If you’re applying for a developer or engineering job at a startup, you will likely have to take a technical interview at some point in the process. A technical interview is all about your potential employer putting your problem-solving skills to the test. It serves both to prove your proficiency and see if your method gels with your potential coworkers.
Technical interviews can take different forms – everything from whiteboard tests to phone screens to code reviews to take-home tests. In an interview with job review site Glassdoor, Cracking the Coding Interview author Gayle Laakmann McDowell notes that “The goal of these interviews is to evaluate the candidate’s problem-solving skills and to see if they can translate their thought-process into reasonably correct, well-structured code.”
For people new to the tech world, technical interviews can be intimidating. Even though the process is a little different than most other industries, you don’t need to be intimidated. Here are five tips for acing your first technical interview:
Understand why you’re taking a technical interview
At most companies, technical interviews are designed to make sure a potential hire is qualified, works well under pressure, and is able to work collaboratively with others. More than anything else, technical interviews are designed around these three points.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
One of the biggest problems at technical interviews is that interviewees are afraid to ask questions or admit that they don’t know something. Coding is a group process, and interviewers know that no single developer knows everything. It’s better to ask for help or clarification on ambiguous questions than risk going it alone and not showcasing your best work.
Make two versions of your take-home tests
Take-home tests give applicants the ability to take their time when answering questions and to refer as needed to reference sources like Google and Stack Overflow. If you have time, take the test on your own once. Take it another time to check answers and techniques online to make sure your answers are accurate. Another benefit? This allows you to identify your weak points.
Technical interviews don’t take place in vacuums. You can usually get a good idea of what a company’s technical interviews will be like by consulting Glassdoor, Github, or a company’s technical blogs. You can also lean on resources like Project Euler and Interview Cake for additional practice.
Use your people skills
At many technical interviews, job applicants can feel intimidated or shy. A good technical interview is a two-way process: You’re making sure you want to work at a company as much as a company wants to work with you. Avoid being arrogant or overly nervous, and try to enjoy the process of testing while you are taking part.
Technical interviewing isn’t a perfect process. Some people who do badly in technical interviews are great developers. Other people who ace technical interviews aren’t the best developers in day-to-day work. By practicing your skills and knowing what to expect, your first technical interview will be a breeze.