8 skills programmers must master before a technical interview

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Technical interviews require programmers to demonstrate a number of skills to land a lucrative job–but luckily, most can be practiced and honed over time.

“The skills needed are going to vary wildly based on the type of role, industry, and the company you’re interviewing at,” said Ashish Datta, managing partner at Setfive Consulting. “At the bare minimum I would recommend having a working understanding of data structures and common algorithms. Along with that, I’d recommend being as comfortable as possible in at least one major programming language.”

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To master a technical interview, programmers should demonstrate the following eight skills:

1. Soft skills

When it comes to technical skills, you either meet them or you don’t–and if you do, you won’t be the only one, said Mike Walsh, founder of Straight Path Solutions. In that case, “bring your A game with soft skills,” Walsh said. “These little things can be the differentiator along evenly qualified candidates so much more than certifications. Things like how you handle conflict, if you are too proud to say ‘I don’t know.’ Do not lose your soft skills.”

With the pervasiveness of agile development methodologies, programmers must show that they can integrate into mixed-skilled development teams, said Ed Szofer, chief executive officer and president at SenecaGlobal. “To be a productive member of these types of teams, programmers must be able to communicate clearly, report progress accurately, raise issues promptly, and generally be a good team player,” Szofer said. “In today’s ultra-competitive environment, a programmer’s soft-skills are now almost as important as the hard skills.”

2. Problem solving abilities

The ability to demonstrate problem solving skills is often more important than proving technical expertise in other areas, said Mark Wilcox, vice president of business development at ICSynergy.

“What I look for is how does a programmer think about solving a problem. And then I look for action they are taking in learning how to improve their skills,” Wilcox said. “I don’t care as much if they are an expert in a specific language because any competent programmer can learn a new language in a week. But if they don’t have good problem-solving skills and are not constantly trying to improve, then they will end up hurting your project.”

Especially for junior developer positions, “they really don’t care about what you think you know,” said Todd Millecam, CEO and principal consultant of SWYM Systems. “Focus on how quickly you can learn and how willing you are to learn.”

While the technical questions asked will vary by position, all programmers must know how to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and experience, with the interviewer, said Neel Somani, and founder of Apptic consulting company.

“It’s invaluable to be able to talk your way through a problem, rather than to just get the optimal solution,” Somani said. “The solution itself isn’t nearly as important as the thought process.”

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