How to Prepare for a Software Developer Interview
Congratulations, you’ve landed a software developer interview for your dream company! Now what?
We will look at how to prepare for the interview itself:
- Prepare an elaborate introduction - The most important parts about your introduction are: to highlight your skills and to be persuasive as to why you deserve this role
- Standing Apart - You’ve already given them your elevator speech, now is where dive into greater detail about your strengths.
- What are the different types of interviews - Software developer interviews are different than other types of interviews. Here are the ones that you can expect.
- Preparing for the different interview types - Knowing the different types of interviews is useless unless you properly prepare for each of them.
- Salary Negotiations - NEVER accepts their first offer without negotiating for a higher pay.
How do You Pitch for an Interview? (Elevator Pitch)
The most used interview question is, “tell me about yourself”. Your elevator pitch is a persuasive speech about yourself that typically is no longer than 30 seconds to a minute long.
Choose your words correctly. As interesting as your life may be, the interviewer does not want to hear about all your hobbies.
Well this is partly true. We’re all human, so it’s good to talk about something you enjoy outside of software development. Make it snappy though, you only have 30 seconds!
Here are a couple of the things that would boost your score:
- Talk about your passion for tech.
- Mention any accomplishment in the software world.
- If you graduated from a prestigious school, mention that.
- If you’re self taught. Talk about how you learn.
Remember, first impressions are key.
What can I do to Stand Out in an Interview?
Here’s some other quick tips for making a good impression in an interview:
- Be confident - yes easier said than done.
- Dress professionally - easy yet extremely effective.
- Be enthusiastic - show that you’re excited for the opportunity.
By far the easiest way to stand out is to be knowledgeable about the company.
Look through their official website and you’ll learn what the companies true goals are. Another way is to contact current employees through LinkedIn. Be professional and upfront, ask them why you’re contacting them. Research the company.
You must know their core values, background, and history.
Knowing these shows the interviewer you’ve done your homework. It also shows you didn’t just dump 100 resumes into every tech company in town - you want to work here because you believe in what they do.
How else can you highlight your strengths for the company if you won’t do the research.
Imagine the awkwardness if you can’t answer, “why do you want to work for this company”. This would ruin any chance at being hired.
Our advice is to only apply for companies that you believe in. There are many tech companies that are doing amazing things.
What are 4 Types of Interviews? (Software Developer)
Knowing the different types of interviews you may face drastically increases your chances of being hired.
Phone interviews, regardless of job, are meant to be 30 minutes to 45 minutes long. They are intentionally meant to be short.
These are typically the starting point to any interview process. These are used to weed out candidates. Any software developer position is overflown with job applicants, so this makes sense why they need to screen their candidates.
How do I Prepare for a Phone Interview?
Remember earlier on ‘how do you pitch for an interview?’ Well that’s where your elevator pitch comes real handy.
A good way to improve your phone interviews is through practice. We often don’t realize how often we use unnecessary words like “ums” and “uhs”. By having a mock phone interview with a friend, you’re able to spot these occurrences and stop them.
Naturally, you’re notified through email of when this phone interview will take place. Make sure you’re in a quiet place and ready to answer the phone. Nothing screams inadequacy than not picking up the phone call or hearing your screaming roomates in the background.
Well done, If you’ve come this far, that means you’ve aced your phone interview.
How Long is an in Person Interview?
There’s no real timeline on how long this will take.
The duration will depend on the interviewers, and your resume. Each one of these actually boils down to your answers.
The reason being is that if you’re able to answer their questions correctly then chances are you’ve got their attention. During this, they’ll have more enquiries for you to just confirm that you’re the best candidate.
Also, as software developers, you’re most important tool that you can bring to an interview is a ‘heavy’ resume. The easiest way to stand out from your competition is to have a lot of projects on the side.
They love to see that not only are you looking for a career as a software developer but that you’re also improving your skills in this field on your own time.
The last three interviews for software developers positions i’ve had all had different time durations. The first one, which went horribly wrong, lasted about 35 minutes. The second one which went better, lasted shy of an hour. The very last one, which was for the job I landed, lasted just over an hour.
So, in most cases the longer the interview, the better the odds of you landing the jobs.
What is the meaning of Skype interviews? The skype interview could be for one of two reasons.
The first reason is that although you’ve done your phone interview, they could still be unsure if you’re the right candidate.
The other reason is that the position you applied for is far from where you live. So instead of the company paying a flight ticket, they have a skype interview.
What are the do’s and don’ts of Skype interviews?
Here are some of the things you should do for your Skype interview:
- Be prepared.
- Dress in business formal attire.
- Try to block out any interruptions that can occur during your interview.
- You’re looking at your camera and not your screen. This gives the appearance that you’re having a direct conversation with your interviewer.
- Use cheat notes. Remember that they can’t see your screen so it’s not a bad idea to have some common questions up and ready.
- No distractions! Close Facebook, Reddit or whatever other program you have opened.
- No backgrounds, make sure there’s nothing in the background that can distract the interview or your interviewers attention. You want the attention to yourself.
If you follow the tips and tricks listed above, you don’t have to worry about the don’ts.
How Should I Prepare for a Technical Interview?
Depending on your interviewers, technical interviews can be very similar to a programming interview.
Technical interviews are meant to be exhaustive, they’re meant to test how you handle difficult coding questions, how you verbally communicate your thinking, as well as personality.
Why are Technical Interviews so Important?
Technical interviews are important to you and the interviewers because it shows both parties how well you can handle real-world problems. This is key because usually these real-world problems are in one way or another related to the problems you will face while working for this company
How Long do Technical Interviews Last?
There’s no real pre-set time for this. The truth is it really depends on how the interviewer(s) feel(s) about you and how fast you’re answering their questions.
The average technical interview will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. However by no means should you go into the interview expecting this. The truth is it can last as little as 30 minutes but can go up to hours long.
A common misconception is that you have to answer the questions quickly. You really don’t want to rush answering anything. There are two reasons for this.
The first reason why you want to take your time answering questions is that the faster you answer the questions you’re more likely to make mistakes. The second reason is that at this rate their will be more questions coming your way. At this rate, you’re bound to stumble upon a few that you won’t have the answer to.
How do I Pass a Technical Interview?
Yes, you can still pass a technical interview without answering questions correctly.
Also, just because you answer them correctly doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily passed their technical interview.
I mentioned this earlier, the interviewers are looking at how you’re handling their coding questions, as well as how well you’re verbally communicating your thinking process.
You’ll still be able to pass if you can explain how you got to your conclusion of the answer, even if it’s the wrong one. When working in teams this is a good perk to have because your teammates can help guide you closer to the right answer.
It also helps the interviewer see how well you perform under pressure. Even if it’s the wrong answer it shows that you won’t simply give up, you’ll still work through the hardship.
How well can you verbally articulate your thoughts so that the interviewer(s) knows every single step that’s rushing through your head. How are each levels of your thinking leading towards or away from the answer.
Here are 5 Technical Interview Questions.
- Why is the use of continuous integration so important to automated-build processes?
- What were the challenges you’ve faced when you build your first website/application for yourself? If you haven’t build any, why not?
- Explain what the difference between an array and a string.
- List 3 data structures and the events in which you would use each one.
- What programming language is the most important?
- It helps save time. It can run continuously - finding any error along the way.
- Talk about what issues you’ve faced whenever you build anything - even if it was only half build. Talk about why you only got so far.
As a starting developer it can be hard to have the knowledge to start a full scalable project on your own. In this case you can discuss any project you’ve built during school.
Schools are notorious for having that one person who never pulls their weight or fails to deliver tasks on time. If you’ve experience this, you can talk about how frustrating this can be. It’s also important to talk about how you kept your cool during this time and how you overcame this wall.
- An array is an object while a string is an array of characters.
- A Queue. Also known as FIFO - First In First Out. An example of this is whenever you wait for in a grocery check out line.
A Stack. Also known as LIFO - Last in First Out. This data structure is really good if you need to go back a step. A good example of this is the windows ‘Ctrl + Z’ function.
- This is an easy question to weed out any ignorance. The reason for this is that there’s no such thing as the best programming language. Each programming language has its purpose. Each programming language comes with it’s own pros, and unfortunately with it’s own cons as well.
How do I Prepare for a Programming Interview?
You should be able to master the art of interviewing by participating in mock interviews. You can team up with a friend or colleague or, you can ask your college professors to conduct a mock interview to determine your aptitude at giving answers and solving problems during an interview session.
Your mock interviewer should challenge you at every step of the interview to figure out your weak points. Once you know your weak points, you may want to work on them before you go for the actual interview.
Switch. Try interviewing a friend. Pretending your friend is the one applying for a software developer position for your company. Think of what different types of questions you would ask. With each question asked, what will you consider as a strength or a weakness. This is extremely important as it can help you better prepare for your own interviews.
Whiteboard interviews are one of the most difficult interview types - also the easiest to stand out amongst the other applicants.
This is where you get asked to solve a problem - usually by writing your solution in pseudocode on the whiteboard. It’s a difficult process as you normally have multiple interviewers watching over your shoulder as you attempt to provide a correct solution.
Most forget that although you might have an answer, the interviewers expect you to communicate each one of your steps thoroughly. This shouldn’t be forgotten. In the case that your final solution is wrong the interviewers can guide you in the right direction.
3 Tips for Whiteboard Interviews
- Take your time. You drastically increase the chances of errors if the first thing you do is rush to find a solution. By doing this, you give the interviewers more time to ask you more questions. You also run the risk of the interviewers not understanding your steps because you went at a pace that the interviewers couldn’t grasp your logic.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions whenever you’re stuck. This helps show that you’re not afraid to be wrong and ask for help. This is an important skill that a lot of people don’t have. It’s more important to let go of your ego and find the solution then to try to do it yourself and fail.
- Studying ahead of time. As a software developer, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the different data structures. It’s also important that you have a good understand of the most common sorting algorithms, how they are implemented, each sorting algorithms pros and cons.
Remember that you can still win their vote even if you get a wrong answer. Although getting the right answer and being able to thoroughly explain your steps helps your odds.
On the bright side, because you’ll be writing your solutions on a whiteboard you don’t have to worry having correct syntax.
It’s no secret that Whiteboard interviews tend to favour young graduates. They typically focus on topics that are generally covered through each year of university.
5 Top Whiteboard Interview Questions
- Array Manipulation
- String Manipulation
- Data Structures
- Common/ popular algorithms
- Time complexity of a given algorithm
How do I ace my Whiteboard Interview?
A common theme with any interview, regardless if it’s an in-person, skype, technical interview is that preparation is key.
Knowing what types of whiteboard interview questions you can get makes it that much easier to study for them.
Get out your whiteboard and start practicing. Here are some examples of the types of whiteboard interview questions you may be asked:
- How to find a missing integer in an array?
- Find the kth smallest and/or largest element in an array.
- Remove duplicates from an array.
- Reverse a string.
- Check if two strings are reverse opposites of each other.
- How can you implement a data structure by using a different data structure, i.e implementing a stack by using a queue.
- How can you implement a data structure by using a different data structure, i.e implementing a queue by using a stack.
- Write a quick algorithm that checks if a Binary Tree is BST.
- Write and explain any of the following sorting algorithms
- What’s the difference in time complexities between two algorithms.
If you’re applying to one of the big FOUR (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft) then i’d recommend getting the Cracking The Code Interview book.
Cracking the Code Interview Book and Why You Should get it.
Easily one of the most useless interview books out there - especially for the big FOUR.
There are over 160 programming interview questions. These questions scale from basic to more advanced algorithm problems. Guaranteed to help you improve your understanding of algorithms and how to properly answer interview questions surrounding them.
All these questions have well defined approach to derive each solution. This helps ensure that you not only understand these questions but it also teaches you how to break down similar questions down to form your own solution. It teaches you NOT what the answer is but rather HOW to get the answer.
In addition it also covers big O time complexities as well as data structures.When dealing with large data the understanding for these topics is crucial as a software developer.
It discusses the processes that the big FOUR companies take when it comes to hiring developers.
WIth all the benefits with a small cost of $32 (CAD) it’s not wonder this is Amazon.com’s #1 best-selling interview book.
The Day of the Interview Preparations
When preparing for the big day—you should wake up early and treat yourself to a light breakfast. Do not attend any interview with an empty stomach, as it could make you groggy during the session.
Another important thing that most forget is to get a good night's sleep. You want to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
How do You Negotiate Salary After Receiving a Job Offer?
One thing i’ve noticed with any job offer i’ve ever received is that they always offer a salary lower than what they’re comfortable with.
Depending on the company, some may first offer you a salary that is 5k- 15k lower.
In order to receive a higher salary than originally offered, you have to build your case as to why you deserve this salary.
As listed above, the easiest way to this is by always having projects you work on. This shows that you’re not just looking for that 9-5 to pay your bills. But rather, you’re looking to not only improve your skills, but to also improve the company with more efficient solutions or tech implementation.
Getting a software developer interview to your dream company is the easiest part. The hard part about software developer interviews is the interview itself.
As discussed, there are many different pieces you need to be aware of in order to land have a successful interview.
The first part, and I truly believe that you should know this prior to even landing an interview. Having an elevator pitch is extremely important, especially when it comes to software developer interviews. Being able to sell yourself is a skill that many lack. If you can land this part, you already increase your chances amongst other candidates.
First impressions are key to any interview. So other than your elevator pitch how can you stand out amongst candidates even more? Little things such as being confident, being enthusiastic about the opportunity and of course, dressing apart. It’s no secret that as software developer we prefer dressing up in more relaxing clothing.
This is where you leave that trend behind, temporarily of course. During the interview, you need to dress as professional as you can. If you don’t own a suit, you can simply mix and match some darker pants with a blazer and a dress shirt underneath
There are a four different types of software developer interviews: phone interview, in-person interview, skype interview, technical interview and programming interview.
Great! At this stage you’ve done everything we’ve suggested and you received an offer for the job, now what? It’s important to carefully look at the offer. Most times you will receive an offer lower than they’re willing to give you. The reason for this is because they look room for negotiations.
There’s no doubt that you’ll be feeling all sorts of ways the night before your interview. You’ll be anxious and excited. However, don’t let this discourage you from getting a proper night's rest.
Also make sure to eat proper healthy food the day of the interview. This way you won’t be feeling bloated or hungry during the interview. You want to be 100% focused on the interview, especially if your interview is a programming interview type.
Negotiations can include many things for software developers. You can ask for a higher raise, as most people do, but you can also ask to work from home more often, as well as you can ask for longer paid vacation. For instance, in Canada the average yearly paid vacation days range from 2 weeks to 3 weeks. You can easily ask for an extra week of paid vacation to what they initially offered.