I know it’s a widely explored topic, but after a row of bad interviews I would like to spell out what I think it’s the baseline to a decent job interview.
A little premise
I work in the interface development department of a big company, and I interview web designers, interface developers, frontend developers and sometimes assist my co-workers in other web related interviews
The first thing: character
The first and most important questions (IMHO) I ask are open questions about what the candidate thinks about some technology (or anything, really). Sometimes I ask about something that is universally known ad bad, ugly, or old. You can’t know how many persons reply “I like that” thinking that if I asked then it interests me. No no no no. The worst mistake.
If you don’t like something, say it. Even if the interviewer might disagree (but if he has skill, hardly will defend an old / ugly / old matter). First you must have character and skill and if something is wrong you must stand for your opinion.
I don’t want to work with someone that doesn’t have an opinion.
The basics: skills
I’d like to assume that if you apply for an Interface Developer position, you know your tools and the related programming languages. So the will be basic questions just to make sure that we speak the same language. Something incredibly stupid thing I (often) see is people that repeat what I say.
Please don’t. If you don’t know what we are talking about, have the guts to say it. At least there may be a chance to learn something.
The interviewer might not be interested in the most skilled guy on earth, but good curiosity and passion for the subject will compensate (And you can’t fake those in the long time).
Stated that you have your skills, what matters if that you can relate to everything that happens around you, so you can do a better job. You want to work for the website X, then: How many users daily might the website have? How many production servers do you think they have? Less or more, of course, but being aware of the context will help, and it shows me that you are curious. Which at the end of the day, it’s the only thing that matters.
The portfolio and the cv
You don’t really have to have a old school portfolio but a couple of advices:
Triple check your CV: if you are being interviewed to work on the presentation layer, and the fonts are not - at least - consistent, ask yourself what are you doing.
Your CV is in word? You CV is on a standard format (like the european format)? You loose points. I’m not expecting to see an infographic every time - and I’m glad of it - but a bit of creativity helps.
Have ready some examples of previous works. You worked only on NDA and closed projects? Then have a personal website telling about how you like cats (or whatelse). You don’t even have a personal website? What are you doing here?
Well, actually the company website: since I work for a relatively big e-commerce, chances are that you have seen one of the company’s websites. Please have the decency to come having seen the company website, and if interviewed as a webdesigner / interface developer have also the courtesy of spotting something you like and something you don’t in the design or in the code. No you don’t need to find a bug, but questions like “Why you use jquery instead of <name another framework>?” are welcome.
I know that all of these things seems trivial, but every time there is someone that slips on the basics and the interview becomes awkward. Please give yourself the gift of a chance.