Interviews With People Who Have Made The Journey

I’ve spent three months describing the role and life of a Junior Software engineer and hopefully providing some useful tips and advice along the way. To wrap up this series I wanted to do something a little different and talk with some of the junior engineers I currently work with to ask them about the journey they’ve made and what advice they would give.

I’m sure this goes without saying but this is a personal blog and the views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of our current employer or any of my previous companies.

I asked Lizzie and Thaj how they found becoming junior developers. Photo by CoWomen on

Neither of you came from a Computer Science background. What made you want to move into Software Development?

I identified my interest in software programming when I used software programming for certain taught modules whilst studying for an Electronic Engineering degree. As for my final year project at university, I wanted to select it purely of my interest, consisting of mostly software programming. I then developed a tool that is currently being used within the University to extract embedded features in an Electromyography signal. This was the turning point that gave me the confidence to pursue a career in Software development even with a different degree background.


I studied Maths at Newcastle University, and was exposed to a small amount of programming, but it was usually used in our statistics modules to model data.  I joined the company as a Client Service Desk Technician in Operations, and worked comfortably in the role for a couple of years, before wanting to utilize my maths degree whilst staying in the organisation, as I really like working hereand love the culture.  I applied successfully for the Graduate Scheme and started in Delivery as an Associate Engineer in 2019, working on my competencies to progress to be an Engineer 1.

If I were to change my journey, I would still choose to study maths at University, however, I would choose to take some computer science modules to understand the fundamentals of software development. I think I would also choose to start reading about and learning programming from a younger age, which would have given me a platform of knowledge to build on when I did start the Graduate Scheme. 


What advice would you give to someone who didn’t study IT at university but was interested in becoming a Software Engineer?

Get as much exposure to as many development materials as possible; if these are online courses, reading online videos, starting your own side projects, you name it.  It’s not essential to study computing at University to become a Software Engineer, but I think an understanding of IT and software development processes is important for building knowledge learned whilst on the job.


If you are goal-oriented and have a true passion for IT, it is not an impossible challenge. Identifying where the passion lies is the first challenge; having the passion for what you want to do always makes it easier to be successful. It will be a comfortable journey if you have a tech background. However, even if not, there are many available resources, including books, articles, blogs which are beneficial whether you are a new starter or an experienced professional.


You have both had a challenging journey. Has there been overwhelmed and felt you made a bad decision going into IT? What did you do?

At the beginning of the Graduate Scheme, we undertook a number of workshops run by experienced engineers already working at TU.  There were parts of the workshops that I failed to understand or grasp straight away, which caused me to feel overwhelmed as the other members of my graduate cohort were more advanced than myself.  It did cause me to second guess my abilities, however, I took myself away to calm myself down, reassured myself that this is common for junior engineers that are new to software development (I was also reminded of this by Adam who was running the cohort this year) and carried on.


As a learning aspect from such situations, I have learned not to make decisions quickly based on incomplete information. It is a matter of being more patient and not rushing to conclusions. The methods that I have been following to improve decision-making are reflecting, understanding the context that led to a bad decision, and communicating with an experienced person to gain an opinion before rushing to decide. Never let yourself down and always work towards improving yourself while taking chances to correct the mistakes that led to wrong decisions.


There is a lot of discussion at the moment about how to address the huge gender imbalance in IT, especially in Software Development. As a young white male I can’t begin to understand what it must have been like to join an industry which was so male dominated. I asked Lizzie how she found it.

As a young lady joining a male dominated industry must have been quite daunting, what would you say to any young woman thinking about moving into development?

I think it takes a little bit of time to adjust to working with the split of men and women, as the dynamic is slightly different to begin with.  But I wouldn’t allow it to discourage you from applying for a role in a male dominated industry.  There is a massive drive at the moment for Women in Tech around the world, which should hopefully encourage young women to be confident in working in male dominated ‘worlds’, and to understand that the thought of working with predominantly men shouldn’t be daunting!


Finally I wanted to know about the success stories of the pair since becoming developers.

What has been your proudest moment in your development career so far?

Passing my competencies and becoming an Engineer 1 last year.  I initially found the transition to working from home quite difficult, as I had to move to a new house unexpectedly, meaning my work from home environment changed overnight.  I also found it challenging adapting to asking for help and gaining exposure to pieces of work as we weren’t all in the office, but my team were extremely supportive of one another, and we managed to get into the swing of working from home together, and therefore, felt like a big achievement to be promoted to Engineer 1.


I have a couple of moments that I am proud of as a junior Engineer with less than 2 years of working experience. Firstly, securing my first internal promotion even while working from home for almost a year due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Secondly, I have been involved in organising tech talks for the development community within my workplace, and as a result, I was rewarded with an Excellent value award.


I want to give a huge thank you to Thajanee and Lizzie for agreeing to answer my questions and sharing their experience with my readers. They have not had an easy introduction to the industry, adjusting to working at home while still in a very early phase of their career however both have achieved huge success at our company.

I want to wrap up this series of Junior Developer posts by thanking you for following along, I do hope that this has entertained and hopefully inspired a few people to considering giving Software Development a try. I am always contactable so if I can be of any further support please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Best of luck!

Performance Management

Performance Management are two words which have the power to strike dread into the hearts of developers and managers alike. For engineers it conjures images of being fired, for managers it’s the sinking feeling that you’re going to have difficult talks with people with people about the quality of their work.

But that isn’t what performance management is about. At least it shouldn’t be!

Performance Management is not about getting fired.

Performance Management should always be about you working with your boss and mentors to continue to improve your performance. It should involve feedback, praise, and coaching. It should be something junior engineers embrace because it helps them progress their career and develop their skills. However, giving feedback is very difficult and unfortunately finding a boss who will give you honest, valuable feedback is rare.

I could write pages about Performance Management but this post is intended as part of my Junior Developer series so instead I’m going to focus on the most common mechanisms companies use and what you should expect when you join.

Probation Periods

Probation periods are very common across the software industry (and elsewhere). In effect they’re a trial period for both you and your employer. They’re an opportunity for you to ensure you’re really happy with the company you’re working with but also for your boss to ensure you can do the job (or at least that you have the potential to do the job).

Typically probation periods last three or six months and during that time your notice period (the amount of notice the company has to give you and the notice you give the company if either wishes to end your employment contract) is significantly shorter. A month’s notice period is fairly typical for developers in the UK (or longer if it’s a more senior role), however during your probation this may be a week, or non existent. This is intended to support both sides. Personally I have never failed a probation, but I have left a company during my probation and being able to make that clean break was much simpler than having to wait an additional three months.

Every employer should set very clear objectives or what they expect you to achieve during this probation period. They should never simply book a meeting at the end of the three months to tell you if you passed or failed. The golden rule of good management is to never surprise your employer. A good manager will work with you during your probation and, if you’ve got some areas that you’re struggling make you aware of them so you’ve got plenty of time. You should never be unclear whether you’re on track to pass or fail a probation period.

1 to 1s

One of the most effective ways to support and coach your team is for managers to book in 1:1 sessions. Typically these are every couple of weeks but it varies with the individual and the circumstances. I have senior engineers who only watch to check in once a month and team leads I meet with weekly (or more often if they need it). I always hold more frequent 1:1s with people during their probation to make sure they’ve got the support they need.

Your 1:1 is your managers opportunity to coach and your chance to ask questions. It’s also your opportunity to talk about goals and career goals. There are countless excellent articles out there about 1:1s so I’ll leave it there and say that you should expect them and that they’re nothing to worry about.

1:1s are a great way to get feedback from your boss on what’s going well and where you need to improve.

End of Year Reviews

Most companies operate an end of year review cycle. These vary from company to company but they often involve talking about the positives and negatives of the year with your managers, some kind of goal setting exercise for the upcoming year, and often a discussion around pay and/or bonus. Often these are split into various conversations which may take place over a few weeks or even months.

The key is to understand what each session is for and what topics are likely to be discussed. This will help you think of examples where you’ve done especially well and give you a chance to think or a few areas where, with hindsight you may have done things a little differently.

It’s also helpful to understand what form of conversations the ones around pay and bonuses are likely to take. What’s normal for your company? Many television shows give the impression that you can march into your boss’s office and make a pitch for a higher salary. In reality (at least in the uk that’s rarely how it works). Often managers are given a pot of money to work with, once a year, and will have to make the fairest choices they can. However your manger be able to advice you on what happens at your company and what the financial review process will look like. Don’t be surprised if you’re not included in this process if you’ve been with the company for less than a year, it’s not uncommon for people who have recently joined to have to wait to be part of the uplift process.

When talking about goals for the following year try and be open and honest about what you would like to achieve. Ask your manager to support you and whether you think your ambitions are realistic. You can achieve a lot more if your manager is also looking for opportunities to stretch you than if you have to go hunting for them yourself.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that normal Performance Management is nothing to be worried about. Sure, there are cases need to be coached through areas of under performance but the vast majority of what I’ve talked about in this post is the positive side of how to work with you manager to avoid needing and performance improvement plans.

What are your experiences of performance management? Are your experiences similar to mine?

What You Need To Know About Holidays and Sickness

Everyone gets stick right? And it’s not unreasonable that you’re going to want to spend some time off to go on holiday (current Covid situation aside). All companies have slightly different procedures for managing absence, in this post I’m oing to talk about my experience over the majority of UK companies. Your company will almost certainly be slightly different, those are the differences you need to understand during your first fiew days.


Nobody wants to get sick, but it does happen. In my experience most companies in the UK which hire software developers will have a certain number of paid days of sick leave. This is often not contractual, but layed out in a handbook somewhere. How many days varies massively from company to company and it’s often worth trying to understand ahead of time.

Almost every company I have ever worked for expects you to call your manager if you wake up feeling too sick to work. Some are happy with a message but you should always understand what these procedures are before the inevitable day when you wake up full of cold and can’t drag yourself into work.

Everyone gets sick, but it’s worth understanding your company’s procedures before you do. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

Many companies use a system called The Bradford Factor to assess sickness. This is a calculation which calculates a score. Companies often have a threshold of what score they’re willing to accept before they stop paying sickness days. It’s worth being aware that the system weights number of occurrences far more severely than number of days. So someone taking every Monday off sick because they’re feeling a bit hung over would score far higher than someone who caught a nasty bug and was off for a week. I should stress very clearly though – sickness policies are a benefit designed to support employees who genuinely aren’t feeling well so they don’t feel financialy pressured into spreading germs around the office. They’re not free days off because you’re feeling a little worse for wear after a late night.

Planned surgeries and procedures are often handled slightly differently and you should discuss what options are available. Some companies may support you. Others may ask you take some (or all) of the time as holiday.

One of your tasks in the first week at your new company should be to understand exactly what the policy for sickness is.


Let’s assume that coronavirus is a thing of the past and we’re all flying around the world to ski and relax by swimming pools.

Most UK companies offer a number of paid days off. You are legally entitled to Bank Holidays (or a substitute day) and will often have a number of days which you can book whenever you wish. In the UK the minimum is 28 days, but you should expect that 8 of those are the bank holidays. However, some companies may offer 25 + 8 or even more. It’s not uncommon for employees’ holiday allowances to increase the longer they remain with a company. It’s worth remembering that you take 5 days off each week as most software companies don’t work weekends.

When this virus is over we can all go back to enjoying holidays we enjoy. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Usually you have to book holidays and have them approved by your line manager. It’s usually good etiquette to give as much notice as possible. The typical rule is to give as least as much notice as the time you’re intending to take but personally if you’re planning on taking a week or more I’d encourage you to give as much notice as warning. It’s rare for managers to refuse holidays unless there’s a good reason, especially with lots of notice.

A few final points – always make sure you understand when the holiday calendar starts and finishes (your first year’s holidays will probably be pro-rata’d). If you can carry over any untaken holiday into the next year and if there are any conditions, and what the company’s rules are over Christmas time. It’s not uncommon for offices to shut and companies require employees to save several days of holiday for the gap between Christmas and New Year.

Hopefully this has been helpful and has given you an idea of what to expect. As I said at the beginning of the post expectations will vary from company to company and hugely as you move around the world. I can only speak about my experience in the UK. You should always try and understand the sickness and holiday policies of your company as soon as possible. Before joining ideally, but for various reasons it’s probably not something I’d ask in an interview – perhaps a good question for a recruiter?

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Your First Day

So you’ve been through the interview process, had an offer, and accepted the role. Time has passed and you’re getting nervous. What will your first day be like? What should you expect and what should you do?

The most important thing to remember about your first day is that there won’t be any huge expectations of you. No one is expecting you to sit down and write features and fix urgent bugs straight away. Focus on the people, get to know your Line Manager and your team. Find out where you will sit or whether the company has a hotdesking policy. Take a notebook and use it because you will be overwhelmed.

Your first day will be exhausting and overwhelming, don’t expect too much. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Your top priority for your first day is to get to know people, to make a good impression by being polite and friendly to everyone you meet and to ask lots of questions. It’s quite likely you’ll be bombarded by so many pieces of information you’ll start to lose track so don’t forget that notebook! Remember, people’s names are more important than every detail they’re telling you – you can always ask them for clarification later, but only if you remember who to ask.

Many companies have a formal HR training on the first day which can last anywhere from half an hour to a full week depending on the company and the role. These often run through basic Health and Safety and in some cases legal/data protection rules. These aren’t the most exciting sessions you’ll attend during your time at the company but they are important. If you’re starting with other people you’ll likely take part in the same training as them, say hello and ask a few questions. I still remember many of the people I attended inductions with with even though we’re scattered across the departments (and in some case companies).

You’ll also likely be given your computer and be expected to set it up. Focus on things like email, calendars, and whatever IM program the company is using. Over time you will also need to connect to your team’s source control repositories and install your development tools but I’d often recommend waiting until you’re guided on this. It can be quite easy to get it wrong which can cause more challenges than simply asking for some support. Be careful about installing software you’re not authorised to do so – always check with your manager before installing something if you’re not sure if it’s allowed on work hardware.

Make sure you know what to do if you’re sick on your second day (I hope you won’t be) but it help to be prepared. It often helps to get your manager’s phone number if you don’t already have it.

It’s fair to say that first days can be a little overwhelming so wanting to get a second opinion I asked a colleague of mine, Lizzie who joined our department last year as a junior engineer. She said

You won’t pick up everything straight away – you won’t understand business processes, won’t remember everyone’s name or know where all of the toilets are in the building etc on the first day  – so don’t stress.  Take in as much information as you can and be enthusiastic. 


Most all all try to relax. You’ve worked very hard to get this job and you should be very proud you’re there. Focus on building relationships with the people in your team. Be humble and be willing to learn and take advice. Because when you need help, and you will need it, it will be those people who will support you.

There are very few things as rewarding as working as part of a great team. Photo by fauxels on

What are you most nervous about when you start at a new company? What do you wish you’d known before you started? Drop me a message on Twitter or post your questions below.

Dealing With Rejection

An unfortunate part of any interview process is rejection. Unless you’re very lucky you’re going to be turned away from more opportunities than you’re offered. Especially when you’re trying to make a particuarly large leap – such as the one from student to professional.

In an attempt to gather some good advice for people who have been rejected from a role I reached out to my LinkedIn network. Not because of any lack of experience on my part but because there are probably people out there who handle it better than I do (seriously the sulking isn’t a good look for anyone).

If you’re on LinkedIn (and if you’re not I strongly recommend you join) then have a read of the question here. However, I wanted to capture some of the advice I got in this post.

Ask for feedback, one of the most important parts of a successful DevOps culture is getting, understanding and implementing feedback into everything we do.

Connect with people, by making connections in the industry we can gain more insight into what goes on in the company you were rejected by.

Apply again, if you can demonstrate you have improved why wouldn’t a potential employer want to interview you again


I used to work with Kurt and he’s a good guy. He’s also a DevOps evangalist and hired lots of people himself. I think this is great advice, we’re in an industry where we gather feedback and respond accordingly. Why not do this with your own career? Listen to what the feedback was from the company, look at any weaknesses they highlight and use them to drive your next stage of learning. Kurt wasn’t the only person to stress the importance of taking feedback on board.

A lot of what we do is iterative: try to analyse your performance and work out where you didn’t fully elaborate on something you may feel was obvious or forget to emphasise a key challenge or innovative solution. Assume that people will understand the language you use but not necessarily the details of a technology or situation.

Practice will make talking about yourself, to new people and about your achievements and approach easier.

Being rejected for a role is never easy. However, it can be extremely useful. Photo by Andrew Neel on

Don’t take it personally. Mope for a day, dust yourself off and don’t get discouraged. Work on any areas you got the negative feedback on (appreciate you don’t always get any). It might just simply be that another candidate just pipped you to the post. If there is only one role, someone is going to lose out and a client will have to nit pick in order to select someone. The worst part of my job is declining someone after an interview, especially if I know they really want it.

Simone from Solo Search

I’ve worked with Simone before and she really knows her stuff. She also understands that sometimes it can be very difficult to seperate clients and sometimes it comes down to things like team fit and how they performed on a single question in the interview. Not every rejection is a huge blow, you never know just how close you were to getting that offer. Don’t get disheartened!

Rejection is rubbish, there’s no two ways about it. But one person saying no does not mean you’re at the end of your journey. Keep going and keep learning! Photo by Alex Green on

You can drive yourself nuts worrying what you did wrong and the chances are it wasn’t anything that, on a different day, would have mattered.


Philip echoed this sentiment. Sometimes it’s the smallest things which seperate the successful candidate and the ones who were rejected. Don’t assume that you were nowhere near because you may have very well been a close second.

It’s a bit like asking someone on a date – not everyone is going to say yes, and often they’ll have reasons for doing so that range far beyond “you’re not good enough” or “we don’t like you”.

It can just mean you’re not exactly what the company is looking for at the time – they may be looking for something slightly different next time.


However, I’ll leave you with an optimistic idea from Nick. He says:

Being rejected from one role gives you the opportunity to accept another that may be better. You may miss out on a job that you thought you would love and end up with one you actually do


Assessment Centres and Remote Interviews

I’ve written quite a lot over the last few weeks about interviewing and recruitment. Howevever there are a couple of other recruitment techniques I want to mention in an effort to prepare you.

The first of these is assessment centres.

Recruitment takes a lot of time and effort. When you’re recruiting a pool of people, for example a number of junior engineers all at once or perhaps an entire team. It becomes more efficient to combine these into a single recruitment event rather than conducting individual interviews with each candidate.

Assessment Centres are when multiple candidates are invited in together. Photo by ThisIsEngineering on

Aside from the time saving opportunities this also gives the assessors a few opportunities such as seeing how you can undertake a group task and how you interact with people througout the day. Far from being daunting these can be a lot of fun and often give you much more chance to talk to existing members of staff and compare notes with other candidates.

Many people see the other candidates in their assessment centres as the competition, and this is true to a point. After all, there are often only a limited number of vacancies available. However, you should be careful of this mindset. One of the reasons for putting candidates together is to see how they work together and engage with potential peers. If you’re in super competitive mode you’re not going to demonstrate your team work skills to their full potential.

Assessment Centres can take many forms and have many different components. When I’ve run assessment centres we’ve done a presentation to the candidates to tell them about the company and the role, tours of the office, interviews, a written test, a group activity, and a meet and greet where we’ve invited existing employees down to meet the candidates. Try to relax and enjoy the experience as much as possible. It’s a long and exhausting day – but you’ll get a lot out of it.

Another type of interview which has exploded since Covid-19 started rampaging across the globe is the video call interview.

Remote interviews have become extremely common since the global pandemic. Photo by Vanessa Garcia on

With isolation and social distancing the norm today it can be extremely difficult (and unwise) to meet candidates face to face. Because of this many companies are doing video calls to interview candidates.

The rules for a video call are not that different to a regular interview however I will run through a few of the basics for you.

  • Always arrive on time, test technology beforehand if possible and make sure you have a contact number for the company should IT let you down.
  • Consider what you’re wearing. A suit and tie is probably not essential for an interview at home but maybe a football shirt for your favourite team isn’t the best choice either?
  • Consider your background. Imagine you are being interviewed by the BBC (other news agencies are available). Make sure your background is clean and tidy, there isn’t a lot of noice, and you’re well lit.
  • Consider where your camera is. Many people have cameras on a second monitor but remember this is a conversation. You other person wants to feel like you’re looking at them, not staring off distracted in the distance (even if that’s where your screen is). Try to put the camera as close to the interviewer as possible and look into the camera on occasion. For more tips on Non-Verbal Communication remotely check out this post.

And that’s about it. Many of the basics for in person interviewing still apply, but don’t be surprised if you’re not invited to more and more remote interviews as time goes by.

Have you been to an assessment centre or had a video interview? What were your experiences? Drop me a message or comment below and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of the series.

Is The Company Right For You?

I’ve written a lot over the last few weeks about preparing and applying for roles, especially for the junior and aspiring developers who are entering the market for the first time. However, what I’ve not really covered is whether or not you should accept the role you’re offered.

Whether or not to accept a role may not be a straightforward decision. Photo by Armin Rimoldi on

There’s always a balance to be struck when that first offer comes. Ideally you want to have a few to choose between. However, personal circumstances may mean you really do need to take the first offer you get but I want to talk a little about what to look for when deciding whether to accept an offer or not.

Pay, obviously is a factor. If you are presented with one offer that is significantly more than another or if the increased cost of the commute would mean you can’t actually afford to take on a role then you should never feel pressured into it. There is sometimes room for negociation here (see my previous post on negociating salary), but it’s always better to set a clear expectation up front than to have a disappointingly low offer.

The next aspect, especially for people new to the profession is the confidence they have in the team, the company, and the hiring manager. For many young people entering a full time job, especially one as technically challenging as software development is one of the biggest challenges they’ll have faced so far. But it isn’t one they face alone. The responsibility for training and onboarding any new employee lies as much with the manager, team, and company as it does with the individual. No one should be thrown at a job, especially a junior one and expected to “get on with it”. They’re going to need help. What you need to establish during your application process is whether you have confidence that the company have the willingnenss and ability to invest in your over the first few years of your career.

Is your hiring manager someone you feel you could go to if you were struggling or worried about your performance? Have they discussed how they plan to train you? I’m encouraged when someone asks what support there is at the company to help and learn, it shows self awareness. It’s not a sign that the person is too inexperienced and I shouldn’t hire them!

Consider asking questions like:

  • Does the company have much experience hiring junior developers straight out of university?
  • What sort of training plan do you have in place for new starters?
  • When do you anticipate I’ll be a fully productive member of the team?
  • Will I be assigned a mentor for when I get help?

When you’re being interviewed you should always be asking yourself whether the people interviewing you are people you trust to place the next few years of your career with.

Do you have any suggestions of red flags you should watch for when deciding on a company? What advice would you give for someone looking for the right fit? Post in the commends below and don’t forget to follow the blog so you don’t miss out on the next post.

Talking to a Recruiter about Recruitment

I have been lucky to work with a number of recruiters over the years. They provide an essential service advertising and pre-screening candidates who come for the roles I’m looking for.

I recently discussed this series of blog posts with Matt, a friend of mine at 4IT Recruitment and he was keen to offer his advice for people looking to get involved in the industry.

Recruiters do a great job advertising roles and preparing candidates for interview. Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

I wanted to know more about the work that Matt and his colleagues do between getting a CV from a prospective candidate and brining them to my attention.

What makes a candidate’s CV stand out to you?

A Simple layout – Name and contact details at the top and easy to find’. Don’t use fancy boxes or colours and there’s no need for pictures etc (unless it’s for a UX role). You should include a a brief but non-generic profile at the top of the page with a bit of insight into your skills and experience. Consider adding a technical skills matrix right at the top where it’s really visible and always start with your strongest development language at the top.

We like to see projects you been involved in and where you used your skills, what methodologies you used, any associated technologies (e.g. if was a full stack role say that it was). Universities and schools should go at at the bottom with hobbies – for graduates you should put all the experience you’ve gained from university modules at the top in place of professional experience and start with any experience you have. Always include details of any placements or work experience opportunities you’ve had. Include details of the technologies you’ve used in the roles.

What advice do you always give a candidate before an interview?

Always research the company and understand what service/ product they offer before you go to speak to them. Review the job spec if you have one and think how you can speak about your skills with regards to the criteria for the role.

Talk about what you have been responsible for delivering personally, rather than listing the achievements of the the wider team and use as many examples with how you have used your skills in the past in ‘real life’.

Try to relax…it is as much an opportunity for you to find out about the company and role as the other way around.

Remember to ask the company questions about the role and about current staff… Why is the best developer you have the ‘best developer’ etc. what do they bring extra than all others to the team?

What do you wish more candidates knew when they went for an interview?

Candidates should always remember that hiring managers’ time is very limited so they should try to give detailed answers but stick to the point and then move on.

You only get one chance to make a first impression so don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Never be afraid to ask for advice before going for an interview. Photo by mentatdgt on

Matt has given lots of great advice for anyone coming to an interview. If you’d like to get in touch with 4IT you either via LinkedIn or email.

Do you have any advice to give candidates preparing for their first big interview? What have you found that works for you – drop a comment below or contact me on Twitter. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s post!

Negotiating Salary

While we may all enjoy our jobs being paid is kind of the whole point (don’t say that in an interview). But it’s extremely hard to know where to pitch when applying for a job. In this post I want to discuss the best approach to talking about salaries.

Let’s talk about getting paid. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

When a hiring manager posts a job they usually have an upper limit or a salary band in mind. This is hard fought for in a budget conversation. The recruitment agents are usually aware of this figure.

My first piece of advice is to make sure your idea of salary and the hiring managers are aligned before you go into an interview. The reason for this is simple. You don’t want to waste your time (or the managers) if you’re applying for a role which either doesn’t have the budget you’re looking for or is offering to pay far above what you’re looking for (a good sign you’re not experienced enough). Going for an interview often involves taking a day of holiday from a current job or at least taking on some kind of expense. A quick (but sometimes awkward) conversation up front can avoid that.

Next up, there’s a little game recruitment agents (and sometimes hiring managers) like to play. They will often ask you what your current salary is and what you’re looking for. This is often very beneficial all around, it helps them gauge the current market rate for someone with your skills and will help make sure that you’re both looking in the same ball park (the same as I spoke with above). However, if you are being underpaid at your current role this can work against you. If I’m on a low salary and ask for a £20k pay rise I could well come across as greedy or over ambitious. Everyone wants a pay rise when they move roles, but don’t feel you have to give this information away if it will make your application less credible. It’s perfectly fine to say something like “Not enough – I’m really looking for £X”.

Which is where the next point comes in. Do your homework. Many roles don’t advertise the salary expectations on the advert, this is to avoid sharing with internal employees and disclosing other people’s salaries. However, it’s also very frustraiting for the applicant. Especially when one company pays one amount for a Senior Developer and another pays something completely different. Use tools like LinkedIn’s Salary Checker and to get an expectation of what a role is likely to pay. Be aware, this will change vastly by where the job is based!

The salary for a role will vary from city to city, even more from region to region or country to country. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

There are a few situations where you won’t have a lot of flexibility on salary. If you’re applying for a role in a very structured organisation the salary bands may be set with no room for negotiation. Also, if you’re one of a number of new starters (for example in a graduate scheme) then the salary may be fixed. After all if you’re hiring twenty people to do the same role at the same time it would be highly inappropriate to offer one person more money.

Salary negotiations are not the easiest discussions to have but hopefully I’ve provided some insight and advice. Please get in touch or add a comment below if you have any questions and as always please subscribe and then share this series with anyone you think may find it useful.

The Interview

The interview is the most famous part of any job application process. Some senior jobs require you to go through two or more interviews but nearly all roles require you to sit down face to face with two or more people and answer questions. Even in these socially distance times when interviews are being conducted remotely it’s still an important skill to master.

The internet is full of interview advice (some of it good) so I’m going to try to approach this slightly differently and describe it from a hiring manager’s point of view.

Knowing what the interviewer is looking for goes a long way in an interview. Photo by Alex Green on

I’ve run through CVs and I’ve selected a short list of candidates I want to speak with. I may have had a few phone conversations along the way. Personally I only have two or three people on my interview list at any one time, different people may have different styles here but if I find someone I want to make an offer to I don’t want to have to wait while I interview ten other people before making that offer. I’d rather have a pipeline of candidates coming through the process knowing I can stop and offer whenever the right person comes along.

There’s a lot of time and effort invested from both sides for an interview (usually a good half a day for even a one hour interview) and you may be asking the candidate to travel and take time away from courses or work so I don’t invite someone in on a whim, I only invite people I believe could fulfil the job’s requirements.

Let’s start with the obvious stuff. Don’t be late. I don’t care if that means you have to sit in a carpark for an hour. Don’t be late and don’t get lost. Scout out your route to the interview location beforehand if that helps, if you’re making a more substantial trip then make sure you leave enough time for Murphy. If you are unavoidably delayed then call ahead and get a message to me. Trains break down on everyone, a professional will get in touch and let me know rather than leaving me sitting in an empty meeting room by myself. Believe me, that’s not a good way to make a great impression!

What to wear? I’m far from a fashion guru so I don’t want to give bad advice here. However, over the last few years I’ve been a bit less formal with my dress when I’m being interviewed (in other words I’ve lost the tie). However, I still wear a suit. The best advice I can give is dress how you would if you were representing the prospective company to a client. You want to be smarter than regular office wear but you’re not going to a black tie event. Personally I’d never wear jeans.

Try to dress how you would if you were representing the company at a visit to one of their clients. Photo by mentatdgt on

You’ll most likely be interviewed by two people. This is for a couple of reasons but the most important is to get two different points of view. Don’t try and work out who the decision maker is, if they’re worth working for they’ll take their colleague’s view very seriously. Address anwers to the person who asked them and (I’m sure this is obvious) be polite and repectful to everyone you meet.

In terms of the interview itself I usually try to start simple. I want the candidate to relax and lose a few of the inevitable nerves. I usually ask something about what you’re currently studying or what you’re working on. Remember that I’ve read your CV. Don’t go overboard here, don’t bore me but tell me the interesting bits. Try not to turn a five minute question into a twenty five minute one because of nerves!

At some point early in the interview I’ll most likely describe the company and the role. Again, I’m expecting you already know most of this so the point of this is to give you a chance to ask any questions and to engage in a little light conversation before we move onto some of the more technical stuff.

There will inevitably be some questions coming. These usually fall into one of two camps, either they’re competency questions or they’re skills question.

Skills questions are designed to assess your knowledge in a particular technology. For example, one of my favourites for a C# role is to ask someone the difference between an array of strings, a list of strings, and an IEnumerable of type string. This isn’t an easy question, I like it because a junior will give me one answer and a much more senior will give me another – but they could both be correct. However, the real question here is what to do when you’re faced with a skills question you don’t know?

What can you do in an interview when someone asks you a question you don’t know the anser to? Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

That’s easy. You should simply say you don’t know. Or (assuming it’s true) tell me that you are having a mind blank and can’t remember. We’re engineers, we’re not search engines. We look things up and use intellisense. You may know more about garbage collection than I do, I may know more about IoC than you. The point of the skills questions are to get an idea of your technical strengths and weakesses. I don’t want to hire someone who will simply doesn’t possess the skills I require of them. For entry and junior roles I’m assuming you won’t know everything, it’s ok not to now!

I’m sure it goes without saying, but please don’t try to bluff me. Not only will it not work (I’ve hired a lot of engineers) but it won’t help, all that will happen is you’ll find yourself in a role which won’t suit you.

The second type of question you’re likely to encounter is the Competency Question. A competency is something like Problem Solving, or Personal Development. You can often work out which of these you’re going to be faced with by looking at the job advert. If the job description says that I’m looking for someone with A Proven Ability to Learn, Problem Solving Skills, and Resilience then there is a fair chance I’m going to have a question for each of those asking you how you’ve demonstrated them in the past.

For example, if I may ask you to describe a problem you had no idea how to solve and how you overcame it. Or I could ask how you’ve recovered from a severe setback. These are not easy questions to answer but with a little up front planning you can think of the answers you’re going to need through well before the interview. The best answers give a good example and don’t waffle. For example if I was asked about a problem I didn’t know how to overcome I could describe who I sought advice from, or how I wrote down fifty ideas and selected the best five, or I could talk about the time I needed help with my disseration and I asked my professor for advice.

It’s important to note, especially with junior roles that I’m not expecting you to be able to walk in and do the job. What I want you to persuade me is that if I made you an offer you’d be able to grow into the role. That’s why these questions are really important. Fail to prepare at your peril!

Most interviews for junior positions will last around an hour although some may last longer, especially if they involve technical tests (which I’ll cover in a future post) or form part of a larger assesment centre (again, hopefully a future post).

Towards the end of the interview I will usually offer the chance for the candidate to ask me any questions (although there’s no reason they can’t raise them before then). Honestly, I’ve heard them all. My suggestion is that you focus on questions about the role and the company and show interest in the opportunity. For example “Can you describe what the team are working on now?” is a better question than “How many days holiday do I get?”

One final point, despite what you see on TV it’s very rare to be offered the role in the interview. Don’t lose faith if it takes a few days.

I hope this has been of some help. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. What are your best suggestions for good interviews? Remember to subscribe and follow me on twitter so you don’t miss out!