Interview 101: What to Expect

updated on 02 April 2023

Interviews can definitely be nerve-wracking, especially when it comes to technical positions in a highly competitive job market. But don't worry! Being prepared can help you feel more confident and focus on highlighting your talents and skills. The goal is to show the employer that you're one of the top 10% qualified candidates for the job.

When it comes to software engineering interviews, the process usually consists of multiple rounds, each with a different focus. Here's a quick overview of what you can expect during the interview process:

📞 Phone Screen

This is a quick conversation with a recruiter or an engineer from the business to talk about your training and experience. This call is to see if you qualify for the job and, if so, to schedule the subsequent interviews. 

Example Questions: 

  • Describe a recent project that you worked on and what your responsibilities were.
  • What is your favorite programming language and why?
  • Describe a time when you had to troubleshoot and debug a production issue. How did you go about solving the problem?
  • Can you explain the difference between a stack and a queue? How would you implement each one in code?
  • Can you explain the difference between a static and a dynamic programming language? When would you use each one?

Example Scorecard: 

(1-1) Initial Phone Interview Scorecard-rboig

Video: 9 Tips To Ace Any Technical Phone Interview

⛷ Technical Interview: 

This is a more in-depth technical interview, often conducted online or over the phone, where you will be asked to solve a problem or write code. The purpose of this interview is to evaluate your technical skills and problem-solving ability. 

Example Questions: 

  • What is the time complexity of insertion sort and how does it compare to other sorting algorithms?
  • How does a hash table work and what is the time complexity of inserting, deleting, and finding elements in a hash table?
  • What is the difference between a depth-first search and a breadth-first search, and when would you use each?
  • What is the difference between a stack and a queue, and when would you use each?
  • What is the difference between dynamic programming and divide and conquer, and when would you use each?

Example Scorecard: 

Onsite Interview Scorecard (1)-ub2ii

Other Useful Tech Interview Guides:

🏋🏽‍♀️ Onsite interview

If the technical screening goes well, you might be invited to an on-site interview, which usually takes place over the course of a full day and involves several rounds of interviews. These interviews may be conducted by a panel of interviewers and may include a mix of technical and non-technical questions.

You might be asked to solve problems individually and in groups, as well as talk with other team members about your technical expertise. You can expect to be asked a wide range of questions that test your technical skills and problem-solving abilities in the following areas: 

  • Data structures and algorithms: You may be asked to implement or analyze the performance of specific data structures or algorithms, or to choose the appropriate data structure or algorithm for a given task. 
  • Coding skills: You may be asked to write code to solve a specific problem or to debug and fix existing code.
  • Systems design: You may be asked to design a system to solve a specific problem or to scale to a large amount of traffic.
  • Your technical experience and projects: You may be asked to discuss your technical experience in detail and to walk through specific projects you have worked on.

Example Questions:

  • Can you explain the difference between a stack and a queue?
  • How would you implement a binary search tree?
  • Can you explain the difference between a thread and a process?
  • How do you handle conflicts in a version control system like Git?
  • Can you explain how a hash table works and give an example of how it could be used?
  • How would you design a system for storing and querying large amounts of data in real-time?
  • Can you explain the difference between a lock and a semaphore, and give an example of when you would use each?
  • Can you explain the difference between a deep copy and a shallow copy, and give an example of when you would use each?
  • How would you optimize the performance of a slow database query?
  • Can you explain the difference between a RESTful and a non-RESTful API, and give an example of each?

Video: How to Pass the On-Site Interview

🏆 Offer

The company might extend you an offer if you do well in the on-site interview. At this point, you can either accept or reject the offer, or negotiate the terms of the offer.

Some things to remember:

  • Do your research: It's important to have a good understanding of the market rate for software engineers in your area and industry, as well as the specific value that you bring to the table. You can use salary surveys and websites like Glassdoor to get a sense of what other companies are offering for similar roles.
  • Make a case for your worth: When negotiating your salary, it's important to communicate the value that you will bring to the company. This could include your technical skills, your experience and achievements, and the impact that you will have on the company's bottom line.
  • Be flexible: While salary is an important factor, it's not the only thing that you should consider when evaluating a job offer. Be open to negotiating other aspects of the offer, such as vacation time, flexible work arrangements, or the opportunity to work on specific projects.
  • Don't be afraid to ask: Don't be afraid to ask for what you want -- as long as you do it politely and professionally. Remember that negotiation is a two-way conversation and that the company may have its own constraints and priorities.

General tips for interviewing: 

  • Be prepared to discuss your past projects and experiences in detail, if you need help elaborating read our guide, but the more context you can provide, the easier your story will be to follow
  • Practice coding on your own or with friends There are many online resources where you can find practice problems and implement solutions in your preferred programming language. See some recommendations below:
  • Practice answering common interview questions, such as "Tell me about a time when you faced a difficult problem and how you solved it" and "Why do you want to work for this company?".
  • Practice explaining your thought process  and coding solutions out loud. This will help you communicate your ideas effectively during the interview.
  • Get familiar with the company's products and technology stack It shows your enthusiasm for the role and the company which will make you stand out. 
  • Companies may give candidates a coding challenge or algorithmic problem to solve that is relevant to the company's technology stack. This can help to evaluate a candidate's problem-solving skills, as well as their ability to apply relevant programming concepts to real-world problems.
  • During the interview process, companies may ask candidates technical questions that are specific to the company's technology stack. This can help to evaluate a candidate's level of expertise with the relevant programming languages, frameworks, and tools.
  • Finally, companies may ask candidates to review and discuss code samples from the company's existing codebase. This can help to evaluate a candidate's ability to read and understand existing code, as well as their ability to identify areas for improvement or optimization.

Common Interviewing Mistakes: 

  1. Failure to prepare: Skipping the opportunity to do background research on the business, go over the job specifications, or practice coding problems can be a costly error. Prior to the interview, be sure you are completely prepared.
  2. Not understanding the role: It is important to have a clear understanding of what the role entails and what the company is looking for in a candidate. Make sure you are familiar with the job description and have a good sense of what the company is looking for.
  3. Being too modest: It is important to be humble and modest in an interview, but don't be too modest. Be sure to highlight your achievements and skills, and explain how they make you a strong fit for the role.
  4. Failing to ask questions: Asking thoughtful questions about the company and the role shows that you are engaged and interested in the opportunity. Failing to ask questions can make you seem disinterested.

  Mock Interview:

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