How to prepare for (and ace) the technical interview

Technical interviews can make or break your chances for landing a new job. Here’s how to prepare yourself for success, even if you’re a self-taught programmer.

Technical interviews are time-consuming and stressful, and they can make or break your chances for landing a job. The stress level of the technical interview is even higher for self-taught developers and those interviewing for the first time. But with the right preparation and practice, your next technical interview can be a breeze, no matter your background.

“Non-traditional candidates are really intimidated by technical screenings, coding interviews, because they’ve been made to feel they’re not qualified without that CS degree. But I don’t think that’s true,” says Gayle Laakmann McDowell, founder of technical career consulting firm CareerCup and author of Cracking the Coding Interview.

More important than having a degree, McDowell says, is being able to ace the technical interview to prove you can excel in the role, a completely manageable undertaking if you know what you’re up against.

What is a technical interview?

A technical interview is a chance for hiring managers to evaluate how you approach and solve real-world problems, and to benchmark the depth and breadth of your skillset and general knowledge using coding challenges, word problems, peer discussions, puzzles and brain teasers.

"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, executive vice president of managed solutions at Robert Half Technology. Measuring that proficiency has little to do with your educational background, as long as you can get the job done. There’s nothing a company dreads more than making a bad hire.

“Bringing in someone who might not be good at it is just a costly, inefficient waste of everyone’s time, so providing an objective platform to measure skills can help calibrate talent,” says Tigran Sloyan, CEO and co-founder of coding challenge platform CodeSignal.

Technical interviews can be a serious investment of time and money for companies, but they can help weed out underqualified candidates and highlight a candidate’s skills and knowledge. Coach: Acing the interview

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