Job interviews are rarely pleasant experiences and can seem scary regardless of the industry. And we understand that if the tech industry is new to you, the job interview process may seem like a significant barrier to entry. In this article we will talk about some of the most important things that you should prepare for and provide some more resources to help you do so.
The first thing to remember is that the supply of tech jobs, in general, exceeds the demand. This means that from the perspective of employers there are not enough quality graduates or experienced staff to fill roles which is resulting in an employment gap. As a result of this, employers in tech are investing in on-the-job training more than in any other industry. This means you do not need to be a tech expert to get your foot in the door of a tech company.
Although passion and enthusiasm are the most important things to demonstrate, it is also essential to demonstrate some knowledge of technology and the industry in your interview. This will require research and reading beforehand – you should not expect to be given a job if you do not know anything about what the company is trying to achieve, the technology it utilises and the barriers that the company has (such as regulation and legal obligations).
The most important aspect of a job interview is demonstrating who you are and what you can add to the company (cliché perhaps, but stick with us…). You should start by listing all your greatest achievements: this might be clubs and societies at university, volunteering at a charity shop or raising children. You should then describe the challenges that you faced in each of these circumstances and outline how you overcame these challenges.
Many employers will either use a behavioural-based or competency-based questions, and some will use both. They often specify which type of interview they will do beforehand, but if they do not, you should prepare for both.
Behavioural Based Interviews
Sometimes known as situation interviews, they will ask about specific experiences, often related to work. For example, they might say “Tell me about a difficult decision you had to make at work”. Questions that ask for a first-person account allow the interviewer to determine how you deal with challenges in the workplace and to place your level experience and whether it meets the minimum requirements for the job.
Competency Based Interviews
These are a little different as they will describe specific skills and ask for evidence of you demonstrating those skills. For example, you might be asked “Describe a time when you led a team”. Although the interviewer is generally looking for the same thing they might have been in a behaviour-based question, they have made it clear that they are looking for leadership skills.
(If you are in need of some example questions of either type, a quick Google search will yield many results)
It is important, therefore, that you tell the interviewer what they want to hear. You can do this by linking your answer specifically to the skills or behaviours that the interviewer has mentioned. A good way of remembering to do this is using the S-T-A-R answer format.
If all else fails, just remember that you are the world’s expert on you. Your role in the interview is to determine who you are, what you can offer and what the job means to you: there are no right or wrong answers. The interviewer’s role is to determine whether you are a good fit for the company. If the result of the interview is not what you wanted or expected you should try not to be disheartened – this just means that the company was not right for you.
Beyond this, there may be technical elements of your interview which will vary depending on the type of job that you are applying for. It is hard to prepare for this aspect of the interview so we have listed some of the job roles and the technical questions that might come up below. Remember that knowing the concepts is essential but being able to communicate them to other people, especially those without a technical background, is even more important. Try explaining advanced concepts to your friends and family to test your knowledge.
Interviews By Job Role
Unsurprisingly, interview questions depending on the tech role. Read on for some additional, more specific pointers.
Software developers are often asked to solve technical questions, often involving logic or pseudo-code. For example, you might be asked to sort a list of numbers, remove duplicates or search. You should be familiar with the basic algorithms and the jargon around these; a good book to start with is “Algorithms to Live By” by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths.
You should also be able to explain how to implement these languages using pseudo-code or a real programming language. Most interviewers will allow you to choose the language in which you write the code but you should try to do this in the language that the job requires.
Data Scientist / ML Engineer
Machine learning engineers at all levels will be expected to have a basic understanding of the maths behind machine learning algorithms and should be able to explain this clearly. Furthermore, you should be able to outline different approaches and algorithms. For example, you should know the difference between true positives and false positives, and you should be able to talk about different types of classification algorithms.
This article gives a list of 30 interview questions that all data scientists should be able to answer. It is a good starting point for structuring your research and makes a good list of all the topics that you should know.
Much like software and ML engineers, a network engineer must be able to explain the basic concepts of networking. Furthermore, it would be useful to know the theory behind these concepts. For example, you should be able to explain the OSI model and why it is necessary; you should be able to explain what subnetting is and how it works and the difference between IPv6 and IPv4.
Some of these topics might be etched in your university or college notebooks, never to have been seen again and so here is a great article with a list of questions for you to start with. This list should be a starting point and you can research each topic that you are less familiar or are unable to explain well.
Many cloud engineers find their provider and settle quite comfortably with them. This can be dangerous, especially as providers slip in and out of existence. You should be comfortable working with the biggest cloud providers including AWS, GCP and Azure. You should be able to translate between each of these and know what the equivalent service is for each platform.
If you are comfortable with a specific platform, a good place to start your interview preparation would be by experimenting with another. As you get more confident you should research developments in the cloud sector and the newest features that the biggest players are releasing. This article provides a comprehensive list of interview questions for AWS however any cloud engineer should have the ability to translate this into GCP or Azure.
Looking to sharpen up your new tech CV? Look no further!
Or perhaps you need a job specific learning path? We’ve got that.