Technical interviews with Singapore tech companies: Here’s what to look out for

Episode 1: How to nail your English test

You’ve cleared the first hurdle, CV qualification, and are one step closer to landing your dream job as a software engineer for a Singapore tech company. Now, it’s the technical interview round. It’s your chance to make a big wow to your future tech lead and colleagues.

But wait, you should do some prep, a thorough one, indeed.

Where should you start then? Don’t worry, we got your back. Check out our 2-episode series “Ace the technical interview with Singapore tech companies”. You’ll get well-prepared and ready to enter your dream job.

People test your English before any technical interview rounds

To get on the technical interview with a Singapore tech company, software engineer candidates typically have to go through their English assessment and algorithm test in the first place.

This episode’s focus is proven tips gathered from our experience of shortlisting Vietnam candidates’ English communication skills for Singapore tech companies.

What exactly happens in our English test?

  • It’s an online test: Due to covid-19 situation, we conduct the test over Zoom for candidates’ safety.
  • Candidates have to turn their cameras on during the interview to ensure transparency.
  • Type of test: 1-1 interview. This is exactly the same as any 1-1 interview you have done, but in English. It’s 20-30 minutes long. Candidate gets the result right after they finish their test.
  • Only pass candidates will go on with the algorithm test.

Clear? Now, let’s jump into your most waiting part:

Top 3 most asked questions and how to crush them

Tell us about yourself

  • Interviewers don’t want to know everything about you, so carefully select noticeable points about you and your career growth related to the job you’re applying to share with them.
  • 1-1.5 minutes should be enough for the self-introduction. Keep it coherent and clear, and make sure you don’t use any informal slang or make any basic grammar mistakes.
  • You can start with: “I’ve been working as a junior Java developer at a small startup in Vietnam for over 2 years and I have worked both on product features as well as on building team and capabilities. I have always been interested in coding which was why I chose to follow this career path. I studied at Hanoi University of Science & Technology, where I gained my first Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

Describe an important project you’ve worked on

  • Pick an example that’s most relevant to the responsibilities of the job you’re applying for and start explaining the project’s size, timeline, purpose and complexity.
  • Be specific: The interviewer wants to know not just what you’ve done, but tools, technologies, and platforms. They also care about how you worked with your team.
  • Emphasize what role did you play in the project’s success: what were your contributions to that important project? Note the tangible outcome of the project by using numbers, employers like quantifying answers.
  • Here’s an example:
    “It must be the mobile app development project at my previous company X that I’d like to share with you. I joined the project as a backend developer with 1 more backend guy and 1 frontend developer. We were assigned to create the mobile app version that works on both iOs and Android for an online-learning website called: Y-learning in 3 months.

    We used Swift, Java, and React Native to build the app. As we didn’t have a tech lead and my teammates were quite junior, I was in charge of managing the team, setting the tasks and deadlines, and ensuring we get the project done in time with the result as best as we could.

    Even though those 3 months was really a tough time for us, I learned a lot along the way. We successfully launched the app after 2 months and a half. Our client really liked the product and gave us another project to work on.”

Share a technical challenge you faced and how you debugged it.

  • Remember to provide the context so that the interviewer can easily follow your story.
  • Describe the challenge: What’s the technical issue? Describe how tricky it was and how it might affect the project.
  • Explain how you solved the problem and the positive impact it had, if any
  • This following answer from Jane – a developer did illustrate well our above note:
    “In one of my previous roles, I was looking into our error rates using NewRelic. I noticed that 80% of our errors were ActiveRecord::RecordNotFound errors, meaning a request from the client was being made, causing a database call that was then erroring. When I investigated further, I realized that restful routing had not been set up, and a lot of the extraneous requests we were getting to the / route were caused by bots.

    I came up with a fix for this that required two main steps. The first step was changing all of the places within our codebase that were /<item> to /items/<item> following the RESTful pattern. This was actually non-trivial, as there were many places within the codebase that needed to be changed and fully manually tested to ensure there were no broken links.

    The second step was making sure that old links with /<item> were backwards compatible. For all items previously created, there were links that already existed in emails and on social media that still needed to work once this routing change was in place.

    For this, I created a special redirect controller that would get called every time a request to /<item> was made. I then added a map with all of the previous items up until the change was made – for any request to /<anything> the redirect controller would check if an item was in that map, and if so, redirect to the appropriate route. If the item wasn’t in that map, it would simply send a 404 response, preventing the call and round trip to the database.

    Once this was implemented, we saw a significant reduction in the original ActiveRecord::RecordNotFound errors, making our overall error rate dip sharply. This also decreased the overall load on our database by preventing unnecessary requests in the first place.

In a real English test, there will be more questions waiting for software engineer candidates to answer, yet those 3 mentioned are considered the most prominent ones. One more thing is that, besides the abilities to communicate well in English, employers also investigate your attitude and seriousness about the job during this interview so ensure your answers show them you’re the perfect match for the job.

Ready to get your dream job?

Now you have a good sense of what the first round of a technical interview with a Singapore tech company is like and how to ace it.

Inspius blog compiled a list of all the resources you should study, practice, and build the confidence needed to land your dream job as a software engineer in a Singapore tech company. Subscribe to our blog and we’ll keep you posted on our latest insights.

Happy coding!

Work for product-based Singapore companies remotely from Vietnam with Inspius