Wednesday, January 29, 2020

In Person Interview Tips

In this article, we will discuss the format of the in-person interview as well as a number of tips to help you succeed during that interview.

If you get that in-person interview, it means that they were happy with your resume and you succeeded during the technical phone screen. At this point, they think you could be a potentially good fit for the job, and now it really comes down to the in-person interview.

The format of the in-person interview consists of a number of interviews with engineers or managers.

In the software engineer interviews, whether you have three or five of them during the course of the day, are all going to be around 45 minutes. And they're all going to consist of an introduction, just a quick hello. And then almost immediately you're going to dive right into programming on a whiteboard and or trying to solve a large complex problem by making a large complex algorithm.

In solving the problem, you're going to use data structures and you'll probably do some kind of runtime analysis of the problem. Other CS topics may include bitwise manipulation, logic problems or testing.

The other piece that's fair game, is anything you've got on your resume. So if you said you're an expert at something, and you're proficient at something, this is their opportunity to ask you about it, and they will.

They're interested in engineers who solve new problems. That's what you do during the job as a software engineer. But I know that also puts more stress on you. 

So now we know what they're looking for. How are you going to succeed? So first off, it's completely okay
to question your interviewer. A number of candidates come in, and they think that it's supposed to be a one-way street. The interviewer asks them questions, and they answer, but they can't ask back.

You can ask questions and you should do so. Whenever you are asked to provide a solution, you should first define and frame the problem as you understand it. Doing so will help clarify the problem and also make sure that you are solving the problem you've been asked.

If you don't understand the problem or you get stuck at any point, you can ask for help or clarification. They're happy to clarify the problem that you're trying to solve.

If you feel like you need to assume anything, you need to check with them before you make those assumptions. It's important to do so because you may be making assumptions that aren't fair game, and just by having a conversation with them about the assumptions, they get a better feel for what you're thinking.

You also want to describe before you start coding how you plan on tackling the problem. It may be that through that process of saying, well I plan on solving this problem using data structure x. And as you talk through how data structure x is going to be used you'll realize well, maybe data structure x wasn't the right fit. Or they may even prompt you, well, maybe you should try thinking about other data structures.

It's important to give them that high level overview before you start coding. As you are working through the problem, the more you can talk to the interviewer about your thinking process, the better.

In a way they're testing you more on your thinking process, and how you go about solving problems than they are about solving specific problems during the interview.

If you get stuck they may provide hints. They may try to help you. But they can only do this if you're thinking aloud. If you are talking loud and it's clear where you get stuck, that's where they can help you. If you're not talking aloud, they don't know where you're stuck, they can't help you.

And finally, you've to listen to the interviewer. I know it's a high-pressure situation. I know the interviewer is asking you questions, and you're trying to think it through. But if the interviewer makes comments or adds suggestions, listen to them. They're often trying to help you, and you can't afford to miss those hints.

I also want to give you just a couple of practical tips. And these may seem really obvious, but for all of these I can tell you a scenario where I know the student who went to an interview and forgot to do these. For example sleeping. You need to take care of yourself. You want to sleep before the interview.

I've heard of students cramming in an algorithms text the whole night before their interview and then walking into the interview totally sleepy. That's a huge mistake, don't ever do that.

You also need to eat. Make sure you eat foods that are going to make you feel energetic, not sluggish, and just take care of yourself in general.

You also want to be prepared. Make sure you put your bag that has your interview clothes in as a carry-on. And the second piece is wear clothes you'd be comfortable in the interview with on the plane. I know it's a little less comfortable, but you'll feel a lot better knowing that you have a pair of back-up clothes for
the interview.

Other things to bring. Bring any projects that you've done in the past that you want to showcase, if they are potable. Obviously bring a note pad and pen to take notes. The last piece is important, and that is talk to your recruiter so your recruiter can give you your schedule for the day, and may also give you some tips about who you're going to meet with and what they're looking for.

And that leads to the third tip, which is relax and mentally prepare for the interview. Now this is going to vary by person. Whatever's appropriate, you want to relax, put yourself in a good state of mind before you start the interview.

So the four pieces of interview are to introduce yourself, write code, describe prior projects, and solve new problems. Those are the four things you're going to be asked to do during interviews.