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Everything You Need to Know about Project Interviews
Resumes can only tell you so much about an applicant. What really counts is the work that they do, and how they work with others. Some applicants have terrible resumes, but sometimes they can develop beautiful systems or create genius code. How do hiring managers identify these applicants?
The new way to interview people – especially in the technology industry – is using projects.
Honestly, it feels a little exploitative, and most experienced professionals may scoff at the idea of putting forth their best effort for free or at a reduced cost, but many companies are using "projeclications" — the fancy Harvard Business Review portmanteau that combines project and application — as a way to vet the technical skills of shortlist candidates.
If you come across one of these interviews and decide that you want to complete the project, here are some tips to make you successful.
1. Understand Your Target Audience
The more you understand your potential employer, the better chance you have to nail the project. The potential employer will be more impressed if you cater your project toward their industry and the tech they use in their organization.
As with any job interview preparation, you should review their site and do a search for their products. You also can review how others are using the site products for their business. When you create your project, focus on what you think will make the business revenue rather than creating a general project.
You can be brilliant, but a company needs you to leverage your skills for business solutions, so keep that in mind when developing your project.
2. Get All Specifications
Part of being an IT pro (especially when coding) is taking specifications and turning them into a workable project. That's why our Cisco and Microsoft hands-on training always starts with making a plan.
If you get the specifications wrong, it affects results and wastes money. You wouldn't want to put effort into a project using completely wrong specifications. This means you need to engage the hiring manager and determine all the requirements (and deadlines) for the project. This step has a secondary advantage. It displays your communication skills and ability to engage the application owner.
Ask questions and for clarification when needed. The project is usually a simple one to help the organization review your skill set, but it's important to get requirements right. Write them down and ask questions before you start the project.
3. Don't Be Afraid to Put Your Personality into the Project
If you're getting a project assigned to you, then you're probably a finalist for the job. So, remember that you are up against several other applicants. Don't be afraid to take chances or use your own style.
You still need to follow requirements, but if you think you can improve on an existing process, don't be afraid to add a little of your own flair. It could help your project stand out from the competition.
Adding some of your own creativity shows the potential employer that you bring your own ideas to the table. As an IT pro, you'll often be asked to implement ideas for the business, but you're close enough to the technology to offer your own solutions. This effort will show that you are a forward thinker.
4. Ask for the Deadline
Usually, these projects are real-world problems with a short deadline. Remember that the goal is to see your work within a limited timeframe, so you have to cram your project into a day or two. Remember, if you get hired, you'll face deadlines working for the company, as well.
Knowing your deadline also will help you plan your project. It will give you an idea of how much you can do while remaining within the allotted time.
5. Make a List of Tasks
Once you have the requirements and the deadline, you can determine your tasks. Sit down and make a list of items you want for your project. Go down the list and complete each one. Making a list will help you to not forget a requirement or make mistakes.
Time management is a great soft skill to have, so be sure to explain your process during your face-to-face interview. Your hiring managers will be asking about the work, and also the process behind the work.
Finally, don't forget to test your project after you're finished. Ask friends to run the program or take look at your network map. Then ask for suggestions. While it's hard to ensure a bug-free project, you don't want to start out your interview with a major Kill.
And remember that you'll be testing the basics as much you'll be tested on your style and expertise, so it can't hurt to do a little training before your face-to-face interview.