How to Ace the Developer Interview

Samantha Ming giving a presentation to student developers

So you’re ready to get you first developer job. That’s awesome! After going to a few interviews myself. I want to share with you some of my insight into the job interview process and help you better prepare for your interview 😊

⭐️ Here are the 3 parts you need to master ⭐️

  1. Application 📝
  2. Technical Interview 💻
  3. Cultural Interview 🤝

BONUS:
Make sure you read to the end, I also cover an important topic “When to walk away from a job”


1. Application 📝

Apply everywhere! Especially if you’re a junior developer trying to land your first job. You should not be picky. Apply to every position. Even if it’s at a company you’re not interested in. Just apply! Why? Because it’s great practice. Just like anything else, the best way to get better is to practice. Just like how to become a better tennis player, you practice. Similarly, you can get better at job interviews with practice and experience.

And more importantly, apply to jobs that you think you don’t qualified for. Why? Because you should not create your own roadblock. This is a common thing that prevents many people to not take actions. We love to concoct excuses in our head why we are qualified. When you think you’re not good enough or when you think you don’t have enough experience. STOP ✋ you don’t know until you try. Don’t create your own roadblock! Don’t say no on their behalf, that’s in their court, not yours. Believe in yourself, have confidence in your skills and apply apply apply!


2. Technical Interview 💻

Passing the technical interview is the part I struggled with the most 😣 To me, the technical interview is very similar to your high school math test. If they happen to ask you the question that you studied for, then you’ll ace it. But such as life, you’ll never know the exact question they’ll ask. It’s okay, with practice (me included) you can get better!

Here are the 3 common categories of technical questions:

a. White Board
b. Take Home Challenge
c. Mockups

a. Whiteboard

Whiteboard is where the interviewer asks you a question, and you write out your solution on the whiteboard. Typically this is just an algorithm challenge. You don’t get to use Google here. So here’s how I approach this, I treat the interviewer as Google. I will ask them questions. For example, if you’re using a method but you forgot the specific order of the parameters or you forgot the method name, just ask the interviewer. They’re not testing you on how well you have memorized the syntax, they’re testing that you can solve the problem.

Another thing to do here is to make sure you speak aloud your process. As much as they want to see you solve the question, they want to see your thought process and check if you can articulate your solution. So speak aloud whatever is in your brain 👍

b. Take home challenge

These are coding challenges that you can work from home. These challenges will always have a time limit, even if they say take your time. Speed is the game! It’s all about completing something in a short amount of time. Every second counts. So you need to be super efficient with your execution.

For front-end programmers, you will typically use some sort of framework unless you’re using vanilla JavaScript. Something to keep in mind is your setup time. I use Vue, so this is a breeze for me. It’s similar to jQuery, I just need to drop one line of CDN code and BAM I’m done 💥 If you’re using React or Angular, there’s a bit more you have to do. So make sure you master your setup. Remember the more time you spent setting up, the less time you have to actually tackle the challenge.

When it comes to improving efficiency and speed, the only way to get better is repetition and practice. Here are some coding challenges you should be able to execute on the spot:

Some sample coding challenges:

c. Mockups

For front-end roles, you might get a mockup question instead. So they will provide you a PDF or some image version of a site or a component of a site. And you are asked to build that out. It will mostly involve HTML and CSS. And depending on the component, maybe some JavaScript.

  • Build a sign-up form with validation
  • Build a responsive navbar with login/logout.

3. Cultural Interview 🤝

What makes a person a cultural fit? Let me de-structure this and explain it in layman terms. It means you’re not an asshole! That’s it! Some company will have some fancy jargon to explain what cultural fit is but in the end they just want to make sure you’re someone they LIKE working with. Again, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, do you want to work with an asshole? Someone who berates and belittles you. Absolutely not! Exactly! So here, you just need to illustrate how you’re a nice person to work with. Kindness, positivity, empathy — the winning formula for getting a job but also in life!

Here are some questions you need to have ready:

a. Introduce yourself 
b. What are your strengths
c. What are your weaknesses
d. How do you deal with conflicts
e. Why do you want to work with this company

Let’s walk through it together and I’ll share my tips on how you should address them.

a. Introduce yourself

I’m a front-end developer with 2 years of industry experience working in Angular. On the side, I also worked on side projects using Vue. Can I show you what I’ve been work on?

Keep your intro short. 1 to 2 sentences is plenty. You know the profile you wrote on your resume, just use that! You want to emphasize your tech experience. Here’s a trick, if you feel like your experience is lacking (perhaps you only have professional experience in an older tech stack or the tech stack is not applicable to the job you’re applying for), this is great spot to emphasize on your side projects. Notice I ended with a question, if you think you’re working on some cools side projects, this is a great way to take control of the conversation and promote your skills.

b. What are your weaknesses?

One of my weakness is I take too long to ask for help. So now I give myself a time limit to try to work it out myself. And if I can’t resolve it within a certain time, I’ll reach out to the team for assistance.

This one is a tricky one. But the tip to this is to make sure you follow up with a solution that mitigates your stated weakness. And please do actually use a legit flaw. I’m too hardworking or I’m way too nice is going to get some eye rolls in the room 🙄. It’s okay to have weaknesses. Everyone has them. Don’t need to be ashamed of it. Own it and demonstrate you’re aware of it and you are trying to fix it. The thing here is they want to see that you made an effort to fix your weakness and not necessarily the actual weakness. But‼️ You also don’t want to talk about a weakness that is so off the spectrum that they won’t want to hire you. For example, my weakness is that I like to sleep on the job but I’m working hard to get 8 hours of sleep so I can stay awake at work. Lol, I’m laughing just writing this 🤣. That’s great you have a solution, but I think this is one weakness that might just be too much 😂. Like I said this is a tricky one. So please use your best discretion.

c. Why do you want to work for the company?

Vue is a tech stack that I’m very excited about and I know that’s your company’s current tech stack. Also, I heard the company has a wonderful work culture. That’s why I’m so excited at the opportunity to join Company ABC.

Here, they just want to see you’ve done the research and know a bit about the company. I typically go through their website and social media accounts to gather information. Here’s a tip that can help you score some extra points if the company or the founder has won any awards, use that as a reason. Companies are usually proud of that, so it’s a nice way to compliment them.

d. How do you deal with conflicts

When there is a conflict, I always give the person the benefit of the doubt and try to open a communication with them. For example, there was this one time when …. So what I did was ….

What they’re looking for here is how you behave under conflicts. A great way to tackle this question is to actually give an example. Talk about a time when you had a conflict. And then explain how you dealt with it. That’s the most important part, you need to explain how you overcame that conflict. The recruiters are less interested in the conflict itself but more on the solution 👍


It’s okay to walk away from a job!

So we always teach people about getting the job and what we need to to make ourselves better to get the job. And our mental thought is to please or pander to our interviewer. As you can see, this creates a very uneven dynamic. Most interviewers are very professional and don’t take advantage of this situation. But if they do, you should absolutely walk away.

In Canada, there are certain questions that you can’t ask. I get it, every country will have their own culture and norms of conducting business. But I believe respect is the core of establishing a successful relationship.

If they don’t respect you in the interview and make rude comments, what do you think will happen once you get the job? If they’re behaving in that manner, they will most definitely act like that in the job. Do you really want to work in an environment where you are belittled and made the butt of the joke? They’re assholes, get out!

How to handle a rude interviewer

It is absolutely tough to know how to react or what to do when the interviewer asks or does something inappropriate. So let me give you some guidance. Being prepared or at least being aware of how to deal with it, will make it easier for you to react if the situation ever arises.

If the interviewer asks an inappropriate question or something that makes you uncomfortable. Ask them, how does this question pertain to the position you’re applying to. Maybe they do have a valid response. Remember, it’s up to YOU if you want to answer it. If you don’t think it is. Just state, “I don’t think this is a question pertaining to the position I’m applying to, do you have another question?” You can absolutely throw it back at them. Of course, still being respectful. Just because they’re being a douche, doesn’t mean you need to sink to their level. And if things get really bad. Walk away! You can say something like this:

“It seems like this position is not a great fit for me. Thank you for your time. All the best filling this role. Have a great day”

And walk away! Again, you can still be respectful. Leave and then drop a review on Glassdoor. If they’re assholes, then other people should know about it. You don’t have to be ashamed. Share your experience on Glassdoor so other people can also be aware of it. The market needs to know assholes are not welcomed in the workforce. We should be respectful towards each other. So if the company want to attract talent and grow, they need to create a healthy environment and weed out the assholes 💪

This is especially important for women. No job is worth your self-respect and dignity. You will feel like crap every day, you will be unhappy, and you are most certainly be depressed. There are other jobs out there filled with awesome and nice people. You don’t need to succumb and accept anything less. You are absolutely worth it!!!! 🙌


Conclusion

Looking for a job is never fun. It can be a tedious process. But you just have to keep at it. Don’t be afraid of the rejections, embrace it! As you do more interviews, you will get better. It’s not your rejections that define you, it’s your perseverance. Good luck! You go this! 😊



Thanks for reading ❤

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