Technical interviews!

We all hate them, we all have to live with them!

They can be incredibly nerve-wracking! After all, you’re gambling your future job on coming up with a clever solution to a complicated problem on the spot!

Well, not quite.

While having a sound technical profile is very important for a candidate, there are other equally important, non-technical things that a candidate should do.

I’ve been on both sides of the interview many times, and I believe that there are things that most people are not doing enough of.

Here’s a list of tips that:

  • Anyone can start applying today, regardless of skill level or seniority.
  • Will significantly increase your chances of finding a good job match.

These tips do not replace technical knowledge. You still have to know about algorithms and data structures.

Rather, they complement that knowledge and help you present it in the best way possible.

Without further ado, here are the tips:

🎭Prepare stories to showcase yourself

Show, don’t tell.

- Cinema wisdom

It’s all well and good to tell the interviewer that you are a hard working team player.

However, you’ll make a much deeper impression if you demonstrate those traits with real stories.

To do that, think about a trait you think the interviewers will find desirable. If you’re applying for a junior role, it can be ability to learn quickly and respond well to feedback. If the prospect role is more senior, it can be the ability to provide good feedback and mentor people.

Then, think about a time in your life where you exhibited that trait. It doesn’t have to be around coding, the point here is to display your personality.

Here are some examples:

  • You had a conflict with another person, which you de-escalated until you reached an agreement, and both parties were happy.
  • Two parties had a conflict, and you helped mediate between them and come to agreeable terms.
  • You wanted to learn something, but there was no good documentation online. You did the research, figured it out, and improved the documentation!

Got the story? Great!

Now, tell it to someone a couple of times. We don’t want it fully memorised, but we don’t want the nerves of the interview getting in the way!

Walk into the interview ready to share that story, and I guarantee you’ll have at least one opportunity to tell it.

Take advantage of this to show your best side!

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🤝️Show them you’re great to work with

For the interviewer, an interview is the chance to decide whether you’re somebody they’d like to work with.

Think about that for a second. What qualities would you like your coworkers to have?

Sure, you’d like them to be technically capable, but what other qualities would you like from them?

Maybe you’d like them to ask politely for help in difficult situations, or maybe you’d like them to adapt gracefully to changing requirements.

Whatever your list is, I recommend you write it down. Then, read it before heading into the interview.

These are things that you need to display, and things that you expect your future coworkers to have.

Try to convey each of those things through your speech and actions! Show them how fun it is to work with you. And don’t forget that interviews are a two-way street. Look for these same qualities on your interviewers!

🦻Listen to the interviewer

The interviewer is not there to make your life harder.

Well, that’s not true.

The interviewer is making your life a little bit hard on purpose by putting you on tough spots, but they’re not doing it to see you suffer.

They’re doing it to see how you react.

It’s completely normal to get stuck in an interview, to find the problems hard to solve. The interviewers expect this. They designed the wustion hoping that would happen!

However, they will usually have a list of hints to give if they see you’re having a hard time. That’s expected, because it tests how well you listen to feedback, and how a normal code pairing session would go with you.

But you have to listen carefully to pick up on them!

Therefore, every time an interviewer tries to say something, assume they’re guiding you towards the right answer, and listen carefully!

If the interviewer is trying to help, and you’re not listening, what does that tell them about their potential interactions with you at the job?

Assume the best intentions from the interviewer, and make an effort to listen as though they were a close friend.

🗣Think out loud

Good interview questions are designed to put the candidate in tough spots, so that the interviewers can see how they react to them.

In an ideal interview, the candidate works through a problem they haven’t seen before, and the interviewers can see how they work through the problem.

The question will be tough, which means there will be times where you will be tempted to stop talking and think. Resists that temptation as much as possible!

As we said before, the interviewer is not there to be mean, or to see you suffer. If they see your thought process straying too far from the right path, they will try to help!

But, for them to see you’re veering off the right path, they need to know what you’re thinking!

So, do your best to think out loud, even if you’re not sure about what you’re saying!

💡If you don’t make it, ask your recruiter for feedback

This one is pretty straightforward.

We’re not going to get all the jobs we apply for. That’s normal and expected!

However, we can debug our own approach to interviews. As with everything in life, we can learn to become better candidates.

In order to learn, you need to know what you could have done better. Sometimes, it’s pretty hard to know that!

At least, for us as the candidates.

For the interviewers, they know exactly why they said no. In fact, they probably had a detailed discussion about it, where the recruiter was present!

Take advantage of that!

The company would have loved to see you succeed so that they can stop spending time in the hiring process. They want you to grow into a good candidate for them.

For this reason, after an interview, it’s very reasonable to politely ask the recruiter for feedback.

Most recruiters will give you a lot of the context that went into the hiring decision.

That way, you can know exactly what to work on for next time!

💃Have fun!

I know this one is probably the hardest.

But, think about it this way: If you’ve made it to the in-person round of interviews, you’ve made it pretty far (~85% of the candidates don’t make it)!

Chances are you’ll get a job soon.

So, instead of seeing the interview as this frustrating trial by fire, try to see it as an opportunity to talk about an interesting problem with a very knowledgeable person.

An interview is an opportunity to have a conversation about an interesting problem with a very knowledgeable person.

Try to (gasp!) enjoy the experience, and even to learn something along the way!

Disengage yourself from the result, and try to get the most out of the interview regardless of whether you get the job.

And this is not just for your benefit:

If you are enjoying the experience, chances are the interviewer is enjoying it as well. And coming back to the second point: Who doesn’t want to work with someone that makes hard problems fun to work on?

So: Relax, and have fun!

Conclusion

These are all things that everyone would benefit of doing more of.

If these have been helpful at all, I’d love to hear from you! Nothing would make me happier than contributing to someone getting a job, even a little bit!