Okay, here comes the fun part.
If you’ve built an app that fulfills a personal need or collaborated with a team to build something cool then talking about it in an interview should be an enjoyable experience. This is where you get to express all the joys and frustrations you encountered while creating your app.
There are dozens of ways to talk about your app but at the end of this lab, you’ll be able to cover these 5 major points:
At the end of the day, you are a problem solver. You noticed a need in the world and your app helped to address it. What was that need?
App development is about solving problems and the most important question to answer is why you built the app in the first place. This should be your starting point when it comes to discussing your app in an interview.
Keep this limited to only 1-2 sentences. Don’t get yourself down a rabbit hole where you’re spending five minutes talking about a nightmare roommate experience.
So we’ve addressed the why. This section addresses the how. As in, how did you get this app off the ground? What were all the components you and your team used to bring your app to life?
This is where you get technical.
Remember the Technical Experience (Projects) portion of your resume? You’ll want to summarize those bullet points with a high-level outline of the project without getting too fine-grain during this part of the conversation. That way, you leave room for questions when you ultimately dive deeper into all of your app’s features.
You’ve just covered the why and the how. Time for the what!
What can your app do? What makes it cool or unique? Be sure to elaborate on all the features that address your earlier problem statement but remember to keep your explanations simple and clear. Don’t get lost in the details if it doesn’t pertain to the conversation or directly answer the interviewer’s question.
Our app uses Nokogiri to scrape major news sites and aggregates the most popular titles.
Our app connects to all the major social networking APIs like Twitter and Pinterest to create a holistic profile of each user.
Our app uses ActionMailer to send emails every time a user subscribes.
If you collaborated on a team project, make sure you fully understand what features your partners built. Interviewers won’t always know what components you were responsible for so you want to be prepared for everything.
Quick tip: think about how you’ll speak about your app and how that differs from the bullet points written on your resume. Write down those differences!
One of the greatest joys of app development is taking an idea and turning it into a reality. It is extremely satisfying when things work. It’s also downright frustrating when things don’t.
This is often the most interesting part of an interview. Interviewers, especially technical ones, will be curious to hear about the problems you encountered and how you solved them.
Everything was going fine until we tried to load a 2GB file into the database. That’s when we realized SQLite couldn't handle the size and we had to migrate to AWS S3.
We connected to Instagram’s API but noticed our app started freezing whenever we would listen for hashtag updates. Then we realized we were tracking worldwide hashtags and our app was getting pummeled with hundreds of messages each second. Thin, the default server for Rails is single-threaded and wasn’t able to handle the load. Thankfully we switched to Unicorn and overcame the concurrency issues.
A few things to remember here:
Another joy to building apps is that the work is never done. You can always do more! Maybe you addressed your original need but quickly realized that there were a dozen new possibilities.
Facebook started as a profile page for college students. Now you can send instant messages, have group chats, coordinate events, and a million more things.
Google Maps started with simply finding the best directions. Now we have traffic patterns, accident reports, cop car sightings, etc.
What else can you add to your app?
You now have a framework for talking about your app(s) during interviews. If you can cover the five points listed in the objective then you can essentially discuss the full cycle of software development - from ideation to completion. This is relevant because this is the cycle of professional software development:
Idea -> Design -> Implement -> Test -> Iterate
Take some time to reflect on the last application you built. Ask yourself the questions posed earlier:
If you worked on a team project, interview your partners for the answers to Question 3. Listen to how they describe the app and work together to sharpen your responses. Make sure to go over these responses with your coach.
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