Unlike any other interview, tech interviews are specialized and rigorous that process your coding skills, problem-solving abilities, and personality. In this article, we sit with Preston Vander Weist, a former software engineer at Microsoft and a career coach and mentor for many other small and large tech companies. We will discuss some good practices while appearing for tech interviews and some misconceptions people have about the initial meeting with a hiring manager. We talk about a few goods and bad questions to ask and what to expect in your interview through this blog.
Preston Vander Wesit says, "The hiring managers want to understand that you understand the question. They want you to probe and make sure that you're not going to miss something.”
What kind of conversations do hiring managers like to have?
The traditional tell me about yourself usually works as an excellent ice breaker and helps your interviewer get to know you better and understand how well you can tell a story. Many big tech companies nowadays focus on behavioral questions, not writing code or solving problems but talking about your experiences. The hiring managers are curious to know how you react and behave in a future situation based on your past learnings. This also serves as a measurement of communication between you and the interviewer.
💡 Preston gives an excellent example by adding to what it is like to have a conversation. He says, "I had someone come into my office, and we're chatting; we're going to talk about they went over the resume, and I go, well, what's your experience with agile development? They say I do not understand Agile Development. I worked on it once, and the agile development was terrible. I wouldn't say I liked it, and so on I'm sitting there, and right behind me on the wall is the Agile Manifesto so clearly; take a look around. Being aware of your surroundings is another thing I tell people. No matter what you think of Star Trek or Lord of the Rings. Just keep it neutral at best because many techy people like Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, so don't say those are the worst things ever.”
Is it appropriate to say that I looked you up to the interviewer or noticed on LinkedIn that you had achieved certain things?
Sometimes people ask questions, making assumptions, so they'll see something on your bio, whatever, and make assumptions. That means that you probably also like this. Be cautious about anything you're talking about and someone's LinkedIn, especially if you find our Facebook page or something like that.
What kind of questions do you ask your hiring manager?
Start positive. Ask questions about what it is like to work with the manager. Questions like, What do we do? Do we meet in the morning? Do we have a daily stand-up? What is the workflow like? Those types of questions are perfect. What will I do daily, and what tools do we use and be open to? What is that tool like? What is that track? I've used a tool like that, but get into what you will be doing daily and how the workflow will go. Target your questions around communication and work ethics.
Another question recommended is essential about the customer that may be a bit outside your realm. An example could be to ask what are the competitors of our organization. Even most people in the team know who the customers are, who the competitors are, who they are, reviewing the products of other people, and so on. But it's not something you're generally expected to know; you might see if it's a famous company, but if it's a lower-end company, you might not know who the competitors are. And that's interesting, and you can start to talk about it. And it's a topic they can usually discuss and answer reasonably quickly.
What are your least favorite questions to ask?
- What is the work-life balance like at this job? If you ask the hiring manager about work-life balance, it indicates that you are worried about it. There are many ways to ask that question to get more information about the work-life balance, and it is wise enough to avoid asking that question to your hiring manager.
- When do we get raises? Or how often do we get promotions? These questions are entitled questions to ask a hiring manager and probably should be asked to HR.
- Questions like, what is your least favourite thing about working here? These questions tend to put the hiring manager in a spot and are not the best ones to ask.
Preston says, "While interviewing a candidate, I go through their resume, and I expect them to go through it when I ask them, tell me a little bit about yourself. When I talk about it, I mark it up. But I will ask specifically when I get the resume.
Should you ask when you're going to hear back?
It is a relatively innocent question, showing a bit of eagerness, but be a little casual about it; ask, when will I see you again? Or hey, when should I expect to hear back? This usually leaves the hiring manager thinking about you and might even lead the conversation into feedback on the interview.
How much time do you need to prepare for the first or second call?
Preston says, “You need, 1 hour for a researcher company, 2 hours to go over your experiences so you can tell them about it, and then 2 hours to practice techniques. Now, at that point, you have to do a bit of a self-assessment. If you're not ready, then I would go back and say you probably need to spend more than that and get a coaching session or something that can give you live feedback or asynchronous feedback. I'd recommend people practice in the mirror. That works. But if you practice in front of a live person, I think it usually turns out well. They can give you feedback on what you're doing.”
💡 To help you better, Preston Vander Weist takes coaching sessions for different phases of an interview. From a phone interview to the first initial screen, the interview loop, he takes coaching for end-to-end preparation for all types of interviews. He is also specialized in talking about the kind of questions to ask, coding interviews, behavioral questions. He can walk you through practicing with mock interviews and walk people through algorithms and make sure that they know the data structures well.