So, you’re a developer, and you have an interview coming up. Congratulations! That’s a big deal. But do you know what’s more important than having the right blend of skills and experience for the role?
Demonstrating you can put it into practice in your technical interview.
In software development recruitment, interviews are a whole different level of intensity. The technical interview is a specialised, rigorous process with challenges and assignments that can feel more like exams than interviews. Developers are often asked to explain their code or write some code on the spot during an interview. It might seem a bit mean to put you under pressure in an artificial environment when you’re already nervous, but developers need to be able to code on their feet as part of their daily jobs. And there are ways to conquer the nerves and ace this process.
What to expect
Don’t be intimidated by the technical interview. It’s not meant to trick you with impossible questions, or even to gauge your knowledge of every little thing a developer could possibly know. The goal is to see how you approach solving real-world problems: what tools do you reach for first? How do you break down difficult problems into smaller chunks? What kinds of solutions have worked for you in the past?
It’s also a chance for companies to see how well-rounded your skills are—are there any languages or frameworks that jump out at them? Do they notice any trends or patterns in their answers? In short, it’s a chance for them to get an idea of who they’d be working with if they gave them an offer.
What does a technical interview involve?
The technical interview is a way for employers to test your knowledge of the technology, as well as your ability to solve problems.
This is usually done by asking you questions and giving you some time to think about them before you answer. You may also be asked to write code during the interview, or have a problem-solving session with a whiteboard (the dreaded whiteboard challenge!) or other tools. Sometimes employers will be very transparent about what skills tests or practical tasks you’ll be asked to take part in so you’re prepared. Others will keep things quite secret so you are surprised on the day and don’t have time to prepare.
The interview process can be quite lengthy; some companies will ask you back for several interviews with different people before making their decision about whether they want to hire you.
The technical questions
When you get to the technical part of the interview, it’s important to remember that these questions are not designed to test your knowledge per se: They’re designed to test your behaviour.
You’ll want to approach this part of the interview like a conversation. Interviewers may ask questions like:
“How would you explain APIs to non-technical staff?”
“If you were reviewing a team member’s code, what would your process be and what are the most important aspects to focus on?”
“Thinking about your latest project, how did you handle any challenges or obstacles? What was the outcome?”
The coding challenges
These may take place as an open coding challenge where you’ll compete against other candidates, or you may be asked to complete a remote coding challenge on your own. Many recruiters use a screening quiz with multiple coding challenges to test your skills.
You could also be asked to complete a real-time, in-person coding challenge. You would be asked to complete this on the spot, whilst talking through your process. You’ll usually be asked to write a function to solve a problem or generate a specified result. Like the infamous Fibonacci challenge.
Beyond the code
Like all interviews, technical interviews are designed to assess how you communicate as much as how what you know. Your interviewers will be looking for evidence of your ability to communicate complex technical concepts. A previous candidate reported that an interviewer once asked them, “How do you find the height of a triangle?” In response, the candidate opened a new browser tab and Googled it. And this was an acceptable answer. You’re allowed to not know things – so long as you know you don’t know, and have the curiosity and wherewithal to find out.
Communicate problem-solving skills. Interviewers are interested in seeing how creative and resourceful you can be when faced with problems similar to those experienced on the job—so come up with at least one example of how you solved an interesting problem while working on past projects, preferably something that required more than just code changes.
How to prepare for a technical interview
As with all interviews, research the company and the role. Ensure you have a detailed brief from the hiring manager or your recruiter and know what to expect at every stage.
Become an expert in your chosen coding language and ensure a broader knowledge base across multiple others. Do regular coding challenges in varied formats, including practising coding by hand and talking through your processes to verbalise your reasoning.
Revise tech fundamentals as well as consider projects you’ve worked on and can draw upon as examples. Sharpen your interview skills with mock interviews, and if you need to you can find a coding mentor to go through mock challenges with you.
Remember interview basics, too. Be on time, dress appropriately, and take your laptop, writing materials and CV. Also prepare a list of meaningful questions
As you prepare for your technical interview, remember to have confidence in yourself and your skills. Imposter syndrome can set in when we’re feeling at our most scrutinised. If you’re the right person for the job, then they need you! You both have value and power in the interview situation.
We promise we’ll be with you every step of the way of your technical interview process. Find your next developer role on our website by taking a look at our current vacancies.