How to master the technical interview: 5 tips for success
The technical interview is a tough one. Complex and baffling questions get fired at you from all angles. It can be an intimidating experience and especially frustrating if you don’t work at your best when put on the spot.
However, there is a way to complete the process whilst leaving a good impression of yourself with your potential future employer. With years of experience prepping developers for technical interviews (and advising clients on how to conduct them!), here are our top 5 tips to help you ace this tricky test and show off your skills.
1. Be prepared to code
Many employers looking to hire a developer are keen to get you doing programming challenges. This ranges from being handed a piece of code and told to find the bugs to being sat down in front of a computer and asked to complete a timed coding task.
But do not fear! What they’re looking for isn’t just a certain level of competency – they want an insight into the way you go about solving problems.
Google is one company that prefers to use coding challenges in the interview process. They recommend visiting sites such as LeetCode, CodeLab, Quora, and Stack Overflow to brush up on your coding ability.
If you’re still concerned, we recommend reading Cracking the Coding Interview which is a great resource to break down the process step by step.
2. Expect puzzling questions
Bizarre questions are asked a lot in developer interviews, even in 2016. Despite how it may appear, the point isn’t actually to confuse the candidate, but to understand the way in which they think.
Apple once asked a candidate:
“If you have two eggs, and you want to figure out the highest floor from which you can drop the egg without breaking it, how would you do it?”
These types of question are a good way of breaking the ice at the beginning of an interview, plus they can help the interviewer get a very real sense of the candidate’s analytical skills.
3. Mention side projects
In order to hire you with confidence, your future employer may, understandably, want to see what kind of code you produce. One question you can expect either before or during your interview is “Do you have any examples of your work?”.
Clearly, for many developers it is rarely possible to provide sections of the confidential code they create every day in the office. Work is often the property of a programmer’s employer and can’t be taken outside the building without express permission.
Rather than saying you’re unable to provide any samples, contributing to an open source project or building your own app at home is a great way of showcasing your skills.
Microsoft expects to see side projects from the candidates they interview. A technical discussion surrounding projects you have worked on could form part of the process, incorporating traditional whiteboard coding interview techniques, which have been commonplace since the 1990s.
4. Security clearance
Depending on the job, security clearance may be required. Employers prefer hiring people who already have it as naturally they don’t want to deal with the extra hassle.
If you already have clearance, make sure that it is up to date. It’s also a good item to list on a resume as this can be attractive to employers who require it and good for them to know in advance of interviewing candidates.
5. Do your homework
As we all have heard before, “practice makes perfect” – and it really does! The key in all interviews, not only technical ones, is making sure you have brushed up on your knowledge about the organisation, industry developments (especially updates for the languages you work with every day) and your specialisms.
Always make sure you truly know all about the company you are being interviewed by. There is nothing worse than an interviewee that has no knowledge of the company they have applied to work for. Businesses certainly don’t appreciate their time being wasted by applicants who are indifferent as to whether they get the job or not.