Nathan Clarke shares his expert insights on how to ace your next technical interview!
Tech Lead, Manager, Author and Instructor, Nathan Clarke has a wealth of experience in the technology industry with a background in Software Engineering. Today, he shares with VANRATH his top tips and expert advice to help you ace your next technical interview...
Technical interviews can be intimidating, but they do not have to be. With adequate preparation and a solid understanding of what employers are looking for, you can walk into an interview feeling confident and ready to succeed. How can you find out what your prospective employer is looking for in terms of skills and attitude? This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to excel in your next technical interview.
The Mystery behind Technical Interview
Before we get started on preparing for a technical interview, let us take a step back and look at why these types of interviews exist in the first place. Employers use technical interviews to determine whether an applicant possesses the necessary skills and knowledge to perform the job for which they are applying. They might inquire about programming languages, algorithms, data structures, cloud service providers, system design, and design patterns. It is important to take the time to adequately prepare for technical interviews so you can be successful during the process.
There are various types of technical interviews you may encounter, each aiming to access a different aspect of your skill set.
Technical Screening Interview:
This is a short, pre-screening interview that assesses an applicant's basic technological knowledge. It usually includes general questions about programming languages, systems, software development processes, and other technical topics. The interviewer can determine if a candidate is qualified for the role and worth putting forward for the interview stage by assessing the applicant's understanding of technology. Some soft skills, such as willingness to learn and excel on the job or ability to collaborate with others, can also be assessed during this interview. Preparing for this type of interview entails researching the company and its technology stack, as well as brushing up on basic coding knowledge.
These are more in-depth interviews that evaluate an applicant's ability to solve coding problems and understand software engineering principles within a specific timeframe (normally 30-60 mins). To prepare for this type of interview, practice algorithms and data structures, as well as become familiar with debugging code.
System Design Interviews:
Are intended to evaluate your ability to create architectural solutions to complex software problems. Preparing for this type of interview entails researching relevant technologies, understanding industry trends, and becoming acquainted with system design fundamentals such as scalability, security, and performance optimisation.
Pair Programming Interviews:
Evaluate communication skills, collaboration abilities, and problem-solving strategy by having two people work together in real time on a problem or feature using the same language or framework. Preparing for this type of interview entails becoming acquainted with the language or framework being used in the session, as well as practising coding challenges with others. You will be expected to discuss your way of thinking, present clear communication, demonstrate collaborative skills, and ask pertinent questions during this type of interview.
Require you to complete a project in your own home environment within a specific timeframe. This assessment allows candidates to demonstrate their skills while also providing potential employers with information about how they work when given more flexible time to provide a solution without being pressured by others in the room. Preparing for this type of assessment necessitates researching the company's technology and being aware of current practices to create something suitable within the given timeframe while also ensuring that it meets all the employer's requirements.
Researching the Company Before Your Interview
The best way to start preparing for any type of job interview is to do some research on the employer's background and technology. Learn about their history, mission statement, goals, values, culture, current projects, products, awards, as well as other noteworthy information. When it comes to technical interviews, it's especially important to understand the company's technologies and tools so you can demonstrate your familiarity with them during the interview. Having this information will boost your confidence and ability to answer questions confidently and clearly.
Preparing for Common Questions
During most job interviews there will be some standard questions regardless of whether it is a general one or technical one – such as tell me about yourself? Why did you apply here? What are your strengths? What have been some difficult challenges in previous roles? But when preparing for a technical interview these should be tailored specifically toward technology-related topics. The goal of the common question is to determine whether you can be a valuable employee as both a co-worker and a technical expert. As you will most likely be expected to work in a group setting, it is expected that you will demonstrate in your answers that you understand the importance of collaboration and teamwork.
Practising the Art of Giving the Right Answers
Technical interviews are no exception to the rule that practice makes perfect! Practising answering common questions ahead of time allows us to become acquainted with the expectations set forth by potential hiring managers while incorporating feedback provided afterward helps sharpen presentation style further depending on the individual situation at hand. You can practice by visiting dedicated websites that provide a variety of practice options such as timed quizzes, fill-in-the-blank scenarios, and role-play situations. You can also practice answering interview questions with friends, a mentor, or an online community.
How to Excel at Coding Challenges
In addition to reviewing relevant topics beforehand, implementing solutions to common code challenges listed online is a great way to become more familiar with certain technical concepts. You can practice this using online coding sandboxes or your own IDE. In general, there are multiple solutions with different trade-offs for a given problem, so be prepared to discuss why your approach is best suited to the situation. Keep in mind that understanding the Big O Notations Time and Space Complexity of your solution, as well as writing clean code, could be the key to your success.
Acing the System Design Questions
Preparing for system design questions and challenges requires a great deal of practice and knowledge. Start by, reviewing the fundamentals of system design and clean architecture principles. It is helpful to practice with mock system design interviews, where you can discuss the pros and cons of various solutions and practice your communication and problem-solving skills. You can also hone your skills by reading blog posts, watching videos, and attempting to design popular systems. With consistent practice and honing of the fundamentals, you can improve your skills and confidently face system design questions and challenges.
Following Interview Etiquette
When taking part in any type of interview, you are expected to follow proper etiquette. This includes dressing appropriately (not necessarily business attire, but neat clothing appropriate for the occasion), arriving at least 5 minutes early to avoid unnecessary delays, turning off mobile phones, politely greeting interviewer(s) upon arrival, actively listening by maintaining eye contact throughout the session, refraining from interrupting, asking relevant questions, and presenting yourself as a pleasant person to talk to and work with.
The Interview's Outcome is in Your Hands
Although it is natural to be nervous before a technical interview, being prepared can greatly improve your chances of success. Researching the company, practising answers to frequently asked questions, preparing for coding challenges, and understanding interview etiquette are all important steps toward success. With a clear strategy for preparing for your technical interview and a reminder that practice makes perfect, you can face your next technical interview challenge with confidence.
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