Engineering Leaders Share Interview Prep Tips

Do you have a technical interview or an onsite coming up and wonder what you can do to get an extra edge?

We have asked several engineering leaders and technical recruiters about things interviewees can do so shine. Let’s hear directly from them.

What do you wish job candidates did for preparation for interviews? What would help them shine?

Olya Royall

Engineering Manager at DroneDeploy

The preparation for on-site interviews starts before the job search. This is a tough question because it’s hard to really “shine” without extra-curricular activities on your resume. But I would imagine a lot of really great engineers don’t necessarily have time to sink into extra-curricular activities. I imagine people with families have very limited time outside of work hours to contribute to personal projects or open-source software.

However, showing leadership during work hours is possible, and one of the best ways is to show a way that an engineer has made someone else’s life easier. This could be taking charge of improving internal tooling for other developers, taking charge of updating documentation, or driving better quality via testing that didn’t exist before.

I would also hope that an engineer can reach out to someone to practice with, preferably a former colleague or a friend they trust. And what they should practice is having recent stories about how they work in a team, how they manage priorities, how they improved something. These stories need to have enough context for the interviewer to get the general idea of the situation. An action that the interviewee took and what was the outcome or a result in this case.

Outside of these soft skill behavioral interviews. the developer should be comfortable with pairing on a problem (though not every company does pairing interviews). I won’t go into details for preparing for whiteboarding interviews, as there are books and a sea of resources out there to prepare for those. 

Last but not least, the job candidate should at least signup for a trial if a company has a product and read about the company on the website and on glassdoor to show that they were interested in actually working there.

Garth Gaughan

Engineering Manager at Freshly

Engineers are often so focused on their technical skills that they almost never focus on how valuable behavioral attributes are to a team. Especially Junior and mid developers. I want good employees that I can make great developers, not great developers that will probably never become good employees.

Austen Yueh

Technical Recruiter at Lightstep, ex MIT

One piece of advice I have for job candidates is – think of your resume as a story. Don’t let somebody else fill in that story for you! For example, when it comes to gaps in work experience, I see so many people just leave entire years blank and unexplained. Good managers and recruiters can understand the time you took off to travel, care for family, or work on yourself. (If they don’t, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.)

But, don’t leave that story to chance or guesswork from a hiring manager. Human nature forces people to wonder if you couldn’t find work, if you were in serious trouble, or you simply spent 2 years without learning a thing or working with others. There’s no need to dive into intimate detail – usually, 1-2 sentences is perfectly fine.

Tl;dr: you, and only you, should be telling your whole story!

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