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The Blind Spots of Tech Interviews

Updated: 6 days ago




Explore various platforms like Google and Medium, and you'll find an abundance of content on technical interviews. Much of this content features enticing headlines like 'Easily pass the Meta System Design interview' or '10 must-know questions for top-tier tech teams'—which, in my opinion, are just BS misleading titles.

In a conversation with Vadym Kukhtin, a returning guest to our blog and an experienced tech leader (check out his first contribution here - Career Advice (perituspartners.co.uk) we delve into the often-overlooked aspects of technical interviews. The areas that many of us know but either forget or ignore.

This article doesn't make unrealistic promises of a 100% pass rate. Instead, it focuses on the areas Vadym emphasises for improvement. By honing these skills, you can expect to see notable progress in various formats of technical interviews, including online, in-person, and coding assessments.

 

Preparation

Preparation is a crucial but often neglected aspect of interview success, a topic we've addressed in various forms. The specific nature of your preparation should be tailored to the type of interview you're facing, especially in the context of a technical round. Before your interview, you should have a general idea of its format. Will it involve a whiteboard exercise, a pair-programming session, or perhaps a discussion? Understanding this helps you mentally prepare for the challenges ahead.

Vadym points out that technical interviews often include non-technical questions. Thus, your preparation should extend beyond just the technical aspects. Dedicate around 30 minutes to learn about the company's values, market position, and culture. This knowledge will enable you to engage more effectively during the interview. Additionally, spend about 15 minutes researching the interviewer's background and professional level, looking for any potential points of connection.

If your research is thorough, it will facilitate the next overlooked area: sales. A deep understanding of the company will make your approach in this area more effective and tailored to the specific organisation you are engaging with.

 

Sales

The truth is, you didn’t decide to work in development only to work in sales, but the reality is selling skills are an integral part of any job. In the context of an interview, the entire process is essentially a sales pitch.

Vadym shared the importance of customising your responses to align with the company's culture and projects, based on your research. Doing this organically often leads to better performance in interviews. For instance, if the company values proactivity, instead of simply stating "I am proactive", it's more effective to share a specific instance where you demonstrated proactivity. Incorporating the value subtly within your response can highlight that you embody this trait.

A useful mantra for job seekers is to shift the interviewer's perspective of you from 'could hire' to 'need to hire'. This shift is achieved by asking insightful questions to unearth the company's challenges and then steering the conversation to offer solutions based on your experience. This approach effectively 'sells' your skills and suitability for the role.

 

Mental Resilience

Organisations have always valued mental resilience and the ability to adapt to market, technological, and economic changes. However, the recent upheavals have made these traits even more critical. Despite their importance, these requirements are often omitted from job descriptions, leaving many job seekers unaware of their significance.

Vadym explained interviewers can assess a candidate's resilience and adaptability through their responses to certain questions. Those who appear more composed and level-headed in these situations are usually favoured by hiring teams.

We covered how to stay resilient during a job search in a previous article and would highly recommend checking it out (https://www.perituspartners.co.uk/blog/2024/01/staying-resilient-during-a-prolonged-job-search) as it is a full topic on its own.

 

Rushing into Solutions

The initial three points, while relevant to tech interviews, are not unique to them. Now, let's focus on three specific areas Vadym identifies as common pitfalls unique for job seekers in tech interviews.

The first issue is prematurely jumping into solutions. In tech interviews, such as coding rounds or technical discussions, you might face vaguely formulated questions. Vadym emphasises the importance of probing deeper, using your expertise as a developer to ask clarifying questions. This approach helps reveal the true nature of the problem, leading to more accurate solutions.

However, Vadym observes that many candidates hastily propose solutions without fully understanding the question, which often leads to confusion and errors later in the interview. Whenever you receive a question, take a moment to pause.

What is missing in order for you to answer?

What is the interviewer not sharing yet?

Use these two questions to guide you to learn more.

 

Making mistakes on fundamental

Vadym also shared the importance of not overlooking the fundamentals of the programming language you're using, even when you've managed to steer your solution in the right direction. Understanding data structures, algorithms, and basic functions in your chosen language is crucial for any proficient software developer.

While it's valuable to keep up with the latest advancements, neglecting the basics can undermine your skills. Just as a sturdy house requires solid foundations, becoming an exceptional software developer necessitates a strong grasp of the core fundamentals. Vadym advises continuously revisiting these basics to ensure you are well-prepared for technical interviews.

 

Staying quiet

Vadym highlights the importance of communication during the technical round of interviews.

It's not just about finding a working solution; hiring teams also want to understand your thought process. The live sessions are intended to showcase how you approach problems in a real-world setting, offering the team insight into your working style and how well it might align with theirs.

By verbalising your thought process while solving problems, you give interviewers a chance to understand your approach and methodology. Even if you're unsure or incorrect in your approach, speaking out loud can prompt the interviewer to guide you back on the right path.

Conversely, remaining silent can increase the pressure of the interview, particularly during prolonged periods of quietness.

 

Learning and Development

The final topic we'd like to delve into in this article concerns learning and development. This ties back to adaptability, as technology evolves at a rapid pace. Progressive hiring teams are on the lookout for colleagues eager to explore new possibilities.

However, merely claiming to be up to date with trends is a typical response that Vadym frequently encounters during discussions on learning and development. To truly differentiate themselves, job seekers can employ two strategies he suggests.

 

Firstly, when given a take-home assignment or presenting a live solution, it's beneficial to apply the most recent methods, documentation, and structures for the chosen programming language. This approach naturally demonstrates to the hiring team your engagement with the latest trends.

Secondly, a novel idea is to maintain a collection of resources you're currently engaging within a tool like Notion. Regularly updating this collection with courses, videos, and reading materials, and sharing it during interviews, allows you to show, rather than just tell, what you're learning. This not only provides interviewers with a basis for related questions but also showcases your keen interest in development and your organised approach.

If you find it challenging to spontaneously bring up your learning and development and the interviewer doesn't prompt this topic, you could initiate the conversation. Ask about the team's current learning focus and then segue into discussing your learning methods.

 

We hope that you have got to the end of this article either learning something new or having your memory jogged about something you already knew. Often we try to over-complicate interviewers, looking at ways to stand out from the crowd and as a result forgetting the basics.

Strip your approach to the bare bones, ensure you are preparing correctly, asking deep probing questions which you can use to sell your skills and understand more about the task at hand, acing fundamentals and speaking through your solution.

Once this has been achieved then look at unique ways in how you can build deeper connections that will make you stand out.

 

Vadym has tried and tested these tips in his own career, we thank him for supporting us once more with his insights and would welcome anyone who wishes to share this article in their own network if they believe someone else could learn from the knowledge here.

Let’s collectively bring simplicity to the chaos of recruitment.

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