3 Tips to Ace Your Next Tech Interview

3 Tips to Ace Your Next Tech Interview

By Frank Kane 

This article is an excerpt from our “Mastering the System Design Interview” course. For this section, we will dive into a few tips and tricks to help you ace your tech interview. 

What are our hiring managers looking for? It’s more than just your technical skills. They want to see you have developed your soft skills as well. 

They want to see that you have determination, grit, perseverance-whatever you want to call it. They want to make sure that you have the internal drive and motivation to solve new problems and find new solutions on your own. 

1. Tech skills don’t matter as much as you think. 

You’re not going to be given recipes for how to solve the problems you’re given. You need to have the determination to figure these things out-collaboratively, of course, when appropriate-but, you’ve got to have the determination to get things done with minimal guidance. You shouldn’t need to have someone pushing you forward all the time. You need to be curious enough and driven enough to solve new problems that haven’t been solved before.

That’s what they want. Why? Because technology changes quickly. 

The technology they are quizzing you on from a technological standpoint might be obsolete a year from now. 

We talked about things like Apache Spark and Hadoop, for example. Hadoop’s already on the decline. The value of testing your knowledge on specific technologies really isn’t that high. But your ability to adapt to new technologies as they come out, your ability to self-learn, and continue to drive yourself forward, that’s what’s hard to find. That’s what they really want to see. 

Your determination to learn new technologies, or changes to technologies as they come out going forward, is what people want in the long term. You still need to prove you can code. That won’t go away anytime soon. You’ll still have to code on the whiteboard and show that you can think in code. You will be expected to code and assemble technical solutions from discreet components on a whiteboard or its digital equivalent. 

2. Demonstrate your coding skills and technical knowledge

Your tech skills still matter, but they’re just table stakes. Tech skills are what get your foot in the door. The first thing you’ll be asked is some simple coding questions. That’s to weed out the people who just can’t function, and there are a shockingly large number of them. But once you get past that initial hurdle of technology, what they’re really looking for is your perseverance and the inner qualities that will make you a good, long-term hire that can adapt to new, changing technologies. 

So how do you demonstrate perseverance? That’s a hard thing to show in the limited time of an interview. Interviewers have their ways of drawing it out of you, but a good way to approach this from your side is by telling them a story. 

Hiring managers are usually trained to do something called behavioral interviewing. They’re not going to ask you, “Did you do X?” and allow you to lie about it and say, “Yeah, I did X! I’m great at whatever that is!” They want to hear stories that they can dig into about how you demonstrated whatever skill they’re trying to find out about.

3. Tell real-life scenarios highlighting your skills 

So, make sure you have those stories ready. If they want a story about how you handled a very tough technical problem, how you handled some conflict within your team, or how you handled convincing your manager to do something the right way, have those stories in your back pocket. Those are things you can talk about to prove that you’ve dealt with these situations before, and how you dealt with them.

Expect the interviewer to dig into the details of your story. That’s the whole idea behind behavioral interviewing. They say, “Give me an example of when you did this,” and you say, “I did this, this way!”They will dig into details like, “Okay, tell me more about this aspect of it.”That’s their way of confirming that you really did what you said you did. 

Come prepared with those stories about how you solved challenging problems in the past. It could be stories from your past employers, from the world of academia, or even in a self-taught environment. You could talk about some Kaggle challenge you had trouble with.

Have a story about where and when you demonstrated perseverance in the real world. And there’s no better proof that you can do things than to say, “Hey, I’ve already done this before. I can tell you all about it.” 

Practice, practice, practice. It’s just like anything else. The more you practice, the better you get at it. The same is true of getting through an interview loop with a big technical company. 

So here are the key takeaways: 

  • Your tech skills don’t matter as much as your determination and perseverance. 
  • Be able to demonstrate your coding skills and technical knowledge. 
  • Have stories and real-life scenarios highlighting your skills prepared. 

If you’re interested in learning more on how to nail your Tech Interview – check out our full course, Mastering the Systems Design Interview: click here.

Or get all of them in our 10-Course Mega Bundle for only $50! Click here to learn more.

Published by

Frank Kane

Frank spent 9 years at Amazon and IMDb, developing and managing the technology that automatically delivers product and movie recommendations to hundreds of millions of customers, all the time. Frank holds 17 issued patents in the fields of distributed computing, data mining, and machine learning. In 2012, Frank left to start his own successful company, Sundog Software, which focuses on virtual reality environment technology, and teaching others about big data analysis.

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