• Sarah

How To Navigate The Technical interview

Now that we’ve gone through the basics of the interviews, the secrets to coming out on top in your business interview, let’s talk technical interview. While the business interview gets you in the door, we all know that it’s this one that would make or break your application. This is where the company assesses how well you perform under pressure, to novel challenges and if your technical prowess is as good as your resume suggests.

While there really is only one type of business interview you can expect, when it comes to the technical interview, the company can really go quite a few ways with the technical interview. The type of challenge they pose to you could actually tell you something about how the company functions (cause remember, you’re interviewing them too).

Technical interviews can be broken down into:

1. The Whiteboard

It’s probably the oldest and possibly most dreaded type of interview around. But while lots of companies are doing away with Whiteboarding, because it’s not exactly representative of how you’d be working, many aren’t. But, the good news here, is that what you can expect is often limited to:

  1. Arrays/strings

  2. Bianry Trees

  3. Linked Lists

  4. DFS/BFS

  5. Backtracking

  6. Dynamic Programming

It’s a bit easier to prepare for this type of interviews, especially since there are lots of resources available online to help. More good news: while you should always be aiming for perfect code, when you’re presented with a whiteboard interview, your interviewers are likely to be more tolerant of minor syntax issue.

2. Onsite Technical Tests

Depending on how you look at it, this one’s pretty similar to the whiteboard. You just get a computer to work with. It’s a bit harder to prepare for an onsite test though, as it’s likely that the company would be asking you to solve a problem or code something specific to them. This challenge could take the form of you being presented with a piece of code and being asked to improve it, build a new feature or they could ask you to create something from scratch.

A lot of startups nowadays are also including Paired Programming in their onsite tests, where you would be paired up to complete the test. As a result, they would be able to see how well you’re able to collaborate with their current team, and you would be able to determine if their working style matches yours.

The best way to prepare for the onsite technical test? Make sure you’re comfortable with the company’s tech stack. And try working on online tests (like the ones we’ve included below) with a friend to get yourself used to it.

3. Take Home Project

I bet you’re thinking you’re a lucky duckie right about now aren’t you? You got to skip the Whiteboard and the in-house code challenge, AND you can take your “trial” at home! The only downside? Most take-home challenges are generally a bit more time-consuming compared to the ones you’d have faced in person (probably why they want you to do it at home instead). Like the onsite technical test, take home assignments would generally feature problems that you’re likely to face on a day to day basis if you’re successful with your interviews.

4. Online Tests

If your technical interview includes an online test, it’s pretty safe to say that you’re going to need to do some revising. While these tests are generally the shortest, usually with a combination of MCQs and 1-2 coding questions, they’re also pretty abstract, and aimed to test you on your fundamentals. Some of the more common things we’ve seen tested here are algorithms, data structures and SQL, as well as your time management skills. Most of the time would be pretty tight on these tests, so make sure you keep your eyes on the clock! If you want to do some preparation specifically for this, Hakerrank is one of the most commonly used tools, so you could try out some of the materials they have available.

Got a headache yet?

It gets better - in a good way. Cause our tips to ace your technical interview pretty much covers all the different types, just keep these 4 things in mind and you’re all set!

1. Revise the fundamentals and be sure to use appropriate phrasing.

In this case, being basic isn’t a bad thing. This point is especially important if you haven’t been interviewing for a few years, and THIS can be where industry professionals get tripped up, while fresh grads do well. It doesn’t matter where you’re interviewing or for what position, everyone’s going to assume you’ve got a good handle on the fundamentals. So some things to look into would be to make sure you’ve got a good handle on things like arrays, trees, linked lists, hash tables, sorting algorithms, that sort of thing.

One company went even further, and asked their potential talents to explain how the internet works, so seriously. They can go right back to the start of your year 1 CS materials, so make sure you do too.

2. Do regular coding challenges

It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineering manager who doesn’t need to code very often, or a junior developer who lives and breathes coding, getting exposure to different types of materials is crucial to staying relevant. Plus, since most interviews would aim to challenge you with something you’ve never seen before, this would have the added benefit of ensuring you don’t freeze up if you see something new. Here are some great places, if you don’t know where to start.

3. Ask clarifying questions if required

Never hurts to double check your understanding, and make sure your assumptions about what you need to accomplish is in line with what the interviewer is looking for. Plus, there’s always the chance that you’ll get an extra chatty interviewer, who’ll give you some tips on how to move forward!

4. Talk Aloud (or bring a rubber duck)

A lot of the time, the technical interview is designed to test your problem solving skills, and the interviewers care more about how you reach your end result, rather than whether it works the way it’s supposed to (although, that would of course, be the best case scenario). So a great way to give your interviewers a bit more insight into your thought process, is to talk aloud.

Sometimes though, the coding challenge can be pretty long, and interviewers don’t stay in the room. Talking aloud would still be beneficial here, to get your thought process in order. But, if talking to yourself seems too cray cray for you, you can always bring along a rubber duck.

Feeling pumped for the technical interview yet?

We’re confident that if you keep our tips in mind, you’ll be leaving the room as a top contender for the job. But if you’re still a bit unsure, or have questions we haven’t covered, get in touch with us, we’d be happy to help!