First Technical Interview

When you’re in college you feel like there are things you must do or you will never truly succeed. Get good grades, socialize with friends (cause who wants to be a hermit) and get an internship. I’ve been doing okay in the first two departments but I never had the opportunity to intern at a company. Internships are key to building experience as a student or recent graduate. Employers are much more likely to hire someone with internships and work experience rather than someone with a generic resume who lacking real world experience. Many internship opportunities help set the foundation for your career. For example,you may believe that your passion field is Cyber Security but while doing an internship with the FBI, realize that path may not be for you.

Most internship position require you to do an interview with a company representative so they can decide if you are a good fit or not. In the computer science field, the interview process goes a step further as the applicant has to do what is called a technical interview. In a technical interview, you get asked a very specific type of question (usually a coding question about data structures and algorithms ) and you’re required to answer the question(s) all while still interacting with the interviewer. This process can seem tedious and challenging but the acceptance offer if you are offered a position makes it worth it. Since I intend to stay in the United States this summer, I have been applying for companies like crazy. My friend, Victoria, suggests applying to at least 10 internships a week. One is sure to reach out to you. And it worked.

Pro-tip: Perfect your resume and make a generic cover letter. You will become so much more confident in applying for jobs when all you need to do is change the name of the company and make other minor changes to suit a company. It becomes much more tedious when you have to re write a cover letter and fix your cover letter every time.

A couple of weeks back I received an email from a representative from the University Recruiting Team at Airbnb! She reviewed my application and  wanted to move forward with me in the interview process. Through emails, we set up a phone technical interview for me with one of their software engineers. Since it was my first technical interview and Airbnb are notorious for challenging questions, I was extremely anxious and didn’t do as well on the challenge as I has hoped. I may not have gotten the internship but  I used the remarkable opportunity to become comfortable doing interviews.

Here’s what I learned from the experience and what I would have done differently.

  1.  Doing a phone interview is quite different from interviewing in person. You may be interviewing with someone from a different time zone so selecting a good time was a serious consideration. Since I am based in New York and Airbnb is 3 hours behind, I selected 12PM PT since I would have been up and refreshed in the morning already and also giving myself more time to practice.
  2. Practice! Practice Practice! Most technical interviews ask questions that are similar or sometimes the same as other companies. There is only so much they can ask you related to data structures and algorithms so practicing other questions really helps. Its like getting the past exams for an upcoming exams. Some good resources are HackerRank and LearnStreet. I perosnlally like Leetcode  because they give you real problems from major tech companies. Do 1 problem everyday and spend 45 min trying to solve it and the rest of the time trying to understand where you would’ve improved. Your goal should be to try to understand the technique and strategy involved in answering a problem.
  3. Don’t stress out! I get it. This internship may be really important (or not) but stressing about it will just make you do worse. Try taking deep breaths to calm yourself or take a shot of rum (advice from Caribbean parent. smh.) to take the edge off. If you have time, try going for a walk for fresh air.
  4. Make sure you’re comfortable with the strategy you take when you interview. One of my friends  likes doing her interviews standing up/walking around. You may take this approach or do something else just do whatever suits you when you have to think about answering these types of questions.
  5. Try not to be awkward during the interview. When you’re interviewing over the phone, it can be a weird vibe. You have to simultaneously figure out the code and try to engage the interviewer for 45 minutes without leaving awkward moments of silence. A way to engage would be to write down some questions to ask the interviewer about the company or his/her personal experiences in his/her career path. It’s a good way to learn more about the company and seem interested while also filling the silence.6. Finally, don’t over think it. When I was doing my interview I kept thinking the worst thing that could happen is they rejected me. No one is going to mock your code or laugh at you for not getting the question right. They are observing how you approach a problem and how quickly you can get it done. Take your time. Look it over. Ask questions if you don’t understand.


I really hope these tips help you in your future tech interviews. Let me know in the comments if there are any more tips you think should be added and I’ll update the blog. GOOD LUCK! 🙂


Richelle (Chelly)



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