By Frank Kane
This article is an excerpt from our “Mastering the System Design Interview” course. For this section, we will take a deeper dive into how to prepare for your technical interview.
What are technical hiring managers looking for? It’s more than just your technical skills, they are looking for perseverance and self-motivation. Additionally, you should be researching the companies you want to work for and prepare for your interview by practicing coding, preparing questions, and thinking big!
1. Hiring Managers are looking for perseverance and self-motivation.
Hiring managers want to see evidence of independent thought. Can you research solutions to new problems on your own? Can you invent things? Can you come up with new, novel solutions to new problems that nobody’s ever seen before?
Can you learn things independently? There is nothing more annoying than a new hire who demands help on everything that they’re asked to do when they could just look it up on the internet. Have some evidence of where you were faced with new technology and you just dove in and learned how to do it, and how you applied that knowledge to build something.
Do you have the grit to see challenging problems through to completion? They would love to hear stories about how you were faced with learning a new technology and solving a new problem.
Also, interviewers will be looking for evidence that you are self-motivated. If you don’t have specific instructions for what to do today, you should be asking your project manager or your manager, “What should I be doing today?” And if they don’t have an answer, then you should come up with something new to do on your own that will bring value to the company.
Experiment with some new idea you have, make it happen, and see how it performs. Those are great stories to have: stories of pure initiative, where you had an idea of your own, and in your own spare time, you made a prototype and experimented with it to see how it worked.
Hiring managers love that sort of thing.
2. Understand the company’s values and principles before the interview.
Big tech companies take their values seriously. They will evaluate you on how well you might embody those values. This is your cheat sheet of what sorts of stories you should have ready to tell. Demonstrate that you understand those values and that you embody them. Have stories ready to prove that to your interviewer.
They are not just looking for your technical skills, they want to make sure that you embody the company’s values. That is just as important. I’ve very often hired someone who didn’t do so well on the technical side of things, but really, really aligned well with the company’s values. And they ended up as good hires.
3. Practice coding, be well rested, prepare questions, and think big before your interview.
Practice coding and designing at the whiteboard or some virtual whiteboard, ahead of time. Writing code on a whiteboard is much harder, and it takes practice. So, get some practice. Find a friend, or find a family member, and just make them watch you while you solve technical problems on the board to make sure that you’re not thrown off kilter just by the stress of being asked to do this while somebody is watching.
If you had to fly out for an in-person interview, halfway across the world, don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re fighting jet lag at the same point where you’re trying to go through the most grueling, mentally challenging experience of your life.
Think about your questions for them ahead of time. Usually, an interview will end with, “do you have any questions for me?” And if you just say, “Nope, can’t think of anything”, you just blew an opportunity to make a good last impression on that interviewer. So, display some curiosity. Think about some questions ahead of time that you might want to ask.
Another tip is always to think big. If you’re interviewing at a big technical company, everything you do has to be on a massive scale, with massive amounts of data, and huge requirements. Make sure you’re thinking about the business and not just the technology.
So here are the key takeaways:
- Perseverance and self-motivation are just as important as your technical skills.
- Research the company and understand its values and principles.
- Before your interview, practice coding, prepare questions to ask them, and think big!
If you’re interested in learning more on how to nail your next tech interview – check out our full course, Mastering the Systems Design Interview, click here.
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