Hacking the Interview

Code School Book — Morgan Lopes and Tim Whitacre (16/30)

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The interview process is a perfect example of how many small investments compound into long-term success.

t’s rare to get an interview. In the hiring process, most people submit applications to dozens of organizations to get a single interview. Given how much effort is required to get facetime with employers, it still surprises me how many candidates miss the basics.

Getting an interview is hard but standing out during the interview process is not. Technical needs are a small part of successful interviewing. It is a low percentage of interviewees who do any one of the following. I have a strong conviction that anyone doing all of them is impossible to ignore. “Death by a thousand cuts” is a common expression when describing failure due to a lot of problems or issues. I prefer “victory by a thousand wins”. The interview process is a perfect example of how many, small investments compound into long-term success. This list is accessible to anyone. It’s also applicable across many positions and nearly any company. Without knowing the specific requirements of a role, the following suggestions provide the easiest way to excel while interviewing and increase your odds of getting the job.

Follow up.

Each year I speak to dozens of code schools and bootcamps. In every presentation, I make a point to share my contact details and email, and I directly invite people to reach out. I make it clear I’d help without cost and I’m hiring code school graduates. Thousands of people have heard the same prompt, every event. But even so, only a fraction ever actually follow up.

A survey from global staffing agency Robert Half International found that after simply sending a job application, 81 percent of 1,000 hiring managers want to receive a follow-up message within two weeks. Following up after an interview is even more critical. Companies will immediately disqualify candidates who don’t follow up. A helpful rule of thumb: follow up with every person, every time, within 24 hours. Great follow-up messages include personalized gratitude, a brief summary, and clear next steps. Consistent, thoughtful follow-ups show an employer the role is important to you.

Even if you don’t hear back, follow-ups are essential. No reply means nothing.

The best follow-up I’ve received involved handwritten notes for each team member they interviewed with and a package of cookies that arrived once they’d left the office. Few interviewees have created as much positive, interoffice chatter and it cost less than $20.


CTO at Fast Company’s World Most Innovative Company (x4). Author of “Code School”, a book to help more people transition into tech.