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How to: Prepare for your technical interview

The main reason for a technical interview is to evaluate how well you work with the team. You get to meet your potential teammates and collaborate with them to solve problems. If you’re interviewing at a tech company you should expect to go through some sort of technical interview. We have put together a guide on how you can prepare for and ace your next technical interview.

What to expect

If you’re applying for an engineering role then you will more than likely be doing a coding exercise. If you are applying for a non-engineering role then you don’t have to worry about learning how to code but you should understand how software products are built.

There are different formats to technical interviewing and every company interviews in a different way. Some may start with a coding challenge, while others will start with whiteboarding. These are the things you should:

o   Pair-programming

o   Trivia

o   Coding challenge

o   Whiteboarding

Pair programming

This is an agile software development technique in which two programmers work together at one workstation. These usually last 30- 60 minutes and it can be done in person and at home. Websites like Coderpad have created a platform where candidates and hiring managers can collaborate and write programs together.

The interviewer will typically ask you to solve a problem and ask you to code a solution. You can view each other’s code on screen and make real-time edits. The point of pair programming is to see how you solve problems and how you communicate.

Trivia

This is the Q&A portion where the interviewer will quiz you on terminology. You should google interview questions that are related to the programming language that your job requires. You could also do some extra research by reading books relevant to the job or the industry you work in. For example, if you’re a Ruby Developer you can read Learn Ruby The Hard Way.

Coding challenge

The company may send you a take-home challenge where they ask you to build an app in a certain amount of time. Sometimes it’ll be in a specific programming language or it can be in a language of your choice. If you don’t get given a due date you should try to get it in within a week of receiving the challenge.

Whiteboarding

This is where you are asked to solve an algorithm question using a marker and a whiteboard. For example, you may be asked a question like “Design backwards and forward button operations of a browser.”

Then you stand at a whiteboard and discuss the right solution while writing the code by hand. The interviewers are trying to see if you can code the solution without using a computer and to test your communication skills. Walk your interviewer through your thought process and you should ask questions throughout the process to make sure that you understand what is being asked of you.

Before the interview

Practice

Practice makes perfect. We have already briefly mentioned reading books as a good way to prepare for the trivia portion of the interview, but it can also be useful for the coding challenge. There are plenty of coding books with endless sample problems. There are also websites with coding challenges and exercises such as Leetcode, Coderbyte and Programmr.

To practice your communication skills you could ask someone with a non-technical background to pose a question to you and see if you can communicate the solution with them clearly and effectively.

Practice whiteboarding by mapping out your strategy, write out solutions on a whiteboard at home. This will get you more comfortable with marking up a blank board which means you will be less hesitant in the interview. Check out some of these questions to help you practice whiteboarding.

Voice record your practice sessions and listen to them. This way you can hear if you’re rambling or have any nervous tics and if your answers make any sense. It’s also a great way to see your interview style.

Prepare yourself mentally

When you’re getting ready for a technical interview, you need to put yourself in the right mindset. It is really important to prepare yourself mentally because a lot of it is in the mindset. Make sure you create a quiet, reflective environment where you can prepare your mind for what’s coming ahead. Think about things you want to say in the interview that demonstrate your expertise.

Don’t overload yourself. If you have multiple interviews in one day make sure you leave a couple of hours in between each. And get plenty of sleep the night before because sleep deprivation can throw you off your game.

During the interview

Think of your responses thoroughly and make sure you understand what you’re being asked. If something is unclear don’t be afraid to ask questions early on. Ask procedural questions to understand what the interviewers are looking for “Is there a specific language you want me to give you my solution in?”

Bring your interviewers along with your problem-solving. Talk through your thought process because this will give the interviewer how you think. Talk to them about how you approached the problem and got to your answer. It will also give them a chance to help you along the way if you’re stuck.

Remember to still remain personable. The interviewer will also be looking at whether you would be a good cultural fit, so it is important to bring your people skills to the interview. Show your enthusiasm for the role and the company by asking questions about the team, or the toughest problems they’re tackling in relation to the project.

Remember to have fun with it as well. Treat your technical interview as if you’re part of the team, and treat the interviewer like they’re your partner and you are collaborating on a project.

End with a strong closing. Use the last few minutes to ask questions about the company and culture. Let the interviewer know why you’re the right person for the job. This is the time to emphasise specific aspects of your work history and skills that weren’t covered or that you want to reiterate. Write down the interviewers’ names, roles and any other relevant information.

After the interview

You want the interviewer to remember you for the right reasons. Send them a thank you note using the interviewer’s names and recalling the high points of the interview and expressing you’re the right fit for the role.

Think of technical interviews as less about being evaluated and more about working with another person. Now go out there and knock ‘em dead.

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