Master the technical interview

Technical interviews are quite different than your standard interview. There are some of the behavioral questions that you should be ready for along with testing your technical chops. Especially when you have little or no technical experience these can really trip someone up.

I remember the first time I had a technical interview was when I was trying to get an internship in college. I was not prepared at all for the questions about database theory and object-oriented programming. After being through interviews and then interviewing technical people I have learned a great deal.

Preparation

As I mentioned before I learned this one the hard way. If you are not prepared you are not getting a callback for the next round. Most companies will start with a phone interview to screen out those that lack the proper skills. This is usually done by a Human Resources professional to get a baseline. Then if you pass the initial hurdle you will be asked for a technical phone screen and a few other rounds of in-person interviews.

You should know the basic technologies involved and questions they might ask. Take some time and refresh your memory if it has been awhile since your last interview. Also, make sure you go through your resume and have some scenarios you can share and questions to ask. A small technology firm executive once shared, “if you don’t have questions ready you are not prepared.” So have a list ready to ask when you come to your interview.

Know your basics

After you work a few years as a technology professional you tend to forget some of the basic questions you might get asked in an interview situation. For instance, as a developer, we tend to get asked basic questions about the benefits of object-oriented programming. When you use something every day we forget about these basic questions.

On one hand, these basic questions can be annoying but, from the standpoint of the people interviewing you, they need to establish the basis of your level of information and experience. A friend of mine is a DBA and he is amazed at the candidates with experience can’t talk about the value of relational databases.

Review sample interview questions

There are so many sample interview questions out there to review if you can’t find any you are not looking. I have heard a few people say that I should not have to do this if I know it. I would disagree as this step is an important part of your preparation. Remember an interview is like a performance and we can get nervous. If you practice sample interview questions you will sound polished.

For instance, as a Java Developer, I found many great examples of interview questions with a simple Google search. Toptal has a few good ones, including “Describe and compare fail-fast and fail-safe iterators. Give examples.” Along with a good explanation. “The main distinction between fail-fast and fail-safe iterators is whether or not the collection can be modified while it is being iterated. Fail-safe iterators allow this; fail-fast iterators do not.”

Practice interviewing with a friend

The best way to get better at interviewing is to practice it with a friend or colleague. Try to find someone in a similar line of work so they can coach you on your answers. This would be a good place to use some of those sample interview questions that you already found. Give them to your partner to guide the process.

Practice Whiteboarding

Many technical interviews will require you to go over a topic or question and explain it using the whiteboard. This is a presentation skill that you may use sparingly so give it some practice. This takes time and some visualization skills that you may be rusty on.

Most whiteboard interviews will have you code a solution to a problem while they ask you questions. The overall goal for this type of exercise is to understand how you solve problems not so much of your technical skills. We all run into roadblocks and we need to demonstrate our skills in working through them.

Communication skills

There is a stereotype of technical people have terrible communication skills. Now I think this can be overplayed and it is not as bad but, there is still a fair share of us who lack strong communication skills. This deficit is really hard to overcome when interviewing.

When you think communication skills you probably focus on speaking and that is important. Speaking clearly and concisely is crucial. Listening to what is being said as well as how it is being said is also significant. The non-verbal cues also help us pick up on how we can respond. Some of us might think that politeness is not worth mentioning, but I would strongly suggest you reconsider. Polite and friendly people will earn major points in the crucial first three minutes of an interview where most decisions are made.

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