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What Makes a Tech Interview Great? Hear an Engineer’s Perspective


The truth is, engineers no more look forward to job positions that offer only a great salary. They are growing increasingly biased towards roles that challenge their expertise and companies that enable positive candidate experience.

The best way to gauge what a role can offer is during the technical interview process. When we asked Piyush Tripathi, the Lead Engineer at Square about the elements he looks for in tech interviews, he shared:

When interviewing with tech companies such as Amazon, Twilio and SendGrid, I focus on several key factors. While compensation is certainly a consideration, it’s not my only focus. A significant factor I evaluate is the alignment of my expertise with the company’s needs. For instance, when interviewing with SendGrid, I was aware that they were working on an email API platform, and as an API expert, I knew it was an excellent fit for my skill set.


The take on candidate's positive experience on technical online interview from engineer at Square

Tech interviews have completely changed from what they used to look like earlier. Today’s engineer wants specific roles that match their expertise and values organizations who prioritize candidate experience.

So, for engineers to choose your organization to work at, you need to assess their skills smartly and change your old ways of executing technical online interview. How?

Keep reading to find out.

What to look for when interviewing engineers?

To be able to finalize the right engineering candidates for your organization, you need to be mindful of both the hard and soft skills you should assess. Below, we have shared four skills you should look for. These skills will help you:

  • Assess the candidate for the specific technical abilities relevant to their role.
  • Assess the personality strengths and weaknesses of the candidate to understand whether they can execute responsibilities in the long run or not.

Skills interviewers need to assess during tech online interview to find the right engineer aligning with the role

1. Technical skills

By analyzing technical skills, you’ll be able to understand if the engineering candidate fits the role or not.

For example, a front-end developer should have good knowledge of Python and front-end languages such as HTML/ CSS, Javascript, XML, etc.

Note: The nature of technical skills you’ll look at depends on the kind of engineer the tech organization is hiring.

Also, Read: How To Assess Programming Skills Before Hiring

2. Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving is the ability to solve a problem logically and find a solution based on facts and expertise. By identifying problems-solving skills, you’ll understand the engineer’s capacity to analyze problems by interpreting the data.

To assess problem-solving skills, ask problem-solving interview questions and then look for candidates who approach complex problems with a structured and logical mindset. They should be able to:

  • Break down complex problems
  • Identify potential solutions
  • Evaluate trade-offs

3. Effective communication

An engineer’s job is both technical and complex, but for non-technical people—be it folks from other departments or clients, it’s difficult to understand those technicalities with ease. That’s where we see how important it is for engineers to be able to break down complex conversations into easier ones.

A quote from the Report ‘Communication Skills For the 21st Century Engineer’ sums it up:

There is ample evidence that graduate engineers lack the required standard of communication skills, particularly when compared to the needs of the industry internationally. Communication skills are a regular feature of an engineer’s job in industry; some graduates employed in industry have identified that education in communication skills needs to be improved, given the demands encountered in the industry.

Note: This applies to engineers of all levels.

4. Teamwork and collaboration

Whether the engineer is willing to work with other team members or enjoys working independently gives a fair understanding of the few other skills of the engineer. These skills include his learning capabilities, willingness to bond with teams, and leadership traits.

So, ask the candidate questions that reflect their team playing capabilities.

Historical challenges with technical online interview

Problem with most tech organizations: they’re still using the traditional methods to conduct technical online interview—conducting multiple online interview rounds even for junior-level engineering roles, not giving proper feedback, not engaging with the candidates at each phase, both before and after the interview is conducted, and so on.

It’s time to break the old patterns of tech interviews. Below we have listed the exact challenges developers have been unhappy about and how you can fix them.

Challenges engineers face during tech online interview

Challenge #1: Poor communication

The biggest challenge for engineers is poor communication. Engineers feel stuck and clueless when recruiters and interviewers do not communicate the right way.

Tripathi further pinpoints the same issue:

I believe timely communication could be improved. Sometimes, there is a significant waiting period between the various stages of the process, which can leave candidates feeling uncertain and anxious. Providing clear timeframes and keeping candidates informed can alleviate some of these concerns.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the pre-interview, during the interview or the post-interview stage, engineers frequently experience disengagement with recruiters.

  • Pre-interview: When engineers do not have end-to-end information about the role, the online interview process and the timelines for the interview.
  • During the interview: When interviewers do not show interest in the conversation when the candidate is sharing their approach and solutions with the them
  • Post-interview: When engineers are left wondering whether or not they’ve been selected as recruiters do not get back to them and update them on the application progress.

💡Solution: For effective communication, you need to be transparent with the candidate about your expectations with the role, the interview rounds, the interview process and the tools that will be made available to the candidate during the interview.

Tripathi continues by sharing his experience with Square and shares how engaged the interviewers were during the process.

Engineer from Square shares his tech interview experience at Square

It was clear that they had done their research and thoroughly reviewed my resume. Their coding tools were also flexible, which made it easy for me to provide my answers. Additionally, they were very respectful of my time. When we had to reschedule, they apologized and gave me multiple options, which made me feel valued.”

Challenge #2: Unwillingness to give proper feedback

Feedback has always been a challenge, even for non-technical roles. Whenever it’s time to announce results, companies fail to give actionable feedback. The only golden words an engineer would hear:

“Thank you for your time but unfortunately you couldn’t make it through :-(”

This is a sad moment for engineers. They don’t know what went wrong. Did they lack technical knowledge of the coding language they preferred in the interview? Was the code they ran erroneous?

If engineers receive the right feedback, they can understand their performance in the interview, and  better themselves for future technical online interview.

💡Solution: Give personalized feedback to each engineer candidate either after the interview or during the interview.

  • During the interview feedback: Use tools like HackerEarth’s FaceCode that allow you to give feedback in real-time to candidates for the live code they have run.
  • After the interview: Send pre-recorded videos via Loom to these candidates and share with them where they lacked.

Challenge #3: Asking engineers to code on paper

Coding on paper is one of the traditional methods many companies hiring engineers have used in the past.

Irony: Some companies still follow this process.

Imagine the developer writing the code on paper and not being able to run the code and see whether their syntax is error free and actually working!

They won’t be able to do it unless you allow the candidates to write the code first and then run it on the computer. But this approach has drawbacks too, especially for remote interviews.

As a remote interviewer, for sure—you can see the written code by the developer on paper but cannot see the execution part. This makes evaluating the engineer a painful process.

Also, read: 4 Reasons Why Coding Interviews are Broken

💡Solution: For on-site interviews, going with the pen and paper + running the code on desktop is an acceptable approach; but for technical online0 interview, you’ll need live coding tools.

Konstantin Ovchinnikov, the Frontend Developer at Storylane shares his experience of how he felt confused and directionless when he participated in a tech challenge.

I invested several days in a significant coding challenge, only to receive an unclear response that they liked it but did not proceed further due to a business owner’s decision. This left me feeling confused and frustrated, as it seemed like a waste of my time and effort. I hope to encounter a more streamlined and transparent process in the future, perhaps with more emphasis on live coding during the interview itself.

You can use coding softwares like HackerEarth’s FaceCode to conduct live coding interviews. With such coding tools, you’ll be able to see the developer type the code in real-time and evaluate their approach to solving the problem and assess the candidate’s skill of understanding the complex systems. .

How HackerEarth can help engineering managers and recruiters streamline their technical online interview process

Moment of truth: your organization needs to break the odds tech companies have followed for ages. From assessing the developers’ technical skills or conducting live coding interviews to provide them real-time feedback on their written code, HackerEarth can be your knight in shining armor 😎

You ask how? Well, let us give you three answers:

  • Identify the engineers’ strengths and weaknesses: HackerEarth’s Assessments let you screen the engineer’s technical knowledge based on the coding questions you ask them. This helps you quickly evaluate the results and tells you the weaknesses and strengths of the candidate and gives them a score on their strengths and weaknesses allowing you to filter out the top-performing engineers.
  • Assessing practical skills: Once you have filtered out the top developers, use HackerEarth’s FaceCode to schedule coding interviews—invite the selected engineers and ask them to code in real time. Best part? You get automated interview summaries with AI-based behavioral insights that help the interviewers make smarter hiring decisions.
  • Demonstrating real-world problem-solving abilities: If you want to step up your hiring process and don’t want to hire engineers the traditional way, leverage HackerEarth’s Hackathons to organize tech hackathons where you can give a real-world problem statement to engineers to work on and evaluate their skills based on the results.

If you want to break through those old ways of conducting tech interviews and improve the interview experience for your engineering candidates, book a demo with HackerEarth.

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