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Tips for preparing for software development interviews

Preparing for software development interviews

Preparing for software development interviews can be daunting. After all, you want to make a good impression and showcase your skills to potential employers. But don't worry – with a little preparation, you can ace your interview and land the job you want. Career Advancement is really easy to achieve if you can get the right job. This article will go through some of the pointers that will help you do well at your software development interview.

Typical Interview Process

1) Technical Pre-screen

The first step in the interview process is usually a technical interview pre-screen. This is a phone call with a recruiter or engineer to see if you are qualified for the role. They will ask you some basic questions about your skills and experience.

2) Take-home project

If you make it past the pre-screen, you may be asked to do a take-home project. You will have to complete this project at home and send it back to the company. This project aims to see if you have the software engineering skills required for the role.

3) Onsite Interview

If you pass the technical pre-screen, you will be invited for an onsite interview. This is usually a full day of interviews with different people from the company. You will likely be asked to do a coding challenge, interview managers, and maybe even have a lunch meeting.

4) Boss interview

Another type of interview is the 'boss' interview. This is where you will meet with the department head or division in which you would work if employed at that company. They are usually pretty informal, so just be yourself!

5) There may be more interviews

The interview process can vary from company to company, so there may be more or fewer interviews than what we have listed here. But the ones we have mentioned are the most common.

Types of questions

1) High-level technical interview questions

Companies are looking for people who can work at a high level, so you will most likely be asked difficult questions. Some examples of these types of questions are:

  • How would you design a system that sends an email to a user that has just signed up?
  • What is the normal signup flow that you might find in a web application?
  • What's your favorite open-source project and why?

2) Language/Framework specific questions

If you are interviewing for a role that requires specific language or framework skills, you will likely be asked questions about that language or framework. For example:

  • What is the difference between arrays and lists in Java?
  • How would you implement a queue in Ruby?

3) Behavioral/Team questions

Behavioral or team questions are the most common type of question asked in interviews. The purpose of these questions is to find out how you work in a team and what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Some examples:

  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty at work.

4) There could be a coding challenge on-site

A coding challenge might be part of an on-site interview or a take-home project. It will probably be time-boxed (e.g., 2 hours) and should allow you to write some code that works. You will most likely be asked to walk through the code and your thought process.

Whiteboarding questions

1) How to sketch out the problem

When whiteboarding coding questions, it is important to show the interviewer that you can work through problems. You don't want to write code or point at the computer and say, "I'm working on this." It is good practice to work through parts of your problem on paper before writing any code. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Ask clarifying questions about what they want if you're unsure (e.g., How many points should be in your Fibonacci Sequence? What will these points represent?).
  • Start with pseudo-code (e.g., Pseudocode for Fibonacci Sequence)
  • Draw shapes representing arrays/lists/stacks/queues

2) Think out loud

This is especially important when you are stuck on a problem. The interviewer wants to see how you think through problems, so talking aloud will help them understand your thought process. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help
  • If you get stuck, take a breath and try to think of another way to approach the problem
  • Explain your thought process as you go along
  • If you end up solving the problem a different way than what they were looking for, explain why you made that decision

3) How do you address the problem

During your whiteboard session your interviewers may throw different questions at you to see how you handle changing requirements or to probe your solution for possible weaknesses you may not have thought of. How you answer these new problems will definitely play into your overall impression you leave them with.

Behavioral/Culture fit questions

1) Your strongest skill/weakest skill

One of the best ways to answer behavioral questions is to use the STAR technique. This stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Here's an example: Tell me about when you had to deal with a difficult customer.

Situation : I was working as a cashier at my previous job, and I had a customer who was angry and yelling at me.

Task : I remained calm and tried to listen to what he said.

Action : I apologized and offered to refund his purchase.

Result : He ended up leaving the store without any further incident.

2) How have you grown in your career?

This question is a great opportunity to talk about your software engineering strengths and how you've developed as a software developer. Some of the things you could talk about include:

  • Taking on new challenges
  • Learning new programming languages or frameworks
  • Being a mentor or teaching others how to code

3) What project are you most proud of and why?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask and be asked in an interview. It gives me a chance to talk about something that I'm proud of and to explain to them why. Talk about a project where you showed initiative and determination to get results. You should also explain how you contributed to the outcome of the project. You want to show them that you are a team player but can also work independently.

4) What is the most challenging thing you worked on?

The interviewer is looking to see how you handle difficult situations. Talk about a project where you faced many challenges but persevered and overcame them. Explain what you did to get through the tough times.

5) What was a project that went badly, and what was your role/what did you do on it?

Trying to identify weaknesses is a big part of the interview process. Talk about a project where things didn't go as expected and what happened.

  • How did you feel about it?
  • What could you have done differently?
  • Was it due to something that was out of your control?

6) How do you handle interpersonal conflict?

This question is looking to see how you work with others. Do you stay calm and try to resolve the issue, or do you get defensive and argumentative? You can also talk about how you've handled working in a team before or if you have experience leading people. It isn't a bad thing to talk about reacting in a negative way during a situation as long as you learned something from it and were able to show how you have grown since then. No one is perfect and most companies will appreciate the honesty, especially as you have shown how you have grown or how you might handle a similar situation now.

7) How do you handle criticism?

This is another question about how you work with others. Do you take feedback well and try to improve or get defensive? The interviewer is looking to see if you can learn from your mistakes.

Questions you should ask

1) How to research a company

It's important to do some research on the company before the interview. You want to be able to talk about their products, their mission, and what they're looking for in a candidate. You can research a company by looking at their website, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and AngelList. When researching a company you should be looking for things like:

  • What are their main products? Can you sign up for it to test it and play with it? Either way right down your impressions of that.
  • What do they talk about on LinkedIn? Can you identify any people you might be working with? If your own profile is getting hits from individuals at the company go read up on them.
  • Do they have any posts on Twitter, Instagram, etc. what do they like to talk about there?
  • What do the reviews on Glassdoor say about them? Anything of concern come up that you want to bring up during the interview? Write it down.
  • Have they posted on AngelList ( Have they outgrown AngelList? It's interesting to see where companies started out if they've grown bigger.

2) Typical questions that give you a day-to-day look at the company

It's important to see if the company is a good fit for you. Asking questions such as:

  • What kind of work will I be doing?
  • How do employees at your company spend their day?
  • What is the work/life balance like here?

3) What will your role be? What is expected of you? Who will you report to?

These questions are important to ask so that you understand what the company expects from you and ensure that what they're asking fits with your expectations or skill set.

4) What other departments will you typically work with?

You want to understand better what you'll be working on and who you will be interacting with on a regular basis.

5) How long have people been in their roles?

This question will help give you an idea of the industry's average job tenure. The interviewer may also talk about how long they've been with the company, which is a good indication that they're happy there.

6) New position? Or replacing someone who left/was fired?

This question will help you determine if the company is growing or in a state of turmoil. If they've just opened the position, it's a good sign, but if they're constantly replacing employees, it might be a red flag.

7) Typical hours/schedule

You want to know what to expect so you're not caught off guard. If the company has a lot of overtime, that might not be the best fit for you. Or if they require weekend work, you'll want to know that in advance.

8) Remote? Flexible hours? Work from home?

You might be interested in a specific position or the company's culture in general. No matter what it is, make sure you ask questions about important things to you.

9) Internal advancement?

This will give you an idea of whether or not you'll be able to move up the ladder. It's also useful if they're hiring for a position that requires management; you want to know what kind of career growth is possible.

10) Any interesting benefits?

This question is a great way to learn about the company's culture. Do they have a lot of team-building events? Are there free lunches and snacks? This is also a good opportunity to ask about parental leave, remote work, and flexible hours.

11) Growth opportunities/training?

It's good to know if the company invests in its employees. If they offer regular training and development opportunities, that's a good sign. It shows that you can expect to grow within the company and learn new things.

12) What are their core values?

This is a good way to understand what matters to the company. Does the interviewer talk about work ethic, integrity, and honesty? Those are all great companies values. If they're more focused on profit, that might not be the best fit for you.

13) Do you have any reservations about my qualifications or background?

If you feel like something is holding you back from landing this job, it might be time to address it head-on. Be honest with yourself if there's anything out of character in your resume or portfolio that could raise flags for employers. Your interviewer will appreciate honesty, even if it means leaving without an offer if things don't seem to fit.

Other preparations

1) Mock interview

Mock interviews are a great way to prepare for software development interviews. They help you become comfortable with the process and familiar with the types of questions that might be asked. You can also get feedback from a friend or family member, which will help you improve your interviewing skills. There are services out there that offer mock interviews, or you can have a friend who's done a lot of hiring help you out.

2) Mock questions

Make a list of questions about your experience, past jobs, and personal projects. Then read them out loud and answer them as naturally as possible. This is an exercise in understanding how you sound when talking about yourself and what you've achieved while working at different companies. It would help if you also asked your friends or family members to provide feedback to improve your interview skills.

3) Mock whiteboard sessions

Whiteboard interviews are notoriously difficult, but they're also a common practice. The best way to prepare for them is by practicing on a whiteboard. Draw out your ideas and designs, and explain your thought process aloud. This will help you get comfortable with explaining your work and defending your decisions.

4) Coding challenges

If the company you're interviewing with asks for coding challenges, it's important to be prepared. Have a portfolio of your best work ready to show off, and be prepared to answer questions about your code. Be sure to explain your thought process, what you were trying to achieve, and how you would improve your code.

In conclusion, there are many important things to consider before accepting a job offer. Salary and benefits are both extremely important, but so is company culture. By asking the right questions, you can better understand what it'll be like to work there day-to-day. When in doubt, be honest with yourself and your interviewer about your qualifications and concerns. The above tips will help you in your interview preparation.

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