Monday, February 9, 2015

About Tech Interviews

If you are interested in working for top tech companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Facebook [Don’t you dare to say that you are not good enough!], you will probably have to go through a technical interview [ Read here why Technical Interviews Matter]. On another note, the good news for us women is: the majority of companies are interested in increasing diversity and recruiting women! So, go for it! 

Now, the very first step (before getting to the tech interview) is usually the screening interview where you talk about your previous experiences, points mentioned in your resume, and your goals. If you want to get to this step, I would advise you to make sure your LinkedIn profile is always updated [An outdated profile might scream that you are not interested], check out hiring events happening next to you, always have a resume if you are going to conferences or similar events …. In few words: put yourself out there and give recruiters the chance to find you (or go after them)! The Google Resume by Gayle Laakmann McDowell [An online version is available via Carleton Library] is a good resource to refine your resume. You should also consider the Co-Op and Career Services [They have an interesting blog too]. 

From Palantir - The Coding Interview

Once you pass the screening interview, a first technical interview will be scheduled. The number of rounds of technical interviews varies depending on the company you are applying for. The following resources are among the most recommended:
These books cover the must-knows and provide examples. They basically go through behavioral questions (these are more general and about you as a person) and coding/technical questions. 

Here are few advices I got from my own experiences and from people who had tech interviews: 

  • Prepare Prepare Prepare ….Study Hard! [If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail!] In fact, you should start preparing way before hand, as soon as you know you want to work in a top tech company.
  • Practice writing code on a paper or a whiteboard [It’s harder than you think! We become so used to IDEs that we don’t realize how much we rely on them]. So write your code on paper, then type it in your IDE and see if your program compiles. 
  • Find lots of practice interview questions and solve them [The above resources are a very good start]. Don’t memorize common examples, make sure you understand them. 
  • Review relevant course materials. It might be Digital Systems Design, Data Structures, OO, … 
  • Don’t panic! Remain calm during the interview and solve the problems you are given. The interviewers are not against you, they want you to succeed and want a pleasant interaction. So, be genuine. If it’s a phone interview, tell your interviewers everything you are doing and your thought process. 

Be sure to check out CareerCup and GlassDoor to know what previous interviewees have experienced, and what kind of questions they got. 

Now, here comes the bad news: Studies show that there are subconscious, unintended biases - all else being equal, on average men will get a higher rating. On the Feminine / Masculine communication style, women are likely to show less confidence and understate achievements. Be aware of that! 

Also, know that if you fail, it’s not the end of the world! Get up, analyze where and why you failed, and be busy getting better. Failure is an option, but fear is not! Some people even turn their failures in interesting blog posts. Here is an example that unexpectedly turned out well after failing the interview. On the other hand, if you succeed, it’s great! Get ready for the next round, do a retrospective of your first interview and work on your weaknesses.

Stay great! 

Daniella is a Master's student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. One of her dreams is to inspire more women to embrace STEM careers and unleash their full potential. Although she is hardworking and can be very serious, she enjoys comedy and dancing, has a big sense of humour, and believes that a little kindness goes a long way!