10 Technology Job Interview Tips For Students And New Grads


You got an interview. Congratulations!

It’s likely you searched for jobs on websites like TalentEgg, leveraged your network, and wowed a recruiter with your resume and cover letter.

But you’re not done selling yourself just yet.

University of Waterloo career advisor Tanya Gillert says tech graduates can expect to be screened by an in-house recruiter or a member of the company’s HR department before one or two technical phone screens and up to four on-site interviews with the employer.

“In the tech world, everything can and will fail, so they want to determine your thinking capabilities and how you will come up with solutions.”
Tanya Gillert, Career Advisor, University of Waterloo

“In an interview, recruiters are determining if they like you, if you know your stuff and if you are passionate about your field and specialty,” she says. “Employers want to know if an applicant is adaptable, flexible and productive.”

Here’s a list of Tanya’s top 10 tips on how to ace the technology job interview and get the job:

1. Know the employer

Research the company’s structure, history and mission. Learn about what the company sells, the clients they target and how they compete in their industry. Find out what motivates management and employees.

How can you tell an interviewer that you’ll fit in seamlessly with the company’s culture if you know nothing about them?

2. Know the position

Employers will list the skills, knowledge and qualifications they expect someone they hire to possess. Read the job listing and show them that you meet their requirements, Tanya says.

You can expect technical questions to be tailored to the role. Be prepared to write code, talk about code and find any errors in code quickly.

3. Know yourself

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Practice coding and solving problems in front of people. Be prepared to answer the types of questions Tanya says technology students can expect to be asked, including:

  • coding and common algorithms
  • design and redesign
  • puzzles and brain teasers
  • number theory
  • data structures

Practice how to solve these types of problems and if you don’t know something, learn it.

4. Dress like your interviewer

The clothes you wear should reflect the company’s culture. Don’t overdress, but don’t look sloppy either. “First impressions are extremely important,” Tanya says.

So be presentable, professional and use your attire to tell the interviewer something about yourself. She suggests speaking with someone at the company to figure out what not to wear.

5. Stand out from the crowd

Be honest, she says. The typical, scripted response will make you look like everyone else. Reference things like informal learning, your social media accounts, a student club, think tank or hackathon you were a part of, or a volunteer experience. But don’t pretend to know more than you do.

6. Show your passion

Show enthusiasm for what you do, but don’t be arrogant or confrontational. Let the interviewer decide how your skills and abilities stack up against your peers.

7. Be a problem solver

“In the tech world, everything can and will fail, so they want to determine your thinking capabilities and how you will come up with solutions,” Tanya says. And not just any solutions—you might be asked to redesign an elevator, build a system or estimate how many people in the world are eating a Big Mac.

Don’t panic, tech companies ask the oddest questions. Tell the interviewer what you’re thinking, the assumptions you’re making and your alternatives. “Think about practicality, scale, components, service, how things are used, who uses them and how much things costs,” she says.

8. Ask questions based on your career values and needs

The interviewer may be interviewing you, but you’re also interviewing the employer. It’s important to ask about the specific duties of a position, especially if they’re unclear in the job ad, Tanya says.

You can also learn about how the company works and whether there will be any opportunities for career development or advancement.

9. Exchange business cards (and connect on LinkedIn)

In the event you don’t get the job, the employer will have your contact information on file and you will have theirs. This can lead to a follow-up meeting or connect you with the interviewer to get feedback on ways to improve.

10. Practice

Utilize the free resources available at your school: attend interview workshops (like the recent “Rock the Technical Interview” event at the University of Waterloo), speak to a career advisor and participate in a mock interview.

Do you have any interview tips that helped you get a tech job? Share them in the comments section below!

Technology Week featuring student and entry level jobs from top employers like IBM and Reynolds & Reynolds


Photo credit: Samuel Mann