Preparing for technical interviews can be stressful at first, but if you spend enough time improving your communication skills and researching the company in advance, you will be well prepared to confidently answer all the technical interview questions the employer might ask.
An onsite interview will be one of many steps in the job search process for a future software developer or computer engineer. If you are a strong candidate and among the finalists for an open position, you may make it to the technical round after an initial phone interview. A technical interview will not only assess your knowledge, but also your logical approach and thought process, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and presentation style.
So, what exactly is a technical interview?
Each company handles the interview process differently. The format and questions will mostly depend on your potential role. Typically, you will be asked to complete a challenge or assignment, such as solving an equation or brain teaser on a whiteboard, explaining an algorithm, or implementing programming and coding skills quickly in real time.
You may be asked to complete the technical assignment on your own and submit it (it may occur as part of your in-person interview round) or via video conference.
Whether you are studying engineering, computer science, or information technology, finding your first internship or job in STEM is a process. While your resume, cover letter, technical skills, and education help you secure the interview, your interviewing skills are what will finally land you the job.
Here is our technical interview cheat sheet to help you prepare for and ace your interview.
1. Practice and prepare
Researching the company and your interviewers beforehand is a key part of how to prepare for a technical interview. Come prepared to do a verbal walk-through of your coding skills, IT implementation, or other problem-solving tasks. Be ready to answer some form of the following basic questions:
Which technical certifications do you have?
Which technical academic courses have you taken?
How do you stay current on new technical developments?
What are a few of your technical strengths and weaknesses?
2. Get specific
Different technical careers have specific skill sets. Look online for commonly asked technical interview questions that relate to the job you are applying for. For example, search for “front end interview questions” to gain insight on what you may be asked when interviewing for a front-end developer role. While your interview will include some open-ended questions, preparing answers that relate to a specific technical skill just might be what sets you apart from the competition.
3. Show your skills
Your technical interview will most likely include at least one coding challenge or assignment related to your field. Glassdoor, a job listings and career help site, has thousands of real-life technical interview question examples shared by job candidates. (Note that these may change by the time of your interview, so use them only as a guide.) These examples can be great for interview prep, but remember it is not about getting the “right” answer that will score you points, it is also how you go about finding solutions and logical paths. So, do not focus on memorizing, but be ready to…
4. Think out loud
Whatever you do, do not go silent during your technical interview. When solving a problem, explain your thought process. Walk the interviewer through your reasoning to show your method of critical thinking, how you tackle problems, and the ways you find solutions. Take a deep breath and do not rush: use your time to explain your ideas, either out loud or on a whiteboard, if available.
5. Give multiple options
There is usually more than one way to solve a tech problem or answer a programming interview question. Show your versatility and flexibility by offering more than one solution when solving the problem. Discuss different approaches and your reasoning behind implementing each way of problem-solving, using different languages, constraints, or paradigms.
6. Be confident
Convey your leadership capabilities and depth of technical knowledge by sharing your unique way of working through problems. Be willing to talk about the approaches you have developed during your coursework and how they affect the way you approach challenges. How you think and work is a direct reflection of what you will be bringing to the company.
7. Be respectful and open
If you sense that your interviewer disagrees with your opinions, leave space for his or her perspective. Do not focus on your differences, but instead on how they might align. Remember, there is more than one right way to solve most problems, and you may have a lot to learn from this new person. Be humble and stay open to new ideas.
8. Never say these three words
Using “umm” and “well” and “like” while you gather your thoughts during complicated technical interview questions is understandable, but try to avoid “I do not know” in response to a question you are unsure of. Instead, reframe uncertainty with curiosity. Say something like, “I am interested in the ways ABC is changing the field and am planning to learn more about that by studying XYZ.”
9. Be ready to collaborate
When applying to be part of a team, your soft STEM skills are an indicator of how you will perform along with your coworkers. Your interviewer is looking for cues that you can put the goals of the company above your ego. This means deep listening, showing willingness to compromise, and receptiveness to feedback. Talk about your experience with classmates and/or campus groups to illustrate how you have worked with others to achieve a goal, even when it was not easy.
10. Keep it positive
Many interviewers ask difficult technical interview questions to see how you handle setbacks and other challenging situations. Are you agile? How do you recover? Show that you are willing to change course to find the right way to a better outcome. If you falter in the technical interview, regroup and keep it positive.
Like any interview, it is valuable to practice beforehand with an advisor or friend. Of course, dress professionally, bring your laptop, a notepad, and a pen, and copies of your resume. Follow up after to say thank you and remember to breathe and stay calm. The more you prepare for your technical interview questions, the more confident you will be on the big day. Best of luck!
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