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Just graduating with an engineering degree? Here’s how to ace your first interviews.

by Amery Zhen on Jun 10, 2016

So you’ve just graduated with your engineering degree and landed an interview! That’s great news, and it’s probably because you have a terrific résumé. Now it’s time to nail every interview you have.

There’s no doubt that meeting a potential employer can be a nerve-wracking process. But here are a few tips that can help ensure that you make the very best impression.

Do your research.

Before any phone screen or in-person interview, review the company’s tech stack to gain a sense of how it’s used daily by the engineering team, and then be ready to discuss your experience programming with these technologies. And of course be sure to ask the usual questions that demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on the company’s culture and work environment: Read recent press releases, watch employee videos, and look at the company’s Glassdoor page for reviews and ratings. Then you’ll have a baseline sense of what the company’s latest accomplishments are and of employee morale.

Ask informed questions.

Good questions will help you determine if the opportunity is in line with your career goals, and they will show that you have done your homework and have critical thinking skills. Make sure you can’t find the answers to your questions on the company site or in the job description; that way you demonstrate to the interviewer that you have studied the company site extensively. Some great examples: What is your deployment process like? How do you handle new features? Does the company offer mentorship opportunities and if so, what kind? Keep some questions open-ended, too, for example: What is your philosophy on dealing with internal conflict or differences of opinion? And remember that questions that solicit the interviewer’s own experience can make a good impression. Ask them questions like this: What do you find most rewarding about your job? What is your outlook on the company’s future?

Be prepared to strut your stuff.

Most in-person, on site interviews will involve a lot of technical white-boarding. Coding in front of someone can be intimidating at first, but don’t panic! Ask the interviewer if there is a specific language they prefer that you use. If there isn’t, go with the one you feel strongest in. Also, it’s okay to pause and think about the question instead of providing an immediate answer. Then help the interviewer understand how you determine the solution by carefully talking them through each step. If you find yourself stuck on something, don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions. Remember, the team cares most about your thought process, attention to code quality, and how you receive feedback.

Send a thank you letter.

Sure, it might seem old-fashioned, but trust me: a short and sweet note after a phone screen or onsite to your interviewer can help set you apart from other candidates who are applying for the same position. Also, If you have relevant code samples handy, a follow-up note gives you an opportunity to send them along. Make sure these projects are relevant to the role you interviewed for. If you don’t have the interviewer’s email address, ask the recruiter or recruiting coordinator you are in contact with to share the info or forward your note instead.

Be organized so you can follow up.

I always recommend that job-seekers track their interviewing progress by creating a comprehensive Excel sheet. You will meet with many companies during your search, and you’ll want to remember key points from each to help you make a decision once the offers come in. Take note of who your point of contact is, the date of interview, what your interview experience was like and who you met with, your thoughts about the company and industry. Make a date to follow up on your application and interview status and put it in your calendar.

Chances are you’ll go on many interviews over the course of your career. You’ll get better and better at interviewing as time goes on and your career progresses, but follow these tips at the get-go, and you’ll build great interviewing skills you can use for years to come — and you just might land your dream job.

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Amery Zhen is a technical recruiter at AppLovin.

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