Navigating the Technical Interview: What to Expect

Sometimes you might wish you had a second job solving leetcode questions to pass the technical interview!

Navigating the Technical Interview: What to Expect

The technical interview can truly be one of the worst parts of being an engineer.

It’s one of the only professions where we are expected to perform the job… at the interview. Can you imagine if we asked a surgeon to perform a surgery during the interview? 

Unfortunately, until the industry changes (I hope soon), we have to prepare for the technical interview. 

Being well prepared and confident during a technical interview can be key to landing a high paying job as a developer. 

Let’s dive in!

Understanding the Technical Interview

While a technical interview might not be very fun, it’s a vital part of the interview process for many companies to gauge your technical skills. 

But it’s not just about flaunting your Python or JavaScript knowledge. It’s also about how you and the interviewer interact, how you solve problems and how you present yourself. 

Of course, being a superstar at technical interviews is helpful in landing the offer. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in an interview round table where a candidate who didn’t solve the technical question emailed the company a solution later and got the job. Or if they were even able to really talk through the problem? They got the job!

It’s not just about technical skills!

But let’s talk about what to expect in a technical interview

What to Expect in a Technical Interview

Technical interviews come in many formats. You might have to solve a few grueling coding problems in a whiteboarding session. Or you might have to do a three day take-home assignment! 

The interview process can vary greatly from company to company but generally, all technical interviews have a time constraint, involve some pair programming, and a focus on data structures and algorithms.

Having fun yet?! 

Whiteboarding interviews

During a whiteboarding interview, the interviewer will ask you to solve a problem by writing code on a whiteboard. No computer involved!

These questions are designed to measure your problem-solving skills and your ability to communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively. 

And if that wasn’t enough, the interviewer is also looking at how you think, and how you communicate your thought process. 

Take-home coding challenges

Take-home coding challenges are pretty much what they sound like: a coding problem that you have to complete at home in the given time frame.

Pair programming

Pair programming is a type of interview that involves you and the interviewer working together on live coding. This format allows the interviewer to gauge how well you can work within a team and if you're able to communicate your ideas effectively. They’re looking to see how well you respond to feedback  and how you navigate through a problem.


Technical skills are, of course, essential in a technical interview. But, so are your communication skills.

Your communication skills and problem solving skills will also be under scrutiny. An interviewer also needs to assess if you are going to be the type of person they’ll want to work with in their day to day job.

They’re interested in how well you can explain ideas, your active listening abilities, and your teamwork and leadership skills. 

Types of Questions You May Encounter

Engineering interviews can be anything from nail biting algorithms that made you wish you had a second job solving leetcode questions all day to challenging system design problems to building an api to creating a frontend. 

Algorithmic questions are common in technical interviews (unfortunately). These questions may involve data structures, algorithms, and coding challenges. You may be asked to optimize algorithms or solve problems related to searching, sorting, graph traversal, dynamic programming, or other similar concepts.

System design questions assess a candidate's ability to design scalable and efficient systems. This can involve designing architecture for large-scale applications, or even a database! You may be asked to consider many factors like performance, scalability, and security.

Building APIs is another area that technical interviews may focus on. You might be asked to design and implement an API in an interview.

Front-end development questions will evaluate your skills in creating user interfaces and implementing client-side interactions. This may involve questions related to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and frameworks like React.

Or it might be the behavioral questions that let the interviewer determine if you’ll be a good employee or not.

Generally, no matter what type of interview you get, it’s really crucial to talk through the problem you’re trying to solve.

Need help honing your technical interview skills? Become a pro at the technical interview with Hack the Tech Interview.  

Randall Kanna


Senior Software Engineer at Trim with almost a decade of experience. Published O'Reilly Author. Ex Eventbrite, Pandora, Gumroad, Ticketfly.