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Prepare For & Nail Your First Tech Interview: Here’s How

General Assembly
September 7, 2022

Technical jobs are some of the highest-paying ones out there. If you want to get into tech, you’ll need to master a set of hard and soft skills and your tech interview skills to land the job you love.

Technical interviews are designed to assess candidates’ problem-solving skills inside the company and their suitability for the role, including their depth of knowledge in the field or any potential difficulties that may arise on the job. They also aim to gauge whether applicants have good communication skills and problem-solving abilities.

To start, here are some critical tech interview do’s and don’ts.

Tech interview do’s and don’ts

To start, it’s critical to establish some basic interview do’s and don’ts. A strong interview is a determining factor in securing your new dream job, you want to make sure you get things right from the beginning. These simple tips will build a strong foundation for acing your first tech interview.

Tip #1: Research the company

In the era of remote work and zoom interviews, it may be easier than before to have the company “About Us” section open on Google during your interview. This isn’t necessarily a bad practice, however, studying the company, its products/services, and its mission before the interview is vital.

One of the earliest questions the recruiter/employer will ask is, “what do you know about our company?”. This is a critical moment to showcase your industry knowledge, passion for the company’s products/services, and why you want to join the company to help achieve its mission.

Providing a good answer for this question also shows the interviewer that you are organized, keen to learn new things, and confident in yourself and your answer.

“Confidence is key, however, you get there! Whether that’s being authentic, asking questions, researching a ton before, practicing before, being genuinely curious, or being confident helps so much,” explains Denton Josey, Career Coach at General Assembly.

Tip #2: Do ask questions

One of the most underrated and beneficial things you can do before an interview is prepping a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer. Similar to the above, it conveys that you have taken the time to prepare and think about the role.

One of the key aspects to keep in mind about interviews is that their purpose is not only to learn if you are the right person for the role, but they’re also about making sure you feel like you would be a great match with the team and company culture.

“Transform every single job responsibility and qualification into an interview question you can prep for,” adds John Bacolores, Career Couch at General Assembly.

Some sample questions you can ask the interviewer include:

  • What are the biggest challenges of this role?
  • Will I get to meet everyone on my team before joining?
  • How will my role help the company achieve its mission, vision, and values?
  • What’s the company culture like?
  • Does the role entail professional development opportunities?

Tip #3: Don’t speak badly about former employers

One of the other common questions you are likely to be asked at the beginning of the interview is, “why are you leaving your current company?”. It’s crucial that you answer this question honestly, but remember not to speak poorly of your old employers.

You never know who you will be working with in the future. Your old employer and colleagues might become your new teammates or managers at your new company. It’s important not to burn bridges, as building professional connections is vital, especially when you are a career changer. A review from your old manager about your transferable skills can be valuable.

Tip #4: Don’t be late, it’s a very important date

Whether it’s an in-person or virtual interview, never be late. It’s totally unprofessional and automatically can eliminate you from your candidacy for the role. If you’re attending a virtual interview, make sure you run a tech check beforehand.

Here’s a small pre-interview at-home tech checklist:

  • Are your audio and microphone working correctly?
  • Is your wifi working? (sometimes, it’s safer to switch to a wired connection during the interview).
  • Is your laptop up-to-date? (the last thing you want is a forced update taking control of your laptop).
  • Is the app you are going to use up-to-date? (whether it’s Zoom, Google Meets, or Microsoft teams, make sure they are up-to-date and you are signed it).

Tip #5: Do dress the part

In this instance, we don’t think your dress code should be altered much, whether it’s an in-person or virtual interview. But, if you’re not sure what to wear, always aim for smart casual; it’s the safest option.

The tech industry dress code tends to be less formal than, let’s say, the finance industry. However, first impressions are the most memorable, so we recommend you don’t take the risk and go for some smart casual attire.

13 most commonly asked tech interview questions

According to Indeed, in addition, the interviewer asking you about your technical knowledge and skills, such as your coding skills, data analytics, data science skills etc. You will also be asked about your thought process when solving problems and how you will fit into the company’s culture. 

The questions asked during a technical interview can fall into the following four categories:

  1. Behavioral questions
  2. Situational questions
  3. Questions about your education
  4. Questions about your technical knowledge and experience

Let’s take a look at sample questions for each of the above categories and how best to approach answering these:

Sample behavioural tech interview questions

For behavioral tech interview questions, we recommend using the STAR interview technique. STAR helps you focus on identifying the Situation, Task, Action and Results of an experience relevant to the questions being asked. Some sample questions include:

Q1. What were your roles and responsibilities on the most recent projects you worked on?

Q2. What project are you most proud of, and how did you contribute?

Q3. Do you prefer to work alone or on a team?

Sample situational tech interview questions

You can also refer to the STAR method to best answer situational tech interview questions. However, this time the interviewer wants to know if you have anticipated certain workplace challenges that may arise and how you would respond to them. Here are some sample questions to further explain:

Q4. What would you do if you were asked to perform a task and weren’t sure how to complete it?

Q5. Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond your expected tasks while working on a project?

Q6. How would you overcome the challenge of working with a difficult co-worker on a team project?

Sample education interview questions

Educational questions are a standard set of questions you can expect, especially as a career changer entering a new industry. Remember to highlight any certificates, courses, or bootcamps you’ve completed to get to where you are today. Some sample educational questions include:

Q7. How did your education prepare you for this job?

Q8. What technical certificates do you have?

Q9. What do you do to stay up-to-date on your technical certificate and knowledge?

Sample questions about your technical knowledge & experience

Technical questions tend to be left until the end of the interview. Therefore, when answering the below sample technical questions, it’s essential to show your ability to communicate your understanding of technical knowledge questions and showcase how you’ve used your technical skills during bootcamps, internships, past jobs, etc.

Q10. What coding languages are you most comfortable with?

Q11. What is SAN, and how is it used?

Q12. When is it appropriate to denormalize database design?

Q13. What is the role of continuous integration systems in the automated-build process?

How to prepare to ace your tech interview

Now that we have covered the basic do’s and don’ts and the top most common questions for tech interviews, let’s look at some of the core ways you can prepare in advance to help you ace your next tech interview.

Prep your portfolio

Portfolios are crucial to building your personal brand and grabbing the attention of recruiters and employers. Portfolios are also a great tool to help you amplify your tech skills. When prepping your tech portfolio for an upcoming interview, consider the following tips:

  • Your portfolio doesn’t have to be a website. It can be a simple pdf you link on your rèsume.
  • Ideally, you want your portfolio to be a collection of three to five case studies that show the problem you were trying to solve and how you solved it.
  • If you collaborate with others on a project, you need to clearly show your contribution, critical thinking processes, and ideation.
  • Employers also like to see your critical thinking process so make sure you showcase all your brainstorms, wireframes, and sketches.
  • Make sure you summarize and highlight key findings. Employers will only skim through your portfolio and ask you to expand things in greater detail during the interview.
  • Try to make the overall design of your portfolio cohesive with your rèsume. Try some design templates to keep everything on brand to make your portfolio stand out.

Practice makes perfect

It’s no coincidence that Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail,” is said to us many times throughout our lives. That’s because it’s true. Nobody ever succeeded at anything without hard work and determination. This same philosophy can be applied to interview prep.

There are two great ways you can build your interview confidence. For one, try public speaking. Public speaking is a great way to improve your speech and increase your confidence when expressing yourself.

Secondly, take lots of mock interviews. Sometimes a lot of luck may be involved during the interview process. However, most of the time, you will come across difficult questions. Mock interviews are also a great method of learning how to keep your answers short and to the point.

“Try and get most of your responses down to about 30 to 45 seconds. Any longer than that, and your recruiter is just going to be waiting for you to finish talking rather than listening to what you have to say,” explains Bradford Smith, Career Coach at General Assembly.

Reach out to your connections

Starting the interview process all over again on your own can be exhausting. It takes a lot of time and energy to prepare for each one. Therefore, we recommend you reach out to your community and find a friend who is on the same path as you.

Whether it’s a Discord, WhatsApp, or LinkedIn group, sharing the interview experience with another person is always helpful. You can also learn from each other’s mistakes and give each other handy tips and tricks.

Make your cover letter short and sweet

Most tech job applications give you the option to submit a cover letter. With that in mind, we recommend you submit a cover letter with every application. Cover letters are an excellent way for the recruiter to learn more about you and your communication skills.

If you’re wondering how to write a good cover letter, it’s essential to keep it short and highlight the key points you want the interviewer to remember about you.

“If you’re going to do a cover letter, make it short. Maybe two paragraphs, make it stand out. Make it very easy for someone to digest and scan it,” explains Zach Geist, VP, Director of UX at Havas.

“If a recruiter needs extra justification for speaking with you. Then your cover letter can be really compelling,” added Bradford Smith, Career Coach at General Assembly.

Identify what the interviewer is looking for

When it comes to tech interviews, your interviewer isn’t solely focused on your technical skills. Time and time again, we’ve seen candidates ace the technical side of the interview but end up not doing so great on the behavioral or communication side.

According to Randall Kanna, there are four main areas interviewers look out for.

  1. Your problem-solving skills – you need to be able to show the interviewer the problems you’ve solved and how you did it. This is a great time to showcase your portfolio and the projects you’ve worked on.
  1. Your critical thinking skills – take time to communicate how you’ve overcome obstacles in the past. It would help if you also showed you can work well in a team and use your critical thinking skills in a group setting.
  1. If you’re a good communicator and culture fit – your interviewer will look out for things like if you’ve interrupted them, gotten defensive or showed up late. Company culture is highly valued at most companies, so you must vibe well with the recruiter, hiring manager, and team members.

We hope this blog can help you win your next tech interview. For more resources to help you get hired in tech, download our “Landing the Work You Love” eBook.

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