How to Prepare for our Associate Software Developer Position

June 30, 2023
How to Prepare for our Associate Software Developer Position

For over 4 years, Michi­gan­Labs has hired Asso­ciate Devel­op­ers who are typ­i­cal­ly in col­lege or are new to soft­ware devel­op­ment. Our goals have always been to help men­tor them, treat them the same as any oth­er team mem­ber, and have them direct­ly con­tribute to projects we’re pas­sion­ate about. As we’ve improved our inter­view­ing process­es over­all and are being more open about how we hire, I want­ed to share this post in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Rohit Kartha, one of our newest 2023 Asso­ciate Devel­op­ers. We’ll be look­ing at high­ly action­able advice, tech­ni­cal­ly and behav­ioral­ly, for any­one look­ing to apply to our Asso­ciate pro­gram in the future, and what they each mean to us inter­nal­ly. Rohit will start us off with behav­ioral prep advice, and David will respond.

Behav­ioral prep #

Rohit Kartha — Asso­ciate Soft­ware Developer
Dur­ing the inter­view process, and typ­i­cal­ly before any tech­ni­cal inter­view, behav­ioral ques­tions are asked to get a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the appli­cant and assess their fit for a role. In my opin­ion, answers to these ques­tions are best unpremed­i­tat­ed. In oth­er words, it’s a good idea to think of what types of behav­ioral ques­tions might come up, but prepar­ing a script or mem­o­riz­ing exact respons­es to com­mon ques­tions should be avoid­ed. I usu­al­ly aim to keep this por­tion of the inter­view casu­al and con­ver­sa­tion­al by know­ing broad­ly what I’m going to say, but not how I’m going to say it. There are count­less blogs that con­tain pop­u­lar behav­ioral inter­view ques­tions that might be worth­while to look at. It’s a great idea to have a cou­ple of talk­ing points ready for these com­mon questions.

David Craw­ford — Soft­ware Developer
There’s no ques­tion that the longer your career is, and the more expe­ri­ences you’ve had, the eas­i­er behav­ioral ques­tions are to answer both nat­u­ral­ly and with lit­tle prepa­ra­tion. Behav­ioral ques­tions are best answered with sto­ries that exem­pli­fy what­ev­er the answer to the ques­tion might be. That being said, for our Asso­ciate pro­gram, we under­stand that this could be your first job and that you like­ly haven’t worked in soft­ware devel­op­ment before. So how can you draw from expe­ri­ence with­out hav­ing experience?

Hav­ing a port­fo­lio of projects done on your own can help bridge this gap. When asked about how you deal with chal­lenges, use the chal­lenges you’ve faced on your own per­son­al projects. We also rec­om­mend using school as exam­ples, such as detail­ing how you nav­i­gat­ed a dif­fi­cult group project, or a tight dead­line. Every­thing you expe­ri­ence in life con­tributes to your behav­iors, and that’s pre­cise­ly what you should draw from dur­ing a behav­ioral interview.

Rohit’s advice about keep­ing the inter­view casu­al and con­ver­sa­tion­al is impor­tant. Our goal isn’t to ask you trick ques­tions, but to have a con­ver­sa­tion about who you are. Be hon­est about your strengths and weak­ness­es, and be able to artic­u­late how you man­age them.

Prepar­ing for the Tech­ni­cal Inter­view #

The Michi­gan­Labs tech­ni­cal inter­view helps us under­stand how you approach prob­lems. It involves a prob­lem that can be real­is­ti­cal­ly solved in day-to-day devel­op­ment. We want to know if you have enough of a foun­da­tion to under­stand and apply data struc­tures, and that you can com­mu­ni­cate your thought process to us.

Although the thought of a tech­ni­cal inter­view might seem intim­i­dat­ing at first, there are sev­er­al resources out there to help pre­pare for a cod­ing inter­view. Here are some that I per­son­al­ly used before inter­view­ing with MichiganLabs:

Leet­code — The wide­ly known plat­form, with over 2500 cod­ing inter­view prob­lems, is a great way to prac­tice work­ing through the types of ques­tions asked in a typ­i­cal tech­ni­cal inter­view. Tak­ing a data struc­tures and algo­rithms course before com­plet­ing prac­tice prob­lems on Leet­code is extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial, as sev­er­al of the prob­lems are based on the usage of basic data struc­tures. When com­plet­ing prob­lems, it is often impor­tant to look for pat­terns rather than com­plet­ing prob­lems in a ran­dom order. Leet​code​.io is a great resource for focus­ing on com­mon prob­lem pat­terns and the Blind 75 com­pi­la­tion is a great start­ing point for com­mon prob­lems asked in tech­ni­cal interviews.

For our Asso­ciate pro­gram, we’re not look­ing for mas­tery of tech­ni­cal skills. We under­stand that this may be your first devel­op­ment job, or that you’re still in col­lege and learn­ing. We’re instead deeply inter­est­ed in how you approach some­thing unknown, what type of ques­tions you ask, and how you break down a prob­lem. Leet­code, and oth­er algo­rithm prac­tice solu­tions, are great at fram­ing your mind around how a com­plex cod­ing prob­lem can be bro­ken down into man­age­able com­po­nents. We want to see that you can log­i­cal­ly fol­low a prob­lem, and talk through, often­times with pseu­do code, what you would do if you had more time out­side the interview.

Pramp — Some­times over­looked, the prac­tice of explain­ing your own thought process and com­mu­ni­cat­ing the approach to a giv­en prob­lem is extreme­ly impor­tant in the tech­ni­cal por­tion of an inter­view. Pramp is a web­site that pairs appli­cants up and pro­vides a col­lab­o­ra­tive envi­ron­ment for a mock inter­view. The envi­ron­ment is extreme­ly sim­i­lar to what one expe­ri­ences dur­ing a tech­ni­cal interview.

If you don’t have a lot of expe­ri­ence with inter­views, find­ing solu­tions like Pramp to fill that gap is impor­tant. Everyone’s day-to-day at Michi­gan­Labs involves explain­ing our thought process­es to each oth­er or to clients. Because of this, we want to know that you can artic­u­late ques­tions you have for your men­tor, explain what you’re work­ing on to a client, and com­mu­ni­cate well with your team. Take advan­tage of mock inter­views at your col­lege, or use Pramp to prac­tice with oth­er devel­op­ers. Even though you may not get all the feed­back you want, what real­ly mat­ters is get­ting into the mind­set of com­mu­ni­cat­ing your thoughts out loud.

Con­clu­sion #

We want Asso­ciate Devel­op­ers who are com­fort­able artic­u­lat­ing their thoughts, who know how to break a con­cept into man­age­able pieces, and who love soft­ware devel­op­ment. We under­stand that you may not have a lot of expe­ri­ence in this field and that you’re still pos­si­bly in col­lege. What we offer you is a place to learn, a men­tor who can help guide you, and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op soft­ware for, and direct­ly com­mu­ni­cate with our clients.

If this inter­ests you, look out for our next open­ing in the Asso­ciate Devel­op­er pro­gram, and fol­low Rohit’s advice. We would love to hear from you!

Lat­er this year, Rohit and David will con­tin­ue this con­ver­sa­tion through more blog posts tar­get­ing application/​resume advice, and final­ly a ret­ro­spec­tive on Rohit’s project experience.

David Crawford
David Crawford
Software Developer

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