Interviews are difficult. Interviews become harder if you have accumulated a good deal of experience in your field. How do you sum up years of your life into ten minutes of interview time?
In my very first blog post I wrote about how finding a job is a full-time job and my opinion hasn’t changed. Here are a few things that you may need to address when prepping for an interview. You will notice that these items are not especially specific to Japan. Interviewing for a Japanese position is very similar to interviewing with any company abroad.
Market Your Strengths, Admit Your Weaknesses
Before stepping into the interview room and even before creating your resume, it is best to reflect on all the things you have studied or worked on in the past two, four, and six years. With time, skills get rusty. Software and programming tricks you used years ago may seem foreign, design schemes change and even completely new programming languages get adopted (that’s right, I am looking at you Swift).
If you are writing a resume or filling out a user profile and are asked to rank your skills as “knowledgeable” or “fluent,” take a step back and think. If someone asked you questions such as “which is better?” or “which is faster?” can you answer them and back up your answer with examples? If you haven’t touched something in a few years be honest with yourself.
If you are completely honest with yourself then you can be completely honest with the interviewers. This not only makes an interview go much smoother but saves some mental fortitude for other tasks. And in the case that you are interviewing with a fellow programmer, this is especially important because they normally do not let you off with the simple answer when it comes to programming.
Being nervous is not a bad thing. It can be used as an advantage. Nervousness comes in many forms: the quiet type, the fumbling-over-words type, the arm-swinging type. I, personally, am the talkative type. I tend to put my mouth on autopilot allowing my brain time to think.
If you can assess what you do when you are nervous then it is quite possible to find a way to use it to your advantage. Don’t use all your energy fighting your nerves; it requires too much mental energy. Save that energy for something more productive like thinking of interesting solutions to interview questions or translating English to Japanese in your head.
Marketing Yourself and Your Nerves
If you can figure out what your nervous habits are then the next step is to write down bullet points of your strengths. Whenever you feel yourself getting quiet, sweating, fumbling, or just getting off topic, you can realign yourself with what you’ve written down.
While each list of strengths should be tailored to the company and position you are applying to, I tend to write down a list of topics that most programming savvy interviewers like: quirks of certain programming languages, algorithms, clean coding, etc. These are my marketing points; they are things that potential employers like but might not bring up in conversation.
So during an interview when I start getting nervous, or there is a lull in the conversation, I will go to one of my marketing points and talk about it. This might lead the interview in a direction that better suits my skill set and leaves a better impression with the interviewers.
A Note on Knowing the Japanese Language
Japanese interviews are unique in that a good deal of the preliminary interviews are not technical, but tend to be on the personal side. Japanese preliminary interviews are used to see how you react in certain situations or what you would do when a problem arises in the workplace. This can work to your advantage as a bilingual programmer because you do not need to memorize all the Japanese terminology related to your field of work.
However, these preliminary interviews are a great time to show your proficiency in the Japanese language. Being able to reword the interviewer’s question and elaborating on a solution can put an interviewer’s mind at ease. Teamwork is a highly valued skill in Japan and being able to express your thoughts is essential to employers.
Interviewing is a two-way conversation. If you go into an interview thinking it is a police interrogation then it will feel like a police interrogation. It is best to go into an interview knowing your strengths and weaknesses, but mostly your strengths and how they help the company you are looking to get into.
Software Engineer and Blogger at TalentHub
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.
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