Technical Interviews: How to Succeed as a Developer

Okay, you’ve submitted your resumé. If you’re interviewing at Detroit Labs, you’ve submitted your GTKY (Getting To Know You). You’ve made it through a phone interview and maybe even an in-person interview…now it’s time to prove you actually know what you’re doing. That’s right, you’re ready for the technical interview.

You made it this far for a reason, so don’t worry too much. We know how hard it can be to go through an interview. Almost everyone has looked back, post-interview, and said, “I wish I had done something differently…” We asked our developers/interviewers to share advice taken from their experience interviewing dev candidates. Use this as a helpful guide as you prep for your technical interview.

Looking for a job as a developer? Take a look at our current openings.

Be familiar with your code challenge.  
  • Make sure you adhere to the requirements of the coding challenge. Especially the time limit. The interviewers want to know that you can code well, but they also want to see that you can follow direction and take guidance.
  • If the time limit forces you to make trade-offs in regards to the app’s scale, are you able to explain the reasoning for choosing each individual tradeoff?
  • If you are live-coding and you run into a problem, how do you go about solving it?
  • Are you following best practices in the language/framework? If so, why? And more importantly, if you aren’t, what’s your rationale?
  • Do you know your way around your own code base? Make sure you do, because you never know what questions you’ll be asked about the code.  
Directly address the interviewer asking the question.
  • Navigating who to address when you’re being interviewed by multiple people can be a social challenge.
  • It’s obviously important to interact with everybody in the room, but when a question is asked, it’s best to start by responding to whoever asked that question.
Respond to feedback with empathy.
  • How do you respond to feedback? If you get the job, you’re going to be working on a team, meaning that it’s likely that you’ll experience feedback if you get hired. If somebody critiques your choices, what do you do? The interviewers want to see if you’re the type of person they can work with.
  • What if you disagree with suggestions that are given to you? Should you actually push back during a technical interview? It probably depends on where you’re interviewing, but if you’re sold on not taking a suggestion, why? And how will you go about explaining your choices? Whatever you do, make sure you do it empathetically.
  • The interviewers want to know that you are confident in why you chose to code the way you did, but also know that you are flexible and willing to learn and grow. Even the most senior developers are always talking about learning new things.
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Communicate technical concepts to non-technical interviewers.
  • Imagine a scenario where there are multiple people in the room and a senior dev asks you a technical question. It’s important to be able to explain how you broke down the problem and communicate how you resolved it.
  • It’s equally important that you are able to communicate technical concepts to any non-developers in the room. If you get the job, you’ll be interacting with designers, QAs, BizDev and Marketing teams, and maybe even clients. Can you communicate clearly to them?
Write down questions and bring them with you.
  • A lot of technical interviews leave time for questions at the end. Don’t be surprised when that part of the interview comes. You may come up with questions during the interview, but it’s good to have a list with you to fall back on. Having good questions with shows the interview team that you are invested in the role and that you took your interview preparation seriously.
Be engaged in the dev community.
  • Another good way to stand out in a technical interview is by being engaged in the community and its trends. Do you attend conferences or meetups? Do you follow different tech blogs?  Talk about what you’ve learned from them — not just what you’ve learned in your 9-5.

At Detroit Labs, we value people a lot, so we formed a community called CoLabs. Sign up for CoLabs and you’ll be invited to explore some of our networking events, learning opportunities, and online resources. You’ll also be among the first to hear about new job opportunities as they come up!