You just got the email: your first interview went well, and now the company wants you to come in for a technical one!
The happiness is quickly replaced by anxiety. What if you get a question you have no idea how to answer? What if you freeze up and forget the answers youdoknow? What if you use up too much time trying a solution that doesn’t work?
Fear not, because we’ve got the tips and techniques you need to survive—maybe even ace—your technical interview.
1) Practice, practice, practice
There’s no way for you to predict the coding challenges or questions you’ll be tasked with. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare.
First, ask a friend or mentor to role-play your interviewer. Give them a book or a few websites with coding exercises they can pick from. Then, act out the whiteboarding challenge. We recommend making the situation as realistic as possible, which means choosing a place to practice where you won’t be interrupted, using a timer, staying in character, and so on. The closer your rehearsal is to real life, the more prepared and in control you’ll feel.
2) Get the inside scoop from former job candidates
You can also get a sense of what you’ll be asked and how the interview process will go from people who have been in the exact same scenario as you: previous job candidates!
Sites like Glassdoor and Blind make it fairly easy to get these insights. Simply search “[company name] interview process”, “What’s it’s like to interview for [company]?”, and “[company name] interview questions”.
If the company is too small, young, or under the radar to have online applicant reviews, consider asking someone who works there what to expect. The ideal person is a first- or second-degree connection; we don’t recommend asking a stranger.
Don’t expect to get the exact questions or challenges that you read online: hiring managers frequently change up what they’re asking to avoid having anyone prepare their responses in advance (you don’t want to get identical questions, either, as then the interview won’t be an accurate assessment of your fit for the job!).
3) Remember your process is as important as your answer
The technical interview is designed to measure how you think, just as much as what you know. With that in mind, don’t panic if you don’t immediately know the right answer or approach to a problem.
Stay calm, and focus on communicating your thoughts as you work. First, summarize what you understand about the problem. Not only will this buy you some time, but it may also reveal the next step or a potential solution.
Next, walk the hiring manager through your ideas: what you’re trying to accomplish and why. Even if you never land on the correct answer, you can still get a lot of interview points for your work.
Technical interviews are nerve-wracking. Fortunately, with a solid strategy, you can dramatically improve your chances of nailing them.