What Not To Do During A Technical Interview

Today we’re going to focus on one of the most important parts of the recruitment process and the one that is probably the most feared: the technical interview. Your first interview (other than the screening call with the recruiter) is usually the technical interview, which is sometimes done over the phone with a screenshare. If you do well there, then you’re often invited to the second round, which may contain multiple technical screenings. There are many tips for success in the interview process, in fact, we have written interview preparation guides before. Check one out here. That said, you’re often nervous, sweating, and not thinking straight. It’s important to not only know what to do, but to also know what not to do (i.e., sort of like when you take a driving test at the DMV -- you can do everything right 99% of the time, but there are just some things that will automatically fail you, like hitting the curb).

Here, we’re going to give you our top six tips for what not to do during a technical interview. Let’s get started!

1. Do not immediately start to code

One huge thing to note right off the bat is that analytical interviews are not just about finding the right answers. The interviewer is testing your ability to solve a problem which includes your ability to ask questions and use problem-solving skills to gain an understanding of the question or questions behind the question being asked.

To demonstrate this skill set, you can’t just start coding as soon as you receive the question or coding challenge in an interview. First, you should ask clarifying questions and state assumptions to demonstrate that you understand exactly how to solve this problem. The interviewer wants to see your process to make sure you understand the best way to approach the problem.

Even if you feel confident about the problem and don’t have any questions, you should communicate that to the interviewer. They want someone who is confident in their understanding of the problem before they begin coding. So, don’t just start coding right away – stop, ask questions, and demonstrate your understanding.

2. Don’t brush off the interviewer’s hints


Often, an interviewer gently nudges you in the right direction. Ultimately, they want you to succeed so they might drop hints or ask questions to lead you toward the solution. This is why it is so important to consider everything the interviewer says in the interview and not to brush off or gloss over their comments.

If they say something like, “What about the denominator in the ratio…” or, “Have you taken a look at this metric…”, then you need to think about that and apply it. In probably all cases, they wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t relevant.

3. Don’t be too opinionated


One of the top skills that an interviewer is looking for is the ability to adapt. Don’t be someone with strong opinions who is unwilling to budge. You should demonstrate the ability to consider different options and adapt your approach when new information is present.

Be aware that job interview questions might be designed to test this. By presenting new information, the interviewer checks to see whether you can reflect on what you have done, recognize any errors, and adapt. Often, this skill is just as important as finding the right answer as it represents your ability to continuously work to get there.
Don’t be too opinionated. Go into the interview with a flexible and open mind.

4. Don’t accept the most obvious answer

Analytics job interviews are supposed to weed out a certain proportion of interviewers. If they made it too easy, they wouldn’t be getting the best people for the job. This often means that the answer to the technical questions is not going to be the most straightforward, obvious one. After all, these questions are there to test your skills.
What interviewers are looking for is someone who carefully examines the questions and considers all the available alternatives and understands trade-offs. What does this mean for you? You should walk them through your decision-making process. Show them that you are considering each option and considering how each variable might affect your answer. This way, even if you do not reach the correct answer, they can see that your decision-making process is sound.
Do not accept the most obvious answer. Often, the answer is meant to seem obvious to trick you. Interviewers will not be satisfied if you do not give each option proper consideration.

5. Don’t talk about how you’re unqualified because you don’t have formal education in a technical field.


The fact is that not everyone working in analytics has a technical background. There are many ways to learn analytic skills that do not involve a formal education. Many people in analytics do not have a technical background but, through hard work and dedication, have achieved the skills necessary to do these jobs and do them well.

That said, if this applies to you, you should not draw attention to this fact - it’s not relevant. You are there and you have the skills you need to do the job so drawing attention to the fact that you are perhaps less qualified than those with a formal education is not going to help you get the job.

In an interview, you only need to bring something up if it is relevant to your ability to succeed in the role. If you are asked about your formal education, do not hide details but there is no need to bring it up if you aren’t required to.

6. Don’t talk about how you’re qualified because you do have a formal education in a technical field.


On the flip side, do not talk about how extremely qualified you are because you have a formal education in analytics. Likely, the interviewer already knows this based on your resume and mentioning it, again and again, can come off as bragging. At the end of the day, the interviewer doesn’t care about your formal education, they just want to see if you have the skills necessary to do well.

This interview exists to test your skills, after all, not to check up on your formal education. Focus on showing them what you can do, not talking about your degree.

Conclusion


It’s always a good idea to be prepared but it’s just as important to know what not to do in certain situations. We hope our tips have helped you in your preparation for your technical interview.

If you take one thing from this list, remember that these interviews are about the process. Even if you don’t think you can get the right answer, walk them through your decision-making process and show them that you are willing to accept all alternatives. A person who approaches the work this way is bound to get the right answer eventually, which is what they really want to see.