Every job interview should have behavioral questions. They address skills every position requires: teamwork, ability to adapt, time management, communication and your motivation and values. A technical interview requires time and investment by both the company and the candidate. It is critical for weeding out unqualified candidates and for highlighting a qualified candidate’s skills and knowledge. “Although it’s expensive, it’s still a lot cheaper than having (a candidate) wash out” because they didn’t have the right technical skills, says Rick Endres, President of The Washington Network.
How to prepare for a technical interview? The STAR method works for both behavioral and technical interviews. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result. The situation means you set the scene. Task is defining what is required, the when, where and who. Action is describing what you did and result is telling what the outcome of your work was. Clearly, preparation is required to be able to present your projects or your past experiences in this structured a format. Preparation is what will get you the job offer.
Utilizing the STAR method isn’t the final step in an effective technical interview. While your technical interview for a non-engineering role might not require coding, you will still be expected to have a knowledge of what tools where used by you or your team members to achieve the final result. (Although it does seem like some expertise in SQL is needed for every position today – from marketing and sales to IT.) Here are four points that could be the difference between a successful technical interview and being shown the door:
“Companies want to see the candidate think in ‘real time,’ and while you may be brilliant at what you do, in an interview you have to be able to communicate this brilliance,” says Ed Nathanson, Director of Talent Acquisition with Rapid7.
Whiteboards are omnipresent in offices and have become standard practice in technical interviews. Practice each of your STAR presentations using a whiteboard. You won’t be writing out code but summarizing your process or result with nodes or a hierarchy is very effective for visual learners and interviewers. After you have outlined your solution, ask a confirming question. “Is that clear? Is there anything you would like me to go into more detail on?” Treat this like you would a presentation of your work within your company.
Dive Deeply into the Position Description
Craft your STAR analyses to reflect your knowledge of the needs of the job. Make sure your terminology matches the terms used in the job description. Sometimes application names or techniques can vary across organizations and you want to adapt your experience to what your interviewer understands.
Provide a Portfolio of your Work
You can bring this in via a notebook or through a link to your GitHub repository but make sure it is clearly and neatly presented. Clear communication in writing can be as important as your verbal skills.