Photo by Jesse Wagstaff

There’s a lot of general advice out there about what you should do in your job interview. Some of it’s good, some of it’s not so good. Some advice applies to all types of jobs; some advice applies to specific industries, positions, or companies.

Since Rails is all we do here at mirRoR, we thought we’d pull together a list of Rails-specific job interview advice. Some of these ideas can be applied to other types of job interviews, but these are some of the most important interviewing tips we’ve gathered from our experience in the Ruby on Rails community. Since a lot of the things you should do in an interview are fairly obvious, we thought we’d list some of the most important things NOT to do.

Don’t:

  • Wear a suit. It may sound counterintuitive (especially if you read other general interviewing advice) but formal business attire is not necessary for a Ruby on Rails job interview. A lot of Rails shops tend to be casual, with lots of t-shirt and sandals-bearing employees. We don’t necessarily recommend wearing your raggedy old Star Wars t-shirt from 7 years ago (even if it is your “lucky” shirt). Stick with something in the range of business casual (you won’t go wrong with dockers and a polo shirt). This communicates that you are ready to do work but don’t take yourself too seriously. You should also do some research on the company. Does the company have a corporate, startup or somewhere-in-between feel? This can give you a sense for what appropriate attire will be for your interview.
  • Discuss your side projects with more enthusiasm than the job you’re interviewing for. We’ve seen this mistake cost developers job offers in the past. Rails developers almost always have their hand in a few things at once. This is great, and oftentimes the hiring manager may be just as interested in your experience from a side project as they are in your day job experience. But tread carefully here. If you’re working on something on the side, keep in mind that if you land this job you’re interviewing for, it will still be on the side. Don’t give an employer the impression that you’re not very passionate about their company and are just looking for something stable to allow you to continue with your side project. As with any job interview, it is important to show a genuine interest in the company and position you’re applying for. Should you talk about your side projects at all? Of course. Just don’t let that downplay your interest and desire to commit to the job you’re interviewing for.
  • Be late. This advice is true for all interviews. You should always arrive at your interview about 10 minutes early, just to be safe. Although this is general job interviewing advice, we thought it deserved it’s own bullet on this list. Why? Generally speaking, Rails shops tend to be casual and much more laid back than other types of companies. This does not mean, however, that they are casual about time. Showing up late to an interview is simply disrespectful and never the right way to start things off with your potential future employer. Get there slightly early and they’ll know you’re serious about this opportunity.
  • Cross the line from confidence to arrogance. There is a line (oftentimes a fine line) between confidence and arrogance. If you’ve got serious Ruby chops, that’s awesome. Show them off in your code test and don’t be afraid to discuss your stellar previous experience. But don’t have a better-than-everyone-else attitude (an unfortunate frequent occurrence in the Rails community). There are likely other smart coders at the company you’re interviewing with; respect that and you will make a better impression. It’s a sin when a developer who checks out technically gets passed over because of attitude. And, if you know that you truly are the smartest person in the room, show that you’re looking forward to being a good mentor.
  • Pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t forget that at startups, finding the right “fit” is more important than at larger, more traditional companies. These people won’t just be your co-workers. You’ll be sharing meals together, working on top of each other in small spaces, and cramming to get that next release out by Thursday at midnight. This is why it’s so important to the person hiring you that you’ll fit in personality-wise with the rest of the team. Being yourself in your interview will also help you determine whether this is a company and environment you’d be really excited about working in.

Overall, it’s pretty simple: be respectful (show up on time) but not too formal (don’t wear a suit). Be yourself (fit is key) and be most excited about the opportunity (not your past or present side gigs). And lastly, show off your Rails skills (but stay humble). Good luck in your interview!