A technical interview is an essential part of the hiring process for software engineering jobs. But we know it takes a little practice to master this challenge with calmness and confidence. So, let’s detail what a technical interview is, its features, why it’s so important, and how you can get through it successfully.
A technical interview allows a better understanding of the candidate's technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and overall fit for the role. It also provides a level of standardization in the hiring process. By asking the same or similar questions to all candidates, the interviewer can compare the skills and abilities of each candidate more accurately, and make a fair and objective decision about which candidate is the best fit. Technical interviews are your chance to shine in case you get nervous answering regular interview questions. Demonstrating great tech skills can get you at least halfway to your dream job!
During the interview, you may be asked about data structures, algorithms, software design patterns, system architecture, and other technical topics. It is also popular to ask candidates to solve coding problems on a whiteboard or computer and discuss how they would approach a real-world software engineering problem.
Let’s take a look at the steps that can help you prepare.
Research the company
Before the interview, gather as much information about the company as possible and learn about the specific role you are applying for. This will give you a better understanding of the type of work you will be doing and the technical skills the company values. Try to find detailed information about the interview format of this company, the success stories of employees, and get familiar with the company's technology stack. You can do it by researching the company's website and reading job descriptions. Usually, the company will mention hard skills in the requirements section. Other sources of information could be the company’s blog posts and documentation, videos of company events, or open-source projects that the company has created. If you still have questions, you can always contact current or former employees on LinkedIn or other professional networks.
Being well-prepared will show the interviewer you're proactive in doing the research and interested in the role.
Get to know technical interview formats
Formats vary for companies and stages, so make sure you understand each one.
Quiz. The quiz is the first level, designed to pick out unsuitable candidates. It consists of elementary questions and can be conducted by someone without programming knowledge, or the process can be automatic.
Example: What are 4 & 5 (in binary)? Answer: 4
Online coding assessment. Online coding assessments are also typically done in the early interview stages. The candidate must solve an algorithmic problem with well-formed inputs and outputs online. Tasks are usually not complex; to practice solving them, you can use special platforms, such as HackerRank.
Take-home assessment. Take-home assessments are less typical than the previous two, and you won’t likely encounter them in a large company with a massive flow of interviews. Instead, this "homework" is typical for small companies and startups. You may be asked to build a snake game or a flight listing app.
Online technical interview. This is the most common type of interview. In the process, you will be asked questions and given tasks to accomplish in an online editor (CoderPad/CodePen/Google Docs). Many companies like to use CoderPad for collaborative code editing. CodePen is very popular for front-end interviews.
Onsite technical interview. The face-to-face interview takes place in the company office and lasts several hours. Usually, there are several rounds (coding, system design, behavioral). You may be asked to bring your laptop. So it’s crucial to have your development environment prepared in advance. Ensure your code editor is up-to-date, and all frameworks and dependencies are installed. Some companies prefer running technical interviews in a sandbox environment that is hosted on a cloud and has everything preinstalled. It’s completely fine to ask the technical recruiters about what’s needed for the interview in advance.
Pair programming. Some companies may ask you to do a pair programming exercise, where you'll work with an interviewer on a coding problem. This can help the interviewer get a sense of how you collaborate with others and how you approach problem-solving.
Refresh your computer science fundamentals
Brush up on your core computer science concepts. For a software engineer position, you might be asked theoretical questions on various topics, such as data structures and algorithms, software design patterns, operating systems, databases, and computer networks.
Here are some examples of theoretical questions you might encounter in a software engineering interview:
- What is the difference between an interface and an abstract class?
- What is the difference between a synchronous and an asynchronous function?
- What is the difference between a monolithic architecture and a microservices architecture?
- What is a database index, and how does it work?
- Explain the difference between TCP and UDP, and give an example of when you might use each.
These are just a few examples, but the specific questions you encounter will depend on the company, the position you’re applying for, and your programming language.
Practice coding problems
Familiarize yourself with common coding problems and algorithms that may come up during the interview. Practice writing code on a whiteboard or computer to get comfortable with the interview format.
Here are some tips to help you practice effectively:
- Choose a good source for practicing. Many resources are available for practicing coding problems, such as LeetCode, HackerRank, and CodeSignal. Choose a reputable source that provides a variety of issues at different difficulty levels.
- Focus on mastering the basics. Before diving into more complex problems, ensure you have a solid grasp of basic data structures and algorithms, such as arrays, linked lists, sorting, searching, and recursion. Many interview questions will build upon these fundamental concepts.
- Practice regularly. Consistency is the key when it comes to practicing coding problems. Make a habit of setting aside a regular time each day or week to practice. This will help you build momentum and keep your skills sharp.
- Review solutions and seek feedback. After attempting to solve a problem, review the solution and identify areas where you could improve. Ask a mentor, friend, or online community for feedback on your approach and code.
- Practice writing clean, efficient code. In addition to solving the problem, write well-organized, readable, and efficient code. This will help demonstrate your coding skills and make it easier for the interviewer to follow your thought process.
- Mimic the interview experience. Try to replicate the interview experience as closely as possible. Set a timer for the same amount of time you would have in an interview and practice coding under pressure. This will help you get comfortable with the format and build your confidence.
All TripleTen students have access to the Career preparation program where they will prepare portfolios and practice interviews. TripleTen Career Team helps them go through mock interviews and receive feedback on improvement.
Take your time preparing
The amount of time it takes to prepare for a software engineering tech interview can vary.
For someone with little to no experience, it could take several months to prepare for a technical interview adequately. This would involve learning the basics of data structures and algorithms, practicing coding problems, and familiarizing yourself with relevant technologies and frameworks.
For someone with experience, it could take several weeks to a couple of months. This would involve brushing up on core concepts, practicing coding problems, and researching the specific technologies and frameworks that the company uses.
For TripleTen Software Engineering Bootcamp students, tech interview prep starts naturally with the learning process. Our coding platform and constant feedback from mentors and code reviewers recreate the environment a candidate would experience during an interview and at work.
Ultimately, the key to success in a technical interview is how much time you spend preparing and how effectively you use that time. Consistent practice, thoughtful reflection, and seeking feedback from others can help you maximize your prep time and improve your chances of success.
Let TripleTen help
TripleTen provides a comprehensive program to help graduates prepare for technical interviews as software engineers. The program combines hands-on coding challenges, real-world projects, personalized support, and job search assistance to give students the skills and confidence they need to succeed in the job market.
- You’ll learn how to write a compelling resume and cover letter.
- You’ll graduate with a show-stopping portfolio of real-life projects demonstrating practical work experience.
- We’ll help you present your best self in tech and behavioral interviews.
- We’ll train your soft skills and ensure your confidence in your new position.
- We’ll guide your search for jobs and openings that are relevant to you.
As a Software Engineering Bootcamp student, you will get access to that path from the first day.