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Video interviews: A comprehensive guide for software developers

Apr 20, 2020 - 13 min read
Amanda Fawcett

Nowadays, virtual interviews are the norm. During the time of social distancing, most large companies rely on video and phone interviews for all hiring practices. This means that both behavioral and coding interviews will take place virtually.

As we’ve adapted to this new norm, people have predicted that interviewing will never be the same, and virtual interviews may become more mainstream.

Here is what we’ll cover today:

Succeed in your behavioral interviews.

Use Educative’s new video recording widget to record yourself answering behavioral and cultural questions.

Grokking the Behavioral Interview

Part 1: FAQ for Virtual Interviews

Video and virtual interviews differ from in-person interviews. While the questions that will be asked are largely the same, the way we speak, introduce ourselves, and practice for these interviews requires a different approach. Here are the most commonly asked questions about virtual interviews with actionable interview tips.

What are virtual interviews?

Virtual interviews are any kind of interview not done in person. This could be an online assessment, a phone call, or a video chat using a webcam. Virtual interviews are often used in the early stages of the interview process for initial screenings and assessments, and they are more and more popular for large companies to save time and streamline their interview processes.

Phone and video interviews require different focuses. For a video chat, it is common to use programs like Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype. These interviews are most similar to in-person interviews since the interviewers can see you and respond not only to your words but also your clothing and body language.

Phone interviews, on the other hand, may remove some pressure of the way you hold yourself, but they also present the challenge of tone issues. Since you can’t use your body language to express yourself, the way you use your voice and the tone you carry means a lot to the receiving end.

Some virtual interviews require other tools or programs, where you may be asked to code in GoogleDocs, CodePen, or CoderPad, amongst others.

How do you introduce yourself?

Many people are accustomed to in-person introductions and get confused about the best way to start a phone or video interview. Here are some basics to follow for virtual introductions. A general rule of thumb: keep it simple and natural.

For phone interviews, follow the cues of the interviewer. When you answer the phone, introduce yourself professionally with a statement like “Hello, (insert name) speaking” or “Good afternoon, this is (your name)”.

If you are calling the interviewer, which is less likely, simply wait for them to respond and follow the social cues. For example, if they answer the phone with an introduction, respond with a simple, “Thank you for speaking with me today, (interviewer’s name). This is (insert name)” or “I am looking forward to our chat. This is (insert name)”.

For a video interview, follow the cues of the interviewer. A video interviewer will likely introduce themselves first, prompting you to respond. Others may just say “I am ready when you are”, and you can respond with a simple introduction like “Good morning, thank you for having me today. My name is ____." You could also begin by checking that the technology is working with an introduction like “Hello, thank you for talking today. This is (your name). Is my audio coming through on your end?”

What set up should I use for a video interview?

Clean Background.

It’s important to have a professional background for your video interview. Since your interviewer will see you and your surroundings, you want to make a good first impression. I recommend sitting at a desk. This will help with your posture and sets a professional tone. Make sure the space behind you is clean and free of anything overly personal or unprofessional. The simpler the better.

It’s a good idea to close any unnecessary tabs on your computer to avoid distractions or unwanted notifications. Imagine that the interviewer can see your screen.

I recommend having a pen and paper with you during the interview where you can take notes. You may even consider writing some talking points or questions you want to ask in the interview. You can keep this to the side for reference.


Posture and body language.

Body posture and language are important for video interviews. Sitting with good posture boosts your voice and confidence. Avoid touching your face, scratching, or bouncing your leg. You will appear more professional if you sit upright and avoid shuffling.

Hold yourself as you would in an in-person interview. Eye contact is also important for video interviews, as it conveys engagement. Be sure to keep normal eye contact with the interviewer.

Prepare your tech.

Come fully prepared with charged devices and functioning WiFi. You don’t want to scramble to plug in your laptop in the middle of an interview. Also, familiarize yourself with the technology you will be using, whether that is Zoom, CodePen, Google Docs, etc.

Try a test call with a friend to make sure that your camera and audio are working properly. Having all of these little things prepared in advance will ease your anxiety and allow you to focus during the interview.

How do you practice for a video interview?

There is no right or wrong way to practice for a video or phone interview, but preparation is key. Preparing for technical questions is vital, but don’t forget to practice the simple act of talking and answering questions.

If you already have experience answering questions over a video call, you will feel more comfortable in the actual interview. Here are some tips for preparing.

Record yourself.

In coding interviews, it’s important to voice your thought process, but do your thoughts actually make sense to someone from the outside? When we speak aloud, we can’t always hear what we’re actually saying.

Recording yourself is an easy way to listen to your responses and improve your answers. You can record yourself using any tool like a phone or laptop. Play it back to yourself or even have a friend listen for an outside perspective.

Write it out on paper.

We use a different part of our brain when we write things down on paper versus typing or speaking. Writing requires us to slow down, so using pen and paper can be a great way to prepare both technical and behavioral interview questions.

In fact, many big tech companies will test your coding skills using a whiteboard, so preparing in this way better prepares you for how you’ll actually be tested.

Research the organization and the role.

Not every organization requires the same knowledge. Not every role will require the same technical skills. Doing research in advance is essential for your preparation. You’ll need to research company values for your behavioral interviews and read up on their expectations for technical skills.

Don’t jump into an interview thinking that you know everything. You can do research in a variety of places:

  • Job description
  • Former or current employees with that role (check LinkedIn)
  • News articles
  • Social media platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook)
  • Company website
  • and more

Should I follow up afterward?

Following up after an interview is generally a great idea. It communicates interest all while adding a personal touch. An easy way to follow up is by writing a thank you email. Simply state your gratitude, be clear on your interest in the position, and gently ask about the timeline. For example,

“Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about the ______ role. It was great to meet the team and learn more about the position.

I am very excited about the opportunity, as I am particularly experienced in _____. After our conversation, I am confident that I fit your company’s vision for this role.

Please contact me if you have any other questions. I look forward to hearing from you.”

What can I expect from a phone interview?

Phone interviews are common for software development roles. Most big companies require an initial phone screen. These calls generally last 30-60 minutes. They will usually be set up over email or LinkedIn. You can expect to speak to a hiring manager, talent partner, or recruiter.

During the call, you will be asked coding-related and aptitude questions to gauge if you fit the company. You will also be given a chance to ask questions of your own. These screenings basically see if you are skilled enough to move on to a more robust interview.


Part 2: Process of Remote Coding Interviews

Coding interviews are notoriously challenging, so it’s important to know what lies ahead. In the past, interview were typically conducted in-person, but currently, during the global pandemic, these interviews have become remote.

While the skills being tested are generally the same, the ways you are asked to demonstrate those skills have changed. Let’s walk through the process of a remote coding interview to get you familiar with the new process used by big test companies.

Keep in mind that this process is generalized. Every company has its own unique process for coding and behavioral interviews.

Step 1: Online Assessment

Some companies start their interview process with an online assessment. Adobe, for example, provides an online technical assessment to gauge your aptitude and coding skills.

In most online assessments, you will be asked anywhere from 40-70 questions with a decent time window to complete it (around 2 hours is normal).

To successfully complete an online assessment, you should do adequate research based on the questions that will be asked. Don’t forget that they will ask behavioral questions, so you also need to brainstorm for these.

You will need a reliable working space, strong internet connection, and paper for working out problems. I also recommend setting aside more time than you need. Make sure that you won’t have any distractions or interruptions.

Step 2: Phone screening

Phone screenings and interviews are commonplace for the tech interview process. This is where they gauge your interest, skill level, and values as a potential employee. You must do research in advance to learn what different organizations expect from a phone screening.

For example, Google requires uses Google Hangouts for this call, and you will be expected to code in Google Doc. Google interviews focus mostly on technical assessment. Here are the top 15 questions asked in a Google phone screening interview.

Amazon, on the other hand, has a much lighter phone screening, but it is equally important. This interview gauges your interest level and values. They want to know about your work history, salary expectations, and willingness to collaborate. Questions are far less likely to cover technical topics.

Facebook wants to learn about your values and technical skills. While this phone call generally only lasts 20 minutes, it’s how you demonstrate your skills and passion for the company. Since you won’t actually be coding, you don’t need to over-prepare, but do brush up on basic technical knowledge.

Step 3: Technical Phone Interview

After a phone screening, you can expect a technical phone interview. These interviews dive deeper into your coding skills. You will likely use an online collaboration editor like CoderPad or CodePen. At this stage, interviewers are most interested in how you approach technical problems, so the questions will be vague.

You can expect 1-5 questions, depending on the company and position. Most of these technical interviews deal with data structures, time complexity, and algorithms.

Some developers who have interviewed during the pandemic have notes that there is more diversity in the kinds of questions and format. Interviews currently are turning their focuses to other technical problems, such as debugging code and implementing classes.

Normally, a company website will clarify what they expect from a technical phone interview, but since the current times are uncertain, it could be a good idea to do some extra research.

Note: Some companies, like Google, do not require a technical phone interview since their prescreening process is quite extensive.

Step 4: Remote “On-Site” Interview

Normally, the next stage after phone interviews is an on-site interview. Each company has its own unique on-site interview process, and they are usually quite lengthy processes, averaging 3-5 interviews in a day with different teams.

Currently, these interviews cannot be held due to social distancing practices, so companies have had to adapt to new ways of holding remote “on-site” interviews.

If you move forward to the virtual on-site interview, you can generally expect a similar style to an in-person interview. They will be conducted likely though a VC software like Zoom. You won’t have access to the same “whiteboarding” process as an in-person interview, so some of your work may feel less fluid.

You will be expected to answer technical questions live with the interviewer and discuss your thought processes. Your interviewer will be listening for how you approach problems and what questions you ask.

In terms of your technical skills, prepare for these interviews the same way you would an in-person interview. You can check out our 3 month interview roadmap for a sense of how to study for coding interviews.

It’s also important to know that virtual interviews can be uniquely taxing. Some developers report that you need extra effort to communicate virtually, so these interviews take more focus and patience.

Keep in mind that virtual on-site interviews are new for all of us. The interviewer is also adapting to this new way of assessing your skills, so you could even form a connection about that. Use the newness of the situation to your advantage, and be patient with the process!

Part 3: Resources

There is a lot that goes into preparing for a coding and behavioral interview, and now that interviews are entirely remote, there’s a whole new dimension to your prep. You also need to practice behavioral questions and get familiar with interviewing programs/platforms. We’ve compiled all the resources you’ll need to adequately prepare for your interview.


Technical Skills Preparation

Behavioral Interviews Preparation

WRITTEN BYAmanda Fawcett

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