Preparation Tips For the Virtual Technical Interview

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Are you busy with your technical interview preparation? Do you wonder what technical interview questions might be thrown at you?  Then fret not; we are here to help you get your dream job. Through this article, we cover the subtle aspects of a technical interview that you might miss otherwise. 

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Also, a technical interview has several modes and a lot more rounds than a conventional interview. For instance, apart from the different types of technical interview questions, you might have to go through a coding assessment. This is the reason we focus on how to prepare for a technical interview in a detailed fashion. 

In the next section of the write-up let us look at each interview type so that you know what to expect during your discussions.

 

What are the various modes of virtual technical interviews? 

Assuming that the company has shortlisted your resume, you need to learn a few things before appearing for the interview. As every company follows a different selection process, let us look at the three common interview modes.

1. Technical phone screen

This is the primary step in any technical interview that focuses on your problem solving and logical skills. The questions asked during a technical phone screen interview could range from theoretical, conceptual, situational to behavioral questions.  Thus, you may be asked about your career experience and aspirations. Additionally, you would also be required to talk about your projects and successes. 

It is the conversation during the technical phone screen interview that decides whether you make it to the second round of the interview or not. Hence, ensure you prepare for such questions in advance.

What is the interviewer looking for during the technical phone screen interview:

  • Strong coding skills: Every interview is a tough competition. Give yourself an edge over other candidates by understanding the job description and Company profile precisely. Based on the job requirements, revise your coding fundamentals, and also practice technical problems relevant to this job.
  • Soft-skills: In 2020, soft-skill is one of the most sought-out skills by the employer. Unlike hard skills, soft skills cannot be learned through formal training. Instead, it is attained through life experiences. Right from the moment you enter the interview room, the interviewer will start judging you on your soft skills. Your communication skills will be quite apparent from how comfortably and effectively you express your thoughts. Your understanding of the questions reveals your listening skills. The hiring managers would also judge you on other soft skills like people skills, time-management, collaboration skills, and work ethics. Another in-demand skill is emotional intelligence, which is managing and understanding yours and other’s emotions. Emotional skills include self-awareness, empathy, social skills, and motivation. Thus, soft skills impart you important traits that helps you work well in teams.
  • Problem-solving skills: By asking you situational and behavioral or even technical questions, the interviewer is trying to understand your problem-solving skills. For example, how you deal with a difficult situation or how do you approach an incomprehensible problem.  

2. Virtual whiteboarding

The second in the list is an alternative to the traditional white-boarding for which you had to be physically present in the office. In the virtual world today, hiring managers use virtual whiteboarding interviews and code reviews as a window to test the candidates’ technical and designing knowledge. The online whiteboard renders you with various drawing tools and unlimited space to sketch and showcase your thoughts. Thus they are also apt for design interviews and are generally used for system design and product design interviews. During a virtual whiteboard interview, the interviewer will focus on how you are solving the problem, and not whether you know every minute detail about a language. So be comfortable and explain to them what solution you are thinking of and why.

Skills to demonstrate during virtual whiteboarding interview:

  • Technical skills: This is the round where the actual technical interview begins. Through the coding assignment, the interviewer will judge your technical expertise, coding semantics, best practices you follow, etc.
  • Software design: A software role isn’t limited to coding alone. Particularly, if you are interviewed for the role of Project Lead, Software Lead,  Software Architect, or similar job profiles, exemplary software designing skills are often a part of job requirements. Therefore, through the technical assignment, the hiring manager also tries to judge a candidate’s software designing skills. So pay full attention to the designing principles as you work through your solution.
  • Problem-solving: The way you work on your coding assignment reveals a lot about your problem-solving skills. Pay attention to details, and think of feasible solutions without overcomplicated things. Next, figure out the best solution which is simplistic and shortest for the problem at hand. 
  • Teamwork skills: Through the virtual whiteboard platform, the interviewer also looks at your collaborative skills and how well you work in a team. 
  • Pressure handling: Working directly with a hiring manager, that too under stringent deadlines, puts one under tremendous pressure. But how you handle this pressure is the real game-changer in this interview form.

3. Online collaborative code editors

Last on our list is the online collaborative code editor interview that allows real-time collaboration between the candidate and the interviewer. Generally, in this form of an interview, the hiring manager would want you to execute and debug the code. Therefore, always attend this interview with a laptop having good configurations. Also, consider that the interviewer will assign you one or more coding questions which you should solve within 10-30 minutes. 

Now, in most of the code editors, there is a chat window for easy collaboration and file sharing between you and the interviewer. Thus, as a part of your interview preparations, you must familiarize yourself with the commonly used online collaborative code editors. While several companies prefer CoderPad editor that supports program execution, others may choose simple editors like Google Docs. Similarly, few companies can also use CodePen for front end interviews. So you should know how to use the user interfaces of such web-based coding environments as well.

Skills you need to display during the online collaborative code editor interview:

  • Decision making and problem-solving: The hiring manager would judge your decision making and problem-solving skills based on how you conclude the solution design, debug your solution, and come up with the most feasible solution.
  • Communication: The interviewer tries to grasp how well you can communicate and validate your solution. Apart from understanding the problem completely, you must be vocal and loud throughout your coding solution. You should be able to justify why is your solution the best.
  • Coding and debugging: Apparently, a technical interview is incomplete without judging you on your coding skills, isn’t it? Hence, code and debug appropriately using the best practices. 

 

Prerequisites to the technical interview preparation

  • Brush up your coding skills, algorithms, and interview skills. 
  • Ensure your network/ WIFI works well.
  • Use good quality, noise cancellation headsets.
  • Sit in a quiet and well-lit area.
  • Try a few tongue twisters before the interview. This will make sure your words are clear during the interview. 
  • Practice performing tasks under pressure and within the stipulated time. 
  • Get yourself comfortable with the common virtual whiteboards and collaborative code editors’ online usage.

 

Points to remember during the technical interview

  • Speak and explain clearly while you are working on the solution. This will help the interviewer understand how you approach the problem. 
  • While showcasing the design to the interviewer, focus on parts of the design that are engaging.
  • Additionally, you should hear the interviewer properly too. If not, politely mention them of the problem. 
  • If the job requirements did not mention a particular programming language, then confirm from the interviewer about the permissible coding languages in the interview. Among these options, use the one you are most comfortable with.
  • Be vocal throughout the interview process and give a reason for your solution.
  • Also, you must ask questions whenever in doubt.
  • Fix the bugs yourself.

 

What topics to revisit to cover common technical interview questions? 

Whether you are a fresher or a senior software engineer, you are still required to brush up on the important technical topics before appearing for your interview. Interviewers expect you to have a clear vision of the fundamental concepts of computer science like data structure and algorithms, design principles, etc. Therefore, to ace your technical interview preparation, you must concentrate on the fundamentals and strengthen your basics. 

Below we have listed down important reference points for each of the topics.

  1. Algorithms: Data structures and algorithms are two imperative topics when it comes to technical interviews since they help the interviewer understand your coding style and your problem-solving skills. You must practice common algorithms and their complex structures for carrying out calculations, data processing, reasoning, and more. For instance, understand the memory and runtime complexity of the binary and linear search. Moreover, go through various types of algorithms and get a clear picture of space and time complexity of algorithms. For a quick review of these concepts, visit here
  2. Data Structures: Other important topics to revisit are the different types of data structures and their usage in designing software systems. You should be able to explain the strengths and weaknesses of various data structures. Moreover, you must know the difference between various data structures. This, in turn, will enable you to judge which data structure is appropriate for a particular problem. Some of the key data structures to revise are:
    • Tree: This form of data-structure represents a hierarchical tree structure. It is comprehensive and requires a detailed understanding to implement the data structures in software systems. The basic tree structure comprises of Binary Tree, Binary Search Tree, Red-Black Tree, B-Tree, Weight-Balanced Tree, Heap, and Abstract Syntax Tree. GitHub is a great source for you to dive into deep learning of trees.
    • Sorting: Next, learn sorting to arrange data and put elements in a specific order in algorithms. Go through different sorting techniques, stability in sorting algorithms, Merge sort, sorting complexity, best and worst case, and more using GitHub for solving sorting algorithms.GitHub comprises of various videos and notes that will provide you clarity on the topics to help you solve the toughest code problems in your technical interview.
  3. Design Principles: As a part of your technical interview preparation, you should have an understanding of system design, design principles, scalability, availability, data handling, network protocols, SLAs, etc. Going through the system design principles for interviews will help you answer the software designing questions with ease. So whether you are asked to design a URL shortening service like bit.ly or you are asked to design a WhatsApp application. 
  4. Database Concepts: The database concept is another topic that is highly discussed in technical interviews. You must have sufficient knowledge regarding designing, developing, and executing a database along with maintaining the data management systems. Prepare for a technical interview and steal the spotlight by going through these most frequently asked questions in a technical interview about database concepts. They will help you clear your doubts and make you ready for your next big interview.
  5. Web Concepts: ‘What all tests you conduct on your code?’How can you improve QA?’ These are some of the questions that are being asked in a technical interview to judge your web-concepts. Be prepared to answer such questions. Brush your web developing skills and understand the interviewer’s requirements before you nail the arduous interviewing processes.

You now know how to prepare for a technical interview as a software engineer. It is clear that whatever your experience and skills are, you must cover these essential technical topics and demonstrate your competency and passion for coding, data structures, system design, and anything that is your genre. 

Let us now go a step further and have a look at some of the technical interview questions asked during an interview.

What are some of the commonly asked technical interview questions?

While interviews are bound to be stressful, knowing what to expect and how to prepare for a technical interview beforehand helps ease the worries and remain focused. Hence, we have curated a list of different types of technical interview questions. These can be situational or behavioral type questions, or related to your education and your coding style as listed below: 

1.What is the toughest or most interesting coding problem you have solved to date?
Asking about a problem you have solved or a project you have worked upon is generally a preferred way to start a Technical interview. This shifts the power dynamics and you may feel that the ball is in your court. However, through your answer, the interviewer picks up cues for the next questions. So every single technology, programming language, or design question you mention, just remember you will be asked questions around it. So answer the question smartly without falling into a trap.

2. How would you approach a task about which you have very little knowledge?
Through this question, the interviewer tries to gauge your self-management abilities and your problem-solving skills. As this is a situational question, there is no wrong or right answer for it. But, you may gain points by keeping certain things in mind.  Therefore, the correct answer should display that you do ample research before aiming to solve the problem in a structured manner. Also, if you feel you are stuck with the problem even after trying, you do not hesitate to seek guidance from your manager and teammates.

3. What do you think is the hardest part of coding?
This question is another way through which the interviewer tries to know of your weakness from a technical perspective.  So answer it honestly but wisely by revealing only that much that the interviewer should know. 

4. How do you up-skill or enhance your coding skills?
This question is not only about staying updated with technical skills but it is also a reflection into your future goals. As a technology professional, you might keep your knowledge base current by following blogs and forums, attending online courses, participating in hackathons, or taking up a side project. The interviewer expects you to be honest and mention all that you do for your professional development. It would be great if you can mention how you decide what new skills you want to learn and why.

5. What is the biggest coding bug you have faced to date?
Hiring managers ask this behavioral question not to know about the bug you faced but how you resolved it. Through the answer to this question, they want to know how you approach an unprecedented situation and how well you fit into their company’s culture. To answer this effectively, follow the STAR technique. Recall and describe a past situation, what was the task at hand, what action you took, and what was the final result of your action.

6. Which is your preferred coding language?
Through this question, the interview will try to determine your comprehensive knowledge about the coding language(s) you are comfortable with. It will also help them know whether the coding language they expect you to work on is on the list or not.  While answering this question, mention all the coding languages that you have used. Then you may go on to mention your most comfortable programming language along with the reason why it’s your preferred language. 

7. What role has your education played in preparing you for this job?
Through this or any other education-related question, the interviewer wants to know about your formal education, specific technical training, and certifications that helped you in technical interview preparation. While answering these questions, you can also subtly mention any academic or work accomplishments relevant to the position you are applying for. 

8. Tell us about any database you have designed?
The interviewer would want to know about your hands-on experience in system and database design. So be prepared for such database related technical interview questions. However, in case you do not know the answer, be honest about this. Instead, explain it to them how you would go on to find the answer.

9. What makes a successful team and why?
A great team is a combination of leadership, effective communication, access to good resources, and productive collaboration. As not everyone is a superstar, a group of people who understand and complement each other and possess the above qualities to make a good team. And this is what your interviewer wants to hear from you. 

10. Are you an effective remote worker? How and why?
With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has become a mandate these days. To be an effective remote worker you should be a self-starter, possess excellent communication skills, self-discipline, time-management skills. You need to convince the hiring manager that you are productive working in a remote culture.

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