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What to expect from technology job interviews

Job interviewTechnology companies are famous for strange interview questions and puzzles - but what's the truth about tech interviews?

Will there be strange questions?

Tech interviews have become notorious for unusual questions, ranging from puzzles that test your thinking skills - "How many phone books are there in London?" - to questions that seem designed to surprise - "How would you cure world hunger?".

It's important to remember that these questions are famous more because they make good blog posts than because they're a big part of the hiring process. Most organizations won't use them at all. It's much more important to brush up on your general interview skills, and to work on key areas for tech interviews like:

  • Being able to explain your skills, how you developed them and how you have used them
  • Having examples of projects you have worked on and problems you have solved
  • Understanding the industry you'll be working in, the organization you're applying to and the specific job you're applying for.

If unusual questions do come up, the important thing is not to panic. The interviewer won't expect you to have a complete answer ready to go: they'll want to see how you go about thinking of one. Talk through your thinking process, and don't be afraid to ask follow-up questions to try to work out what the interviewer wants from you.

Practical tests

Interviews for technical jobs will often include a practical test, such as creating a basic website from scratch, solving a programming problem or analyzing some existing code. These tests might be used as the basis of part of your interview.

Practical tasks won't always be in a form you're used to. You might be asked to write code out by hand using a pen and paper, or even write it on a whiteboard while the interviewer watches. This means you can't rely on software tools or quickly searching the internet for something that's slipped your mind. It's worth practising this in advance to make sure you don't get caught out.

What not to expect

Stories about job interviews are dominated by big companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook.

For example, big tech companies might hire people on the basis of pure talent and find a way to use them, but most organizations can't do this even if they want to - they'll want to hear about how you can solve the specific problem they're looking for help with.

Smaller companies are also likely to have a shorter process, with fewer steps and fewer interviewers to meet.

The key thing is that every interview will be different, but if you have a good understanding of your skills, have thought carefully about your experiences and understand the job you're applying for, you can do well whatever the interview style.

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