How to Prepare for (and Ace) the Technical Interview
The job interview process is a tough road with many pitfalls that can catch job seekers off-guard and cause great opportunities to fall to the wayside. One often over-looked part of the process is the technical interview. Here's how to be ready for it.
Tue, August 27, 2013
CIO — As developers and IT pros you need to do all the things everyone else does to prepare for a job interview such as update and focus your resume as well as work on your communication and presentation skills. However, you also have the technical interview to deal with.
The good news is if you make it this far in the interview process, you've likely got a good shot at the position. How you prepare for this (or not prepare for this) can cost you the job. We spoke with CEOs, recruiters and other industry experts who agree you simply can't just go in there and muddle your way through it. You've got to prepare in a number of ways.
Technical Interviews are, for many companies, used for only the top candidates. This is a time-consuming and expensive task for employers and a stressful addition to the interview process for the candidates. "If we have three finalists for a role, this is where we do a technical interview to see who is the most proficient," says John Reed, Senior Executive Director at Robert Half Technology.
It's a chance for hiring managers to evaluate how you approach real-world problems, how you problem-solve, and the depth and breadth of your knowledge on the skills you're being hired for. It can consist of coding challenges, word problems, peer discussions, puzzles and brain teasers.
"All of this takes a lot of everybody's time and, although it's expensive, it's still a lot cheaper than having them wash out," says Rick Endres, president of The Washington Network.
Some employers will give homework in the form of a programming or logic problems to do before the interview. This eliminates more people out before the technical interview, says Endres. "Most people just want to show up and hope they can make it through the interview. Requiring this ahead of time really cuts down on the amount of spam," says Endres.
If you're really serious about getting the job, however, a little homework isn't going to slow you down. Beginning a job search is like taking on a new job in and of itself. It's not easy and there are many roadblocks, but the payoff is going to a job you love. So let's get started.
Be Articulate and Communicate Clearly
In a technical interview, or any job interview for that matter, communication is a deal-breaker. Interviewers don't know why they should hire you. That reason is what you need to be able to articulate through your answers to their questions, the stories of your achievements and the questions you ask. "Companies want to see the candidate think in "real time" and while you may be brilliant at what you do, in an interview you have to be able to communicate this brilliance," says Ed Nathanson, director of talent acquisition with Rapid7.
A good practice, according to Nathanson, is to spend some time going over what you would like to cover and how you want to present yourself.
"You are selling you - so know your product and your audience, and have a plan going in. Study the job description, do some research on the people you will be meeting and definitely do some homework on the company beyond just their products," says Nathanson. Check out social media places where you can research the company and its people like LinkedIn, Facebook and Glassdoor.
Be Ready to Whiteboard
While whiteboarding isn't a standard requirement for technical interviews, it happens often enough that you need to practice a bit. "This is a key way to prepare, because it is often used to interview candidates. Practicing on the whiteboard and being prepared to do so ahead of the interview can often make a big difference, especially to those to whom this kind of interaction does not come naturally," says Nathanson.
Be Familiar With the Job Listing
The best resource is the job listing itself. Human Resources puts a lot of time, thought and energy into these, and they will give you a deeper insight into the technologies used at the prospective company and how you may best apply your knowledge and skills to the problems they face.
"If it's in the job description, it's important to be able to talk to it and how you may solve the problems they are looking to fix. Make sure you really understand the technical requirements outlined in the job description. They were put there to provide guidance on what the company is looking for to ensure candidates are the right fit," says Nathanson.