You apply to every software engineering role you see in job portals that match your resume. You lose track of all the companies you applied to. After months of writing and submitting your resume and cover letters to hundreds of companies, you finally hear back from one. Congratulations! You just crossed the hardest stage of the interview process: getting interviews.
Regardless of having an interview scheduled or not, it is great to have a head start to the interview process. Let us spend some time exploring different areas of the interview process so you can practice and ace it!
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Get to know your resume well
Almost every interviewer will either ask you to run through your entire resume or describe a particular experience from your resume. This is the time to provide details about your amazing experiences beyond your resume. You could also elaborate on your accomplishments and tech passion. Be ready to answer some follow-up questions by the interviewer.
Reflect deeply about your past experiences
Your interview might contain a series of behavioral questions that could range from questions related to your involvement in a team to your biggest failure. So, it is crucial that you think about your past experiences and polish some of the stories to connect with different behavioral questions. To prepare for your next behavioral interview, you could go through these top 30 common behavioral questions.
Research the company interviewing you
Companies are looking for candidates who can fit their culture, so it is important for us to know their values and goals. Similarly, you could learn about the technologies they use so that you can emphasize that during your resume screening. Also, it is better to prepare some questions you want to ask the interviewers about their role and company (I know of some articles that have top interview questions interviewees should ask? Let me know and I can find them).
Focus on fundamentals
Tech interviews are mainly focused on fundamentals: data structure, algorithmic complexity analysis, class design, and programming language concepts. You will be tested on these fundamentals either with straight-forward questions or some other form. Hence, you will be using the knowledge of these fundamentals as a toolbox where each piece of knowledge is a tool. With strong fundamentals, you will be able to tackle most of the problems asked of you during these interviews.
Polish your problem-solving skills
Most of the interviews will make you solve different kinds of problems. Here are some of the tips to polish your problem-solving skills:
- During the interview, you will be asked a variety of problems in terms of easiness and algorithmic categories. While starting off with easy algorithmic categories like String and Array manipulation is a good start, don’t limit yourself to these. You need to get used to solving hard problems that require you to use advanced data structures and concepts. For example, you will need to practice problems that encompass dynamic programming, recursive backtracking, and even some specific problem-solving techniques. Hence, try practicing different kinds of problems from different categories.
- It is okay to spend more time thinking about the problems in the beginning. As you get used to these problems, you will gradually spend less time. Having said that, try not to jump to the solution right away; give some thoughts to it and if you think you have spent enough time, then proceed to look at the solution.
- When you are in the process of solving a problem, think about the edge cases and lay it all down. Also, think about how you would approach those edge cases. This is an important skill to develop because interviewers appreciate when the interviewee thinks in all directions.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice is a key to success for most of the interviews. This is especially relevant to technical interviews because it requires you to warm up your brain. The more you practice, the better you get at technical interviews. To get most of your practice, here are some tips:
- Phone interviews and in-person interviews are usually conducted in a plain editor and whiteboard respectively where there is no autocomplete or syntax highlighting. I know this is a nightmare for most of us because we are so spoiled by IDEs. To get used to the setting, I highly suggest everyone practice in plain editor or paper (or even whiteboard) depending on what you are preparing for.
- Writing an efficient running code isn’t going to be enough to ace an interview, you should be able to communicate your thinking process to the interviewers. Without communicating your ideas, the interviewers would not know how you came with the answer. Interviewers care more about how you think and how you solve problems than if you can solve problems. In order to prepare for this, you can practice walking through a solution for an interview problem to a non-technical friend. If you are able to explain it to them, then it is plausible that you will be able to explain it to a technical interviewer.
- Use the resources that are out there that will help you prepare for these technical interviews. They often provide good insights and practice problems. You won’t be cheating when you use the resources. Think of these resources like reading the material or past papers that you are using to prepare for a big test of your life. Some of my favorite online resources are Leetcode, Careercup, GeeksForGeeks, CodeChef and Project Euler. If you feel like you need more guidance for tacking these interview problems you might also find the following book useful: Cracking the Coding Interview and Programming interviews Exposed.
Master the art of interviewing
Interviewing is an art, like any other art form, you need a lot of practice to master it. What’s better than practicing interviews and getting feedback from students and professionals who are in the loop. I highly suggest that you set up some mock interviews prior to an actual interview. Here are some online websites that will allow you to take mock interviews: interviewing.io, Pramp, and Gainlo.
While interviews can be daunting, remember to stay calm and keep practicing. Focus on the things mentioned above and you will be prepared to ace your next interview and start your technology career.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.
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