Planning to interview for a software or technical position? Refer to these tips and resources to help you prepare!

Interview Formats

What, exactly, is a software or technical interview? Depending on the field and the position, these interviews may require you to

  • do a PowerPoint presentation on a tech topic
  • write code in real time and/or do an on-the-spot coding test
  • work on a technical problem in a group and present to a panel
  • work out a tech problem on a whiteboard in front of a group

How to Prepare

Lock in the Fundamentals

In additional to more traditional behavioral questions, a technical interview will cover your knowledge of computer science. Depending on the job , this could be coding, data structures, algorithms, systems design, big O notation, etc. Refer to your coursework to refresh your memory on the basics.

familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions

First, if the recruiter has sent you material on preparing for the interview, be sure to review it closely. Also, check to see if the company has interview prep information on its website.  If you are not sure of the format, ask the recruiter.

Questions will focus on the types of skills you will be using on the job. They can range from the core fundamentals to higher-level principles.

Many technical questions are based on your own experience. Did you create a game for a class project and put it on your resume? Be ready to talk about your technical tasks, challenges, and contributions.

Although some companies are entirely removing them from their interview process, you might receive a brain teaser during technical interviews. These questions assess your problem-solving abilities, comfort with ambiguity, and quantitative skills. Share your thought process and problem-solving approach out loud, and try to enjoy the challenge.

How to Practice

Most interviewers want to hear you explain your thought process while working through a problem. This gives them insight into your personality, problem-solving skills, and ability to work under pressure.  There are many ways you can practice doing this:

  • Ask a friend with a technical background to act as your mock interviewer. Practicing and explaining out loud is a great way to prepare and build confidence.
  • Get involved in competitive programming and hackathons and make open-source contributions.
  • Be prepared to thoroughly explain any technical projects listed on your resume.

Interview Tips

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes

Be comfortable asking questions, and asking for clarification. If you make a mistake, don’t let it affect the rest of the interview. You will have the opportunity to answer many questions and the interviewer will often forgive a single mistake. When something goes wrong, move on and focus on the rest of the interview. If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, just be honest about it. Try to engage the interviewer so you can learn more about the topic and/or explain where you could find the answer.

Use the Interview to Show Your Passion for Tech

By demonstrating your passion for coding and creating new programs, you are also showing why you are the right candidate for the position. Related extracurricular activities are a great way to show this passion. “The number one thing I look at on resumes is extra-curricular activities,” says former Google engineer Paul Tyma in a blog post on his site. He adds, “I want to hire engineers that I want to work with. And those engineers are passionate about cool algorithms, slick code, and new ideas. They do that stuff in their spare time – it’s not just a job, it’s what they do because they love it.”

Be Prepared for a Lengthy Interview Process

The tech interview process may take several weeks and involve multiple interviews. (Recruiters will often clarify this process in advance.) After the initial phone screening, you might meet with engineers and managers in the days or weeks to come.

Don’t Forget to Prepare for Traditional/Behavioral Questions

Employers often say that students are so concerned about the technical interview that they haven’t thought through answers to common questions like “Tell me about yourself?” or “Why are you interested in this job?” Read through our tips on common interview questions and practice behavioral questions with a CCE career counselor.

Resources to Learn More and Practice

Fundamentals

Practice Questions

Brain Teaser and Numerical Questions

 

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