Posted

The technical interview process can be very daunting, catching many software engineers off guard. 

In this article, we will walk through the various complexities of technical interviews and how to ace this particular section of the recruitment process. We will explore suitable presenting methods, how to approach coding exercises, tackling system design assessments, and navigating behavioral queries

The insights provided will guide software engineers in preparing for a technical interview so they can effectively demonstrate their coding and analytical capabilities. We also consider remote interview scenarios and how to stand out from the crowd in a virtual environment. 

What is a Technical Interview

Recruitment in the tech industry involves multiple stages and one key stage is the technical interview. This stage focuses on determining the technical capabilities of the candidate, and assessing their problem-solving skills and thought processes. 

A technical interview can vary in duration, with some taking as little as an hour and others spanning over a full working day. The exam length will typically depend on the amount of expertise and technical knowledge needed to fulfill the role. 

Technical interviews can also be delivered in several formats – in-person, over the phone, or online via a video call. 

Common technical interview questions include:

General

  • What programming languages are you comfortable with?
  • What are your greatest strengths as a software engineer?
  • What technical certifications do you have?
  • What is the project you are most proud of?
  • How do you stay up-to-date on your technical certifications and industry changes?

Technical

  • What is the role of continuous integration systems?
  • What is a Storage Area Network (SAN) and how do they work?
  • When should you denormalize database design?
  • What is your process when coding a database server?
  • Describe the Agile methodology and its benefits.

Tip – Try not to deviate from the question. If a particular question pertains to Python, then briefly explain how you have experience working on a Python platform without going off on a tangent. This doesn’t only confirm your knowledge, but also showcases your mastery of utilizing it. 

How to Prepare for a Technical Interview

Preparation is key to a successful technical interview. Therefore, it is vital to fully understand the job role and what it involves. This will give you the best possible platform to answer any challenging questions that are fired your way. 

Determine what Skills and Tools you need for the Job

Pinpoint the exact requirements of the job by thoroughly reviewing the job description and criteria. The job description may refer to specific data structures, programming languages, business intelligence tools, and more.

It can also be helpful to create a mock outline of the technical interview. This will help you to create a structure to effectively answer any questions promptly and to refresh your memory about any areas that have become a little hazy. 

Always study the company and its clientele before the interview. If they’re dealing with, specific services like offering digital payment services to SaaS brands, you should read up on PCI DSS compliance and network security, while still brushing up on the basics of your main tech stack.

Refer to Helpful Publications

By establishing the skills and tools needed to do the job, you can then move on to finding relevant publications to give you a better understanding of certain aspects. 

Helpful publications can include (but are not limited to):

  • Technical books such as those that focus on coding styles and management techniques.
  • Online publications such as blog posts by experts in the field.
  • Documentation taken from online courses to help you practice specific technical elements.

How to be Successful in a Technical Interview

Once you feel properly prepared for any technical questions that you are likely to face, you can then begin to focus on the individual elements of the interview, such as presentations and technical assessments. Below are several interview components that you are likely to encounter during a technical interview for a software engineering role. 

Presentations

Many employers like to assess candidates by having them create technical presentations to showcase their experience and skills. Although this may seem a little daunting, it can be a relatively straightforward part of the interview process if you follow a sensible framework and prepare accordingly. 

  1. Choose your topic carefully to display your skill set effectively
  2. Start with an introduction to provide a brief background
  3. Organize your presentation so it follows a logical order that flows well
  4. Add context – why was your chosen project required and who was the target audience
  5. Elaborate on at least one challenge you must overcome to successfully deliver the project.

Tip – If your presentation feels a little too brief then consider including a section on your wider skill set and experience. This could be anything from being able to use Kali Linux, specialized pentesting tools, or working on personal game development projects. It shows that you care enough about coding to do it in your free time. 

Coding Exercise

A coding exercise is included in most technical exercises to allow candidates to display their expertise in a real-world environment. Tasks can vary but typically involve creating a simple software product or an element of a larger piece of software. 

This exercise aims to assess the candidate’s workflow and coding capabilities. Sometimes, the employer may also include a debugging exercise to evaluate the candidate’s problem-solving ability. For example, if the company builds user-facing software, your experience building a JavaScript PDF viewer or working with Django can make some particular questions easier. 

Alternatively, if it’s a B2B company and you’ve, let’s say, worked on roofing software, emphasize what you did to fulfill the goal of the client. Don’t just focus on the technical part of the interview—instead, give your know-how a purpose through accomplishments and strategizing. 

To prepare for this stage, it is recommended to study books and online material on any elements that you are a little rusty about. You could even devise your coding exercises to practice. 

System Design Assessments

System design assessments can be quite mysterious and come as a surprise for some candidates. They are often included as part of a second-stage interview. The goal of this assessment is to gain further insight into a candidate’s coding skills by having them design a web-scale application or other type of software system. 

This type of assessment is more niche than a standard coding example. For instance, it could involve methods of how to enhance Kubernetes clusters or how to run stateless apps.

Like coding exercises, the key to impressing in this interview stage is through practice and study. Refer back to some of your previous projects and compile notes on how you designed each coding element. 

Behavioral Queries

Behavioral queries involve an assessment of past behaviors, focusing on hypothetical questions such as how candidates react to pressure or adverse situations. Questions can also be more specific and based on hypothetical situations, such as a certain team-based exercise. 

It is possible to preempt this type of questioning by reading the job description carefully to determine what your role in the company will be. This will allow you to create a range of problematic workplace situations that may be included in the interview. 

Tips for Navigating a Remote (Virtual) Technical Interview

Remote interviews can be stressful, especially for people who are a little camera-shy and prefer face-to-face interviews. However, a remote interview is no different from an in-person interview, and the same rules apply. 

Here are 10 tips on how to navigate a remote technical interview:

  1. Create a clean, tidy, and comfortable space, with an appropriate background
  2. Ensure the room is well-lit and has a stable wi-fi connection
  3. Download any video call software well in advance
  4. Remove any distractions (E.G. your cell phone)
  5. Minimize any background noise
  6. If you’re using a laptop, make sure it is fully charged or plugged into the socket
  7. Do a quick test of your camera and microphone before the interview
  8. Make sure you know who is supposed to initiate the video call
  9. Maintain eye contact
  10. Be sure to nod and smile to provide appropriate responses, as interviewers will be unable to read your body language. 

Conclusion

Technical interviews have become a key element in the software engineering recruitment process. They are designed to test a candidate’s experience and skills by simulating real-world scenarios, such as the development of a web application or software product. 

In addition, technical interviews also involve questions relating to the candidate’s behavioral traits, problem-solving, and ability to communicate with others.

With the correct preparation, a technical interview can be no more challenging than a regular interview. Particularly if you are confident in your ability and are up-to-date on the latest working practices and methodologies.