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How To Excel In A Technical Job Interview

A technical job interview can make anyone nervous! Chris Bryant, CCIE #12933, has been on both sides of the interview table, and offers you several tips on how to do your best in this pressure-packed situation.

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Ah, the technical interview. Nothing like it. Not only does it cause anxiety, but it causes anxiety for several different reasons.

How many people will be asking questions? From experience I can tell you there’s nothing like walking into a room and seeing nine people on the other side of the table.

Second, what will you be asked? You’ll sometimes hear people say the questions they were asked in a technical interview were “easy”, which translated means “they asked me stuff I happened to know”. Sometimes you’ll hear people say the questions were “hard”, which translated means “they asked me stuff I didn’t know”, or “they asked me about stuff I’ve never even heard of”.

Having been on both sides of the technical interview table, I’d like to share some tips for those being interviewed. In doing so, I’ll share some of the more memorable interviews I’ve been involved in.

No good interviewer expects you to know everything. The problem is, you’re not always going to be interviewed by someone who’s good at it.

Sometimes, the person who’s giving you a technical interview was asked to do it about ten minutes before you showed up. Maybe they’ve never interviewed anyone before, or maybe they’re just in a bad mood. I’ve heard of technical interviewers where the interviewer derided an answer, and that’s totally unprofessional. I’ve had many a job candidate give a bad answer to a question, and my only response was silence followed by moving on to the next question. If your interviewer mocks any of your answers, you didn’t want to work there anyway.

None of us know everything. If you’re asked a question you just don’t know the answer to, don’t try to BS your way past it. This is a good opportunity to tell the interviewer how you would research that particular question. It’s not about knowing everything, it’s about being able to find out anything.

If your interviewer acts like he/she already dislikes you, that’s because they do. I once worked with a technician who felt threatened by anyone who applied for a job there, but especially if the applicant had a professional certification and then had the nerve to know what they were doing.

This technician participated in a group technical interview where the applicant was an incredibly bright guy, and had a particular skill that the department really needed. Problem was, the technician considered himself “the man” when it came to that skill. Recipe for disaster, right?

The applicant fielded four questions from the rest of us flawlessly, then faced this particular tech for a question. The threatened tech had a list of questions for the interview, but decided to ad lib. Big mistake. He asked a convoluted question that Rube Goldberg would have been proud of. When he was done, the applicant answered:

“You can’t do what you just described.”

The tech started defending his question, and it became obvious that he hadn’t been able to follow his own question! The interview went into a bit of a meltdown from there.

Realize right now that there are some unprofessional people out there giving technical interviews. Be prepared for it, but remain professional yourself.

Be prepared for a practical technical interview. The best technical interviewers find a way to get you in front of the technology you’ll be working with. A great way to quickly find out whether you know what you’re talking about is to ask you to actually perform common and perhaps some not-so-common tasks. We can talk about technology and take all the computer-based exams we want, but it all comes down to performance. Be prepared to prove you belong on your interview day.

Be professional. This covers a lot of ground, so let me make a quick list for you.

Show up 15 minutes early. Nothing makes a technical interviewer more surly than waiting for the applicant.

Dress for success. The way you look when you walk into a room leads to your interviewer’s first impression of you.

Don’t chew gum during the interview.

Don’t be arrogant. Look, there’s nothing wrong with having an ego and acting confident. I do, and you should. But don’t come into the interview room acting like you’re too good to be there.

Finally, relax. Easy to say, hard to do? Not really. Realize that the majority of interviewers you’ll ever meet are going to be professional about the entire thing. The world’s not going to end if you miss a question. If you were not qualified on paper for the job, you wouldn’t be in there.

Do not look upon the interview as something negative. Rather, look at it as an opportunity to prove you know what you’re talking about. With the proper mental attitude, your technical interview will be a springboard to the next step in your career!

Chris Bryant

CCIE ™ #12933



How To Excel In Your Performance

It is generally known that to excel in any given sport or activity, you will need skill, natural talents, and lots of practice. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that people spend much time training and practicing to get better at any given activity. What people often neglect, however, is how important the mental and emotional outlook can affect performance. The best of them all are not only the ones with the best skills or with the most practice, but the ones with the tough...

self esteem,self confidence

It is generally known that to excel in any given sport or activity, you will need skill, natural talents, and lots of practice. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that people spend much time training and practicing to get better at any given activity. What people often neglect, however, is how important the mental and emotional outlook can affect performance. The best of them all are not only the ones with the best skills or with the most practice, but the ones with the toughest, most competitive, and positive minds.

This is especially true when you consider how some of the better skilled people you know failed somehow because of many reasons such as being distracted or having a bad case of the jitters. Now given this, how can you prepare your mind for the activities ahead to ensure that you have the proper head on your shoulders when coming out to meet the challenges each performance?


During any performance – especially in sports – you are subjected to an undue amount of stress to perform at your peak. And excelling in your performance will generally involve being able to concentrate in any situation. If you are unable to focus and concentrate on the task you are to undertake, you are more likely to fail or make mistakes.

In competitive sports, the winner is often the one who keeps a level head until the end. In basketball, the last second free throw that could win the game is often greeted with all sorts of distraction from the fans (who do all sorts of unsettling things), from his opponents, and even from the player himself. If the player buckles under the pressure, it could mean that the point or two – may win or lose the ballgame.

To improve focus, you must be able to tune out unnecessary thoughts and stimulus, and concentrate solely on what must be done. The great ones are often asked what it feels like to be on center stage amidst the lights and the pressure. Most of them reply that they are anxious before the performance, but confident during the performance itself. This is because they are able to zone out unimportant thoughts to concentrate on the task head.


Confidence is built up with competence. You can develop a strong sense of ability when you are indubitably sure of what you can achieve. The more well prepared you are, the less anxiety you feel, therefore increasing your chances for a great performance. But what happens when, after building competence, your confidence is suddenly shattered? That would certainly spell doom for any performance.

Confidently performing beyond limitations is possible if you are not holding back anything and giving all you have. When the confidence is gone, you will instinctively hold back and become tentative towards the task ahead. What we’re talking about here is not simply a 5 to 10 percent decrease in performance, because such mental tentativeness will easily lose you about 20 to 50 percent of your potential.

This is the reason why coaches, players, and even businesspersons like playing mind games with their opponents. If they are able to break them down way before tip off, then they have a decided advantage over their opponents. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they have won the battle halfway even before it started.


How to Act During a Job Interview

There are many things that you can do that can take some of the pressure off during an interview. The way that you behave is one of the most important.

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There are many things that you can do that can take some of the pressure off during an interview. The way that you behave is one of the most important. It’s not all in the words that come out of your mouth, but often has a lot to do with the mannerisms that you use.

Interviewers are not just wondering if you are skilled enough for the job, they are often wondering if you would fit in nicely with you co-workers. Your personality is a big part of your interview and can make all the difference. Here are some of the little things that you should pay particularly close attention to during an interview.

You do not want to be chewing gum or breath mints during your interview. You also don’t want to speak in slang during your interview either. It is unprofessional and rude.

Show Confidence

You cannot enter into an interview with a defeatist attitude. You cannot mope or exude too much placidity in your manner. It is not inviting, and does not give the impression of a person that you want to face every day. Be sure of your abilities without appearing cocky or narcissistic. You want to let you interviewer know that you are equipped to perform well at your job, without alienating other workers. You should point out your accomplishments in your field while remaining somewhat humble.

List your accomplishments in a matter of fact way without going into too much detail. I know this sounds repetitive, but you can never get this point too strongly. Understand that body language plays a large part in exuding confidence to others. Sit straight. Practice good posture, and keep your head up.

Keep a Positive Attitude

You should always try to smile and keep a positive outlook during your interview. If what you are hearing something that doesn’t sound good to you, don’t frown and look disgruntled, just keep a slight smile on your face until it is time for you to say something. Then approach your interviewer with your questions or concerns when the time is appropriate.

Maintain Eye Contact

Keeping eye contact with your interviewer is very important, especially when one of you is speaking to the other. If you are looking around the room or at the items on the interviewer’s desk, you will appear uninterested. Just imagine what you would be thinking if you were speaking to him and he was looking all over the room. You would probably think that you already lost the interview.

Body Language

We’ve touched on this a little bit but you should mind some of the common errors that many people make when they are speaking to others. I’ve listed some of the common things that you should avoid when sitting through an interview.

• Avoid fidgeting while speaking to your interviewer. It shows a lack of self confidence.

• Avoid speaking while using overly expressive hand gestures. It is distracting.

• Avoid biting your lips in between sentences. It gives the impression that you are making things up.

• Do not sit with your arms crossed because it makes you appear stand-offish.

• Do not shrug your shoulders when asked a question that you are unsure of. Take a second to think of your response. Shrugging your shoulders gives the impression that you don’t know the answer.

• Don’t answer with nods and head shakes. Use your words to answer questions.

• Get plenty of sleep the night before the interview. You don’t want to yawn in front of the interviewer. He will think that you are expressing boredom.


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