Job interviews

Some lessons learned and advice to young graduates on finding a job.

Tags: work

I'm feeling wise and old today and so I have decided to share my knowledge with the world about the interview process when trying to land a job. I wanted to give actionable advice too, the kind of advice that would have been useful to a younger self. Since my experience is limited to working in Spain I was tempted to write it in Spanish but this actually gets to our first point:

Learn English

This opens positions in international companies where English is the day to day language, in Spain and obviously in other countries. Watch movies and read books in English.

Anecdata: I have been working my whole life in Spain and yet for 3 years my day to day work language was English. As a matter of fact most of the people were not native English speakers (it took me some time to get used to the different accents). Good earphones are priceless. Talk slow and clear.

Practice interviews

This is the most important point. Most people get nervous and the more important the interview the more nervous you will get so don't wait for your dream job to be your first interview. If the situation is familiar you will feel confident. The good news is that for your first job confidence is not so important but for more senior roles it is expected you won't buckle under pressure. Think anyway that we all know an interview is not your typical day to day situation and we will have some empathy.

Anecdata: I think I made a horrible first interview which nevertheless got me the job because I was lucky to be there at the correct moment (see below about randomness and timing). I recall being asked by HHRR what had I done the months after graduating. My answer was “Nothing, I was so tired, I just wanted to rest”. That is the kind of answer that will get an smile from a fellow engineer but not a good answer for HHRR. A better (and still true) answer would have been: “I took the opportunity to experiment with some programming languages, read about other topics, get in shape and think about my future”. As you can see it really says the same but shows you have some presentation skills.


Be humble, but don't be afraid. I have seen all the spectrum while interviewing candidates. From people that almost were saying sorry for applying to the job to people that, if everything they said was true, should be the next CEO. If you have little or no experience something on the lines of “I think I will be a great fit for the role, I know I have little experience but I'm a hard worker and love to learn new things” is more than enough. I know that this sounds empty but be yourself, be calm (remember, practice interviews). Everybody wants to be sure they won't regret having to spend 8 hours a day with you.

Anecdata: I worked with a guy that got his degree while working in a totally unrelated thing. He applied to my company and got ignored and so he applied and applied, and applied. He applied so many times (I don't recall how many, but on the order of 20) that an some point HHRR just got curious enough to invite him to an interview. He got the job.


Keep this in mind when you don't get answers or are rejected. The process of hiring is incredibly random. You may get rejected just because there are too many candidates to look at them, because the job description was incorrect, because the job ad was really just a formality and the position was already covered or because you remember someone of someone that left a bad impression. The possibilities are infinite. Randomness is usually higher at the earlier stages of the hiring process when there are so many candidates that the most absurd signal can get you discarded or selected. Unfortunately the only way to fight off randomness is the law of large numbers: keep applying.

Anecdata: There are so many here that I fear they are no longer anecdata and actually have statistical significance. The truth is that all hiring processes, no matter how good, have a lot of variance. They are put in place to make good selections on average, on the long term. What really makes you good as an employee is unobservable on an interview, or so I feel at least.


I was very lucky to finish my degree just before the 2008 financial crisis. I recall some years later reviewing CVs from young graduates with better grades than me, several internships and speaking fluently several languages and we had to reject most of them. This is not actionable advice, you may be thinking, but you may compensate by keeping some attention. Look for companies that are opening new hubs, entering new markets or have scored big contracts recently. They usually start big hiring processes and it's easier for junior candidates to be accepted. More actionable advice when applying to publicly traded companies: check stock prices. Rising prices correlate with growing companies. The best advice is anyway to focus on something you really like doing, not on something you may think will be the next hot thing. Find a balance.

Anecdata: Top of the class engineer that didn't get a work offer after a brilliant internship at some company because all the hiring was frozen. But everybody knows plenty of examples, ask any civil engineer about the subprime mortgage crisis.

Where to apply

Size is what usually matters here. As a general rule of thumb bigger companies pay more and have better benefits. If this is your first job however I strongly encourage you to apply to small or medium companies. They have a faster pace, you will be closer to the final product, it is easier to have impact and you will be given responsibility sooner. There are lot of positive things to learn at a bigger company also and some kind of work simply requires the resources only big companies can provide.

And so that's all. Good luck.