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How to do well at a Swift interview

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

What tips do you have for folks who are going to be interviewed, to really shine as best they can?

John Sundell: Number one, I think, is practice. Doing well in an interview is a skill in of its own, and it's kind of ironic, because it's not necessarily the same set of skills that you need to be a good engineer or a good developer. Which is kind of funny, right? So you basically need to learn a different set of skills, in order to be able to do the job that you have the skills to do, which... yeah, it's very, very interesting. So, like everything, it all comes down to practice, I think. And how used are you to being in this environment.

"Number one, I think, is practice. Doing well in an interview is a skill in of its own."

And I think, for anyone who's starting, who's fresh out of school, or fresh out of any kind of other way of learning, who's going to apply for their first job, when you go to your first interview, I can tell you, that's probably not going to go very well, unless you were incredibly lucky, because you're not used to it. You're not used to talking about yourself like that, you're not used to promoting yourself and saying what you're good at, or saying what you're not good at, or where are you going to be in five years, who knows, right? Especially if you're younger.

So I would really suggest, in that situation, to read about interviews, and any different resources you can find, to do practice interviews with your friends, that can be really awkward, but can also be really, really valuable.

“Do practice interviews with your friends, that can be really awkward, but can also be really, really valuable.”

And also to just play the number scheme, and to go to as many interviews as you can just to get that practice up and running, because you'll start noticing patterns. You'll start noticing that everyone asks the same questions, everyone follows the same kind of patterns. So that just enables you to learn that, and to adapt to that.

I would say it all comes down to, at least for me, and I think this can be different in different countries, in different cultures as well. But in my experience, it's been very much about being able to promote yourself, and basically convince them that you're the right person for the job, while also making sure that you come across as humble, you come across as empathetic, as a nice person, because even if you know everything, no one wants to hire someone who is a know-it-all, who is arrogant, and these kinds of things. So you need to find a nice balance between not pushing yourself too far, while also really selling yourself as well.

Paul Hudson: That's quite a polar opposite dilemma here, because you want to be convincing, you want to be confident, but you want to be humble at the same time. So practice really, really helps, because you sort of learn, “I said this thing, it didn't go down very well, it didn't feel right while I was saying it.” You sort of hone your lines a bit, you figure out the bits that you can say confidently, you do feel good about saying, and then use those more and more of the time.

"One really crucial thing here as well, is to ask for feedback."

John Sundell: Absolutely. One really crucial thing here as well, is to ask for feedback. So if you get rejected from a job, ask for feedback. Most companies will, at least in my experience, be glad to provide you with that feedback, and how you can improve. And it may have been, you liked the experience, and that's also something that you have to be prepared for, that sometimes different companies have different kinds of requirements, and they have set their mind that they want to hire this kind of person, and you might just not fit into that mold. And sometimes it just might be how you conducted yourself, and that's something you can change, so I think asking for feedback is also really important. And to again, be prepared to treat it as a learning exercise that's something that you will get better at.

Paul Hudson: Was there a particular point in your career that you can look back on and say “yeah, that was really important”?

John Sundell: I think the biggest turning point for me was when I joined Spotify. So I worked at Spotify in Stockholm, in Sweden, for about three and a half years, and it was an incredible experience. And I think, when I started at Spotify, I feel like I was a different person from when I left. And sure, three and a half years is a long time, I mean at least in relative terms, right? A lot can happen in that period of time.

So I definitely matured a lot as a developer, as a person, while working there. I got to work with really large scale systems, with many different disciplines of software engineering, an interesting product, a very, very highly used product, of course. And, really got to experience software development at a huge scale, which I had never done before.

So before I joined Spotify, I had been mostly doing freelancing, working for smaller companies, and things like that. But here I was at a big company, with a completely different set of trade-offs, there we go. And a different environment than I had been used to before, and I think that was a really huge turning point for me. I learned so incredibly many things at Spotify, and still to this day, I draw on that knowledge a lot, like when it comes to the different techniques that I now explore on my own, or the discussions I have with people. A lot of that is based on the different disciplines and skills that I learned at Spotify.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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