Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Technical Phone Screen Tips and Tricks

In this article we will discuss some tips and tricks to succeed in the technical phone screen. You should be comfortable with what's involved in technical phone screen, as well as how to succeed and set yourself up for success.

If you got a Technical Phone Screen, that's fantastic. You've already gone through the first hurdle in the process. So by having a Technical Phone Screen, recruiters think you have promise and that you might be a good fit for this position.

If you succeed in the Technical Phone Screen, you would go on to an in-person interview. Now, in-person interviews are expensive for companies. They bring you out, they spend a whole day's worth of time with you, and they are trying to avoid a mistake in that process. They want to make sure that you match your resume quite well in terms of your skills.

So Technical Phone Screen exist, mainly to make sure that you are as good as you sound on paper and that it won't be a waste of time to bring you out for the in-person interview. The format of Technical Phone Screen is going to consist of an introduction of you introducing yourself to the interviewer and vice versa followed by questions.

Now these questions may take a number of different flavors. They might be a programming questions where you are going to be coding in a shared Google Doc. They could be questions about Data Structures, Big-O analysis or Algorithm analysis, object oriented principles. They can also get into some other computer science topics like Bitwise manipulation, how do you write scripts, proper use of libraries for your language, as well as the right way to test your code.

These tips came from experience. They are from interviewers who interviewed candidates who weren't able to succeed through the technical phone screen.

Make sure you have a good Internet connection and a phone connection. You want to make sure you have a back up as well. So maybe the land line fails and you have a cell phone as a back up or vice verse. You also want to make sure the Internet connection is solid. The last thing you want during your interview is to have your Internet connection cutting in and out while you're trying to do a programming exercise.

So it'd be great if you could have that wired and it'd be great if you could test it during the same time-frame as you're going to be having your interview. You'll also want to make sure you already have your Google Hang-out and your Skype Account set up, to make sure that when you first fire up Skype, it doesn't do the update. So make sure it's already up and running before your interview starts.

Now if you are going to be using Google Hang-out or Skype for your interview, make sure that you
look at the camera, not yourself. It's much more genuine to the person seeing you if you're looking at the camera. You'll also want to avoid small, non-verbal cues. You don't want slight nod of the head because if you do that, it may not come through, depending on the Internet connection.

If you're going to do non-verbal cues, do big things like thumbs up, or really long exaggerated nods. Or just use a verbal cue and say, oh yeah, I understand, or okay. And then all of this, your Skype, your Internet connection, you phone connection has to be tested before the interview. I strongly recommend you grabbing a friend who is somewhere else. They set up Skype, you set up Skype, and try to mimic the exact phone interviews setting, to find out, well oh, the Internet isn't actually very good in the office this time of day, or things like that.

If you're going to be working in a non-visual environment, so you're just doing a telephone, it's okay to have notes. I recommend having notes, either if you have Skype or you're working on a telephone. And those notes could be something like a resume, as well as some other things to take notes on. But if you have completely non-visual you can have even more notes.

Your notes about the company or other things you want to highlight. Some talking points for the interview that you want to hit on. But don't rely on those too much. Every time they ask a question and if you're shuffling through papers they're going to catch on and it won't come out very well. You'll also want to make sure you have some way of relaxing beforehand. It's really easy to get stressed out before a phone interview.

  One of the keys to being relaxed is knowing that you're prepared. And the best way to be prepared is to practice and know your technical knowledge.

 Let's look at a couple of pitfalls. They're very common in the technical phone screen. The first is not talking. A surprising number of candidates will be asked a question, and it goes dead silent for five minutes. And there's still nothing. And the interviewer will say, well, could you tell me what you're thinking now? And they'll get a quick, okay, yeah, just one sec. Another five minutes of no talking. This is not good.

You want to make sure you have a dialogue with your interviewer. Now even if you have said just a couple things with the interviewer you want to make sure it's a full two-way dialogue. An example of a mistake here would be, they ask you a question, and you immediately start coding. You don't want to do that. You don't fully understand the question yet.

You want to make sure you go back to the interviewer, ask some followup questions, make sure you understand the question properly, so they could give you hints. They could say, oh, no, it's not actually this problem. And you're trying to think about trying to solve this. We're trying to solve this instead. And that way when you do actually go to solve a problem, you're solving the right one.

Likewise, you'll want to give them some high level ideas about what you're going to do with your coding. And then they can give you feedback, that seems like a reasonable direction or they might say, I think you might want to be thinking about this differently. You haven't thought about this scenario. So the more you have a conversation with them, the better.

One of the other big mistakes is just not being prepared. Not having your Skype connection set up beforehand. Not having the technology knowledge you're supposed to have and just not being ready for the interview.

The last piece is actually a bit more subtle and that's not having your resume highlight your strengths. So you might have thought when you're writing your resume, that it would be a good idea to put in any language you've ever touched as a language you're proficient in. But this is a great way to make a mistake.

Let's say you've coded just a little bit in PHP. You used it once for a project four years ago. And now, during the actual phone screen, they're going to say, could you code up this algorithm in PHP. That can be really bad if you can't program in PHP. You're going to have to say something like, well, I'm actually not that proficient in PHP, let's switch to another language.

And if you do that a couple of times, that's going to be problematic, because they're going to ask what part of this resume is accurate and what part isn't? But it's also a mistake because you've just shown a weakness, because you didn't know a language that was on your resume. That if you just had proof, if you put it on your resume that you weren't proficient in PHP, that you had some knowledge of it, but that you were proficient in Java, you would have set yourself up for success. So this is where the resume really ties in well when the technical phone screen.