Planning to interview for a software or technical position? Refer to these tips and resources to help you prepare!
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’ll 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 brainteaser 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.
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’ll 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. 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
- Topcoder Tutorials
- CCE’s Building Your Skills Outside the Classroom tip sheet
- Google’s Guide to Technical Development
- ADI’s Interview Resources
- How We Hire at Google includes videos with technical interview tips.
- Recommended books: The Algorithm Design Manual, Introduction to Algorithms, Programming Interviews Exposed: Secrets to landing your next job, Review of Basic Algorithms: Introduction to the Design and Analysis of Algorithms
- Topcoder.com : Practice coding under a time constraint. Launch the “Arena” widget and then go to the practice rooms.
- Careercup.com : Use the Questions and Forum links.
- Cracking the Coding Interview with Author Gayle Laakmann McDowell
- Tracy Cashman, Technology Search Consultant at WinterWyman, oﬀers questions and problems in How to Prepare for (and Ace) the Technical Interview.
- All Coding Interview Questions provides examples of software engineering interview questions broken up into categories.
- Tech Job Interview Questions oﬀers a list of questions gathered from various resources by Forbes.
- FreshersWorld : ”Technical Interview Questions and Answers” overviews what to expect in a technical interview, as well as insight into more speciﬁc questions and suggested answers.
- Computer Science Programming Interview lists coding puzzles for computer science programming interviews.
- Top 50 Technical Interview Questions lists commonly asked technical interview questions in an easy-to-read list format.
- CareerRide.com : ”Technical Interview Questions” explains various technical computer science terms broken into categories.
Brainteaser and Numerical Questions
- How to Answer Brainteaser Interview Questions : an in-depth look into the how, what and why of brainteaser interview questions
- Top 10 oddball tech job interview questions , based on an annual report from Glassdoor
- 15 Google Interview Questions, such as “Why are manhole covers round?” (answers by Nicholas Carlson)
- Hard Tech Company Interview Questions You Will Probably Be Asked (And How To Answer Them): Business Insider provides insight into some of the toughest “brainteaser” questions from technical interviews with concrete examples from companies.
- Google and Microsoft puzzles
- Interview Puzzles Blog : includes examples of the various types of brainteasers
- Puzzlersworld.com : a list of the diﬀerent types of puzzles, riddles, and technical questions