How to Prepare for and Succeed at Technical Interviews
As a Software Engineer, the process of finding a job is often a long and challenging one. Candidates often go through multiple rounds of interviews, starting with a cultural interview and then moving on to some sort of technical interview after that. The mere mention of a technical interview is enough to strike fear in the heart. Technical interviews are notoriously difficult and intimidating. They are designed to test a candidate’s programming ability and knowledge of algorithmic concepts as well as demonstrate how the candidate communicates with a team and works through new and difficult challenges.
While technical interviews are not necessarily an enjoyable experience, they are an unavoidable part of becoming a Software Engineer. Luckily, there are many things that you can do to ensure that you are prepared for any technical interview and are able to focus on letting your programming skills and knowledge shine through. Technical interviews are a good gauge of how a candidate will perform on the job.
Code Often and Consistently
First and foremost, practice is the most important thing you can do to ensure success as a Software Engineer. While online courses, articles, and video tutorials are great learning resources, there is no substitute for actually doing the thing. The best way to solidify your knowledge and to keep your skills sharp is to put it into practice and to incorporate it into a real project. A crucial part of staying competitive in the job search is coding often and consistently. Set out some time in your daily schedule to write and review your code. A good way to hold yourself accountable is to publicly commit to participating in a coding challenge, such as #100DaysofCode, or to start a green streak of GitHub commits. Whatever way works for you, just get yourself in your chair and code away.
Algorithms and Data Structures
Another huge part of ensuring success in the technical interview is to make sure you are knowledgable about algorithms and important concepts in computer science, such as data structures and Big O notation. This is what is most challenging for many new developers. In order to get comfortable with computer science concepts, you will have to spend the time studying and solving algorithmic code. There are many helpful resources for this, and a few of my favorites are listed below:
Mock Technical Interviews
Interviews are anxiety-inducing for many people, and if you’re among those people, mock interviews are a great way for you to get practice in a low pressure environment. There are platforms, such as interviewing.io, that exist for this purpose. Mock technical interviews are a wonderful tool to help you get comfortable with the idea of technical interviews, get feedback from real developers, and know what to expect in a real technical interview. The more interviews you do, the less scary they become and the more you get better at them.
The Real Interview
During the actual interview, make sure you remind yourself to breathe and to try and relax. If you’ve put in the work, you know what you’re doing and you will impress the interviewer. Beyond being prepared, during the interview, when you are given a coding challenge, you first want to make sure that you read the question and understand it. It’s a good idea to rephrase the question in your own words and to ask any clarification questions so you know exactly what the question is asking for before you get into coding.
As you are coding, make sure you talk through your code so that the interviewer gets a feel for your thought process and how you think about code. Test your code as you go and make sure you are testing it often. And if you run into a point in which you’re stuck, don’t panic or give up — ask questions, use Google to your advantage (if the interviewer allows it), and talk through your thinking and any ideas you might have on next steps. This gives the interviewer a chance to see how you react when confronted with a challenge — you will be challenged on the job, so it’s imperative to cultivate good practices when you get stuck.