Are you preparing for your first technical interview but don’t know where to start?
Technical interviews differ from traditional ones. Instead of talking about your experience and skills, you demonstrate them. These types of interviews give candidates the opportunity to showcase their skills in real-time. It can also eliminate bias since it’s your demonstrable skills that the interviewers are assessing.
While many would consider the overall process intimidating, it’s an excellent opportunity to show hiring managers what you can do and why you’re the ideal candidate for the role.
This article will discuss what you can expect from a technical interview and how to prepare for one. Let's dive in!
What Is a Technical Interview?
We know that a traditional interview is a series of questions and answers. Employers ask candidates about themselves, their skills, career goals, etc. While tech interviews also do this, they take a slightly different approach. They involve assignments or challenges that prove potential candidates have the experience required to do the job.
Instead of applicants telling the interviewer they have the right skills, they must show them. While this process may sound intimidating, applicants need to understand that the goal of technical interviews isn't to trick them with impossible questions. Their purpose is to see how a candidate will tackle real-world problems like the ones they'd likely face on the job.
Technical interviews offer a great way to see the skills a candidate has. It also allows applicants to see what scenarios they may have to undergo. It's a win-win for both sides!
The Stages of a Technical Interview
What happens in a technical interview? How can you best prepare?
While every company is different, there are three stages you should expect. These include the following:
Stage 1: Phone or Video Interview
As human resource teams shift through applications, they'll set aside candidates that stand out. From here, they'll reach out to applicants to schedule a phone or video interview.
These brief 10-15 minute interviews aim to get a feel for the candidate. Hiring managers will ask basic questions like, “Why are you interested in this role?” or “What unique skills do you bring?”.
The first stage is the perfect opportunity for you to sell yourself and explain why you’re the right fit for the job. You may advance to the next round if this initial phase goes well.
Stage 2: Remote Coding Assignment
Stage two consists of preliminary testing that tests the applicants' coding skills. This process usually takes place via the phone or a video conferencing app. Sometimes, hiring managers will assign this task and allow applicants to complete and submit the assignment on their own time.
This phase of the hiring process is done off-site. If the candidate is successful, they'll move forward to the onsite challenge. Remote coding assignments or challenges should only take a few hours. Most hiring managers understand this and should be mindful of your time.
Live Coding Test Example
Let's say a company is hiring a developer. They may ask the applicant to solve a problem or a specific task. In this case, the recruiter will conduct a video call that offers a screen-sharing option. The applicant would then have to share their screen and show the hiring manager how they'd identify a solution to the given problem.
Stage 3: Onsite Challenge
If candidates make it to stage three, they'll meet with the employer in person. This stage involves an in-person interview with challenges that applicants must complete in front of the interviewers.
If the job is remote, applicants may need to do this virtually over a video conference. While these real-time challenges last 1-2 hours, the entire onsite technical interview can last several hours to a full day.
What to Expect When You’re Interviewing
There are many things to expect when it comes to technical interviews.
For starters, there will likely be several applicants, each with unique skills, experience, work history, etc. The hiring process is more competitive, and you will need to find ways to stand out. The best way to do this is by thoroughly preparing for the tech interview (more on this next).
Also, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous when the big day rolls along. It is natural and doesn’t mean you’re unprepared. Be aware of your body language during the process and do your best. Most of the time, hiring managers will find a way to break the ice, helping candidates feel more at ease.
Technical Interview Preparation Tips
Here are our top tips when preparing for a technical interview. Being well prepared will make sure you leave a lasting impression.
1. Practice Answering Important Questions
In stage one of the technical interview process, hiring managers will ask you a series of questions. They’ll want to understand who you are, your experience, and why you may be a good fit for the role. Prevent yourself from being caught off guard by practicing your answer to these questions.
Besides practicing responses to questions the interviewer may ask, you also want to make a list of questions important to you. This initial stage is an excellent opportunity to learn if the company you’re applying for is a good fit for you.
- What are you looking for in a candidate?
- What’s the biggest challenge of this job?
- What’s a typical work week?
- Is overtime expected?
2. When In Doubt, Ask
You need to confirm your understanding of the expectations for the best results.
For instance, suppose you’re interviewing for a remote position, and the task is to complete an assignment for a company in a different time zone. Clarify the deadlines if not otherwise indicated. The employer should provide all information to complete a task, but if they don’t, always confirm.
Sometimes, employers will purposefully set tasks that they know you need further information to complete. The purpose isn’t to trick you but to test how you’d approach a challenge and whether you have adequate communication and teamwork skills.
3. Be Prepared
Give a good impression by being on time and working out any technical issues beforehand. Most initial meetings are through video calls. You need to test the microphone and video to ensure everything is working correctly before a meeting.
Also, make sure you have a stable internet connection and are having the meeting in a quiet location. The person interviewing you should do the same. The last thing you need are technical issues interrupting a technical interview.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Interviewers Looking for in a Technical Interview?
Interviewers want to confirm that applicants have the skills necessary to excel in a role. They're looking for strong candidates who are knowledgeable, experienced, and capable of handling real-world problems.
How Do You Stand Out in a Technical Interview?
If you're the applicant, there are a few qualities you'll want to show during your technical interview. These qualities will help you stand out among other candidates and show the interviewer(s) what you can do:
- Technical knowledge. If it has been a while since you hit the books, brush up on your technical knowledge.
- Advanced problem-solving. How do you react under pressure? When it's time to overcome challenges, you'll want to show the hiring manager(s) that you follow company protocol and solve problems quickly and efficiently.
- Creativity. Thinking outside the box goes a long way. Employers will measure your creativity and enthusiasm to produce work that makes the company competitive. It's your innovation that will help you stand out from other candidates.
- Communication. Strong communication skills are essential when working with a team or resolving customer issues.
- Cultural fit. Employers want to see whether your personality and values align with the company culture. Part of preparing for the technical interview is researching the company you want to work for and learning about their culture/how you can contribute to it.
How Long Do I Need To Prepare for a Technical Interview?
Spending 1-3 months preparing thoroughly for a technical interview is best.
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With this information in mind, all that’s left to do is prepare and ace your technical interview. If you’re the recruiter or hiring manager reading this, you know there’s a lot of planning on your behalf.