This blog post has been updated to ensure the most accurate information.

The interview process for tech positions vs. non-tech positions

Many people often ask, how does the interview process look in the world of tech and startups? How do I prepare to interview for a technical vs a non-technica role? Overall, the interview process should be similar regardless of the role you are interviewing for, except technical roles will have a technical challenge of some sort. These challenges will take the shape of a take-home problem, pair-programming, bug-hunting, or white-boarding out a problem with your interviewers. Every one of these “challenges” has its supporters and detractors, and some work better for certain situations than others.

The following is a typical interview process for the majority of tech startups and scaleups. The caveat, every organization is different and will have its own variance to this process.

Step 1: The HR Screen

Usually, a recruiter or employee from HR performs the HR screening process, but it can sometimes be the Hiring Manager for the role. Questions tend to focus on your previous experience, why you applied, what you know about the company and/or product, maybe a few tech theory questions, and a bit about yourself. Generally, there is very little difference between a technical and non-technical culture screen.

Step 2: The Hiring Manager Screen

This call focuses on your specific skills for the role. If it is a technical role, expect to be asked about previous projects you worked on, what you contributed from a software standpoint and as a team member. For non-technical roles, the focus is on company impact, how your projects or role impact the company, and what the ROI is based on your projects or activities. If you have data and hard numbers, then make sure to share them.

Step 3: The Challenge

This step can be before or after Step 2, depending on how a company structures its process. For technical roles, expect a coding challenge or problem or white boarding challenge to solve at home or in the interview (Step 4). For non-technical roles, show some case studies to discuss in the interview.

Step 4: The Interview

At this stage, you’ll have an interview with the Head of Engineering or CEO. Here, you will discuss your qualifications and learn the most about a company. Regardless of the role you are interviewing for, prepare by looking into the company’s history, what the team looks like, who you would be working with, and the main product you would be working on. You don’t have to stalk the entire team on LinkedIn. Rather, visit the website, learn the product by signing up for their free tier (if available) and read the help docs. If they are VC-backed, learn who their main investor is. Most of this information can be found by going through their website.

For both technical and non-technical roles, this is the stage where you will go through your challenge, whether it is white-boarding, pair programming, problem-solving, or reporting a case study. Make sure to ask a lot of questions and narrate your activities. Showcase your thought process and skills with your interviewers. Practice with a friend or your partner to smooth out the rough edges.

Step 5: The Money Talk

Now if you have made it this far you generally have a call with someone from HR and either a Hiring Manager or Founder depending on the size of the company. Most companies will ask about your salary expectations and salary from your previous role. If you are asked about your salary expectations, there are a couple of options. Give them your current salary + 10-15%, or ask them what the salary range is for the role (they might not answer this). Either way, this is usually the part of any interview process that causes the most stress as a candidate, and entire blog posts have been written about navigating this one step. You can tell a lot about a company depending on how they come to this conversation.

Differences in the interview process

That is it, simple. Of course, every company will be a bit different and have more or fewer steps in the interview process. In general, any company that puts some thought into its interview process will run through an interview process similar to the one highlighted above. The main difference between a technical and non-technical interviewing process will happen in Step 3, The Challenge.

About the author

Noah Warder (COO and Co-Founder at Battlesnake) - passionate about organizational design and experimenting with new and exciting ideas and processes to create safe, inclusive, and efficient spaces for teams to come together to share their most creative ideas. Whether that is through new diversity and inclusion initiatives, mentorship programs, manager and interview training or just being another person to talk ideas through, Noah is always taking feedback and iterating on what is working and what is not.