Ready, Set, Interview: Preparing for the Technical Interview Process
Things are feeling a bit off at work. Maybe you’re bored, seeking more challenge. Maybe you smell some transition about to happen and your spidey sense is telling you it’s time to move on.
Change my job?! What do I do now?
Whatever the issue, you’re thinking about making a change. You’ve been in your role for a few years, maybe more, and technical interviews these days seem downright intimidating. How do you even prepare? What exactly do you need to know? You can’t really remember the last time you had an actual technical interview. Your hearts starts beating out of your chest just thinking about talking to a recruiter who doesn’t even understand what you do each day and justifying why you’re worth interviewing.
Alright. That’s it. Now I’m panicking!
Notice a theme here? This person feels out of control. They don’t know what’s happening at work, they don’t know how to manage a job search because it’s not something the average person is really well-versed in, and then there’s this piece of the interview puzzle that feels like they are being graded but at the same time, it also feels like a class they passed 10 years ago. What the heck….
It’s time to regain control. Take a breath. Let’s cover Career Planning 101, and start by creating some time to think about important questions like, what do you want next in your career? Why are you making a change now? How would you answer the question, “Tell me about yourself?”
Hiring managers and recruiters can smell BS, so don’t waste their time or yours by not being prepared with these basics. If it’s a been a while since you pondered these simple yet deep life questions, The book Designing Your Life (Bill Burnett and Dave Evans) has amazing visualization exercises to get you started off on the right foot. Take some time to think, write, and gain some clarity for yourself. As a career coach, I help people with these questions by creating space to build a roadmap together so that they can understand their Why. People who can easily articulate their skills, interests, strengths, and values tend to find more career satisfaction. A good coach can help hold you accountable for for the goals you create together, give you a pep talk when you need one, and provide you with resources and information to empower you to take on this process and all of its unknowns.
When you’ve got a good grasp on the nuts and bolts of your story and your job search plan is in place, you’ve freed up the mental bandwidth you were focusing on the Big Scary Unknown, and can now use that valuable resource you have in your brain to prepare for the technical interview.
The Butterfly Effect- little tweaks lead to big changes.
How can you get started? Make it manageable. The great news is, there are some super helpful tools out there to support you along the way. Know what you’re dealing with by visiting InterviewCake.com and reading up on some coding interview tips. If you feel like you’re ready to hit the ground running, try one interview on interviewing.io, the anonymous technical interview platform that allows you to practice with other engineers, and if you’re both pleased with the initial interview, you can go for the big reveal and disclose who you are and take the interview to the next step in real life. Regardless of whether that first interview moves into an actual interview process at a company, you’ll get feedback on what you’re doing well, and what you need to spend time further developing in your interview approach, whether it’s technical or behavioral in nature. Iterate.
Don’t neglect behavioral interview preparation- EQ is important!
Balancing technical interview preparation with behavioral interview preparation is important. A 2011 Career Builder Survey of over 2,600 hiring managers and human resource professionals revealed that 71% value emotional intelligence in an employee over IQ. For those of you who are closer to the mid or senior level of your engineering career, this same survey showed that 75% of responders said they were more likely to promote an employee who was highly emotionally intelligent. And to really drive home that EQ is key, 59% who participated in that survey also claimed they’d pass up a candidate who has high IQ but low emotional intelligence.
The behavioral portion really is key, so don’t neglect preparing for all aspects of your upcoming interviews. The Muse has some great sample questions to prepare. I suggest thinking about your major career accomplishments over the last few years- what challenging situations have you overcome? How have you resolved a situation with someone you didn’t necessarily agree with? You should be able to tell these stories concisely, confidently, and with appropriate eye contact.
Ready, aim, fire- you’ve got this.
Don’t spend too much time preparing without getting some practice. My best advice in evaluating feedback on your technical interview performance or how you speak to your skills and experience is to consider the source and the advice- is what you’re hearing an outlier, or a trend? Maybe that engineer who interviewed you was having a bad day, or it was their first interview ever that they conducted. Maybe they’re super optimistic and should have been a little harder on you. The old term “practice makes perfect” doesn't have to be trivial. Be data-driven, track your interview processes and feedback, and then you’ll know more about how much effort to put into each specific area of your job search. Good luck!