Last Modified April 24, 2023 | Originally Published June 26, 2020
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Few Technical Interview Questions Are As Important As This One
When answering technical interview questions, you want to be confident but not arrogant, humble yet proud of your achievements, and personable but not too personal. The interview is your time to shine, which involves tooting your own horn a bit, even if that may not come naturally to you. But even more challenging than singing your own praises is figuring out how your colleagues would do so when the interviewer asks, “What would your co-workers say about you?”
This can be a thorny question, involving a bit of speculation as you put yourself in the shoes of people you’ve worked closely with over the years. Unless you’re a mind-reader or your co-workers have actually shared their opinions about you in endorsements on LinkedIn or elsewhere, you will need to give your answer some serious thought and consideration. That’s because this question is critical in the interviewer’s mind.
While the interviewer is asking about your co-workers’ perceptions of you, they are really seeking your perception of your co-workers’ perception of you. In other words, they want some insight into how you see yourself more than how others see you. They want to know whether you play well with others and will be a pleasant and productive teammate. They may compare what you say about yourself to what your references say about you or use it to probe your self-awareness and interpersonal skills.
As you prepare for your next big tech interview, here are six tips about how to respond when asked what your co-workers would say about you:
Focus On Your Strengths, Including “Soft Skills”
If you put words in other people’s mouths, you want those words to be about your strengths and positive attributes, not your weaknesses or shortcomings. Leading with your best qualities, especially those your co-workers would know about or have seen in action, is the best way to answer tough technical interview questions like this one.
For instance, if the position you are interviewing for is that of a programmer, you undoubtedly want to showcase your hard programming skills and core competencies. But those attributes are only part of what you bring to the table and only half of what the interviewer wants to learn about you. They are also exploring the extent of your “soft skills,” those qualities which are equally determinative of whether you would succeed in the role. They want to hear your co-workers describe you as:
- A good teammate
- A problem-solver
- Good under pressure
- Pleasant to work with
Tailor Your Answers To The Job
Your colleagues may say that the homemade cookies you bring to the breakroom are the best they’ve ever tasted, but you aren’t interviewing to be a baker. Your outstanding qualities only matter if they are relevant to the position for which you are interviewing. So, while you may be rightly proud of your prowess with an oven, referencing that skill to answer technical interview questions will tell the interviewer very little about your programming abilities or attractiveness as a potential employee.
Focus your answers to correspond to the desired skills, experience, and characteristics in the job listing.
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Show, Don’t Just Tell
The high praise your co-workers give you must be for a reason. They must have seen you in action to form their wonderful opinions about you. Be prepared to provide examples to back up your words.
If your co-workers say you perform well under tight deadlines, describe a situation where you did so.
If creativity and innovation are strengths, discuss a specific time when your ingenuity served your employer well.
Answering this and similar technical interview questions by talking about actions rather than just spouting adjectives will give the hiring manager a better sense of how you would handle similar events in the future.
Don’t Wave Red Flags
We all have our faults, flaws, and weaknesses. We all have probably worked with someone who may not have thought we were God’s gift to programming. There are better times to dwell on both of those things than during your tech interview.
Interviewers want team players, so don’t describe yourself as a “loner” or say, “I never really spoke with my co-workers, so I don’t know what they think about me.” While confidence is a positive quality, arrogance or an inflated sense of self is not. Saying, “My colleagues would tell you that I was the best programmer they ever worked with because I am,” is not a good look.
If You Got It, Flaunt It
Just like you want to provide examples to back up your words, if you have actual examples of what your co-workers or supervisors have said about you, use them. Positive performance reviews, laudatory emails or texts, or praise for your achievements transform your answers from mere speculation to concrete facts.
Related: Six End-of-Interview Questions Every Tech Candidate Should Ask
Get It Straight From The Horse’s Mouth
If you are comfortable and can ask discreetly, go directly to the source and have your co-workers tell you what they think about you. Ask them how they would describe you to someone calling for a reference or another professional in your industry. As with performance reviews and emails, your colleagues’ answers have the benefit of being genuine, truthful, and insightful.
GTN Technical Staffing: A Sure Way to Ace the Tech Hiring Process
Of course, to be in a position to answer tough technical interview questions, you must first get the interview. That is where GTN Technical Staffing comes in. Our knowledgeable technical recruiters have earned a reputation throughout the tech industry for connecting the right talent to the right companies. We are an invaluable resource for IT professionals seeking great opportunities. Contact us today to learn more.