Finding a job in the software industry - Telerik Academy

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					      How to Pass an Interview
      for a Software Engineer?
                          What to Do and What to Avoid?

Svetlin Nakov
Ph.D., Computer Science

Sofia, 3.05.2011
1.   What is a Job Interview?
2.   Preparation for an Interview
3.   Typical Interview Questions and Answers for
     Software Engineers
      Classical Questions
      Technical Questions
      Non-Technical (Personality) Questions
      Questions to Ask
4.   Typical Mistakes and How to Avoid Them?
What is a Job Interview?
  A Stressful Situation or a Chance to
Demonstrate Your Knowledge and Skills?
                    What is a Job Interview?
 A job interviewis a meeting aimed to assess a
 candidate for a certain job position
   The candidate should prove he or she is the
    right person for the offered position
   The interviewers asses the skills of the
    candidate and his or her personality
    By questions and small tasks
   The candidate tries to prove his or her skills
   The candidate demonstrates his or her personal
            How to Overcome the Stress?
 The job interview is a   stressful situation!
   You need to present yourself in the best way
   In most cases candidates fail to demonstrate
    their skills due to stress
 How to overcome the stress?

   Just be well prepared!
   Prepare yourself for the technical and non-
    technical questions
   Expect the questions and have good answers
Interview Preparation
  What is the Best Way to Prepare
Yourself for an Upcoming Interview?
            Steps to Prepare for an Interview
   Once you have scheduled and interview, be sure
    to prepare yourself for it
     It is important to put enough effort in your
      interview preparation
     Half an hour is not enough, invest at least few days
   Steps to prepare for an interview
     Research the company
     Research the offered position
     Prepare for technical questions
                      Research the Company
 Always research   the company you apply for
 You should expect a question at the interview
 like "What do you know about our company?"
   If you answer "Nothing", you will fail
   If you say something incorrect, it is even worse
 How to find information?

   Obligatory explore in details the company Web
    site, brochures, publications, ads, etc.
   Look for articles, blogs, forums, etc.
   Ask your friends what do they know
                Research the Company (2)
 What information   you should know?
  The company products / services portfolio
  The target market and customers
  The technologies used in the development (e.g.
   C#, Silverlight, SQL Server, RIA Services, etc.)
    Download the products and play with them
    You will be asked what you know about the
     products related to your prospective job
  The company mission, vision, projects, etc.
  The corporate culture, corporate values
            Research the Offered Position
 Obligatory research the offered position,
 requirements, advantages and responsibilities
   You should research all mentioned products,
    services and technologies in the job description
    E.g. if you see "Experience with Selenium is a
     plus", be sure to install and play with Selenium
   Be sure to know all "unknown words and
    acronyms" in the job description
   Be ready to demonstrate skills and experience
    in the fields from the job description
           Prepare for Technical Questions
 How to prepare for the technical questions?

   Typical general technical questions
    Data structures and algorithms
    Logical thinking and puzzles
    Software engineering questions
   Object-oriented programming (OOP)
   Specific questions for the offered position
    If the job description says "JSF and RichFaces",
     you should learn these technologies
          Prepare for Technical Questions
 How do you prepare for a certain technology?

  Pass a course / tutorial / read a book / blog
   article about the unknown technology
  Obligatory create a small project using the
   technology and play with it
    This is the only way to get some real-life
     experience, live in a project
  If you have never used a certain technology
   (e.g. JSF) you cannot say you are prepared
    The best way to learn it is by practicing
The Interview Process
Typical Scenario for a Technical Interview
          Technical Interview: The Process
 A technical interview for software engineer
 consists of the following parts:
   The candidate presents himself or herself
   The interviewers present the company, its
    business, products, services, etc.
   Technical assessment – solve few technical
    problems and demonstrate the way of thinking
   Personal character assessment
   Negotiation – salary expectations, start date, …
             Presenting the Company / Position
   Typical start of an interview:
     My name is … Our company is … bala-bla-bla … We are
     leader in … bla-bla-bla … Our products bla-bla-bla …
     Our projects … bla-bla-bla … We are the best!

   The interviewers presents themselves
     Usually there is more than one interviewer
   The interviewer presents in short the company,
    his department, his team, the current and
    upcoming projects, technologies used, etc.
     Some companies skip this step and expect the
      candidate to know all this stuff
                                Presenting Yourself
   Typical next step in an interview:
     Present yourself in short – your relevant experience,
     education, how did you start programming, etc.

   The candidate is expected to say few words about
    himself / herself
   Be prepared to talk 3-5 minutes
     Explain how did you start programming
     Your last job and projects (if you have)
     Your current occupation (e.g. student in NBU)
     How did you learn about the position and your
      motivation to apply                                    16
                      Technical Assessment
 The technical assessment is the most
 important part of the interview
   You will be given technical questions to answer
    and technical tasks to solve
   Always come with a pen and writing pad
 It is not so important whether you solve
 correctly the tasks or answer correctly
   You should demonstrate your way of thinking!
   The interviewer wants to know how you attack
    the problem, not whether the result is correct
               Technical Question – Example
     In C# which explain the fastest algorithm to sort a
     list of customers by their first name?

   You should demonstrate your way of thinking by
    saying what you think at the moment, e.g.
     … I know the build-in Array.Sort() method, but I am
     not sure it is the fastest.

     If I had a computer I would perform a Google search.

     For multi-core CPUs I could try the parallel sorting
     using LINQ with parallel extensions.

     I should either implement own comparer or use a lambda
     function to sort by the FirstName property.

   Being silent for a minute while you think is evil!
                      Technical Task – Example
 Suppose you are given a simple problem like:
  How do you can randomize a sequence of playing cards?

 The first thing to do it to get the writing      pad
 and write an example!
     This shows a correct and serious way of thinking
   By using the pen explain how you could
    randomize the sequence of cards
   Explain how you will represent a single card and
    a sequence of cards (data structures)
   Explain how you could test your solution
          Personal Character Assessment
 Assessment of your personal character
 qualities is very important for the company
  Good software companies will weight your
   personal skills more than your technical skills
 You will be asked somehow irrelevant
 questions that reveal your character, e.g.
  Do you have experience working in a team? What do you
  prefer – being a leader or a player?

  Do you play some kind of sport? At what position?

  How do you react if you are about to miss a deadline?
          Personal Character Assessment (2)
 At the personalassessment questions there is
 no correct or wrong answer
   Just be you
    Don't recite some other's words
   Very important: be positive!
    Negative people are not welcome anywhere
   Be confident
    Don't say "I don't know"
   Demonstrate willingness and ability to work in
    a harmony and with pleasure with the others
   If your interview runs well, you will reach the
    "negotiation" part
     Salary expectations – always have a good answer
     Eventual start date
     Other terms of the contract (bonuses, holidays,
      working time, etc.)
   Companies don't like "money-driven" employees
     You should demonstrate motivation to work hard
      for long-term and continuously improve your skills
                                 Your Questions
 Finally you will   have a chance to ask your
   Having no questions is not good
   Demonstrate interest to start working
   Ask about your first project, about the
    development process, about your team, etc.
   Never ask about salary raises, bonuses, parking
    space, fitness and sport facilities, etc.
   You should demonstrate motivation to work
    hard, not claims
   Typical Interview
 Questions and Answers
(for Junior Software Development Positions)
              Typical Interview Questions
 At a technical interview you will be given
 questions from several categories:
   General questions
   Technical questions
   Abstract thinking questions
   Personal character questions
   The "salary" question

 General Questions
Experience, Education, Future Plans
                 Typical General Questions
Where are you from?

What High school have you graduated?

What University have you graduated or you are studying

When you started programming?

How many books about computer programming you have
read? What was the name of the last?

Do you believe that computer programming is your
passion and your future job?

Can you work on full time (8 hours/day)? If not how
many hours a week you can work?
            Typical General Questions (2)
What are your English skills? Can you freely talk on
the telephone in English?

What are your plans for the next few years? How you
see your career after 2 or 3 years?

How you inform yourself about new technologies? Do you
read news or blogs? Which sites?

Shall you study more after you graduate your current
University degree? Maybe abroad?

Describe your typical work day.

     Technical Questions
Algorithms, Databases, Web Technologies, Etc.
                Typical Technical Questions
 Algorithms and data structures:

  Can you draw a picture of a linked list?

  What is typical for the Strings in C# / Java / PHP?

  Explain how polymoprhism works in the object-oriented
  programming (OOP)?

  Explain what is a hash-table and how it works.

  Explain how the QuickSort works. How fast is it?

  You are given a set of words. Find all their subsets.

  You have to implement a Web spider which runs on a
  cluster of machines. How you will design it?
           Typical Technical Questions (2)
 Databases and SQL:

  How we implement one-to-many and many-to-many
  relationship in relational databases?

  When we use "1 x 1" relationships in database
  modelling? Give an example.

  What is database constraint? How constraints work?

  You have a table consisting of: EmployeeId (PK), Name,
  Salary, ManagerId (FK), DeptId (FK).
  Write a SQL query to find the name, salary and
  department of the employee that has minimal salary in
  his/her department. If many employees take the minimal
  salary, display just one of them.
            Typical Technical Questions (3)
 XML questions:

  What is the difference between DOM, SAX and StAX
  parsers for XML? How you use DOM in C# / Java / PHP?

  What is XPath and how it works? Give an example. How
  you use Xpath in C# / Java / PHP?

 Multithreading questions:

  How we execute multiple tasks in the same time in C#?

  You have to download 500 files from Internet but your
  network bandwidth is not too wide to handle 500
  downloads simultaneously so you want to download the
  files by 10 at a time. How you implement this?

           Typical Technical Questions (4)
 Web development questions (front-end):

  Explain the difference between HTTP GET and POST

  Explain the meaning of the following CSS rule:
  .newscolumn {
    width: 400px;
    float: left;
    clear: both;

  We have a <div> element in a HTML page which is
  visible. How to hide the <div> with JavaScript?

  How to do the above in jQuery?
            Typical Technical Questions (5)
 Web development questions (server side):
  How you could implement a shopping cart in ASP.NET /
  Java / PHP?

  What is custom tag / user control in a ASP.NET / Java
  based Web application? How it works? When we need this

  What is AJAX and how it works? How we use AJAX in
  ASP.NET / jQuery / PHP / Java based Web application?

  We have a list of products that have name, price and
  photo. We need to display them in a Web application.
  Describe the steps to do this in ASP.NET / Java / PHP.

  How we implement URL rewriting in ASP.NET / Java Web
  application / PHP?
           Typical Technical Questions (6)
 Software engineering questions:

  What is software requirements specification (SRS)?
  What is the typical structure of such document?

  What is source control repository? Which source
  control software you have used and when?

  What is unit testing? When we need it? What unit
  testting frameworks you have used?

  How the continous integration works?

  Explain what is agile development. What is SCRUM?
  Explain the most important practices of SCRUM.

Abstract Thinking Questions
    Puzzles, Unsolvable Problems, Etc.
               Abstract Thinking Questions
 Questions in the category "abstract  thinking"
 aim to check the level of alertness, ability to
 think and to attack unsolvable problems
   In some cases there is no correct answer and
    your task is to demonstrate your thinking
  Estimate how many gas stations exist in Sofia.

  Do you see the tree outside on the street? Can you
  calculate how many leaves it has?

  You have 8 balls. One of them is defective and weighs
  less than others. You have a balance to measure balls
  against each other. In 2 weighings how do you find the
  defective one?
Personal Character Questions
Your Best and Worst Qualities, Ability to Work in a
 Team, How do you Handle a Stressful Situation?
                  Typical Personal Character
                     Assessment Questions
 Questions to assess     your personal character:
  Describe the ideal software company from your dreams.

  Can you describe an ideal collague / team member?

  What are your 5 best personal character qualities?

  What are your 5 worst personal character qualities?

  What kind of sport do you practice? At which position
  do you play?

  What shall you do if you have a deadline until
  tomorrow and your project is not completed?

  How do you resolve a conflict with a colleague?
                  Typical Personal Character
                   Assessment Questions (2)
 Questions to assess     your personal character:
  Do you prefer to work independently or in a team?

  Give some examples of a team work from your experience.

  How do you resolve a conflict with a colleague?

  What does motivate you and what does not?

  How do you handle stress and pressure?

  Describe a difficult work situation / project you have
  experienced and how you overcame it.

  How you can evaluate your results. What is success?
                  Typical Personal Character
                   Assessment Questions (3)
 Questions to assess     your personal character:
  What were your responsibilities at your last job /
  last project?

  What major challenges and problems did you face? How
  did you handle them?

  Why are you leaving your current job?

  What interests you about this job?

  What challenges are you looking for in this position?

  Why we need to hire you, not someone else?

The "Salary" Question
 How to Answer in the Best Way?
                            The "Salary" Question
   The typical salary question is like this?
    What salary do you expect?

   Your answer should demonstrate that your work
    is more important than the payment
   Examples of possible answers:
    I don't care about the payment. I want to work at the
    company for long-term and I believe that if my results
    are good I will be paid accordingly.

    I understand that I have to learn a lot. Thus now I
    think I could start with a salary of XXX leva and in a
    year I expect to become more skillful and get a pay rise
    of YYY (or be fired if I don't meet your expectations).
                      The "Salary" Question (2)
   You always talk about a net salary (after all the
    taxes are deducted) for a full-time job (8 hours)
   Some candidates will say:
    I don't know what salary to expect. Please make an
    offer for me.

   Some companies have a policy for this case:
    You will be a junior developer (trainee). For this
    position our salary range is from XXX to YYY leva.

   Most companies will force you to say a certain
    number and you should say something – be ready!
                  The "Salary" Question (3)
                   ranges (Sofia, May 2011) for
 Typical net salary
 full-time software engineer jobs:
   Junior .NET / Java developer – 600-900 leva
   Junior PHP / Web site developer – 400-700 leva
   Junior QA engineer – 500-800 leva
   Junior support officer – 400-700 leva
   Junior system administrator – 500-800 leva
 After a 1-1.5 years you could expect twice

 Senior developer (4-5 years)   – 2000-3000 leva
Typical Mistakes and
How to Avoid Them?
One Wrong Word Could Spoil the Deal!
                                  Typical Mistakes
 Never say bad words  about former employers,
 colleagues, etc. (don’t hate anyone)
   Always be positive!
 Typical "catch-you" question

  Did you have colleagues or classmates who you can't
  stand? What were they? Why you can't stand them?

 Possible   nice answer:
  Generally I can stand anyone. I don't like too much XXX
  kind of people but if I need to work in a team with
  such colleagues I will defenitely find a way.

                              Typical Mistakes
              kinds of inadequate claims or
 Generally all
 pretentions are evil
   Requesting too high salary, too high position,
    too short work-time (less than 8 hours / day)
 Being negative about something or someone

   Be positive, be successful, be skillful, be
    professional, don't blame somebody else!
 You should demonstrate high motivation to
 work hard for long-term
   Anything confirming the opposite is harmful
                             Typical Mistakes (2)
 Requesting too high salary
  This is my first job and I want to start with 1800 leva
  net salary because I am very smart and experienced.

 Requesting too high position for a start

  I want to start a job at some management position
  because I have graduated University in UK.

 You should always     show willingness to work
 for a long-term
  I will work in your company for few months and will go
  abroad for a better job after I get some experience.

                             Typical Mistakes (3)
 Putting university    / exams as your first priority
  I want to start working but my University education is
  my first priority. Thus I will be unable to come at
  work each Tuesday and each Wednesday and when I have
  tests, exams and projects.

 You could say the same in a better way

  My first priority is my job. In the same time I have
  some commitments in the University but I am flexible to
  do my best to move them out of working time. Sometimes
  (e.g. once monthly) I will have to take tests / exams
  in the University and I hope we could find a way to
  avoid harmful consequences for my projects at work due
  to my eventual absence. Do you think this would be
       Other Hints
Do not Come Late, Usual Dressing, …
                                    Other Hints
 Be sure to come exactly at the appointed time

   Not earlier, not later!
 Dressing code

   Be sure to come with clean dresses and shoes
   Dress yourself in your normal style, software
    engineers do not need to wear a suit
 If you are nervous, train for the interview

  How to Pass an Interview
    for Software Engineer?


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