How to Answer the 3 Types of Tech Interview Questions

by Derek Loosvelt | October 26, 2017

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 man interviewing woman

Kevin Dolan, the chief technology officer of Metric Collective, knows a thing or two about tech interviews. Dolan has been on both sides of the interview table dozens of times, and so he knows about both the common pitfalls and best answers when it comes to interviewing for top tech positions.

In the video below, Dolan discusses how to nail the three types of tech interviews, which he breaks down as follows:

1. Quizzes

These are questions about specific tech concepts and general computer science concepts. They're meant to test your knowledge of certain concepts. But don't worry, says Dolan, if you haven't heard of a certain concept or word. If that's the case, just focus on adjacent concepts that you have heard of, and it's even okay to state that you have never heard of the concept you're being asked about. The important part of answering this type of question (or any question) is to avoid dead air, according to Dolan. That is, you don't want silence in an interview. Instead, you want to keep the conversation moving along, going forward. And, says Dolan, remember one very important thing: Inteviewers want you to succeed. They don't want to trip you up. Best case scenario for them is you're the right person for the job and then they can get back to coding.

2. Experience Questions

These questions focus on things that you've done, projects you've worked on. They could cover tech projects or non-tech projects. Dolan says he's usually looking for the overall narrative of a certain project to get an idea of how someone deals with hurdles and solves problems that arise. So, ideally, you want to talk about a project that didn't go 100 percent as planned (as Dolan and all experienced tech workers know, no project goes as planned, so your interviewer will not believe you anyway). The point is don't be afraid of talking through the problems and difficulties and miscues of projects. You'll be judged not on the success of the project you talk about but on the problems you faced and solved and how you went about solving those problems, especially under time constraints. Dolan adds that if you don't have much project experience on the job, then hackathons are certainly fine to talk about here.

3. Hypotheticals

These are the whiteboard questions where you're given a hypothetical project and asked to walk through how you would approach it. When Dolan asks these questions, he lets the interviewee either talk through the answer, use a whiteboard, or use paper. Whatever they're most comfortable with works for Dolan, who notes that it's not about correctness here but process. That is, the most important thing to keep in mind when answering these questions is showing your thought process and your problem solving ability. It's even fine, when talking through the problem, to get to a dead end and then identify that end and say, Oh, this isn't going to work because of X, Y, and Z. And then take another route to solving the problem. A specific tip here from Dolan that will set you in the right direction when answering these types of questions is to first reiterate the problem back to the interviewer. This, says Dolan, buys you some time to think about the problem. It also gives you a minute to compose yourself before you jump into how to solve it.

Check out more about how to ace a tech interview, according to Dolan, here:

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Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Technology

Tags: engineering | interview tips | tech interviews | technology | video

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