You’ve completed your computer science degree, applied for a role in the field you love, and landed an interview with a dream employer. Congratulations. Now it’s time for the dreaded interview. However, don’t worry, our tips will help you prepare for the technical job interview ahead.
By Grant Longstaff. Published 25 July 2023.
General tips for a technical job interview
It’s not uncommon for an interviewer to ask what you know about the company or their recent work, so make sure to research the business you’re interviewing for. Check their website for any news they’ve published and make a note of their recent successes to draw upon. Look beyond their website too. Are they in the news? Have they featured in any industry magazines or periodicals? You don’t need to memorise everything, but if you know the CEO was interviewed by WIRED or their game was reviewed by IGN, it can add colour to your answers.
In addition, consider researching the wider industry in general. Depending on the role, you can find useful news and industry updates from places such as; BCS (British Computer Society) – the Chartered Institute for IT, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), or the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA). The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to answer any questions relating to the organisation and the industry.
How should I prepare for a technical job interview?
Each company will have their own recruitment process and so it’s difficult to say with any certainty if you’ll be asked to prepare anything ahead of the interview. That said, some organisations might ask you to prepare a short presentation, create a webpage, or short code. The beauty of knowing this ahead of time means you can share any potential ideas with friends to get some feedback. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your skills, it’s the perfect opportunity to show the employer what you can bring to the table. Make sure you’re prepared for questions too, as the interviewers can use this to probe further into your work.
Often you won’t have the opportunity to prepare something beforehand. Instead, many recruiters will hold an assessment centre along with the interview. This could include group work and solo work to see how you respond to certain scenarios. Again, this is to see what you’re able to do in a short space of time. Use the opportunity to shine. Focus on what you’re good at and, if you’re working as part of a team, try and take ownership of an aspect of the work. If you’re creative focus on idea generation. If communication is your strong point offer to lead the presentation. Listen to others and recognise when to speak out. Often how you reach the goal is just as important to the interviewers as the goal itself.
Another way to prepare is to consider the technical questions you might be asked. Depending on the role you’re interviewing for you could be asked about coding, data management, software development, network management… the list is endless. The key is to know your stuff. Spend time before the interview swotting up on things you find more challenging, as well as revisiting basic concepts and knowledge which feels second nature. After all, you don’t want to falter on a question about default constructors. Depending on the role it could also help to take a portfolio of some of your work, so you can not only tell the interviewer about your labour but show them too.
Also, be prepared to answer questions on the wider field of computer science, not just questions related to the role. For example, you could be asked about AI, cyber security, or social media.
You’ll likely be asked several behavioural and personality questions alongside the technical questions too.
Behavioural questions tend to focus on how you handled a particular situation. To prepare for questions of this nature it can help to have a bank of scenarios to draw upon. Remember to be specific; detail the challenge you faced, the action you took, and the outcome because of your action. They don’t need to be related to employment either. If you’ve patched open source software shout about it.
Personality questions concentrate on you as an individual. What is your greatest achievement? Be honest. What is your biggest weakness? If you struggle with an aspect of object-oriented programming (OOP) then share it, but also share the steps you’re taking to close the knowledge gap. For further support, you can look at our guide to challenging interview questions and practice your answers with family and friends.
Interview preparation checklist
- Personal documents. Take a copy of your application and your qualifications and identification with you.
- Prepare any material for the interview, whether it’s a presentation or a portfolio of your work.
- Research the organisation and wider industry.
- Revise fundamental theories and attempt to fill knowledge gaps.
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses.
- Formulate answers for both behavioural and personal questions. Practice these with someone.
Interviews, like many things in life, are an opportunity to learn and grow. If you’re unsuccessful, reflect on what you could improve, ask for feedback, and get prepping for the next one.
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