by Sarah K. White

5 tips to ace your next tech interview

Mar 22, 2017
CareersCertificationsIT Jobs

Not sure what to expect from your next job interview? These five tips will help you prepare so you can land your dream tech job.

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Credit: Thinkstock

You may feel confident going into an interview armed with your technical background and education but when it comes to tech jobs — especially positions for engineers, developers and coders — technical knowledge won’t be enough to get you through the interview process.

“Companies put candidates through rigorous technical interviews where they are asked difficult questions and asked to complete coding tasks. These interviews can be difficult to prepare for, especially for candidates who have never gone through a similar interview process before,” says Tigran Sloyan, CEO of CodeFights.

These five tips will help you prepare for your next tech interview — no matter what they throw at you.

1. Practice real interview questions

Your resume is what got you the interview, so the recruiter or hiring manager already knows your technical skills and what you’ve accomplished, says Aytekin Tank, CEO of JotForm, an online form builder for small and large businesses.

And, in some cases, you might be asked questions that have nothing to do with your job, so they can get a sense for how innovative you are or how well you can problem solve.  

“The reality is, interview questions you face at most companies are very far away from your day job so make sure to do some research and practice using real questions that appear on interviews,” says Sloyan.

Your interviewer will also look to see how well you communicate and how clearly you can explain different concepts. Some employers, like Tank, might even ask you about something you’re passionate about outside of your job. Your hobbies and interest, and your excitement for them, can say a lot about who you are, and how well you’ll fit into the company.

“It doesn’t matter if you have incredible skills if you can’t work alongside your co-workers. The ability to communicate and work with others is just as important, if not more so. I always ask myself, ‘Can I work next to this person all day?’ If I’ve narrowed the candidate pool down to two finalists, and they’re equal when it comes to skills, I’ll always pick [the one I can work with] in a heartbeat,” says Tank.

[ Related story: How to overcome 5 common resume mistakes ]

2. Ask your own questions

Remember that this is also your chance to interview the company and to ask questions that show you’re engaged and curious about the company and job. In fact, they might ask you purposefully vague questions to see if they can prompt you into asking the ‘right questions’,” says Sloyan.

“Some engineers think that asking questions is a sign of poor skill or lack of understanding. In reality, it’s the opposite,” he says.

Asking the right questions doesn’t make you look clueless, it can help demonstrate your depth of knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It shows you’re “capable of thinking beyond the problem” and that you will “naturally take initiative,” says Tank.

3. Do your research

Websites like Glassdoor can deliver insight into the interview process and some candidates even share questions they were asked. It’s a great way to get a feel for the process, including how many people you’ll meet with and how many of those people need to give you a “yes” before you’re hired.

“Knowing what you are dealing with and what the thinking process is behind the scenes will drastically improve your chances,” says Sloyan.

You might even be caught off guard by the interview style, says Tank. At his company, he sometimes likes to take candidates on a walking interview. “It’s much more relaxing and puts the candidate at ease.”

If you’re comfortable with a hiring manager or recruiter, you can always ask ahead of time what to expect, says Tank. Being prepared is an important aspect in your career, so that should extend to the interview process as well.

[ Related story: 5 ways to recruit more women in 2017 ]

4. Spread your reach

Instead of focusing on a few companies you think you want to work for, apply to as many positions you can. Even if you don’t think you want the job, it’s good to get a feel of how different companies operate, so you know exactly what to look for in the company you choose. And the interviews are also great practice, says Sloyan.

And if all the interviews do result in multiple job offers, it will only help you in the long run, he says. With multiple offers, you’ll have more leverage in the negotiations process to get the salary and benefits you want.

5. Be prepared for negative

You shouldn’t go into an interview thinking you won’t land a job, but you should always accept that it’s a possibility you won’t get the job. Despite how unbiased a potential employer might try to be, “human beings tend to be quite subjective,” says Sloyan.

The point isn’t to constantly expect the worst, but to be mentally prepared if things don’t go the way you’d like. That way, you won’t get discouraged if you feel the interview went well, but the job goes to someone else.

“You have to set your expectations right upfront so you don’t set yourself up to be disappointed,” he says.

But avoid acting different in an interview, just to land the job — you should always be professional, but let your personality show. It’s better to find out you aren’t a great fit for the company before you sign the contract, says Tank.

“Beyond the technical requirements, candidates should just be themselves, because sooner or later, if I hire this person, I’m going to discover who this person really is. I’d rather know if I can work with this person now, rather than finding out,” he says.