3 Very Non-Technical Tips for your Next Coding Interview

Brian Jenney
4 min readMar 29, 2024
Now please explain your code to a small group of our enginering team. No pressure!

Yes, getting interviews is tough. Honestly, it’s always been that way despite the fear-mongering on LinkedIn, Tik-Tok or whatever app you’re using to rot your brain 😅. (Follow me on IG btw: https://www.instagram.com/brianjenneycode/).

Yes, Juniors are still getting hired. No, AI hasn’t replaced your position… yet 😅.

Considering the difficulty that goes into just getting an interview, it’s important that you’re prepared not just for the technical portion but the non-technical stuff that can often make up the majority of the process.

Earlier this year, a mentee had an interview and I offered him some suggestions I’ll share with you here so you can nail the non-technical part of your interview.

Another satisfied customer 😎

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Plot twist: your next interview might not be technical at all. Or even involve coding.

You’re grinding LeetCode. Bumbling through Big O. Polishing your portfolio for the 8th time. A new shade of green on the banner.

You get an interview for a mid-sized company, get on the phone with the engineering manager after an initial phone screen and they ask you:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Walk me through a technical project you’ve done
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

You blurt out “I’d probably use a hash map to improve the time complexity” for each question and are quickly dismissed.

Here’s what you should’ve done:

Step 1: Research the company and your interviewer

I’ve made the mistake of not doing any research on the company and it led to a really embarrassing exchange during the interview.

The smaller the company, the more you need to know about it.

If you reached out to them, it’s even more important.

This is the simplest step. Research on Glassdoor, the about us page on their site and LinkedIn of course.

If you can find your interviewer on LinkedIn, see if they’re active. It’s honestly unlikely since the majority of devs don’t really post there 🤷🏻‍♀️ BUT it can give you some insight into their tech stack and maybe a nugget of information you can slide into the conversation.

If they’re a huge TS enthusiast, maybe you mention your desire to learn it. Don’t be creepy though 😅.

Lastly, check out their company and team values. This is gold for smaller companies where it’s likely that your interviewer helped shape these values. Try to parrot some of them back during the interview if possible.

Step 2: Plot out your technical story

“Tell me about an interesting project you worked on and your role in it.”

This question always comes up. In fact I even have a worksheet to help you nail this.

Generic tips:

  1. Make it about you, not your team. I mean, they’re gonna hire you, not the team you were on.
  2. Give context about the project you worked on. You know what the BaconEggs API does but they don’t.
  3. Why does what you did matter? We get you built the thing, but what effect did that have?
  4. How would you improve it? There’s always room for improvements… you need to have some suggestions ready.

Step 3: For the love of Bob, have some questions ready for them… but like, good ones

Interviewer — “So, any questions for me?”

You — “Yeah, how much vacation time do I get?”

Interviewer😕

You — 😎

Also you — jobless.

The scary part is I’ve actually been asked this kind of stuff during interviews. Seriously, wtf.

My favorite questions:

  1. If you could change one process on the team, what would it be and why?
  2. Why do you like working here?
  3. How would a person in this position stand out?
  4. What is your deployment process like?

This list of questions is part tactical and part jedi-mind trick. The power dynamic shifts a bit when you ask about what they would improve. They wonder, “Hmm, can Sarah help with this if we hire her?”

Closure

So yeah, study all the non-tech stuff. It comes up wayyyy more than you’d believe. I’d say about 25% of the mentees I’ve had in the last year have received offers after a very non-technical interview. I’ve encountered a few myself.

That doesn’t mean you can skimp on the technical side of things. You’re still likely to encounter those companies who think they are the next Google and pride themselves on failing 99.5% of candidates OR (more likely) basic coding exercises like debugging an app or pairing on coding a component or using an API to build something.

Good luck out there.

Join 👉 Parsity.io — we’re a small (not a cult!) program for people who want to build complex software and change careers. Free cool stuff for cool, good looking people on the site as well.

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Brian Jenney

full-stackish developer, late bloomer coder and power google user and owner of Parsity.io