Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Senior Tech Recruiter at Reddit. Emily Mucken, who has interviewed and hired thousands of people throughout her career, and was generous to take time to share valuable insights into the big tech interview process and provide advice on what makes technical candidates truly stand out.
Emily knows what she is talking about! Before working at Reddit, Emily worked in the hiring department at Netflix and, prior to that, at Amazon. She’s been in the tech world since 2019, and before that, she spent ten years in corporate hiring. She has worked as a recruiting manager who managed teams of recruiters and she has also spent time as a hiring manager herself – that’s the one who decides who gets hired for the teams you’re working on.
Emily and I sat down to chat, where we got into all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to interviewing for a big tech position. Through Emily’s knowledge and experience, she hopes to offer insight that can help candidates, particularly women in tech, stand out and get ahead in their interviews – and, therefore, careers. Below are the three key things Emily recommends all women do when doing a big tech technical interview.
A Common Thread…
With thousands of interviews to pull from, Emily mentioned some common threads among who gets hired and who doesn’t. “I love to check out themes and patterns when I look into who gets hired at these companies and why.” It’s important to notice what makes a candidate stay at the top of an interviewer’s mind. Over the years, Emily has narrowed it down to three major factors she likes to call The Three C’s. And I promise, you’re going to want to write these down for future reference.
The Three C’s
The Three C’s are easy to remember and easy to put into practice. You can start implementing these factors into your life starting today. (And I would highly recommend doing so!)
Unfortunately, there is still so much bias in hiring. But, tech companies do measure the percentage of how many women they hire and try to meet the addressable market.
We want to help you break through the gender barriers and get the career of your dreams. Emily insists on and advocates for the importance of hiring more women in tech and provides valuable insight on how we can help make that happen.
One of the key factors when it comes to job interviews is confidence! People hire those that they like and trust. If you come across as someone who doesn’t trust yourself, i.e., you’re not confident in your decisions or continuously second-guessing and apologizing a lot, the interviewer will feel less inclined to trust you. Don’t play it small.
Women often feel like they have to be on guard. They worry about coming across a certain way due to the many stereotypes they face in the world of tech. With that knowledge, it’s essential to break through this. When in an interview, don’t be shy about providing your input or opinion. Rather than wait for the interviewer to give you instructions, proactively ask for feedback or guidance where needed. Don’t be passive or worry about not saying ‘the right thing’ or thinking you’re less than the person interviewing you. Lead your interview with confidence.
How do you do this? Come in super prepared.
During our conversation, Emily offered her ‘one-dollar can’t fail’ interview tip:
Before a big interview or promotion, go to the dollar store. Buy a poster board. With a permanent marker, write down all of the stories you’re proud of and include your accomplishments. Include as many data points as possible, get as specific as possible, write down any questions you want to ask, and put the whiteboard up behind your computer as you interview. Have all of the things you want to say or showcase written down ahead of time. So when those nerves inevitably kick in, you have everything written down in front of you.
Preparation is the antidote to a lack of confidence.
Interviewing is psychological. And it really doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Candidates who are perfect for the job often miss out on the job because they don’t perform well in the interview.
The best presenters are really prepared. That’s the true secret. Another interview hack Emily shared to build confidence? Recording yourself in a mock interview.
I know it sounds scary. But this is actually something I did at the beginning of my career to get really good at public speaking. I started off terrified, but over time, I was able to conquer my fear and even become … confident in my speaking abilities.
Start by recording yourself answering common interview questions. After you finish recording, you can watch and critique yourself in the comfort of your own bedroom. No one ever has to see the video (unless you want some extra input from a trusted friend!), and you can delete it later once you’re done! Watch yourself back and listen to yourself. You can even try listening to yourself without watching and then watching yourself without listening to really hone in on how you present yourself in an interview.
Don’t be afraid to communicate. But don’t over-communicate. There is a delicate balance in communication during the interview process. Oftentimes, it’s men who are hiring and interviewing, and there is still a lot of bias behind the scenes.
When nerves strike, people tend to get extra chatty. Keep your interview concise and pertinent. One of the reasons for having those notes written out ahead of time and in front of you during your interview is to keep you on course when the nerves make you want to ramble. In particular, keep your technical communication concise and to the point.
Those who are making waves and opportunities for themselves are really creative and think outside the box.
Women often need to think about protection and consider factors that men don’t have to, due to gender stereotypes. This often inhibits women from fully sharing their creativity with others. It’s time for that to change.
Women try to hide their creativity so they can come across as the technical avatar, but they need to be highlighting it. Emily shared that she’ll often have side conversations with women in tech where they have these huge creative ideas, but they don’t share them with anyone. Creativity is a massive asset in tech – it’s honestly a superpower.
You’re not going to get promoted because you’re doing the same thing the same way as everyone else. In fact, Emily shared that anytime she’s been successful in her tech career, it was because she thought outside the box, brought a new or different perspective, or pushed some buttons.
“I encourage women in interviews to showcase examples or times that they creatively solved a problem or brought a unique perspective to the table. Don’t hold back or think of creativity as a too-soft skill for a tech interview.”
The missing piece is you and your creativity. Companies have an appetite to hire someone with a creative mind.
Remember, the people who will come out on top are those who are creative, nimble, adaptable, and can see opportunities in the future of tech.
Emily’s last piece of advice? “If there is something you want to get done, you might just have to do it yourself.” As I always say, the hardest part is getting started, but I implore you to start implementing these ideas into your day-to-day. Be prepared so the next time you have an interview or big promotion coming up, you’re ready to tackle it. As Emily put it, “It’s not where you start – it’s how you ultimately perform when it’s game day.” We want to make sure you’re prepared for peak performance!