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March 24, 2020
Successfully Navigating the Technical Interview
In the current market, strong technical talent is hard to find, and many companies will openly compete to get the best available candidate. At Marathon, we are always looking for good talent and when we connect with a potential candidate we invariably try to gauge fit. One of those areas of fit is technical aptitude. We are obviously looking for specific technical skills but first and foremost, we are looking for strong problem-solving skills. The challenge there is how to properly evaluate problem solving.
As a candidate in IT these days you will probably encounter all kinds of different interview styles. You will bump into screenings like:
- An employer just looking for keywords on your resume, and not even conducting an interview
- An employer who has a list of nit picking language specific questions like:
- What is the proper method signature for a main method
- With is the syntax for calling asynchronous methods
- What is the specific framework call to do X
- An employer who will give an extensive coding scenario to be done on your own time
- A coding gate exercise using an online program
- Technical interview gauntlets with countless technical questions and white board sessions
- Abstract problem-solving questions
All of these can present a difficult challenge to candidates. The key thing is that you have to be prepared to adapt to any of these situations. As a candidate, I have been through all of the above screening styles. As an interviewer, I incorporate a blend of the above styles depending on the situation. After having spent a good deal of time on the interviewer side of the table, if I were to venture out to the job market as a candidate again, I would observe the principles that follow in this article.
You should be the master of your history-you lived it after all-and you should be able to recall any information instantly. There have been many times during past interviews that I had asked a question about something on a candidates resume and they couldn’t give me details, or they couldn’t even recall something that was stated on their resume. The expectation from an interviewer is that you should know all the details on your resume inside and out, and be able to dive into particulars at any moment. To prepare for that situation, be ready to recall detailed stories about each company you have worked with. Be sure to cover success highlights, challenges faced, and descriptions of your working environment. If you happen to work on other projects or perform other tasks in addition to normal job duties, list them out and highlight those as initiatives. This additional information can be very attractive to employers.
If you know yourself and your experience inside and out, the confidence in what you have done will shine through.
Know the Company
When you are interviewing with a company, you are essentially auditioning to be a part of their show. I doubt any actor would show up at an audition without looking at the script or lines they need to read; hence, it only makes sense that you show up to an interview having researched the company first. Just as in an audition, I would expect the candidate to have thought about what their life would be like working at Marathon. Look at the website, read some of our news and blogs, and form some interesting questions ahead of time.
Having knowledge of the prospective company you are auditioning for will give you the confidence that you can succeed in that position.
Practice Your Craft
Continuing the audition example, if you read that script as an actor, you would probably also practice reading a couple of scenes. As a developer, you know you will be asked problem-solving questions that exercise different algorithms, and lucky for you there is a wealth of questions that live out there on the internet that you can refer to. The funny thing about this repository is that it contains the same type of questions interviewers are probably pulling from as well. Check out the site www.codefights.com – which has countless different problem-solving code examples that you can try in a gamified environment. When getting started on any of these programs, you should always try to break things down; in an interview, the interviewer will probably be looking for a similar type of decomposition as work-related problems will be a lot more complicated. Also research and be familiar with new technologies and techniques in your field even if you haven’t used them. During an interview, opportunities may come up where having insights on those can show the interviewer that you are aware what is going on in your field.
Being well-practiced in technical problems and well-read in your field, will ensure you have an approach to any question that might come at you.
If you have never interviewed a technical candidate, I highly recommend you do it, even in a mock fashion to gain perspective of what an interviewer might be thinking when conducting an interview. Changing your perspective will answer a lot of questions in terms of what the interviewer might be looking for. One thing you could try is to interview a friend or co-worker for a position that you have held. You should be able to interview someone to do your own job, and you will be looking for specific things from that candidate. Hearing things from that different perspective, will give you ideas of what you should highlight when you are being interviewed based on what did/did not stand out in the mock interview.
Having recent experience interviewing and being interviewed will give you that edge of preparation to be ready what is coming to you.
In conclusion, by practicing the above four things before jumping into the interview cycle, you can build up your interview confidence. For prospective employers, finding a candidate that has confidence can be one of the best-selling points to a candidate profile. I have encountered many people in interviews who have been “rusty” or haven’t interviewed in a long time - and that can come through. Do not take for granted that you are in high demand because you are in a technical field. Having strong interview skills will make a good impression and can be a great step to raising your starting salary with that new company. To you, the candidate, good luck and prepare well. All your hard work in the beginning will lead to great success!
And most importantly, if you are interested in a job at Marathon – head over to the Marathon Careers Page and apply today!