Common Technical Job Interview Questions – and Tips to Help You Ace Them
As an up-and-coming tech developer or designer, you may already feel prepared to ace your first technical interview. After all, your love of solving problems and building things has left you hungry to show potential employers what you are capable of. Now that you know the logistics of what to expect of a technical interview, it’s important to focus your prep time on the questions you will likely field in your interview. Today we will touch on behavioral and technical questions you may or may not expect to hear, and how to best respond in the moment.
Common Behavioral Questions
Behavioral interview questions can be peppered throughout the interviewing process, although are less common during technical interview portions where you primarily showcase your work. These questions are meant to highlight your past work experience and highlight your analytical skills, particularly working through challenges.
Behavioral interview questions often begin with open-ended exploratory statements such as:
- “Tell me about a time when...”
- “Give me an example of...”
- “Describe an instance where you’ve had to...”
Pro tip: Some behavioral interview questions may seem easy to answer with a simple “yes” or “no”, while others may not feel applicable to your experience. Even if the questions are simple, employers want a narrative and expect you to showcase your experience even with school projects and volunteering opportunities. Use each question to your advantage by painting a picture of how you work so employers will better understand how you will work for them.
Technical Interview Questions
A technical interview may feel like the most intimidating part of the interviewing process, it is not meant to trip you up or even test your expert coding skills. Rather, this interview is more about an employer learning how well you can think and explain. A technical interview may come in three forms: a technical phone screen, remote coding assignment, or a technical onsite interview, better known as a “whiteboarding challenge”. Below are questions you can expect in each type of technical interview.
- A technical phone screen will be used to identify your excitement, communication, and qualification for the position. Although this interview will be largely behavioral, don’t be afraid to show off your specific technical knowledge.
Be prepared to answer questions such as, “Tell me about a mistake you’ve made…” and “Tell me about how you dealt with a tough challenge…”, and come ready to share your professional background and project examples from your toolbox. Be honest about the types of projects you most enjoy, and communicate why the company’s values align with yours.
- Although a remote coding assignment is completed offsite, consider how it will demonstrate your problem solving and time management.
The type of assignment you will receive and the amount of time you will spend on it will depend on what kind of engineer or designer you are. For instance, a front-end engineer might be asked to build an interface for a specific type of interaction, while a full-stack designer may be asked to build an app with persistent data and a back-end engineer might be asked to build an Application Programming Interface (API). To help you prepare, brush up on CS fundamentals, including running practice problems with a focus on data structures and algorithms, which can fill in gaps in your knowledge.
- A technical onsite interview/whiteboard challenge can feel like a pressure cooker, it can also be the best way to stand out. While a technical interview may ask both technical and design questions, the content may vary from data structures and algorithms to specific technologies, languages, and frameworks used in a particular organization.
According to Perry Eising, tech writer for medium.com, a whiteboard example might be as simple as:
let inputNamesArray = [“Dench, Judy”, “Mirren, Helen”, “Andrews, Julie”, “Jolie, Angelina”]
and return the following output:
let outputNamesArray = [“Dame Judy Dench”, “Dame Helen Mirren”, “Dame Julie Andrews”, “Dame Angelina Jolie”]
A question of this kind would give you the opportunity to ask clarifying questions. As with the remote challenge, it is important to understand the assignment before jumping in. This will demonstrate your ability to consider the larger picture first and identify early assumptions. Don’t be afraid to dialogue until you fully understand. For this assignment, you might ask:
- Will the input array always have a length of 4?
- Currently, the list isn’t sorted. Is this intentional?
- Can I write the solution in pseudocode?
- Can I assume that there will never be duplicate names in the array?
To help you optimize your results, consider these additional tips:
- Review instructions and clarify any requirements before starting. This is an important step, and will demonstrate your engagement, attention to detail, and willingness to ask for help. Of note, some employers will create a purposefully vague assignment to gage how applicants will react. Respond by asking specific, clarifying questions.
- Save yourself time by planning ahead. Before you begin, plan out your code. If you have misunderstood the technical requirements, you may miss edge cases or rewrite parts of the functionality. Remember, some take-home challenges will come with an estimated time, while others will be open-ended. Be mindful of your time management, and focus most on a narrow scope of things you do well rather than a myriad of extra features that may not represent your best work.
- Write tests and double check your work (even in your take home assignment!). Tests show you are willing to check your work and demonstrate you have considered edge cases. This will signify you take responsibility for the quality of your work. Review your final product several times before submitting your assignment to ensure you are bringing your best work forward.
- Keep it simple: Write easy-to-read code in your interview by using variable names rather than shorthand letters. Your code will feel more polished and easier to follow.
- Go for the “bonus”. Some coding challenges will provide additional bonus requirements. If time allows, complete these extras to stand out among your fellow applicants.
- You do you. Avoid getting help from others on your at-home challenge. Employers in a follow-up interview may question your thought process. Instead, do the assignment yourself and be proud about what you know and how you got there.
- Think out loud. Demonstrate your communication and problem solving skills by talking through your thought process. Even if you talk through several ideas, your interviewers will better understand how you came to a solution and see your creative, analytical mind shine. Of note, be sure to use precise and formal words, and use clear terms such as “output” or “return value” over ambiguous terms like “result”. By being mindful of your vocabulary, your interview panel will better understand you. Finally, if you get stuck, stick to what you know. If you are still stuck, explain where you would look to find the answers and keep asking questions. Your interviewer will be looking more closely at your ability to deconstruct complex concepts than arriving at a precise answer.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Solving 2-3 interview practice questions per day on a self-imposed deadline will build stamina and ease being on the spot. Plan to complete mock interviews and get feedback from colleagues or mentors, and don’t fall prey to imposter syndrome. You were called for an interview for a reason – you are a good fit for the position. Believe in yourself and your confidence will help you shine in your interviews.
Want more tips for acing your technical interviews? We've got you covered.