What is a Technical Interview?
A technical interview is unlike any regular job interview – between the whiteboard challenges, take-home exams, and even full day on-sites, technical interviews tend to be extremely rigorous. However, it’s a lot easier to succeed when you have a general understanding as to what to expect and can prepare yourself accordingly. Interviewing is a full-time job in itself, so to cut down on wasted time, we put together a guide on how to ace a technical interview, even if its your first!
If you are a recent graduate or just new to the technology industry, you may not know exactly what a technical interview entails. Unlike your traditional job interview, tech interviews involve challenges and assignments. These assignments normally come in an exam format, rather than a typical “question-and-answer” interview. Most applicants approach these interviews thinking that companies are going out of their way to “trick you with riddles/impossible questions”, but this is not the case. Rather, the purpose of these interviews are to get a gauge as to how you can tackle real-world problems, most of the time very similar to what you’d deal with once you’re in the role.
Let’s breakdown what actually goes down during a technical interview. Often, tech interviews are separated into three stages: the phone screening, a remote tech interview or take-home assignment, then lastly the on-site interview.
1st Stage: The Phone Screening
For most people, getting to this stage is the hardest part. If you’ve gotten to the phone screening, congrats! The company must have really liked your resume and you peaked their interest enough for them to want to get to know you. This stage is designed to get a sense of who you are as a person. They are looking to get some insight into your background, as well as answer questions you may have surrounding the role or the company in general. Crack some jokes, ask insightful questions, and don’t be nervous!
Before this stage, you should do your due diligence in terms of learning as much as you can about both the company and the role. Cross-referencing the job description with your resume is an easy method to do so. Going over anything that stands out on the job description that you have not been fully immersed in at your last role can bring up great relevant talking points during the phone screening, and can help put aside any uneasy feelings surrounding your skill set for both your potential employer and yourself!
2nd Stage: Remote tech Interview/ Take-Home Assignment
Once a company gets an idea as to who you are as an applicant, they will most likely want to put your skills to the test prior to bringing you in for an on-site interview. This is an integral part of the interview process, as if you cannot score well on a technical exam, you most likely don’t have the skills necessary for the role. Sharpening your technical skill set is the best way to prepare for this stage of the interview process, and there are many resources that you can utilize to accomplish this. Microsoft offers many in-depth videos and certificates that you can access free of charge. This is a great way to both boost up your resume and brush up on skills you may not have been fully utilizing at your previous position.
3rd Stage: On-Site Interview
This is the stage that most people consider the actual “technical interview”. During this stage of the interview process, you will normally come on-site to the office you will be working out of, meeting both people you will be reporting to as well as working alongside. This stage of the interview process tends to include in-person coding challenges that you must complete in front of the interviewing team. As this tends to be the most heavily weighed aspect of the interview process, coming prepared is integral to your success during the interview.
One way to prepare for the on-site is to write down a bunch of topics related to the role prior to the initial phone screening, then keeping the ones that were relevant during the phone interview to brush-up on before the on-site interview. Another way to prepare / gain some insight as to what the on-site interview might entail is to use Glassdoor to obtain information on the company hiring process. Many people use Glassdoor to rate the respective companies interview process and roles in general, and you can find some real helpful information on some of these pages. Another way to gain insight on the hiring process is to connect with ex-employees at the respective company. This will give you a gauge as to the type of profile your respective company is looking to hire, as well as provide insightful details on what to expect day-to-day if you were to receive this new position. Lastly, a great tactic that has proven to work well within the tech industry is to prepare yourself to talk about your recent work. Being able to intelligently discuss projects/products that you’ve worked on in a concise way will really show the interviewer that you’ve truly mastered your responsibilities at your last position.
Due to the competitiveness of the market, it’s inevitable that you won’t get an offer from every company that you interview for. However, even if you don’t get the job, have the perspective that the interview was great practice for the future. If it was your first one, now you know what to expect coming into your next technical interview. Use this experience, good or bad, to help propel yourself forward into the job of your dreams!