the employer and you. That’s it really. A chat about what you know, who you are, why the interest in them, which leads me to…
Research is overrated.
There’s this folk-tale going around that you must spend hours researching the company before an interview. There’s the company site, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Wikipedia and who knows how many more. I am sure that as a developer you’re inquisitive enough to at least look their website up without anyone telling you, but spending hours on research is plain stupid and unnecessary, unless you are going for a very specific role at an incredibly prestigious company and you’re going to use your research in a very creative manner to attract special attention to yourself, but then again, if you’re doing that, then you’re probably the last person to need advice on how to land a software developer job.
It really does come down to this, and all the above points are just an elaboration of the “be yourself” rule. I’ve had good and bad interviews. The ones I tanked was, because I was not myself, and was trying to fit myself into a company’s assumed view of who they might want. The most time I spent researching any company was 30 minutes. The first web developer job I landed happened within the course of 6 hours from meeting the recruiter to shaking hands with the CEO on getting the job, and all the time I had for research was looking at the company site’s source-code while putting my shirt on. All the software development jobs I landed were thanks to being myself, and frank about both my reason for turning up at the interview, being honest about my strengths and shortcomings, and adding nothing more to my experience than what I actually had experience with.
Your bottom line should be: “This is me, take it or leave it.”
Note: while I personally value pragmatism and honesty over everything else, I know that there are certain cultures and countries where the workforce dynamic is very different. I still believe however, that by being yourself you’ll have much more chances to land a role that truly fits your experience and personality and thus filling in the missing link between a company and its goals.