How to “Hack” an interview as a Software Engineer

As a software engineer you are naturally great at solving technical problems, writing beautiful code and rocking the casual t-shirt look. It’s an environment that you know, enjoy and perform well in.

However, when the time comes for you to change jobs and go through an interview process, many find this a stressful and foreign feeling experience. This leads many to under-preform or fail to demonstrate their full potential during the interview.

So with this in mind, here are my tips on how you can “hack” your interview performance.

Find out the format of the interview

Firstly, finding out what type of interview you are going to is important as it will give you some guidance on how to prepare for it. I would always suggest you ask this and if there is anything you need to prepare for or bring to it. This should give you all the information you need and also demonstrate that you keen to prepare for it (always a great personal trait to have!).

Practice using real interview questions

Great engineers often think “This is what I do for a living and I’m good at it”, making it tempting to walk into an interview without much practice. But the reality is, being a great engineer does not automatically make you great at interviewing. It’s a fact that the questions you’ll face at most companies are miles away from what you do at your current day job. So it’s important you do some research and practice using real questions that the companies may use during their interviews.

Be a Problem Solver

Obviously, you need to have the tech skills to excel in a position. But a passion for problem-solving and how to approach something that you are just as important as know the “correct” answer. So take a problem solving approach to it!

If you’re asked a question you don’t know how to answer, don’t freeze or go quiet (or even worse, make up an answer!). Many interviewers like to put you on the spot to see how you work through a problem and communicate complexities. The ability to ask relevant questions, digest this information and outline how you would approach solving something that you don’t know off head. This will give them great insight into how you operate… and your answer (technical correct or not) is often secondary to how you got there.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the interview

Some engineers think that asking questions is a sign of poor skill or a lack of understanding, but in reality, it’s the opposite. Most questions that you’ll be asked during interviews are intentionally vague, and the interviewer’s goal is to see if you can ask the right questions before diving in. The worst thing you can do during a technical interview is solve something that you weren’t asked to solve. So ask questions until you are absolutely sure you have all the details.

Be mentally prepared for a negative outcome

Interviews are run by human beings, and human beings tend to be quite subjective. So no matter how good you are or how much you prepare, most of your interviews are going to have a negative outcome and you have to be mentally prepared for that. Many candidates take it very personally when a company comes back to them with a “No”. This is a natural reaction, no one likes being rejected by someone. However, by setting realistic expectations at the outset and treating each interview as a learning experience won’t feel like the end of the world. To masker this, read my post “Interviewing, how to fail fast and become a Jedi master

Hope you found these tips helpful. If you have any interview hack advice, please feel free to share in the comment section below.

By Steven Campbell - Senior Talent Advocate UK