Get ready for the technical coding interview at non-FAANG companies

Interviews are stressful because of the pressure to make a good impression, the fear of being judged, the need to think on one's feet, and the importance of the interview's outcome, which has the highest stakes in one's life. Therefore, you should prepare yourself before you step into the interview, especially if you are a software engineer, because it is likely that you will have to answer technical questions in the interview.

 Technical interviews are a type of job interview that assesses a candidate's technical skills, knowledge, and problem-solving abilities. It is one of the most common ways companies adopt to hire a candidate.

One of the biggest benefits of preparing for a technical interview is that it can help an individual to identify and address any gaps in their knowledge or skills. This can be beneficial not only for the interview itself but also for the individual's overall professional development. In addition, it can help them prepare to help reduce stress by giving the individual more confidence in their abilities and knowledge.

Preparing for a technical interview at a non-FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) company can be similar to preparing for an interview at a FAANG company, but there may be some differences in the specific types of questions and technologies that are emphasized. This article will focus on technical interviews at non-FAANG companies and how they differ from those at FAANG companies.

What is a Technical Interview?

Tech interviews, in contrast to other types of interviews, include tasks and challenges. They resemble an exam more than a standard question-and-answer interview. Technical interviews assess candidates' technical skills, knowledge, and problem-solving abilities. They are typically used for engineering, computer science, software development, and information technology positions.

During a technical interview, the interviewer will ask a combination of questions about a candidate's educational background, work experience, and specific technical skills. They may also give the candidate problem-solving exercises or brain teasers to assess their ability to think critically and apply their knowledge in a practical setting.

The interview may also include a live coding session where the candidate must write code in front of the interviewer. In addition, it can help the hiring company determine if the candidate is a good fit for the position and has the necessary skills to perform the job.

There are multiple types of questions that are asked in a technical interview like:

  • Coding challenges where candidates may be given a coding problem or task to complete in a short period of time, often with a specific programming language or framework
  • Problem-solving questions where the interviewer may ask questions that require the candidate to solve a technical problem or debug a piece of code
  • Technical quizzes where the interviewer may ask questions that test the candidate's knowledge of specific technologies or programming languages which can include questions about syntax asic concepts, or common design patterns and best practices like “How can you ensure that your code is safe and fast?” or “When do you use polymorphism?”
  • Behavioral questions where the interviewers may ask about your past experiences to understand how you handle different situations, how you work with the team, how you react under pressure and technical question with a case-study or real-world scenario where interviewers may give you a real-world problem or scenario and ask you to explain how you would approach it or how you would solve it
  • Whiteboarding or pair-programming where the interviewer might ask you to walk them through how you would solve a problem while working on a whiteboard or in a shared code editor and lastly, where you might be asked to explain how you would design and implement a system that handles a specific use case or requirement, which includes questions about scalability, security, and reliability.

Preparing for a Technical Interview at a non-FAANG Company

One of the key differences between technical interviews at non-FAANG companies and those at FAANG companies is the level of familiarity with specific technology stacks. At FAANG companies, candidates are often expected to have extensive experience with the latest technologies and frameworks, while at non-FAANG companies, they may be more open to candidates who have experience with a wider range of technologies and are willing to learn new ones.

Therefore, it is important to research the company's website and job postings to determine which programming languages, frameworks, and tools they use and to have a good understanding of them.

Another key difference is the level of emphasis on data structures and algorithms. While these concepts are still important at non-FAANG companies, the focus may be more on understanding how to apply them to real-world problems rather than just being able to solve abstract problems. This means that candidates should be not only familiar with common data structures and algorithms but also be able to explain how they would use them to solve a particular problem.

Non-FAANG companies tend to focus more on solving real-world coding challenges. It is because non-FAANG companies often have more specific and unique needs and want to ensure that candidates have the necessary skills and experience to work on their specific projects and technologies.

For example, they may be asked to implement a specific feature, fix a bug in a codebase, or design and implement a system that meets certain requirements. These challenges allow the interviewer to evaluate the candidate's ability to work with the specific technologies and frameworks used by the company. 

There are several ways that candidates can prepare for a technical interview, particularly when it comes to real-world coding challenges. Some include:

  • Practicing coding problems that are similar in difficulty and scope to the type of work you will be doing on the job, which will help you become more comfortable with the types of problems you might encounter in the interview and help you to develop your problem-solving skills
  • Review common data structures and algorithms to have a solid understanding of common data structures and algorithms, such as arrays, linked lists, trees, and graphs. These concepts are fundamental to many coding problems and will be useful when solving real-world coding challenges. In addition, research the company's specific technologies and programming languages and become familiar with them, which will help you understand the types of problems you might be asked to solve in the interview and help you communicate more effectively with the interviewer. 
  • Moreover, understanding the company's domain, its products and services, and the problems they solve will give you an idea of the types of challenges you might encounter and be able to make connections between the company’s problems and your skills and knowledge. 

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Common Tips for Preparing for Technical Interviews at a non-FAANG Company

Firstly, participate in mock interviews with people who can give you constructive feedback, which will help you become more comfortable with the interview format and help you identify and improve any areas of weakness.

Secondly, understand the requirements of the position you are applying for and review the job description and any information about the position to understand the required skills and experience.

Finally, brush up on your communication skills so that you can clearly explain your thought process and the logic behind your solutions. It is especially important when working on real-world coding challenges, as the interviewer will want to understand how you arrived at your solution. By following these suggestions, candidates can prepare themselves in the best possible way to face real-world coding challenges and increase their chances of success in technical interviews.

The Technical Interview Process at non-FAANG Companies

The technical interview process at non-FAANG companies can vary widely depending on the company, the role, and the interviewer. However, in general, the technical interview process at non-FAANG companies typically includes a combination of the following steps.

Firstly, the interviewer will review your resume to see if your qualifications and experience match the position's requirements, known as resume screening.

Secondly, suppose you are fortunate, and your resume passes the initial screening. In that case, you may be contacted for a phone or video screening interview to further assess your qualifications and to answer any initial questions you may have about the company or the role.

Although, some companies may ask you to complete a coding test online before an in-person or video interview. These tests usually require you to solve one or more coding problems within a set time frame. In addition, the candidates can be asked to design a system to solve a particular problem using the company's tech stack. In this round, candidates are expected to be able to explain their design choices and trade-offs and be able to answer questions related to the system's scalability and performance. 

The technical interview is the main event and is typically conducted in person or via video call; the interviewer will ask you questions about your technical knowledge and skills.

These questions may include coding problems, algorithm design, data structures, and systems design. They may also include a question about your experience, how you approach problem-solving, and how you handle various situations.

Following the technical interview, some companies may also include an interview to assess your cultural fit with the organization. This may include questions about your work style, communication skills, and how you handle stress and ambiguity. These questions can be answered by researching the company's website and mission statement and discussing how your skills and experience align with their values can help you stand out from other candidates.

Additionally, having thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer is a plus point during the interview because it shows that you have done your research and are genuinely interested in the company and the role. Lastly, after conducting all the above interviews, the company will evaluate the feedback and decide whether to extend a job offer.

The salary negotiation will be the last option if you want to accept their offer. Although if you are landing your first job, it is a suggestion that you opt for the job to gain experience in the practical field, that certainly does not mean you accept the company's underpaid offer. Make sure to stand up for yourself and negotiate to reach a middle land between you and the employer. 

It's important to note that not all companies have the same interview process, and the steps listed above can vary depending on the company.

Final Thoughts

It is always a good option to be prepared before sitting in a technical interview. Here are some of the final tips for technical interviews: 

  • Talk to your interviewer and think aloud while completing a real-time coding challenge - Interviewers want to know that you can work well with others.
  • Keep in mind to go slowly - Usually, these real-world challenges are not timed, so consider your options and then start writing the code.
  • When given a take-home coding assignment, take enough time to plan it before beginning to write it and make sure you have comprehended all the demands at the end.

The most important thing is to stay calm and confident during the interview because the interviewer assesses your fit for the role and how you work under pressure. So if you have prepared for your interview, do not be depressed about the result and believe in yourself.