When we talk about a job interview for tech roles, the most common topic is technical questions. That’s logical; it’s what most developers and engineers worry about. But there’s an entirely different component to consider in your next interview.
Non-technical questions pop up in just about every job interview, but when you’re preparing your mind for a minefield of PHP queries, being asked something less-than-technical can really throw you off.
(Every company has unique questions, some relative to the products they produce. Google and Amazon, for instance, may ask you about things such as Chrome or Amazon Prime. It’s a measure to see how well you understand their most popular products or services, so get familiar with those before walking into the interview room!)
When it comes to non-technical topics of discussion, so here are some to look out for – and how to answer them!
”Tell Me About Something You Learned Recently.”
This is a common interviewer probe. They want to know what other interests you have outside of the office, how deeply you care about that thing, and how proficient you are at developing new skills and interests.
Let’s say you recently watched a documentary on Bobby Kennedy. If you said, “I recently learned about Bobby Kennedy. Pretty interesting guy,” the interviewer may not be so impressed. If you got into why he decided to run for the Presidency, his outreach efforts, and other tidbits of info, your answer becomes a bit more complete.
This question (or request, depending on how it’s phrased) tells your interviewer about your interests away from the desk, which can also tell them if you’re a cultural fit for the company.
”What Are Your Thoughts on (Some Random Product)?”
Congrats! This job interview just got serious.
This question usually relates specifically to a service you’re familiar with (at least according to what you listed on your application). Generally, an interviewer asks about it when the company uses it. Your interviewer wants to know how well you understand that service, which is a measure of how well you’ll integrate with the team.
An example: If you’re using a continuous integration service to push updates to a product you’re working on, your interviewer may want to know how well you grasp the full capabilities of said CI tool. If you say something like, “I just use it for updating the app,” it suggests you really don’t have the experience level with that service the company is looking for.
If you’re going to list experience with something in your application, make sure you understand it, even if you don’t take full advantage of its tooling. You may use Jenkins with NPM and native system packages, but tossing out a comment about how you would like to see how it integrates with Docker at least tells your interviewer you’re knowledgeable.
”What Improvements Could You Make to Code You Wrote Six Months Ago?”
Your interviewer doesn’t want details; this question is meant to decipher whether or not you continuously search for improvements, or just finish something and forget about it.
This could relate to anything, and isn’t a ‘gotcha’ moment from the interviewer. They may want to know how you’d improve some games you have published to the App Store or Google Play, or if you think your GitHub Gists are finished products.
When faced with this question in a job interview, don’t fret. The interviewer isn’t trying to poke holes in your skillset; they simply want to know you’ve thought beyond publishing.
”How’d You Get Into Software Development?”
This is your time to tell your story. Don’t just say, “Well, I took a few CS classes in college and thought it was cool, so I stuck with it.” That answer may make you seem listless about your career.
And hey, maybe you did decide software development was cool after taking some CS classes, but dig into why. Tell your interviewer why you stuck with it, what intrigued you, what keeps you motivated, and why you’re still enamored with tech.
The person asking questions just wants to know you care. There’s no wrong answer here, but displaying a sense of wonder and passion (without worrying about looking nerdy) will carry you a long way.
”What Project Are You Most Proud of, and Why?”
This one can be tough, but your interviewer isn’t asking you to pick which of your kids is the favorite. The aim here is to obtain some insight into why you enjoyed a given project.
In a tech job interview, your interest level in the minutiae is important. You might tell them you really enjoyed writing a game because you were able to learn about 2D side-scrolling development, and that was really interesting to you. Or maybe you were tasked with picking a new cloud hosting provider for your last team, which felt like a natural role for you to fill given your interest in comparing (and testing) features.
This also tells the interviewer what interests you have within the parameters of your role, but outside the task of writing code. Maybe you’re most proud of leading the way on some small project at your last employer; based on that experience, the interviewer may come to view you as someone with the potential to move up in the company.