The On-Site Interview

This is it. Game day. You have your notes studied. You got enough sleep last night. You have your laptop prepared to give an amazing demo of your projects. You’re ready for coding. You’ve memorized the route to their office and arrived early.

Remember: they WANT you to succeed today. They don’t want you to fail, either. Yes, you’re going to be nervous, but you’re also going to be just fine.

On-site interviews can come in many forms. My least favorite is the “let’s meet for lunch” interview where the candidate ends up talking so much answering questions that they don’t get to enjoy their food. My favorite is a series of back-to-back interviews with multiple people on the team or within the company.

Don’t Forget These Essentials

Bring a water bottle of room temperature water, or other beverage container with something warm like tea that can help soothe your throat throughout the day. You’re about to do a lot of talking. Coffee is okay but try to avoid cream or milk as dairy products can cause a lot of extra phlegm in your throat.

Having a notebook or spare paper to draw on for designs and notes is a strong indicator that you like to be prepared. Bring extra pens or pencils as well.

Don’t forget to print off a few extra copies of your resume and any other notes you’d like to leave with the interviewers. There’s usually no need to bring your cover letter, just the resume.

Murphy’s Law

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – sometimes life will surprise us all and there may be a problem arriving on time. Be sure you have your point of contact’s phone number on hand and call them immediately if your travel is delayed to a point where you cannot arrive 5-10 minutes early. If they don’t answer, leave a voice message and then send an email follow-up that you’re delayed. Do your best to provide a new estimated time of arrival (ETA) so they can let the interviewing team know that you’re delayed.

When You Arrive

A typical on-site interview will begin with your point of contact greeting you and walking you through what the on-site interviews are going to look like throughout the day and perhaps show you around the office a little. Start with a firm handshake and a smile, first impressions matter quite a lot.

Some companies may have you sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which prohibits you from sharing information about your interview or other information you might see or encounter while at their office. You can ask for a summary of its contents before signing, most of them are standard legal terms that stop you from sharing sales/marketing information you might see around the office, or things you learn from your interviewers or code you might see or work on. Some NDAs will also prohibit you from sharing the nature of their interview process and the questions they ask throughout your time at their location. An NDA is legally binding and refusing to sign will usually terminate the interview process.

Your POC might ask some initial questions to get you settled into the routine of answering questions and then take you to a room or area of the office where you’ll be interviewing. Be sure to ask for a schedule of the day if they haven’t already provided one, and make sure they’re allowing some break time if you’re going to be at their office for more than a few hours for refilling your water bottle or time to use the restroom. Follow-up After the Interview Whenever a company invites you to their office, it’s good etiquette to send a thank-you note to your point of contact (usually within 24 hours) thanking them for their time. Try to avoid asking when they’ll be in touch, but remind them of your interview schedule and any other offers you have (and their deadlines).

If you don’t hear from the company within 7-10 days, follow-up with one more note thanking them again for their time, but this time ask when a decision will be made about your candidacy for the job. If you have other offers, make your follow-up letter sound as though you’d rather work for them instead of the companies that have already given you an offer, but you do want to respect those other companies and let them know as soon as possible. If you don’t hear back within a week, you may want to consider that the company has moved on to other candidates. At Turing, we coach students to keep in contact with the company until you get a definitive “no” before giving up.