The technical interview is probably the most widely feared and poorly understood aspect of the job-and hunting process. A lot of candidates have misconceptions about what is expected of them, and how best to approach a process which can seem difficult to prepare for. Very often, candidates sour their chances not because they haven’t prepared enough, but because they’ve prepared in an unhelpful way, or misunderstood the purpose of the technical interview Here we’ve put together some insights on the nature of the technical interview, and what mistake you should avoid making.
It’s An Interview, Jim, But Not As We Know It
It may sound like a lab exercise, but it’s still an interview, and you will obviously need to dress appropriately. Of course, what constitutes appropriate clothing is somewhat less obvious these days, as many companies have come to embrace the ‘serious without a suit’ ethos of Silicon Valley. You can’t go too far wrong with suit-trousers and a shirt, maybe a jacket. A good way to think about it is not what you would wear to work every day, but what you would wear to a meeting with a client. You want to look practical yet professional.
Cut the Cramming
Technical interviews are rarely, if ever, about knowledge regurgitation. They are usually about thinking clearly and quickly. As such, cramming all night at the cost of rest or sleep is not an intelligent trade-off. Sure, brush-up in the run-up, but don’t convince yourself that an extra hour of study will help far more than losing an hour’s sleep will hurt. Have a fresh-head going into the interview- it’ll pay off when you need to think on your feet.
It’s All About The Question
Make sure you understand the question, and if you don’t, make sure that you ask questions about the question. Not all the points available depend on a correct answer. There may not even be a ‘correct’ answer as such. Technical interviews are not like an exam – your approach, attitude, and behaviour are all being assessed, and sometimes the questions will be set-up to frustrate or confuse so the interviewer can see how you react. The questions you ask can be just as important as any solution you provide. Remember, the problem is artificial. They don’t need a solution, they just want to see how you work. And whatever you do, don’t try and bluff your way through. A bluff is a kind of lie, and you do not want to be caught lying in your interview. It will destroy your credibility, and you will not get the job.
Talk- Don’t Babble
If you’re asked a question that you can answer with one word, don’t. “Can you work with Python?” is not a ‘yes or no’ question. Describe your abilities and substantiate them with examples. But that does not mean you begin with “Four-score and seven years ago…” and proceed to detail your life-long love-affair with all things Python. Be succinct – the interviewer wants to know about your technical abilities, and you should describe them concisely.
This may seem obvious, but many candidates start to look frustrated and forlorn if the going gets tough. Remember, in the job you’re applying for the going is probably going to get tough at some point, and your interviewer will be taking note of how you react to such circumstances. Don’t act dejected or annoyed. Don’t start telling yourself that the question is stupid or pointless, because even if you don’t want to, you will start looking dejected or annoyed. You need to seem engaged and interested, because that is what they will want from you in your job.
Hopefully these broad pointers will give you some idea of the mindset you need to do well in a technical interview, and what you need to avoid if you want to land the job!