In our previous blog, we mentioned a visit from CTO James Oughton, who gave a talk on his view of the hiring process from the other side of the desk. A great takeaway from his talk was his insight into the interview process, what he expects from candidates, and the types of questions he asks in technical interviews.
Using my own experiences of interviewing candidates and discussing interview practices with clients, I wanted to take this further and offer steps that you can follow as candidates to stand out in a technical interview. To achieve this, you need to be prepared, communicate your skills and attributes effectively, and present your problem-solving skills.
The main thing CTOs are looking for during the technical interview is whether your technical ability and personality can work well within their team to solve problems for the business.
Be prepared to...be prepared
Being adequately prepared for an interview is an obvious one, but we have heard from many CTOs/hiring managers that candidates still come to interviews unprepared with their minds not in the right frame at all.
Get your head in the game, so to speak, and mentally prepare yourself. Get to the interview 10-15 minutes early to relax and forget about remembering your long list of accomplishments, they’re just buzzwords, go into the interview modest, open-minded, and focused.
Align yourself with the company by finding out as much about the business as humanly possible. It’s crucial that you find out and understand the company goals and technologies they work with and focus on how you would fit in with the team. The way in which you portray this and your attitude throughout is a great way to rack up bonus points at the interview stage.
What is always helpful is to have notes on the company, technical skills, and examples of your problem-solving ability, this way if you get stuck on a particular question you can refer back to your notes. This will show the interviewer that you have done your research and put effort into preparing for the interview.
Expect the unexpected
When answering technical questions about the position make sure your technical experience stacks up against what’s mentioned on your CV – and be prepared to go into depth about how you have felt when making decisions previously and why you like to use certain frameworks over others.
As well as the technical questions regarding your skills and how they relate to the role, you should also be prepared to answer personality and emotion-related questions such as;
“When was the last time you lost your temper?” – it can seem like a bizarre question to be asked but it is fully relevant to finding out what gets you emotionally driven and how you will work in a team environment.
“What is the worst business relationship you have been in?” – hiring managers use questions like this to understand the maturity of the interviewee and a test to see if you are able to recognise your own maturity in such situations.
Think carefully about how you answer these types of questions and a good way to stand out in a technical interview is to offer a solution of how you worked around and overcame such conflicts in your team. Ultimately showing the interviewer how you communicate in the workplace.
If you are also applying for a role within a team, the hiring manager/CTO will want to know how you work with others and handle setbacks that arise. When answering these types of questions, be sure to give real-life work examples.
While the technical interview might seem like the perfect chance to show off your skills in programming, it’s also an invaluable opportunity for the hiring manager to discover how you solve problems.
In this case, you will be asked about problems you may have faced in your current/previous role to get an insight into whether you have understood your impact on the business. If you offer a purely technical answer then this is unsatisfactory to the hiring manager, they want to know how you understood the root of the problem and worked with other colleagues to solve it.
It’s all about how you think and approach the problem they present you with, if you are struggling to explain, a great idea would be to use your notepad (if you brought one) or ask for paper or a whiteboard to take the CTO through your process and portray your problem-solving ability.
Show your interest - COMMUNICATE
At some point during the interview, particularly towards the end, the interviewer will turn the tables and ask ‘any questions?’.
Don’t wait for this question to arrive but equally don’t be too pushy with your questions. When communicating with the hiring manager during your interview it’s great to ask questions throughout and show your interest in not only the role but the business as a whole.
To stand out in a technical interview, hiring managers want to hear about what gets you excited about the company's mission and its product.
Asking questions about current projects and the development team gives the interviewer an insight into how you will be able to communicate with the whole company and whether your interests and skills compliment the team to solve problems for the business. If the CTO mentions any current problems they are facing, again use this as an opportunity (if they haven’t asked you) to show how you have solved a similar problem before.
Remember, use your recruiter!
One sure-fire way to get prepared and make sure you stand out in a technical interview is by getting as much information as you can from your recruiter about the interview process beforehand.
Ask questions about the location, where is it going to take place? The office or a public place such as a coffee shop? How long it’s going to last? That way you can mentally prepare yourself if you know it’s going to last a couple of hours or half a day.
Make sure you push your recruiter for all the information you need to be prepared, especially so if the recruiter doesn’t know the answer to a question. We love it when candidates ask us questions that we have never been asked before, as it pushes us to be better recruiters and furthers our knowledge and experience of what candidates are looking for.
We hope these steps will help you to get prepared and make sure you can create a great impression to the CTO. If you want any further help with how to stand out in a technical interview, please don’t hesitate to contact me on the usual firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 208 944 4180