Following the popularity of last month’s article on one-way video interviews featuring professional resume writer and interview coach Paula Christensen, I wanted to follow up with this comprehensive guide on how to effectively prepare for technical interview, where I uncover answers to these popular questions:
- What is a technical interview?
- What can I expect in a technical interview?
- How do I prepare for a technical interview?
- What are common technical interview questions?
In addition to tapping into Christensen’s subject matter expertise, I spoke with Charlotte Shimko, Senior Product Manager, Technical at Amazon to gain a tech insider’s perspective.
Technical Interviews Explained
To begin, what is a technical job interview? “A technical interview is an opportunity for a chosen interviewer to gauge the technical proficiency of the candidate to determine if they meet the requirements for the role being interviewed for,” explains Shimko.
According to Christensen, these specialized interviews are used to help hiring managers assess a candidate’s analytical, technical, and problem-solving skills, as well as how they think on their feet. She explains that they’re frequently used when recruiting for software, engineering, information technology, and science roles.
Importantly, technical interviews can be conducted at any stage of the hiring process, from the initial phone screening through conversations with a hiring manager, explains Christensen.
What To Expect In a Technical Interview
Now, what can you expect during a technical job interview? Christensen says that “Candidates should expect questions proving they can solve job-related problems and demonstrating they know about the company/department’s technical activities.”
According to her, if you’re earlier in your career, you may also be asked about your understanding of the various programming languages, software, or IT solutions you picked up while in your degree program.
Shimko adds that “If the candidate is interviewing for Sr. Product Manager – Technical role, they should be prepared to be asked a high-level question about system design. They don’t have to provide the details of how it all works but should have a grasp on the concepts.”
Beyond your technical skills, interviewers are often also assessing your analytical thinking abilities, says Shimko.
How to Prepare For a Technical Interview: 5 Steps to Ace the Technical Interview
So, how do you effectively prep for a technical job interview, and are there any mistakes to avoid? Here are what the experts I spoke with suggested you should do if you want to ace a technical interview:
1. Research the company.
For starters, Christensen recommends learning as much as you can about the company and extracting technical questions you believe you may be asked. She advises reviewing Glassdoor.com, as it has an Interviews tab with helpful resources to learn about a specific company’s interview process. She also recommends you “Scour the job posting for competencies and craft questions for yourself that challenge your qualifications in key areas.”
2. Refresh your technical knowledge.
Next, Christensen advocates refreshing your technical knowledge, software, and programming language leading up to the interview. “If you are a developer or software engineer looking for more extensive practice, Educative.io, AlgoExpert.io, and LinkedIn Learning offer paid platforms with classes to prepare you for coding interviews,” she says.
3. Practice, practice, and practice more.
Shimko advises you then “Practice answering questions of how you would design a system to solve a particular problem or how you would solve for an error message that is being received on an existing problem.” But don’t stop there. She suggests also reviewing your history for examples of how you’ve approached the issue in the past. Additionally, she says you can ask yourself, “Is there anything that you could have learned?”
4. Be mindful of the depth of your answers.
Once you’re in the interview, Shimko explains that there is a limit to how in-depth you want to go with your answers. She shares that a mistake to avoid is going too deep. “You don’t need to know exactly how AWS or Azure works,” she says. “You don’t need to know how to code, but you may need to know how to describe going about pulling data for yourself,” according to her.
5. Remain honest throughout the interview.
Lastly, Christensen said you don’t want to make the mistake of faking your way through. She explains, “If you get stumped, it’s best to say you don’t know the answer.” However, if you have a partial answer, you can inform the interviewer that you would like to think aloud and attempt to develop a solution. She adds that “Even if you do not come up with the answer to a coding problem, most interviewers will appreciate that you tried and that you are humble and curious about your shortfalls.”
Common Technical Interview Questions
Lastly, what are the most frequently asked questions during technical interviews? According to Christensen, you should be prepared for the following:
- Basic skills check questions
- Verification questions (certifications, systems, languages, and tools used)
- Real-time challenge questions (coding, brainteaser, or whiteboard)
- Take-home assignments
- Technical assessments
- Behavioral interview questions
- Situational interview questions
Importantly, the types of questions you will be asked in a technical interview will vary based on the interview and the company, says Shimko. She is restricted from sharing questions from the question bank she uses at Amazon, but did complete a Google search and shared the following similar questions:
- What main changes would you make to [our product]?
- How would you improve your favorite product?
- How would you explain cloud computing to your grandmother?
- How would you reduce bandwidth in a video streaming app? What technical metrics would you look at?
- YouTube went down last week. What factors could have caused an extensive system like that to fail?
Moreover, it also helps to be prepared for common questions such as, “Tell me about yourself” and “Walk me through your resume,” as the person who conducts your technical interview will often be different from the person who conducted your other interviews.
On a final note, Shimko highlighted that in her experience, there are few standards as to what a candidate can be asked in order to demonstrate their technical proficiency. In other words, expect the unexpected when prepping for a technical interview. You’ve got this!