How to make the best of a technical interview without any directly related experience?
July 3, 2008 10:34 AM Subscribe
Upcoming interview for a technical Dream Job. Problem is, I've been working in a similar-ish industry, but don't have any professional experience directly related. How can I better emphasize my broad technical background, autodidact tendencies and passion for the industry to help assuage concerns the interviewer may have?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total)
I've been in contact with the COO of a company I'd *really* like to work for. Sent him my resume, he said it looked good and someone would be contacting me for an interview soon. It's a Dream Job, emphasis on capital D, capital J. It's a programming position in a relatively small company (40-50 people) doing some absolutely fascinating and innovative work. About six months ago, they hired an industry veteran who's work I really respect and admire. Being able work at the same place and learn, even indirectly, from this person is also tremendously exciting.
Unfortunately, I have plenty of semi-related experience, but nothing in their exact segment of the industry. I wanted to work for this company just after I got my Masters about a year ago, but couldn't due to immigration issues (I'm an American in Canada). I had to find a job before my study permit expired or be deported. I talked with the Dream Company briefly, it was too close to the deportation deadline to set anything up, so I took a job somewhere else. I've got permanent residency now though, so I can work where ever I want.
I've got a BS and MS in Computer Science. My undergrad work and the start of grad school was all gritty, systems projects, but in working on my thesis, I transitioned a little bit more towards ubicomp/HCI. In short, I've done everything from building custom linux kernels with experimental SDR drivers to conducting a significant user study entirely by myself. I don't have specialization in any one area, but I've got a solid foundation in building abstracted, readable, maintainable software (or so I like to think).
I'm intensely excited are the mere possibility of working in this industry. I a pretty good autodidact as well. I get up at 5 AM every day (sometimes 6 on the weekends) and spend 1.5 to 2 hours reading, coding, learning about the area I want to go into. I won't be stopping this when I get the job. I've heard most technical employees spend less than 10 hours on year on training (something like that was mentioned in Code Complete v2), and I spend over 10 hours a week of my own time doing this. Would a potential employer be more interested in someone willing to learn or will mentioning this just make me look like an intellectual braggart?
Additionally, I've been working on open source-esque project that is more related to what the Dream Job does for about a decade. My commitment has ebbed and flowed with my other obligations, but I've always been contributing something for almost 9 years now. Will employers take unpaid experience like this seriously? How can I best use this to help address my lack of directly related experience?
What other ways can I address my lack of specifically related experience in the interview? I'd imagine being passionate, driven and willing to learn are all appealing, but how can I communicate that more effectively?
Anon since I haven't told my current employer I'm leaving yet, but I'm perfectly happy to respond to any specific questions. Mildly recycled throw-away email - email@example.com.