"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a popular saying that rings true in the case of Pooya Amini, co-founder of Technical Mock Interview and a software engineer at Amazon.
In recounting how Technical Mock Interview came to be, he said that he and Nazanin Bakhshi, the other co-founder of the company and a software engineer at Google, merely monetized what they had themselves practiced together to prepare for job interviews. (Read The Craziest Tech Interview Questions - and What They Might Mean.)
A few years back, Amini and Bakhshi were taking part in interviews with several software companies. They had conducted mock interviews between themselves in order to prepare. (Read Job Role: Software Engineer.)
“At that time, we were thinking that it would be great if we could be mock interviewed by some experienced interviewers to know our areas for improvement,” said Amini.
“Once we both got our desired positions and gained experience in the interview process, we started Technical Mock Interview to help people like…ourselves. We have seen many talented candidates that were lower than expectations in the mock interviews but with a little guidance and knowledge about their areas for improvement, they outperformed [during] real interviews. Our service tries to fill this gap between the candidates' potentials and their actual performance.”
Tech professionals are often said to be heavy on the hard skills but rather light on the soft skills. While somewhat of a generalization, this statement still has a kernel of truth to it.
And since job seekers’ skill sets will either make or break their employment prospects, it’s worth considering.
Are Soft Skills Important in Computer Science?
Dr. Juan Gilbert is a computer scientist, researcher, inventor and educator. He’s also an Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor and chair of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department at the University of Florida. According to Dr. Gilbert, the concept of soft skills has expanded in scope over time.
“The soft skills used to be presenting and writing,” he said. “But I would say those soft skills have actually advanced and they include networking in the sense of dealing with people from different cultures, genders, etc.. So the soft skills have actually expanded….If a student is trying to get these skills, the best way to do it is to involve yourself in student organizations. Participate, lead – get the interaction and engagement through the organization.”
The Survey Says…
LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report shows that soft skills aren’t merely value-added bonuses — they’re must-haves.
Based on feedback from 5,000+ talent professionals around the world, the study shows that:
- 90% of talent professionals note that soft skills are as important as, and perhaps even more than, hard skills when they interview job candidates; and,
- 80% say that soft skills are becoming more critical to company success.
Then there's research from the National Association of Colleges and Employees. When it asked employers to list skills they look for in candidates, they mention things like leadership, teamwork, problem-solving and strong work ethic.
As computer science students prepare for job or internship interviews, they’ll have to mind their soft skills and their hard skills. (Read 10 Essential Computer Science Courses You Can Take Online.)
The good news is that technology is catching up with the job search market, and one example of this is the rise of mock interview websites.
These sites pair professionals at leading tech companies with people who want to prepare for job interviews. So job seekers can get the practice they need to prepare for real-life interviews.
Speaking of preparing for real-life job interviews, the following list details five of the best mock interview sites, as well as some comments from a couple of these companies.
What are the Best Mock Interview Sites?
Technical Mock Interview offers mock interviews with professional interviewers from Amazon, Facebook, and Google. It covers subject areas like coding, system design, data science, software development manager and technical program manager.
Amini says that interviewers at his company conduct interviews the same way they do at their current companies.
“Usually the interviews start with behavioral questions followed by technical ones,” he explained. “The interviewer assesses both technical and non-technical skills of candidates. At the end of the interview, the interviewer discusses the final hiring decision along with areas for improvement plus any resources for better preparation.
“[As] an example of resources, I can mention our recently published book 'Cracking the Behavioral Interviews for Software Engineers'. Through interviewing a lot of candidates, both on our platform and in our current job, we noticed that most of the candidates really underestimate the non-technical part of the interview and only put effort on the technical side, which might lead to a result they haven't expected. We believe that our book is a complementary resource for the available technical ones.”
InterviewBuddy promises virtual face-to-face mock interviews that are conducted by industry experts who have an average of more than nine years worth of experience in the interviewing game.
It's built on the premise that practice and preparation are crucial to helping people get over their anxieties when attending interviews.
Ujwal Surampalli, founder and CEO of InterviewBuddy, is a mechanical engineer by heart and by degree. He’s also a first-generation entrepreneur. In describing the circumstances behind the birth of his company, he said that it was in response to a lack of confidence he found in some of his peers as they went through the interviewing process.
“The idea of InterviewBuddy struck me during my first campus recruitment interview with Wipro…during undergrad,” he said.
His interviewer was duly impressed with his performance and asked him to sit with him as he, the interviewer, interviewed some of Surampalli’s classmates. These classmates struggled to answer even the simplest of questions.
Later on, when Surampalli was pursuing a master’s degree in Germany, he realized that a general fear of the interviewing process seemed to be common among people globally.
“These first-hand encounters paved the way for InterviewBuddy,” he explained. “I took a break from my studies, went back to India, and launched InterviewBuddy around mid of 2017.”
Pramp's interview types include data structures and algorithms, behavioral, system design, fronted, and data science. And, for those wondering, Pramp gets its name from the familiar refrain of "practice makes perfect."
Gainlo offers mock interviews with engineers from the likes of Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe and Cisco. Job seekers will get the same experience as they would in real interviews — and they'll get real feedback after the mock interviews.
My Interview Practice offers a job interview simulator that it says can help job seekers to get hired faster, earn more money and build confidence. Questions are timed to add another layer of realism.
Know What You Know and Be Who You Are
What it really all boils down to at the end of the day is that job seekers should head into interviews with a good mix of hard and soft skills.
Dr. Gilbert stressed that job seekers need to know their stuff and to be themselves when sitting down for job interviews.
“The most important thing is to be technically savvy, stay calm and be yourself,” he explained. “That’s another mistake students make — they try not to be who they are. And that hurts them ultimately."