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Impactful Interviewing: a Technical Sourcer’s Strategies for Success
By: Robin Choi, Technical Sourcer
Interviews can be daunting. Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned industry professional in need of a refresher, we have assembled several strategies for success to ace your next technical / non-technical interview at Palo Alto Networks -- all from the perspective of a technical sourcer.
Research may sound obvious but it is often underlooked. With sufficient research, you will be able to better tailor your interview responses and also help alleviate symptoms of interview anxiety you may be experiencing. The initial places I’d start my research include the company, job description, product, and team, which you can find on the careers website, blog, news, or within the job description itself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your recruiter or sourcer if you are unable to locate this information!
Once you process the basic information, dive deeper into our values, mission, and culture. You can see examples of these in the resources listed above as well as on our social media, like our careers Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Be sure to apply this new knowledge into your interview responses by tying everything back to your potential impact at Palo Alto Networks, our values and mission, and, of course, the job requirements themselves. Another key tip that I’d highly recommend is to inquire about the hiring manager and interviewers - this allows you to research into some of your potential future team’s backgrounds, which can allow you to find areas to build rapport and help you brainstorm questions during your interview.
Technical interviews have been a staple of the recruitment process for any specialized role; however, over the years, we have seen teams conduct these interviews in varying formats. The most common format you will see at Palo Alto Networks is Codility’s platform called CodeLive. This is a real-time, live coding environment and whiteboard tool to be used during your technical interviews. The other format for technical interviews is Codility’s CodeCheck tool, a take-home assessment of either proprietary or pre-selected technical questions. Read more about Codility and familiarize yourself with its various formats here.
Before your technical interview, be sure to ask your recruiter or sourcer for any preparation material they can provide (i.e., programming language flexibility, the focus/topic of the interview (data structures, algorithms, debugging, etc.), time limits for take-home assessments). Note that this information can vary per role! During the technical interview, if it is a live coding interview, be sure to explain your thought process as it is important to note that we are not solely assessing whether the solution is right or wrong -- we are also assessing your collaboration skills, how you approach challenges, and how you ask for clarifying questions.
Even technical roles will have non-technical interviews. These discussion-based interviews assess your communication, problem-solving and soft skills, teamwork, and are often with recruiters, hiring managers, or leaders on the team. When asked, be prepared to share specific examples of accomplishments in your past experiences and how they fit into the job requirements for the role you’re interviewing for. Also ensure that you are tying back your responses to our values, disruption, execution, collaboration, integrity and inclusion – read more about our values here.
A foolproof formula to organize your responses is using the STARR method. STARR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection and can help guide you in framing your responses. For any example you refer to during the interview: share more about the Situation and its context, the Task at hand or problem you tackled, what Actions you took to solve the problem, the Results from your actions, and your Reflection or learnings and how you may apply them to your next role. I will emphasize that not all of your examples have to be “successful” - your takeaways and insights are more valuable than the actual results themselves. To better prepare, you can also research common behavioral-based interview questions and try practicing the STARR method with a peer.
One thing that people often forget is that interviews are not a one-sided process. Interviews aren’t conducted to solely assess your abilities according to the job requirements – they are also environments where you can likewise evaluate the team and whether the role is a mutual fit for your next career move. Be sure to brainstorm questions about the team, culture, outlook, growth opportunities or anything else that you may be curious about when considering a new role. You may feel more at ease as you realize interviews are a two-way street. With the right mindset and ample preparation, you will be more likely to succeed in your next interview – and if not, don’t be discouraged – it will have been good practice for your next interview.
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