How to Ace a Developer Phone Interview


We wrote a popular series of posts last year on how to ace Palantir on-site interviews. However, this advice does you no good if you don’t make it past the first hurdle: the phone interview. In this post, I’d like to give you some simple tips to maximize your chances on the phone interview.

The Basics

The tips in this section will seem trivial, but you’d be surprised at how many candidates mess up the basics. It’ll be much harder for you to show us how awesome you are if you don’t do these things:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to work. You should expect to be in an environment where you feel comfortable solving problems. If you’re in a busy or noisy area, it’s going to be hard for you to concentrate and difficult for your interviewer to understand you.
  • Make sure your phone works. This should be self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised at how many dropped calls we get. Ideally, you’d find a landline, although these are increasingly hard to come by these days. Another tip from one of our developers: use a headset that allows you to talk comfortably while typing or writing—the earbuds that come with the iPhone work perfectly for this use case. Similarly, if we’ve asked you to use Google Docs or Stypi for the phone interview, make sure you have an Internet connection
  • Be prepared. Do your research—check out our website, read some of the blogs, discover our company culture, and perhaps try a demo! This shows interest in Palantir, and it will also help you form questions for the phone interviewer so that you can learn more about us.
  • Have a pen and paper ready. It’ll be much easier to think through problems if you have something to sketch or write on.

The Interview

For the most part, you’ll be asked a coding and an algorithms question. We’ve written guides on each, so check out The Coding Interview and How to Ace the Algorithms Interview. You’ll find that a lot of the advice for on-site interviews also helps you when you’re on the phone.

Here are some tips specific to phone interviews:

  • Think out loud. While this is useful for on-site interviews as well, it’s critical for phone interviews. Since we can’t see you, the only way we can understand your thought process is to hear you talk.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If anything is unclear about the problem, ask your interviewer—that’s what they’re there for.
  • Start simple and then expand. While you do want to think about the high-level design before you write any code, it’s good to come up with a simple solution first and then go from there.

After you’re done with the technical part of the interview, your interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Don’t worry about asking the right questions or the wrong questions—this is your chance to find out about what interests you. We often get asked about what Palantir does, what we work on individually, what it’s like to be a new engineer at Palantir, and how our internship program is structured, but don’t limit yourself to these topics!

After the Phone Interview

After you’re done with the interview, we typically get back to you very quickly—a week or two at the latest. We may ask you to do another phone interview, or we’ll bring you on-site. If you don’t hear from us, don’t hesitate to reach out. Good luck and happy interviewing!