The Art of Interviewing for Tech Jobs

Introduction

Interviewing in Tech is a demanding process. You will go through all these phases and spend hours just to sometimes get rejected at the end or realize that the company you thought was fantastic is actually not so great.

Here is an overview of what to expect from the interview process and how to prepare to ensure you succeed!

Interview Phases

The interview process for a Software Engineer and related roles is divided into four steps. An initial meeting to align interests, a take-home challenge, one or several tech interviews, and a cultural & behavioral interview to see if you would strive in the company environment.

1. Recruiter Meeting

This is an introductory “interview” where you get to know the company and role better and present yourself. The talk will generally go through the following steps:

  • Recruiter introduces the company and role
  • You introduce yourself
  • The recruiter talks about the interview process, compensation & questions

Tips:

  • Make sure to ask whatever you want to know about the role that wasn’t clear from the job posting. This is the time to do it.
  • The interviewer is there to help you, not to make your life hard. This is no cliché motivational phrase for LinkedIn. First, the recruiter will likely get a commission if you are hired. Second, the company is hoping that you are a good fit for the job so they can finally stop looking for people to fill that role. Your success is their success.

2. Take-home challenge (Sometimes)

Some companies will send you a programming challenge that might take anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours to complete. Normally they will look for how clear your code is and how you structure it. It will also be used to discuss in the tech interview your implementation. This will serve the purpose of understanding how you make decisions and deal with challenges.

The project might be anything from a REST API to a Data structures & Algorithms (LeetCode, HackerRank-like) question.

Tips:

  • Keep it clean: don’t add excessive comments or too many extras. The objective is not to show off — It is mainly to have a basis that you are a capable engineer and to have something to discuss later.
  • This one is crucial: either make clarifying questions when possible or if you make assumptions about the project outline, write them in the README.md and explain why you made those decisions.

3. Technical Interview(s)

This phase will consist of some of the following options: Discussing the take-home challenge, solving a white-board challenge, doing some live coding, doing a code review, technical/theoretical questions, and system design & architecture.

It can be completed in one go or be divided into several phases with different interviewers.

Tips:

  • If you don’t understand a question completely, ask for clarification. This will not only help you give a more fitting answer but also allow you to not rush into the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Think out loud. Explain your thought process in a clear and organized way whenever you are going through options in your mind. The interviewer wants to see how you get to a solution, not how well you can memorize something. Showing a solid thought process matters more than getting the correct answer.

4. Cultural & Behavioral Interview

This might be performed by the Hiring Manager / Engineering Manager / CTO / CEO, depending on the size and type of the company you are interviewing for.

Overall, what will be evaluated during the conversation is your behavioral and cultural fit to the company as well as your motivation and goals. Expect questions like “Tell me about something you’ve accomplished that you are proud of”, “Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult person”, or “Tell me about a time you had to learn something quickly”.

Tips:

  • Before going into this interview, review your past experiences and try to remember challenges, accomplishments, conflicts, and how you reacted to them. A common way to structure your thought process is using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). There are many articles about this online if you want to explore it further.
  • These questions are very nuanced and do not have a “correct” answer. You should answer honestly and show that you care for what you do (hopefully that’s the case).

Final Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope it was helpful.

What has your interview experience been like? Anything that you think is missing? Feel free to leave it down in the comments to share with others!

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Miguel Saraiva

Miguel Saraiva

Software Engineer looking to learn & share knowledge.