Interview insights and recommendations for software engineers

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Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. The interview process
  3. Tips for approaching the interviews
  4. Closing the gap
  5. Frequently asked questions
  6. Conclusion


Over the last few years, I have done a lot of interviews. Hiring is hard.

From the point of view of the hiring manager, you don't want to be doing it. Probably, you need to replace someone who is leaving, create a new team or scale an existing one. You are doing all this for some other reason, a real problem, need to deliver software, meet a deadline, etc. As a candidate, you should always keep this in mind. How are you going to help solve the HM problems?

The interview process

Let's dig into the process for a bit. There are different approaches, algorithms, take-home assignments, whiteboard questions, etc. Processes vary from 1 to 6 rounds of interviews.

It's OK when you are a FAANG (or better now called MAANG?), you get thousands of applicants you can hand pick the best of the best. Your process can be as complicated and long as you want.

For most of the companies out there, it is not the case. We want to make the process fast and straightforward for the candidates.

In the companies I have interviewed for, the process is like this, a quick phone screening, easy enough tech assessment (2 hours max), technical interview, behavioural interview and (ideally) an offer.

In this streamlined process, the challenge lies in demonstrating to the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the position. It's an exhausting task. You must effectively showcase your skills, experiences, and potential in a limited timeframe. And remember, it's not only your interview. You will get measured by how it compares to the other candidates the hiring manager is interviewing at the same time and the level of the team.

The hiring process can be frustrating and imperfect. We all know that, but these are the rules of the game, and understanding them will help you navigate the process.

Tips for approaching the interviews

  • Know the role you are applying for, talk about your relevant experience and how that would help for this role. In other words, if they are looking for a chef, your experience as a mechanic isn't adding much value, right?
  • For the technical assessment, read the requirements and ask for clarification if needed. It's better to ask for clarification and shows care and a proactive attitude instead of delivering something off. You must at least deliver a working solution covering the minimum requirements. (You would be surprised by the amount I have seen that don't)
  • For the actual technical interview, there is not much I can say but study. And remember, the fundamentals of the stack you are applying for are usually the kick starter of almost every interview.
  • For the behavioural interview, I can't stress this enough, please Google the most common questions and prepare them. It's so easy to prepare. What qualities, besides the technical aspects, are required for the role you are applying? You will need to do some introspection work here.

Closing the gap

Interviewing is a skill on its own. You have to practice it. And like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you become.

You can do mock interviews with friends, colleagues, and mentors. Practising with actual interviews helps you measure yourself in a real scenario and understand the other interview formats, be careful not to waste some valuable opportunities this way.

It doesn't matter what way you choose but try to identify in which step of the process you are failing.

  • Not getting calls? Brush your CV
  • Fail the screening call? Practice your communication skills
  • Technical assessment? Ask for feedback from the company or colleagues on your previous submissions. Verify you are sending a working solution, following good practices aligned to your seniority level. People don't expect the same if you apply to a junior role vs a tech lead.
  • Technical interview? Refresh your fundamentals, identify the gaps, try to cover a few things in depth and have a general breadth of knowledge about other topics.
  • Behavioural interview? Failing at this stage could mean several things. You are going to be judged based on the role you have applied. It could mean communication skills, that you didn't demonstrate the attitude/behaviour that someone should have for that role (i.e., lead a team), or red flags (not taking constructive critics, avoiding conflict or blaming other people).

Frequently asked questions

  • Can you provide more details about the types of technical assessments commonly used in the interview process for software engineering roles, and how candidates can effectively prepare for them?

Technical assessments in software engineering interviews can vary considerably, encompassing a range of tasks from coding challenges to system design exercises. Candidates should prepare themselves by immersing in common algorithms, data structures, and problem-solving techniques. It's essential to grasp the specific requirements of the assessment and seek clarification if necessary, ensuring that the solution aligns with the criteria provided. Practicing coding problems on platforms like LeetCode or HackerRank, and soliciting feedback on solutions from peers or mentors, can enhance one's approach.

  • What are some strategies for candidates to stand out during the behavioural interview portion of the hiring process, especially in demonstrating qualities beyond technical skills that are essential for the role?

Behavioural interviews represent a pivotal opportunity for candidates to spotlight their soft skills and exemplify attributes beyond technical prowess that are pertinent to the role. This might encompass communication proficiency, teamwork, problem-solving acumen, leadership potential, and adaptability. Preparation involves delving into common behavioural interview questions and crafting responses that draw upon specific instances from past experiences. Reflecting on instances where conflicts were adeptly resolved, collaborative efforts were impactful, or leadership qualities were demonstrated is crucial, with readiness to delve into these narratives during the interview.

  • How do hiring managers typically assess the fit of a candidate's experience and skills with the specific requirements of the role, and what steps can candidates take to tailor their application and interview responses accordingly?

Hiring managers evaluate a candidate's suitability for a role by assessing the alignment of their experience and skills with the job's prerequisites. To tailor their application and interview responses effectively, candidates should meticulously scrutinize the job description, identifying key skills and qualifications sought by the employer. Highlighting relevant experiences and accomplishments that underscore their ability to meet these requirements is paramount. During interviews, furnishing specific examples that illustrate how past projects and achievements dovetail with the role's needs underscores a candidate's preparedness and suitability.

  • Are there any specific resources or recommendations for candidates to improve their interview skills, especially in scenarios where they may be struggling in a particular stage of the interview process?

Candidates can refine their interview skills by engaging in mock interviews with peers, colleagues, or mentors. These simulated interview scenarios provide invaluable practice, fostering familiarity with the process and enhancing confidence. Additionally, soliciting feedback from interviewers or peers on performance and areas for improvement is constructive. Identifying specific stages of the interview process where challenges arise—such as communication skills during screening calls or technical proficiency in coding interviews—and focusing on targeted practice can effectively address these hurdles.

  • Can you elaborate on the significance of addressing red flags during the interview process, particularly in the behavioural interview stage, and how candidates can effectively address or mitigate any concerns that may arise?

Addressing red flags during the interview process, particularly in the behavioural interview phase, is pivotal for candidates to convey their suitability for the role. Red flags may encompass deficient communication skills, limited leadership potential, or challenges in conflict resolution. Mitigating these concerns entails candidly addressing any areas of weakness and proactively demonstrating a commitment to growth and improvement. Highlighting examples of overcoming challenges or learning from mistakes in prior roles is instrumental in reassuring interviewers of one's potential for development and contribution.


We touched the interview process, what to focus on, and how to approach the process. Please remember these tips:

  1. Tailor your experience to the role's requirements.
  2. Seek clarification during technical assessments and deliver working solutions.
  3. Reinforce your fundamentals for technical interviews.
  4. Prepare for behavioural interviews by reflecting on qualities beyond technical skills.

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