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Author and chief editor of the effizine, online magazine for busy professionals desperate for getting things done efficiently

Keep talking – and explaining…

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen” – Stephen Hawking

There was a time when some thought that developers worked best in darkened rooms. When the ideal solution was a conveyor-belt software factory with programmers lined up as though they were in a mass-assembly plant. When massive specifications were required to be drafted and reviewed before a line of code was written…

Do you remember those days? They weren’t so long ago, and some may still cling to the “software factory” ideal. But techniques and thinking such as Agile has proven that in order to fully understand what the customer wants and also to react to change, developers need to be involved in regular communication and able to describe and interpret complex requirements along with any underlying dependencies and impacts.

So what does this mean for developers looking to impress at interview and software companies looking to recruit? Well, an obvious key skill is communication, the ability to work in a team should be forefront in an interviewer’s mind, after all an interview is an ideal face-to-face setting to test verbal communication.

An interviewer is looking for examples to provide confidence that this person can work in their team. So make sure that you have several examples of dealing with critical issues – be they key features or problems, ideally have several such examples well rehearsed so that you can recall them as the situation requires during interview. As you deliver these examples make sure that you clearly explain -

i) The background to the key feature or problem
ii) The options available and any constraints (for example – time/deadline)
iii) The communication that took place to assess and evaluate these options – and ideally indicate the roles that were involved during the conferring and decision making
iv) How the decided option was planned and implemented
v) How the decided option was shown to be satisfactory (what were the acceptance criteria)

And, yes, make sure that you include any technical information that is necessary (of course!)

But the key point is – that you are not just a cog in a wheel, you are a communicating, capable individual who can work in a team but also can take ownership and drive things as necessary. Remember that it’s not just your technical ability that an interviewer is looking for and it really does pay to do the necessary preparation so that these examples are easy to recall whilst keeping your delivery as natural as possible.

If you don’t have much technical experience to draw on then explain this to the interviewer but do still try to demonstrate your communication ability by drawing on experiences in your life when you have been confronted by a situation by following the above steps. We have all faced circumstances where there is a distinct need for a solution, where we have evaluated the available options and then implemented the one that seemed to have the best chance of success.

There is a bit of Project Manager in all of us – otherwise we probably would have never invented the wheel…

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