Insights From a Software Development Agency: 6 Tips for Technical Interviews

A t Tyrannosaurus Tech, we’re often asked what exactly we’re looking for when we’re hiring a developer. Particularly junior level folks are wondering what it takes to rise above the rest, prove their worth, and survive the dreaded technical interview. Digging into this blog post, we’ve set out to answer some of those questions and give a short and sweet rundown on what helps us determine which candidate is the right fit. Bear in mind, every company is different and here at Tyrannosaurus Tech, we certainly have our own unique culture and quirks. That being said, what we’re sharing here should be fairly ubiquitous across any small dev team out there. So, without further ado, here are our top tips (some more obvious than others) for anyone interviewing for a dev position …

Be Personable & Likeable Outcry

Yes, believe it or not, this needs to be said. At the end of the day, particularly on a small team, people want to work with someone they like and will be able to get along with for 50+ hours per week. We spend as much time with our coworkers as with our family (sometimes more) so, we all want to coexist and have some fun along the way. Not all developers are social butterflies and, hey, we get that. You don’t have to come in for the interview cracking jokes and being the life of the party by any means. Simply demonstrate that you’ve got a heartbeat, that you can be friendly and enthusiastic, and you can collaborate with us in a positive way. Help us envision working with you day in and day out and enjoying it. Our team has a great rapport and a lot of fun collaborating so, we’re sensitive to new folks who might disrupt (rather than add to) that dynamic.

Demonstrate Ability to Problem Solve and Collaborate

This is advice you’ve likely heard and will continue to hear throughout eternity when it comes to technical interviews. Truly, this is the #1 thing we’re looking for and most companies, hiring managers, or CTOs will tell you the same thing. Regardless of your technology choice or true coding chops, show us you are creative. Show us how you think. Show us you can collaborate and solve problems. At the end of the day, that’s what technology and coding is all about. Languages and frameworks will come and go (as will clients) but at the most basic level, each day we’re approaching new problems in new industries and are tasked with coming up with creative solutions. Be
prepared to break down a problem with our team, to whiteboard potential solutions, and to ask good questions. Talk it out and show us what’s going on in that noggin of yours. This alone is half the battle when it comes to making a good impression in technical interviews.

Have Technical Opinions

Generally, we’ve found good developers are invested enough in what they do to have strong opinions about technology. If you’re passionate about and take pride in what you do, you should have opinions and should be able to clearly advocate for them. To be clear, this does not mean we have to agree with your opinions. It also doesn’t mean that it will go over well if you are overzealous, defensive, or demonstrate a lack of flexibility and unwillingness to compromise. Please don’t think this means we want an all out argument about PHP vs. Ruby during your interview. Again, we simply want to see you take pride in your craft.

Show Us You’re Hungry

Great developers truly love coding and are always hungry to learn. They code in their spare time. They learn new niche technologies on the side. They’re aware of (and excited about) emerging technology trends. They have their own passion hack projects they are working on. On top of that, when they meet you, great developers are trying to discern if they can learn something new from you. So, when you come in to a technical interview, remember this. Show that you have a true passion for coding, that you’re in it for the long haul, that you’re pushing yourself in the field because it’s fun, and that you have something to offer.

Be Prepared to Write Some Code

This would fall into the “sounds obvious” bucket but, even some of the best developers can struggle when put on the spot to write a particular solution. On top of that, many developers underestimate how different it feels writing code on a whiteboard or piece of paper. In the moment, that can really throw folks off. Ever seen a senior dev struggle to write up a simple FizBuzz program in the moment? It happens. So, before any technical interview, spend some time writing some code by hand to get in the swing of things. Brush up on your syntax since you’ll likely be without all the handy syntax highlighting and error messages we take for granted in our modern dev environments these days. If you can’t remember the appropriate javascript syntax now, for example, it is going to make it hard for us to envision you writing proper javascript in practice.

Do Your Research

Since they are so in demand, some devs make the mistake of “just showing up” for an interview and assuming they’ll be evaluated solely on their experience or existing skill set. For smaller shops or anywhere that takes their culture seriously, this is a big mistake. We want to hire people that are excited about working with us. So, just like any other job interview, I recommend doing your research and coming prepared with questions. Demonstrate that you’re aware of the company’s history, what technologies they’re leveraging, their culture, and that you’re excited about working there for specific reasons. Like a first date, a job interview is a two way street. Give the interviewer a chance to talk about themselves, about the business, and make them feel that you’re jazzed about the opportunity.
Short and sweet as promised, folks. We hope this post helps give those heading into an interview some actionable tips to increase their odds. Technical interviews can be daunting and have been written about extensively. That being said, don’t overthink it. Keep these simple tips in mind, come prepared, be yourself, and have fun with it. In the end, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be!
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