Tech interviews can intimidate even seasoned interviewees. Many companies take candidates through multiple rounds of interviews, each with its own focus.
How should you prepare before the interview? And what do tech companies look for during the interview process?
Our guide walks through how to prepare for tech job interviews. From common questions to the best interview tips, our guide has you covered.
What to expect during tech interview rounds
Tech companies use multi-step interviews. What should you expect during each round? And what interview tips will you need for each round? This section walks through what you need to know.
The first interview: Phone screener interview tips
Tech companies often launch the interview process with a phone interview. During the first interview, the interviewer wants to quickly understand your background, your fit for the position, and whether to continue the interview process.
A phone interview might be as brief as 15 minutes or as long as an hour. Since you have a limited amount of time, make sure to prepare a "greatest hits" list that showcases your accomplishments. Practice answers to common phone interview questions and make sure to express interest in the position.
The second interview: Technical interview tips
Whether you're interviewing to become a software developer, information security analyst, or IT manager, the process will likely include a technical interview. During this stage, the interviewer wants to understand your technical qualifications.
The technical interview is one of the most intimidating steps in a computer science interview. That's partly because knowing how to prepare for a technical interview can be challenging.
Depending on the company, the technical interview might be a phone or video call, a take-home test or problem set, or an in-person screener. You might also talk to multiple people during the technical interview.
Research common technical questions for your role. If the interviewer ask you to work through a problem, make sure to show your process clearly. The interviewer wants to see how you think and solve problems.
The final interview: Onsite interview tips
The onsite interview is typically the final stage in the interview process. The company may have narrowed its list to two to three candidates. By the final interview, the interviewers know you're qualified. They want to decide who is the best fit.
An onsite interview might take place at the job location or virtually. Some onsite interviews involve multiple meetings with different members of the company. You might even talk with future coworkers and get a chance to learn about company culture from your peers.
At some companies, the final interview might be a multi-day process. At others, it might be a brief meeting with senior leadership to sign off on the job offer. Research the interview process at the specific company where you'll interview to learn more about their steps.
How to prepare for your upcoming tech job interview
Preparing for a job interview might feel overwhelming, especially if the process includes a technical interview. By taking the following steps, you'll be ready for interview day.
As you work through the steps, take detailed notes. Consider a note-taking app like Evernote or Notion, or stick with a notepad if that works better for you. Don't try to memorize everything. Instead, focus your energy on the following steps.
1. Research the company.
Start by learning more about the company. You can learn about tech companies on their websites, through LinkedIn, and in the news.
Top topics to research:
The company's mission statement
Company products and services
Hiring or interview information
Recent news about the company
During your initial research, learn as much as possible about the company, its unique attributes, and its competitors. Pay attention to company values, the leadership team, and current news.
2. Closely study the job description.
Before an interview, head back to the job posting. Go through the description with an eye toward interview questions. Note key phrases or skills mentioned in the job description and pick examples that show your expertise in those areas.
For example, if the posting mentions project management skills, list specific times you effectively led projects. You can take these concrete examples and integrate them into your answers to interview questions.
3. Craft and practice your answer to "Tell me about yourself."
Many interviews start with an open-ended question like "Tell me about yourself." Instead of stumbling over your answer, practice exactly what to say.
Keep your answer brief but focused. Give a one- to two-sentence description of your current role, followed by one to two sentences about your background. Wrap up your answer with one or two sentences about your future goals and interest in the company. An effective answer might take as little as 30 seconds.
4. Practice your answers to common interview questions.
Certain interview questions come up in most tech interviews. You'll likely face questions about your background, technical skills, and career goals. So prepare answers to these questions in advance.
When practicing answers, make sure to include specific examples to back up your claims. Consider in advance how to frame your experience and expertise.
5. Reflect on and review past examples of your work.
The interviewer has your resume and cover letter. Instead of repeating bullet points from your resume, expand on your accomplishments to give the interviewer examples of your work.
Pick out a few of your top achievements and consider your work contributions. Tie these examples into the key phrases you found in the job description. Aim for at least one or more examples for every item in the description.
6. Collect your "greatest hits" stories and practice the STAR method.
Put together a list of your most impressive professional accomplishments. And then get familiar with the STAR method.
Start by answering the following questions:
When did you solve a problem at work?
When did you accomplish something impressive?
When did your work have an impact on the company?
When did you try something new with great results?
When did you effectively handle an ambiguous situation at work?
When did you learn something quickly with little preparation time?
What was a challenge you faced at work? How did you deal with it?
Use the STAR method to describe these stories. Start by describing the situation. Explain your task. What action did you take to deal with the situation? And what was the result? This method helps break down your accomplishments into clear, interview-ready answers.
7. Practice your answers to technical questions.
Tech job interviews often come with technical questions. The specific questions depend on the role and job title. In addition, interviewers want to know how you approach problems, where you go for information, and how you work with others.
Common technical questions include:
How would you solve this particular tech problem?
What steps do you take when debugging code?
What's your strongest coding language?
Brush up on technical skills relevant to the job. And don't worry if you can't immediately answer the question. With technical questions, your approach and problem-solving often matter as much or more than the specific answer.
8. Prepare three questions to ask the interviewer.
Avoid walking into the interview without questions for the company. Even if you've done your homework, not asking questions can suggest you aren't invested in the job.
As you research and prepare, jot down a list of questions to ask in an interview. If you're struggling to come up with questions, ask about the company's goals, what the typical day looks like for the new role, or the reporting structure.
9. Test your audio and video technology, video background, and attire.
Leave nothing to chance. Test out your audio and video technology for virtual interviews. Make sure you have service for phone interviews. And double-check your attire if the interviewers can see you.
Consider conducting a mock interview in the same format as the real interview. Ask a friend or family member to give feedback on your video background and the connection quality.
10. Review the date, time, and location of your interview, and set a reminder.
Make sure you know the exact date, time, and location for the interview. If it's a video or phone interview, check the time zone. And if it's in person, research how to get to the location and where to park.
Set a reminder early enough to review your notes and get into a good mental space before the interview.
11. Know how to conduct yourself in a professional interview.
Interviewers can't possibly remember every word you say during an interview. But they absolutely remember how you come across and how it felt to talk with you. First impressions matter. So make a point to come across as a competent, friendly person.
Follow the interviewer's lead and build rapport. The interviewer wants to know what it would be like to add you to their team, so show your collegiality and professionalism. Stay engaged in the interview and project energy and enthusiasm. Be confident about what you can bring to the team while staying humble.
Practice answering in focused sentences to avoid rambling. At the interview's end, thank the interviewer for their time and express your interest in the role.
12. Practice interviewing with someone who will give you constructive feedback.
Constructive feedback can make all the difference when preparing for an interview. A practice interview is one of the best interview tips because you'll see the highest return.
Ask a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview and give you feedback on your answers. Provide a list of common questions and even practice your questions for the interviewer. Positive feedback — or the chance to rework your answers — will boost your confidence going into the interview.
Your interview might lead to a job offer, or you might not be the best fit. In either circumstance, review the interview tips that helped you the most.
Knowing what works for you — and what pays off in interviews — will help you throughout your career.
This article reviewed by Sarah Holliday, MS
Sarah Holiday has years of experience working with nontraditional and traditional-aged students in various areas related to career coaching and training and development. Holliday holds a BA in English from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an MS in instructional design and technology (training and performance improvement) from Walden University. Holliday is currently working on her doctorate and looks forward to dissertating soon.
Sarah Holliday is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.