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Russian speaking IT presales and passing interviews to the West

Reading time6 min

I'm Paul Karol an American and I've been living in Russia and working internationally with businesses for the last 10 years. My first client was a Gazprom high level director and we worked on international communication and connections with the West and China.

I am the keynote speaker in many events and also give companywide training for companies that interact with other countries. I have been working deeply with The IT community of Russia for 6 years. My job is to make them pass their project interviews. Also I work with the presales and make sure that the company gets the projects that they want.

I'm the expert on Russia, Chinese and the  Western cultural relations.

First: if your company is just beginning to approach the Western market including America you want to have success in the beginning. If you're successful at passing the first few presale meetings or project interviews your reputation will be established. If you fail a few interviews or presales then you start to develop a reputation.

The language that is used and the flavor that you approach these Western markets with is extremely important for your success.

Jobs and sales for the Russian speaking IT community are at an all-time low right now. This means that you are not going to have five interviews in a week you are lucky to get one. You absolutely do not want to lose that interview. This is why studying this stuff before the interview is important. And the same thing can be said for pre-sale meetings. There are projects that are being offered to the Russian speaking IT community but not as many as before. You may have one project offered to your company a month in a specific field. So it is very important to make the right impression and I'm going to help you with that in this article.

In My experience I have seen very high level professional developers fail project interviews.

This is because they do not know how to speak correctly to Western clients and field the pivotal questions when asked. Also the way to approach the culture with comprehension is important for you to be hired. After working with these people we have corrected the problems and they have passed their interviews and are currently working.

In this article I'm going to show you what is currently working with my clients to have their people pass the project interviews and presale meetings with Western clients.

Case study 1

One of my clients was having trouble passing the project interview with a Western client because of a lack of understanding how to field certain pivotal questions in the interview process. Identifying the pivotal questions, the crux questions, the difficult questions that you will be asked in the interview.

Let's identify the parts of the interview first.

  1. In the first part of the interview we are doing small talk and we are also introducing ourselves and telling a little bit about ourselves.

  2. In the second part of the interview they will ask you specific questions about your education and your current projects. ......... Up until this point you have not lost the job. The loss of the interview does not happen in part one or two usually.

  3. This is when they ask you difficult questions, unknown questions, Crux questions that they really are looking to see your professionalism.

  4. The interview is now concluding and if you have the job it's important to end the interview in the right way.

Part three is the dangerous one. You must be smarter than the person interviewing you, come on now I know that all the IT professionals that work in russian-speaking countries are very high level and very intelligent because I work with them everyday. Put your intelligence on high power and be more intelligent than the person interviewing you. Why, you must be able to identify when they're asking you a Crux question and once you've identified it know how to answer.

Never answer the way a Russian would answer this. If you do not know the technology that you're being asked about or do not have an opinion about a specific problem that they are addressing with you, I have seen both of these in my work, You need to quickly form an opinion in your head. You absolutely cannot say no. Try this instead, "Yes, I am familiar with that technology and I have been working with a team that have used that in our last project."

Or any variation, there are a few, using the word "yes".

Russians like to say no to these difficult questions because they think that it makes them look honest. The truth is that they're not actually asking you if you're an expert in a particular area. In the West they are looking for different criteria. They are not looking for only an expert in something they're looking to see if you can grow and you know how to find information and you are the kind of person who won't let go till you make it happen. In Russia you will be called a JavaScript developer in the West you're going to be called a software developer.

I'm going to say this again another way. In the West if you say no to a important question it makes you look like you're unwilling or not smart enough to learn something new and not flexible as a developer.

I know that this works because the men I work with currently have jobs and are working because they learned to say yes. They also learned to recognize the crux question as they were hearing it and even remembered to tell me about it afterwards. More than once the company asked the developer about a specific problem that they were currently having in development to see what they would say. My highly professional guys were able to give them the answer to their problem which one then the job.

Case study 2

Looking at the anatomy of a presale meeting there are similarities to the interview. However a pivotal question can be asked at different times in slot number 2 or slot number 3. You still need to identify it as a crux question by being smarter your counterpart in the presale meeting.

A presale meeting that I was involved in recently in the healthcare software industry had problems because of questions of location of the development team. This is an extremely difficult pivotal question to answer in the IT community today. Every answer that you would give has negatives. I was able to successfully word the answers so that the American clients were not put off by the location of the team members.

Without violating my NDA I will try to give this answer to you that you could use.

"Where is your team located?"

"Oh we are located in this country in this city."

But we all know that right now this answer can have very negative effect on the sale.

I suggest that you get out in front (meaning to address the situation first) of the problem and the things that they are concerned about and answer them before they ask.

"Yes there is quite a large IT community here and we feel very comfortable. There is good internet connection and the government is welcoming us with some extra support for the IT professionals."

These are some of the examples of problems that Russian speaking IT professionals are having now and how to solve these problems.

It seems that today in The Russian speaking IT community there is specific needs that are going unanswered.

  1. How do you train your people to pass the project interviews with Western clients?

  2. How do you train your people to successfully hold presale meetings and land the deal?

  3. How to mitigate the perceived danger of working with Russian speaking developers during these troubling times.

Some more elements you can use right now.

The most important element to understand for successful interface with the West. Presale and interview...


Looking like a professional and a responsible IT specialist is integral to your success. One key component to this is having pleasure in your past successes. This allows you to present yourself in the correct way to the west. This works for both presale meetings and interviews.

Difficult questions

Though we covered this in the case study 1. Here is a little bit more information.

During the interview process one of the most important things is to understand the crux questions that you will be asked. If you can recognize when you're being asked one of these questions then you can make sure that you respond in a way that does not ruin the interview for you. I teach my clients to not say no in this case. They should find a way to say yes and definitely have an opinion about these pivotal questions.

What I mean about having an opinion is the crux question can be a specific problem they are having at this time in the development process. It can also be a specific technology that they would want you to use. Please stop saying no to these questions. Find a way to say yes.

In the next article we will be discussing other case studies. Successful presale meetings and presale meetings that end in disaster. Interviews that landed the job for the developer or interviews where they have failed due to one reason or another.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below. I will promise to answer. If the question becomes too large we'll make it a topic for another article.

Paul Karol

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