Struggling to prepare for work history portion of SWE interview

PyLadies iQea15
Dec 28, 2018 10 Comments

I'm preparing to interview for software engineering roles. I heard companies like Salesforce, Square, Uber, LinkedIn and Twilio have one round of their onsite (or at least some portion of the loop) dedicated to discussing your work projects.

This is my first time interviewing out of school so I've never participated in a round like this. I'm struggling to prepare for several reasons:

1. The guidelines for communicating effectively about what I've worked on aren't clear to me. How much context is enough for the interviewer to be able to understand the problem? If the project involved many components, I'm not sure which are useful to mention.

2. As I'm preparing descriptions of the work that was done, my contribution, things I would do differently, I fall into a rabbit hole and start spending a lot of time preparing for this. There are so many things I could talk about that each require sharing a certain amount of context. How do I prioritize and manage time?

Any tips for preparing for the work history / technical communication / past projects round? Does your company include this in your onsite loop? If so, how much weight does this hold compared to DS/algo, system design, and behavioral?

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TOP 10 Comments
  • Capital One / Eng da2de2se
    There are three primary topics that you will be asked about during behavioral:

    1. Accomplishments - what impact did your work have
    2. Challenges - did you fail and what did you learn
    3. Teamwork - how did you motivate and influence your peers, how did you resolve conflicts

    Almost all behavioral questions are a flavor of one of the above three topics. You need to come up with 5-6 concrete stories for your experience so far, and mould them to the question asked on the fly.
    Dec 28, 2018 6
    • Capital One / Eng da2de2se
      Yes, that has happened a few times. You need to be prepared to elaborate comprehensively on any project mentioned in your resume. As cliched as it may sound, the STAR technique is generally useful to structure your communication.
      Dec 28, 2018
    • PyLadies iQea15
      OP
      "Elaborate comprehensively" -- does this mean to the level of detail where you're drawing architecture diagrams of the various stages of the system's development, in order to describe your input at each of these stages?
      Dec 28, 2018
    • PyLadies iQea15
      OP
      Thanks for mentioning the STAR technique. That's helpful.
      Dec 28, 2018
    • Capital One / Eng da2de2se
      You do not need to draw any diagrams at all, but if you feel that drawing something on the whiteboard strengthens your ability to communicate a particular point, then do not hesitate to do that. Overall, just make sure your verbal answers are detailed and not just at a high level.
      Dec 28, 2018
    • PyLadies iQea15
      OP
      Thanks for your thoughtful responses @da2de2se. I may repost this question later to see if other people will share their experience, as well.
      Dec 29, 2018
  • Google yogi bear
    don't just describe them verbally, let numbers talk
    Dec 28, 2018 2
    • PyLadies iQea15
      OP
      What if the project I learned the most from and contributed the most to was one that got cancelled and didn't make it into production?
      Dec 28, 2018
    • Google yogi bear
      well well well, i dunno
      Dec 28, 2018

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