Tech Job Interview Prep for Recent Graduates
By The Fullstack Academy Team
Tech Job Interview Prep for Recent Graduates
In 2022, U.S. employers posted 4.1 million job openings seeking professionals with technology skills, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). Even with such high demand, though, competition for these jobs can be intense.
For recent graduates of tech education programs, a key to landing employment is to prepare thoroughly for the interview process. While tech job interviews share some elements with standard job interviews, they also include unique questions as well as hands-on opportunities for candidates to showcase their abilities.
Fortunately, tech graduates can find a wide variety of resources for tech interview prep, both online and in person. By studying a range of such resources, job seekers can discover what to expect and learn how to set themselves up to successfully land their ideal tech job.
The Tech Interview Process
The tech interview process gives employers the chance to get to know a candidate and better understand their qualifications. Educational credentials and work experience can help a candidate get selected for interviews. However, it’s up to the job seeker to demonstrate their skills: both technical and social.
The first stage of tech interview prep is to learn how the overall process works. An applicant can expect to go through several common steps.
1. Phone Interview
After selecting promising candidates based on their job applications, companies often do initial screenings by phone. A phone interview might last from 15 minutes to an hour, leaving a short window of time for an interviewee to make the best possible impression.
The interviewer’s goal is to quickly learn about a candidate’s background and whether they’re qualified. The interviewee should concisely communicate their relevant experience and qualifications while showing knowledge of both the company and the role.
2. Skills Test
Before moving on to a technical interview, most companies will remotely test an applicant’s tech skills. A test may take one of two forms:
An exam: administered over a video app like Zoom or through an online portal
An assignment: one or more practical problems to solve and bring back, which, depending on the job, might involve writing or debugging code, analyzing data structure, or correcting a system problem
For a recent graduate, a skills test offers a valuable chance to compensate for a shortage of credentials or experience. The practical application of coding, analytical, and problem-solving abilities can count just as much.
3. Technical Interview
If a candidate appears to be a good prospect, the next step will typically be a technical interview, either in person or online. The interview may involve multiple tasks, each designed to assess the candidate’s technical abilities by displaying them in real time, for example:
Solving a problem in front of an interviewer while explaining the overall strategy and demonstrating each step along the way
Answering rounds of questions from interviewers on a wide range of topics, from technical to personal
4. Final Interview
By the final interview, an employer has narrowed down their list to a handful of candidates who are all highly qualified for the job. The final interview seeks to determine which one will fit best within that particular company.
The final interview may resemble a technical interview, but be on-site and more intensive, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a full day. The applicant may meet both senior workers and their potential co-workers. These encounters seek to assess the candidate’s technical prowess as well as their soft skills—such as their ability to work in a team and fit the company’s culture.
Tech Interview Prep: Materials
An important part of tech interview prep is creating and gathering the right materials to give to an interviewer. Here are a few things an interviewee should have on hand to make themselves stand out.
A resume provides a snapshot of the interviewee’s experience and qualifications. It can be organized in one of two formats.
Reverse chronology, with the most recent jobs first
By function, highlighting experience in various skill areas and customized to the specific job
Besides employment history and education, several other pieces of information can increase a resume’s impact:
A brief opening statement describing the candidate’s employment goals
Up-to-date contact information
Links to the candidate’s websites and social media profiles, such as their LinkedIn profile
A list of memberships in organizations, volunteer work, and hobbies
Providing a list of references can indicate that a candidate is well organized and has a history that previous bosses and associates will confirm. Professional references can include:
Managers and supervisors
Professors and teachers
Before listing someone as a reference, the applicant should ask for their permission. It can be helpful for the applicant to provide their resume to the potential reference as well as details about which employers might contact them.
Greatest Hits List
To make a strong impression in a short time, an applicant should assemble a brief list that highlights their most significant professional accomplishments and responsibilities.
Beyond showcasing the applicant’s strengths, this list can be used by an interviewer as a springboard for discussions and questions about the applicant’s background. An interviewee should be prepared to talk in more detail about each item on the list.
While a resume showcases a job seeker’s work history, a portfolio showcases their actual work. It can include hard-copy samples, screenshots, and links to online collections. Several elements can make a portfolio more effective:
Choose a clean and attractive design
Organize items by category
Tailor work samples to the job being applied for
Describe not just the project, but the problem it solved and the skills it required
Include testimonials from managers, teachers, and clients
Tech Interview Prep: Questions and Answers
The heart of any job interview is the questions. One of the most important parts of tech interview prep is anticipating questions that might be asked and rehearsing answers. Job seekers should be familiar with the common kinds of questions asked in tech interviews and effective techniques for answering them.
Kinds of Interview Questions
Although questions can cover a wide variety of topics, they tend to fall into three broad categories. Preparing for questions in each of these categories can be crucial to a successful technical interview.
With a scenario-based question, the interviewer describes a tech problem and asks the applicant to develop a solution. To prepare, an applicant can practice solving common scenario problems with a timer.
With a competency-based question, the interviewer refers to a project highlighted on the candidate’s resume and asks about the process behind it and the skills required. To prepare, a candidate can review their top achievements and rehearse talking about each one.
The interviewer may ask a variety of technical questions to test the breadth of the applicant’s knowledge. To prepare, an applicant can carefully review the job description to anticipate topics likely to arise.
A behavioral question asks the candidate to share past experiences to assess their reactions to certain situations. To prepare, a candidate can review past challenges and successes and rehearse discussing each example.
10 Common Direct Interview Questions
Apart from specific questions about technologies, problems, and projects, an applicant is likely to face general questions about their personal philosophies, work habits, and views. Thinking in advance about these questions and how to answer them can help an applicant make a favorable impression.
How do you keep your tech skills up to date?
What online tools or communities do you use to help you solve problems?
How would past coworkers describe you?
What qualities are important for working in and leading a team?
Describe a presentation you’ve made.
How have you dealt with setbacks?
How do you balance work and life?
What are your favorite pieces of hardware and software, and why?
What are your least favorites, and why?
How will coming technological changes affect your job?
STAR Method for Answers
When facing a technical question, it can be hard for an applicant to organize a response, causing them to get lost in the details. By having a structure in mind for the answer, the applicant can more clearly and concisely communicate their response. One popular structure goes by the acronym STAR.
Situation. Outline the situation the question is addressing.
Task. State the problem at the core of the situation.
Action. Explain the approach for addressing the problem.
Result. Talk about how the approach resolves the problem.
PREP Method for Answers
Depending on the kind of question, it can be useful for an applicant to know more than one method for structuring answers. An alternative technique is known as PREP.
Point. Start with the solution to the problem.
Reasons. Explain how the solution solves the problem.
Example. Illustrate the problem and solution with a practical example.
Point. Reiterate the solution, to cement it in the listener’s mind.
Interviewing the Interviewer
A candidate should prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer during the course of the conversation. Such questions can underline the candidate’s interest in the job and the company. Some examples include:
What are the company’s top goals?
How does the job fit into the company’s long-term goals?
What does a typical day look like for a person doing the job?
What is the company’s reporting structure, and where does the position fit in?
How does the company encourage tech workers to further develop their skills?
What are the opportunities for advancement in the company?
Resources for Questions and Answers
Effective tech interview prep requires getting ready to answer a wide array of questions. The following resources offer more information on the kinds of questions used in tech job interviews and how to answer them.
Indeed, “13 Common Technical Interview Questions Plus Example Answers”: Detailed questions, answers, and links to more information for each answer
Robert Half Talent Solutions, “17 Must-Ask Tech Interview Questions”: Questions for interviewers to ask to gain a fuller picture of a candidate, as recommended by a tech talent agency
Silicon Republic, “5 Tips to Help You Ace Your Next Technical Interview”: Explores scenario, competency-based, and technical questions in depth
Tech Interview Prep: Practical Tips
Doing well in a tech interview is not just a matter of answering technical questions. It’s about leaving a strong and positive impression on the interviewer. Here are some practical tips to help an interviewee stand out above other applicants:
Study the Company
An applicant should research the company, culture, and individuals they’ll be meeting with. Company websites, press releases, and annual reports are a good start, but these resources can help you dig deeper:
Employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor
Profiles of individuals on LinkedIn
Study the Job Description
The job description can offer clues to questions that might come up in an interview. If it mentions skills needed in the job, a candidate can come up with examples from their work experience that illustrate those skills.
Researching the company culture can suggest what attire to wear for an interview, whether it’s formal, casual, or in-between. Appropriate attire can add to the sense that the interviewee might be a good fit for the company.
For a tech interview, a candidate needs to show basic competence with technology. That includes ensuring video, audio, and internet connections are all reliable. A practice interview with a friend can provide feedback about connection quality and areas for improvement.
Don’t Rush Answers
It’s not necessary to start talking as soon as a question is asked. Taking time to structure an answer or an approach to problem-solving can suggest that the candidate will address work problems thoughtfully and methodically.
If an interviewer’s question is unclear, the applicant should ask for clarification. For example, if asked to come up with a solution to a problem, the applicant can ask for parameters, such as whether specific programming languages should be used or avoided.
Close the Sale
An interview is partly a sales call, with the applicant trying to sell themself. Toward the end of the interview, an applicant can take several actions to close the sale:
Address any possible objections that might have come up
Repeat their strongest qualifications for the job
Emphasize their interest in the job and the company and explain why
Resources for Practical Tips
Many different elements contribute to leaving a good impression on an interviewer. The following resources provide more detail on practical tips for performing well in a tech job interview.
Indeed, “Technical Interview Preparation: A Step-by-Step Guide”: Steps for interview preparation and qualities to demonstrate in an interview
Scion Technology Staffing, IT Job Interview Tips: Best practices, tips on people skills, and specific approaches for various segments of an interview
Smashing Magazine, “Seven Mistakes to Avoid in Your Technical Interviews”: Tips about what not to do—and how to correct mistakes
Further Resources for Tech Interview Prep
There are many specialized resources available to help professionals get ready for tech interviews. Some tech training programs offer interview prep assistance to their students and graduates. In addition, applicants can seek out helpful books, websites, and courses to learn more and practice prior to interviews.
Career.io, Be Ready Now With Interview Prep and Simulation: Practice for tech interviews with artificial intelligence avatars
Google Tech Development Guide, Interview Prep: A collection of articles, videos, and practice exercises to use to get ready for tech interviews
InterviewBit, Technical Interview Questions: Targeted guides to interviewing at specific companies, such as Google and Amazon, and about specific languages, like Java and Python
Learn to Code With Me, “The 33 Best Technical Interview Prep Courses, Books, and Resources for 2023”: An extensive directory of several different kinds of online resources
Preparation Equals Success
Recent graduates face intense competition for landing their first jobs in the tech world. It’s not enough to know how to code or analyze data. Knowing how to interview effectively is key to being hired and gaining the opportunity to put your tech education to work.
Tech interview prep requires learning what to expect in an interview as well as practicing responses to common questions and coding challenges. Studying and practicing with a wide variety of materials will increase your chances of interviewing successfully and landing your ideal tech job.