7 Ways to Prepare for a Technical Interview
A common concern or response we hear post interview is “I wasn’t ready for that level of a technical interview” or “I didn’t do as well on the technical questions as I would’ve liked.” There are interview preparation measures you want to take to ensure you’re equipped to effectively answer deep technical questions and scenarios, especially if you haven’t been on a highly technical interview in a while!
Developing and increasing your knowledge base with the primary technologies, versions, tools, methodologies, etc. utilized by organizations related to your skill set should be part of your job search strategy. Also, engage in “strength maintenance,” and ensure you don’t neglect interview preparation for the major skills you consider strengths. Based on the insights you’re hearing from those in your network around the skills and technologies organizations and Recruiters are seeking candidates for, write a ‘Skills to Hone and/or Develop List.’ Then, take action to develop or further develop them so you perform your best on any technical interview you go on!
1. Build an application using key technologies
One of the best ways to learn, and to also have a deliverable you could submit as an example of your work, is to create something non-proprietary. Start a pet project using the newest version of SQL Server and a tool it’d be worthwhile for you to learn.
2. Identify and practice common technical questions/scenarios, including the “why”
You can get example interview questions from a variety of sources, including Glassdoor, Recruiters, online boards, and even from quick online searches of “common SQL Server interview questions.” There are also online question repositories like LeetCode or CodeFights, which allow you to test your coding skills. Practice your answers to those questions, and study up on anything that stumps you. When answering questions, include the “how” and “why” when appropriate. Seek to understand the big picture (i.e. rationale) on why certain tools are used over others, when they should be used, and best practices (i.e. how) for using them. We often hear from Managers that the “candidate knew the answer to the question of what to use and/or how to do it, but couldn’t explain the reason (i.e. why) behind doing it.”
3. Take technical assessments
While many candidates dread being asked to take a ProveIt, Brainbench or other assessment, they can help you get re-acquainted with textbook type questions you could get during an interview. They’re also helpful for getting you in the right mindset for a technical interview. As an added bonus, if you do extremely well, you can request the Manager be sent your results and include the assessment results in future applications.
4. Take online technical training
There are lots of quality online sites such as Pluralsight, where industry thought leaders and experts do extensive training and code demos. About 4-8 weeks before you start actively interviewing, sign up and start taking a few courses a week. Many of the Managers we work with value that initiative, and even if you don’t have hands on professional experience with a technology, they’ll likely still consider you if you’ve invested your own time trying to pick it up. One of our long-time client Managers has hired candidates with 50% of the original requirements if they demonstrate strong initiative and competency with learning the skills/technologies they’ll need to be successful.
5. Watch conference highlights/sessions
Most major technology conferences record a lot of their sessions, and then make those recordings available to non-conference attendees. A lot of conferences even have their own YouTube channels. Identify a handful of reputable conferences related to your current or target skill set, determine if they record and post their tracks/sessions via their website, Twitter handle, YouTube channel, etc., and then invest time watching the sessions related to your target career path!
6. Hit the books
If you have texts or other training materials that are still relevant, start to refresh yourself. You can set a realistic goal to read one chapter three times a week. If you don’t have any texts, you can ask at your next user group meeting to see if anyone has any development resources you could borrow until the next meeting.
7. Identify a study buddy
If you’re involved in a local User Group, consider asking the members if anyone else is actively in the job market. Share advice on market/hiring trends, quality Recruiters, and interviewing advice. You could also form a mini study group. During your “study session,” give each other scenarios to white board. Code demos are common practice during technical interviews, so it’d be extremely worthwhile to give each other problems/tasks to white board and evaluate. Even if you know the answers, it’s a helpful exercise for capturing feedback on body language, reactions/explanations (i.e. how you talk through the “audience” in your interview on what you’re doing), the length of your response, etc.
Use the above advice, and other strategies you’ve used in the past or learned from others in your network, to develop a specific ‘Technical Prep Plan’ for yourself. Below is an example Plan.
Example SQL Technical Interview Preparation Plan:
- Attend 1 user group meeting a month for learning and networking
- Take 6+ hours of SQL Server and BI Dashboard training
- Take 3 technical training assessments on SQL queries, SQL Server 2014, and custom development
- Attend a local SQL Server event or identify and watch tracks from a relevant SQL Server conference
- Invest 60-120 minutes at least 3 times a week on technical training and skills development starting 4 weeks before actively interviewing
- Spend 60 minutes a week leveraging LeetCode or CodeFights to practice coding skills
Have an additional suggestion when preparing for a highly technical interview? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section!
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