A Rock Solid First PHP Developer Interviewby@stevieb86
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A Rock Solid First PHP Developer Interview

by BrooksCodeAugust 5th, 2023
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A PHP Developer interview will be no easy feat. This is especially true if you're a junior developer and you're seeking your first role. Hopefully, this helps!
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You’ve been worrying about your first PHP interview, right? With any luck, you’ve been reading up on this stuff too. A blog post here, a YouTube video there. Reciting those PHP interview questions must be driving you nuts by now. Plus, those interview gurus make it sound so easy. But the thing is, nothing prepares you for the real thing. You meet the employer, and what happens? That whirlwind of scrutiny hits you like a ton of bricks.

I was lucky enough to have two people interviewing me. Double the damage, I know. Don’t get me wrong; they were both sound. Albeit, the pressure of an interview can cause your behavior to change. You spend 5 minutes answering simple questions. Responses that could take ten seconds with better preparation. You go completely off-topic multiple times. Half of your answers become badly-forged stabs at the STAR method. The employer sees this and starts looking at his watch.

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If you want to be a PHP developer, you’ll need to contend with several rounds of interviews. To my knowledge, these consist of a behavioral interview and a technical assessment. Mine was more of a chat than anything else. And I made errors before and during my first interview. But the employer was kind enough to give me some feedback. I'm humbled to share it with you, so strap in and avoid these mistakes.

Be Upfront About Your Current Location

Companies will stipulate things like this in their job descriptions. They want a PHP Developer within 20 or 30, or 50 miles. Granted, hybrid working conditions are the norm these days, especially for techies. But when you’re seven time zones away, communication is going to be hindered. And if you are on the other side of the planet, at least be straight up about it.

I wasn’t. My CV and LinkedIn profile both stated that I was in the UK. Albeit, I was in Southeast Asia during my interview. It won’t take the employer long to extract this information from you. In fact, it’s going to be one of the first questions they ask. So don’t lie on your profiles. Their facial expressions will do most of the talking, and you’ll feel like a plank.

I'm thankful the employer made it very easy for me. He was courteous and forgiving, but he advised me to change my real-time location. Be warned, though; there’s no guarantee every interviewer will be so tolerant. So my first suggestion is to be honest about exactly where you’re located.

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There is another reason why this is paramount. Imagine flying across the world to begin your first PHP Developer role. Let’s just say this notion might concern a potential employer. It could imply you’ll need to find a new place to live, for starters. What if you don’t fit in at the company? What happens if you underperform and they have to let you go? These are problems that employers can do without.

A PHP Developer Should Be Confident In Their Ability

Posting content on LinkedIn is useful, no doubt about that. I’ve even started posting stuff on my website, BrooksCode. But don’t only post about your struggles and leave it there. This makes you look inexperienced and insecure. Consider putting more emphasis on your victories as a PHP Developer. Celebrate them with gusto and conviction. Then repost the same content a month later and reminisce on your triumphs.

Demonstrating your PHP prowess during the interview process won’t hurt either. If you come across as timid, the employer will be less than reassured. Even if they’re not tech-savvy themselves, a ‘can-do’ attitude will be encouraging. This was another flaw of mine that the employer was kind enough to mention. My lack of confidence stuck out like Elon’s horrific X logo. Albeit, it was my first-ever interview for a PHP Developer position. Moreover, I've hardly any experience coding in PHP yet.

In a nutshell, the employer suggested that faking it till you make it is a reasonable policy. Granted, that doesn’t mean that you should lie your ass off. But even simple alterations such as body language can seal the deal. The basics - chin up, solid eye contact, etc - are things we have some control over. Speaking in an assertive manner adds to the illusion of confidence too. If you want to go the extra mile, steepling your hands will make you look self-assured and secure.

Answer Questions Directly and With Clarity

Imagine taking every back alley and country lane to get to your destination. It would drive your companions nuts if there was a perfectly decent motorway. When the interviewer asks you a question, drive the answer straight home. Get to the point and do it sharpish. This is where I screwed up. I was a bag of nerves during my interview. Whenever I was asked a simple question, I wandered off on a tangent and spoke for several minutes. These answers could have been chopped in half had I been more diligent.

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Thankfully, there are modifications you can make so you don’t repeat these mistakes. Take a deep breath after each question. This will do two things. Firstly, it will help you to feel more relaxed. Adding to this, it will give you a couple of seconds of thinking time. Unless you’re more nervous than the new kid at school, this should be ample to formulate your response. But that’s not all.

Understanding exactly what to expect from the interview won’t hurt either. With any luck, the employer has made this obvious in their correspondence with you. If not, try reaching out to them and ask how technical the interview will be. This will give you an idea of how to best prepare in advance.

Research the Right Topics For Your PHP Developer Interview

I knew that a software engineer was going to be present during my interview. Therefore, I assumed that a portion of it would be dedicated to technical questions. I wasn’t asked a single one. I put hours of my time into studying common PHP developer interview questions and answers. But to be honest, I think my performance in other areas dictated the lack of technical questioning. The company founder told me that I hadn’t demonstrated much confidence. I guess the software engineer thought I was inadequate for the position. But who can say?

If you’re expecting a behavioral interview, then I would recommend checking out Jeff Su and Andrew LaCivita. Both of these YouTubers produce top-notch content related to resumes and interviews.

Did You Actually Do Anything Right?

Well, thanks for asking. As it happens, I demonstrated a strong willingness to learn and be flexible. The company founder asked if I would be open to working part-time or on a contractual basis. I could have kissed him for that and told him that I would bite his arm off. Any gateway into this competitive industry is good enough for me. But I’m still trying to manage expectations. He was only making an inquiry.

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My point is that being open to alternative arrangements isn’t going to make you look bad. It could go in your favor. So if you’re in a position to accept a slightly modified PHP developer role, then do it, especially if this is your first shot at getting some industry experience. Beggars can’t be choosers, especially in this market.

You may be offered the chance to ask a few questions of your own at the end of the interview too. Don’t pass up on this. An obvious benefit is that you’ll be able to learn more about the company or culture. But it doesn’t end there. Asking questions immediately makes you look more interested. At least compared to someone who neglects this opportunity. Plus, if you ask the right questions, the employer will remember you for the right reasons.

One Final Thought

Lastly, sit up straight, put your best foot forward, and display some energy. You’re going to make everyone feel more interested in you this way. Fair enough, many interviews are by video or phone call. However, the recipient will still get a sense of your enthusiasm via facial expressions and vocal tone. So make them count. If you’re on your way to becoming a PHP Developer, then I hope this post was useful. Please consider subscribing or check me out at BrooksCode.