I had the opportunity to sit down and pick the brain of Eddie Hinkel— Engineer Manager at Glassdoor. Just a light casual chat about how the technical interviewing process is sometimes set up like a torture device. I’m sure many of you can attest to this, but we have a few tips and tricks to get through the process moderately pain-free. Hiring managers— don’t worry we’ve also got some advice for you, too.
If just saying the words technical interview gives you too much anxiety to carry on reading this— our main takeaway goes out to all the DEVs out there. Our tip: start a conversation. Even if you only know half of what they're asking you to show, talk through it and showcase your skills. Not knowing something is fine, but lacking the ability to communicate it is a much bigger issue.
Intrigued? Here’s a link to the full podcast interview with Eddie:
Here’s a quick recap if reading is more your style:
A little background on Eddie— his software career started at a young age building a discussion board to talk to his friends. Ironically, you might say his career started through the importance of communication in tech and his ideals haven’t changed much since then. This idea of communication and being able to talk through things came up repeatedly, whether in a technical interview or just being able to communicate with yourself about your own career and goals.
So how DO you get through a technical interview relatively unscathed? It’s intimidating when you’re asked to showcase skills that took you thousands of hours of work in less than an hour. Then you’re left walking away feeling like you didn’t show everything that you could do, you feel personally rejected or that you’re not a good programmer if you don’t get the job. We both know that is not at all the case. You’ve spent all this time learning things (the majority of the time alone) and now you’re trying to translate that into a public space. It’s not exactly easy, right? Especially when walking on pins and needles to make sure you’re presenting yourself in the best light.
Eddie’s advice is to treat your interviewer like a person and not a test proctor. This interview might feel like a test, but in reality, it’s just a potential future coworker evaluating if you’ll be a good fit, how you work and how you problem-solve in the moment. So talk to them as such. Be respectful, but if you don’t know it all that’s okay. Ask them what is most important for the position and prioritize showcasing those skills.
Hiring managers, consider altering your interviewing style to be more mindful of the position you’re putting people in. If you approach each interview as a peer and not a judge and executioner, we might be able to up that retention rate, no? Being a champion for your team starts during the hiring process and follows each employee through their time at the company. So when you think about managing more holistically, maybe that starts simply with you making candidates more comfortable in the interviewing process. No one ever said, “man I’m really glad I was nervous. I did so much better than I would’ve had I been comfortable and able to think clearly.”
There are some of you reading who may not even be searching for a job. And to those people I say, “but are you happy?” Best case scenario you say yes, but what are the odds you all have your dream job? Eddie’s advice about this is to keep a calendar at home. Each time you have a bad day, just mark the day with an X. At the end of the month, if the Xs are outweighing the good days then maybe it’s time to start polishing up that resume. Don’t wait until you’re flipping off your boss, slapping a resignation letter on their desk and packing up your desk plants. By that point, you’ll be in emergency mode and making decisions based on needing a job not getting the job that you need. I’d say that’s less than ideal conditions to land your dream job.
There are tons more bites of wisdom in the podcast, but that covers the main points. Don’t forget—it’s just an interview. And sometimes the technical interview is harder than the actual job, so don’t sweat it. Just show them what you can do.