What are some tactics that only the 'interviewer' knows and 'Interviewee' doesn't? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by John L. Miller, Interviewed candidates for Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Oracle, on Quora:

There are several things which surprise people new to being interviewed once they find out about them.

  1. Wrong answers aren't always bad. When I evaluate a candidate's domain expertise, I probe them on a variety of general and specific facts. Nobody knows all of it, but the parts you do know or have passing familiar with, tell me about your emphases in work and study. Wrong answers for many of these questions are expected.
  2. Know what you don't know. An interviewer needs to know if the candidate understands the limits of their knowledge, and is able to express those limits. One of the most dangerous new-hires is someone who thinks they know more than they do, and won't admit it or check their facts. A good interviewer will probe at the edges of your knowledge without revealing whether your answers are right or wrong.
  3. A great interview doesn't mean you passed. Technical interviews are usually held as a series of one-on-one discussions. If a candidate is very nervous going into one of those interviews, or if they are clearly a 'no-hire' to that interviewer, the interview changes. The interviewer tries to put the candidate at ease, either by asking non-threatening questions, telling them about the company, or lobbing softball questions at them. The hire decision depends upon all interviews, not just this one. By putting the candidate at ease, they have the best chance of doing well in subsequent interviews, even if they mistakenly believe they aced the interview.
  4. Your understanding of the job matters. Interviewers want people who are passionate about the area and the work. You generally get better work, collaboration, and atmosphere from someone who is excited about the company and the kind of work, rather than someone just punching the clock. Interviewers ask general questions about the company and work to see if you care about the company and group, or if it's just another place to work. These questions matter.

An interview isn't a multiple choice test. It's a conversation, where the interviewer probes to find out about your qualifications and attitude. Be prepared for the interviewer to question your abilities, motivations, and knowledge: that's why you're both there, after all. The interview is looking for the answer to two main questions: Is this person good enough for this position? and are they someone I would want on my team? (Which generally implies other people would want them on THEIR team).

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