mike gourley


Employers don’t hire for skills. They don’t hire for experience. They don’t even hire for hustle.

Sure, those things are important, but they only point to the real thing employers want: value.

They’re interested in answering one simple question:

→ How much value do you provide to the organization, and is it worth the amount they’re investing in you?

Unfortunately, both employers and candidates will often miss the mark. They’ll spend precious time during the interview just going through the resume, talking more about the what than the why.

The solution: “own” your interview. Don’t rely on the interviewer to uncover why you’re such an awesome candidate. Be proactive and do it yourself.

It’s no secret that the engineering job market is white-hot right now. In my experience, having worked with hundreds of engineering candidates, I’m seeing that candidates have more power in their hands than before.

But you can’t wield this power if you aren’t proactive during the hiring process. So here are some tips to land an engineering job in 2021 by owning your interview.


Avoid the resume trap.

In the engineering world, an “interview” will often just be two people sitting down to go over the candidate’s resume.

This is a waste of everyone’s time.

It’s not that resumes aren’t important. But people can read a resume at any time. There’s no need to spend valuable in-person time rehashing information the interviewer already knows.

On top of that, resumes are great at answering, “what have you done & what can you do?” But if you’re going to own the interview, you need to show them, “why should I hire you?”

Make your value as a candidate clear. Talk about experiences and insights that aren’t on the resume. Ask questions, tell stories, anything that engages the interviewer.

By avoiding the resume trap, you can ensure that the interviewer gets a full picture of who you are and what you have to offer.


Ask questions about the projects you’ll be working on.

A lot of people think that the main goal of a job interview is to impress the interviewer. And while, yes, you want to make a great first impression, there’s more to it than that.

An interview is a conversation. You need to answer questions, but you also should be asking them.

The more information you have, the better you’ll understand whether this is somewhere where you actually would want to work:

  • What kinds of projects will I be working on?
  • Do your engineers tend to work collaboratively or individually?
  • What is the work environment like (fast-paced & stressful, or more balanced)?

Not only does this help you learn about the company, but it shows the interviewer that this isn’t just a J.O.B. to you, but a place where you can succeed and, God forbid, maybe enjoy your work.


Don’t oversell your contributions to past projects.

A common trend I find among junior engineers is they spend way too much time talking about big, impressive projects where they made a minimal contribution. Experienced engineers, on the other hand, talk about the big contributions they made, even if the project was smaller in scope.

The people interviewing you aren’t stupid. They’ve got years and years of experience within the field. If you start overselling yourself, they’ll know.

Worse, they’ll likely use that as an opportunity to quiz you even harder. And if you can’t answer those questions, then you’re going to look a heck of a lot worse than if you had just stuck to specifics.

So stay humble. Be specific. If you can demonstrate the value you provide them, that’ll impress them more than anything.


Be prepared regardless of the interview format.

Although we’re moving into a post-COVID world, there are some things that will probably stay, like the rise of video interviews over Zoom or Skype.

Now, ideally we’d like everyone to get an in-person interview. But it’s not something you can take for granted anymore. You have to be prepared for both.

Just like with the in-person interview, the goal is to be engaging and interesting. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Take the initiative. Show up a few minutes early, and be on camera and ready when the interviewer logs on.
  • Remember where the “eyes” are. Eye contact is so important, but remember that while we’re trained to look at a person directly, you need to look at the camera in order for it to seem like you’re making eye contact.
  • Actively listen. It’s hard to show that you’re engaged on a Zoom call. To combat this, make sure you’re actively listening and responding to what they say.

Overall, you may need to adapt your in-person tactics to a virtual format. But the overall idea, making yourself interesting and engaging to the interviewer, is the same across the board.


Conclusion: Show your leadership potential.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about the market right now is that companies aren’t just looking for engineers. They’re also looking for leaders.

Not all engineers aspire to leadership. And that’s fine. But if you demonstrate that you have leadership qualities, it’s going to make you all the more attractive to the company, regardless of what your ultimate aspirations are.

By taking ownership of your interview and asking questions, you can demonstrate that you are a leader in your field. Interviewers will certainly see that, respond positively to it, and, hopefully, it’ll be a no-brainer for them to hire you.


let’s talk