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Background:

I graduated relatively recently from school. I got my degree in computer science. While I was in school I completed several co-op work placements. After finishing school I have had a lot of trouble finding stable work, and have mainly had to go with work not related to what I wen to school for (which surprisingly enough pays better, at least entry level). I contacted my school to see if they assist their grads. They said yes but didn't actually do anything. Also I contacted the past companies I did my co-op placements at and they said they weren't looking to hire any full times or had a separate budget just for co-op students.

General question: How do I get a permanent, full time job related to my degree?

Specific question: I often have trouble in interviews knowing how technical of an answer an interviewer wants. For example I had been asked "what's the difference between Mac and Windows?". After I gave my answer, I asked what type of answer they were expecting to get. They said they wanted answers like "Mac's gets fewer viruses". Today I was asked in an interview "what are your top 3 technologies?". This was the first time meeting with the recruiter and she didn't even have any specific jobs lined up. I answered honestly, albeit ungracefully, asking her what she considered a technology? The recruiter said was looking for answers like "Windows", "cloud", "virtualization". When I did the co-op program it seemed like the people interviewing me usually knew the job, and had much more specific questions (e.g. which version of Python are your most familiar with).

Is there a way to assess early on in the interview if the interviewer knows the technologies or is just looking for buzz words? How should I reply to "what your top 3 technologies are?" with no context given?

  • It's a bit unclear what you answered and what they expected you to answer, could you rephrase that? – lucasgcb Jun 26 at 10:57
  • when you put "usually new the job", did you mean "new in the job" or "knew the job"? – Solar Mike Jun 26 at 11:14
  • Do the interviewers not introduce themselves with their job titles? I usually get 1 person in tech role, 1 person in management (of techs) and 1 person HR. Each will ask questions which they expect an answer related to their field - The Tech will want techy answers - the manager might want 'working in a team' answers, the HR person will want 'personal values / timekeeping' answers - something like that. – Smock Jun 26 at 11:15
  • @SolarMike I mean when I was in the school's co-op program, the people interviewing me seemed to know more about the job that they were running the interview for. For example while in school, I never got asked broad questions like "what is your favourite technology". – userskoup Jun 26 at 12:04
  • @Smock I've had this trouble the most with recruiting companies (such as Teksystems) in these situations they just introduce themselves as a recruiter. – userskoup Jun 26 at 12:05
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  1. Read/ask for the job description (JD) your are applying for.

In most job advertisements this is available. Else ask upfront (before the interview) what position they are conducting interview. If you are applying for System Admin, you have to know about windows/linux/Mac things, If you are applying for a developer, you have to know about python, java, programming whatever.

  1. Decide what job YOU are looking for.

"what are your top 3 technologies?"

They are asking yours not their's.

Current IT job market giving different kind of roles such as web developer, backend developer, frontend developer, database developer, system admin, production support, devops etc..

Each job requires different technology skills. Even within web/backend developer there are subcategories as Java backend developer, python backend developer, nodejs backend developer etc which are completely different technology stacks (but underlying concept/goal is same).

As a java developer, my top 3 technologies are - Core Java, Spring, Tomcat.

  • As a java developer, my top 3 technologies are - Java [...] uhh... is that not a bit redundant to state? – lucasgcb Jun 26 at 12:15
  • I got the impression that the person interviewing me today wasn't very knowledgeable about the subject herself. For example, she probably wouldn't have known about Spring. I guess it wouldn't really matter if all she wanted was to know what words to look out for on job postings. – userskoup Jun 26 at 12:17
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    @userskoup - so how will she find a job that would suit you, if you don't tell her which technologies you're familiar with / proficient in? – AndreiROM Jun 26 at 14:29
  • @AndreiROM from my resume. Even if it couldn't be determined through there I don't see how asking this in an in person meeting is better than a simple email. – userskoup Jun 29 at 16:28
  • @userskoup - you'd be surprised how many people leave key words out of their resumes, either out of sloppiness, or because they're familiar with technology, and (wrongly) assume that certain things are implied. For example, someone who has experience building web applications, might leave out that he worked with HTML 5, CSS 3.0, etc. A recruiter will look at the resume, get excited at the web-app experience, then throw it on the discard pile because it lacks the "key-words" on the job application. No matter how detailed your resume, a recruiter will always ask you to outline your experience. – AndreiROM Jul 2 at 14:19
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Technical Recruiters want to know which technologies are your strengths so they can match you with employers who need your skills. They want to know general categories. In software tech you might answer with things like SQL, Javascript, C++, C# data-structure-design, and so forth.

Don't expect recruiters to have depth in your field. (If you find one that does know your field in some depth, make friends with them! They can be incredibly valuable for your career.)

Hiring managers want to know whether you have the technical skills to do the jobs they have in mind. In my example, if you claim you know a particular language they will ask you to write something complex to test your knowledge.

When you apply to a hiring manager, your cover letter and resume should plainly say why you will be good for the job.

Your resume must answer recruiters' questions, at least superficially. Or nobody will know how to assess your skills and they'll just throw away your resume. Harsh, but true. I've done it many times as a hiring manager.

A suggestion. Jump on over to https://stackoverflow.com/ and look at some job postings if you're interested in software jobs. You'll see the sorts of skills software managers need. Find a job or two that fits your skills and write a resume to explain how your skills match the job. This is an exercise in resume writing, so do it even if the job is in Tibet and you'd never actually apply for it. After a while you'll get the hang of it.

Another suggestion: Get some friends to review your resume.

Another suggestion: Ask your school placement office person to review your resume. The can do that. Even if they don't have any actual jobs on offer.

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Let's step back from the in-depth analysis of giving "the right" answers, and get a bigger picture context of what you seem to be asking about. I think you're getting some good direction in other answers relevant to different types of people wanting different types of answers at different stages of the hiring process, but there's a key point missing so far.

You asked,

How do I get a permanent, full time job related to my degree?

If your true focus is to get a specific type of job in a specific field, then you need to consider the fact that sometimes, giving the "wrong" answer is a good thing. Think of it this way: assume you want a software development job, and an employer is looking for a desktop support expert. They'll be expecting desktop support answers. If you give a developer's answer, and they react poorly, that's a good thing. It's a sign that you're chasing the wrong job!

So: Before you get super-concerned about always giving the right answer, make sure you know what it is you're looking for. Spend some time ahead of the interview thinking about answers in context with your desired role. Make sure you're applying for jobs in that role (and/or are able to talk to recruiters about those jobs). When in an interview, give those in context answers, and adjust as necessary based on feedback you receive. If you get poor feedback, make sure you're considering if the job just wasn't a good fit, rather than taking it personally and assuming it's you're fault you gave a "bad" answer.

Also, consider taking that one step farther. Make sure you have questions designed to help you determine if the role is a good fit. There are many cases where a generic-looking job description can mean very different things at different employers. Maybe you're applying as a business analyst. That could mean you'll be spending your days writing requirements for a software development team, or it could mean you're spending your days in a business unit helping them understand operational or strategic reporting and doing some data analysis. Very different roles for the same title! As a hiring manager, it's utterly shocking how unprepared most candidates are to ask good questions to help themselves determine if the job is actually a good fit or not. Interviews are supposed to be two-way streets. Take advantage of that.

  • +1 sometimes, giving the "wrong" answer is a good thing – NiceGuy Jun 26 at 15:14
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I think you misinterpret the expected answers, which might be the reason for your unsuccessful job hunt.

"Mac gets fewer viruses" is never ever the answer the interviewer was looking for. Even though it practically might be true.

Also the answers to the favorite technology question are really bad. No one cares for your favorite OS or some generic trendy terms like "virtualization" or "cloud".

Answers like this would make me think you have a fundamental lack of knowledge.

Don't expect the interviewer to be overwhelmed by the superior technology stack you use. If they are looking for an IT specialist, answer like one.

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    I think the shoddy answers were given by the interviewers themselves as the expected response, but it's not very clear. – lucasgcb Jun 26 at 10:57
  • @lucasgcb yeah, you're probably right. However, the questions are fairly simple to answer, so I'm wondering why the interviewer even has to give these examples. – sbo Jun 26 at 11:24
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    Yes what @lucasgcb says is correct. That is the whole point of my question, sometimes I get interviewers who aren't very knowledgeable themselves and seem to want simple answers (as an example "Mac's get fewer viruses") – userskoup Jun 26 at 12:00
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It is perfectly acceptable to ask an interviewer upfront about their technical literacy level and what level of detail they are expecting.

You can do this as part of the introduction phase of the interview, or ask before responding to an early technical question.

EG, "Before I answer (or Before we get started), can you give me an idea of how technical you are, and what level of technical detail you are looking for?"

their response to this question should give you everything you need to go on. If they aren't technical at all, give broad simple answers that are still accurate. Eg "I program in python, javascript and also know some C", etc. If an question seems silly to you, either give a simple answer with few details, or ask for additional context to help you understand what they are getting at.

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