Cracking the Code: Best Practices for Technical Coding Interviews

Submitted on Tue 29 Aug 2023

Applying for jobs can be daunting, whether for a summer or full-time position. However, software developers face unique challenges, with coding interviews comprising multiple exams, behavioural interviews, and whiteboard tests. As a result, aspiring programmers are always on the lookout for coding interview tips.

In this article, we'll guide you through the job hunt process and provide insights on preparing for coding interviews. Let's start with understanding what a coding interview entails.

While each company may have its variation, According to Northwestern Bootcamps, most coding interviews follow a similar structure:

  • Resume Selection: Companies review submitted resumes and identify candidates for interviews.
  • Phone Interview: A brief interview assesses qualifications, interests, and cultural fit.
  • Remote Coding Assignment: Employers may assign a coding challenge via videoconferencing or request completion by a specified deadline.
  • Onsite Whiteboard Challenge: Candidates who pass the previous stages are evaluated further through a whiteboard test, where they solve problems and explain their approach in real time.

These interviews evaluate various aspects, including coding skills, problem-solving abilities, communication, collaboration, ability to handle feedback, and cultural fit. Despite developers' perception as introverted, coding exams and interviewees often cite whiteboard sessions as the most stressful parts of the interview process.

Navigating the screening process requires practice and preparation to land your dream coding job. Here are some coding interview tips to help you succeed:

1. Research the Company

Believing you can breeze through the application process by using a generic cover letter and hastily replacing the company's name? Think again! If you're seeking advice on preparing for a coding interview, your initial step should involve conducting thorough research, possibly using search engines.

It's remarkably evident when an applicant needs to invest effort in due diligence and demonstrate a lack of interest in the prospective employer's mission or values. Interviewers genuinely appreciate candidates who proactively go beyond the basics and exhibit a genuine enthusiasm for the company's work. So, take into account the importance of conducting comprehensive research!

  • Dedicate time to exploring the company's website, blog, and social media profiles. Dedication will provide valuable insights into the organisation's projects and culture.
  • Make a note of any current or ongoing initiatives that the company has publicly announced. By asking questions about these initiatives, you can demonstrate your genuine interest in the company and showcase your research efforts.
  • Prepare a few questions specific to the company to ask during the interview.
  • If you have contacts already employed by the company, consider asking about the programming languages they frequently utilise.

2. Review Potential Questions

Familiarize yourself with popular coding interview questions. Practice solving coding challenges and anticipate questions related to your qualifications and skills. 

Algorithmic questions frequently appear in coding interviews to evaluate your foundational knowledge. Practice them. These questions put your analytical skills to the test. and solve equations efficiently. To prepare, practice solving various algorithms on your computer. Colleagues or online resources may provide sample problems for you to work through. Engaging in such practice will familiarise you with common algorithmic questions, such as binary searches, binary trees, and arrays.

3. Strengthen Fundamentals

Review essential skills such as data structures, arrays, hash tables, search algorithms, etc. Solve practice problems and revisit old notes to refresh your understanding.

Here are some key skills to prioritize:

  • Data structures
  • Arrays
  • Hash tables
  • Heaps
  • Search algorithms
  • Dynamic programming
  • Trees

Before beginning your job applications:

  1. Allocate two to three hours per week to review foundational skills.
  2. Seek out and solve practice problems.
  3. Review any old notes you may have from previous lessons.

Master fundamentals in Computer science (CS). CS fundamentals encompass fundamental knowledge and skills that interviewers assess to gauge your understanding of basic computer science concepts. Common CS fundamentals questions include identifying the components of a computer system and explaining the types of computer processors. As a coding candidate, being well-versed in CS fundamentals is essential, considering your past work experience and coding education.

4. Choose Your Interview Language Wisely

Select a coding language you are comfortable with and proficient in. Using a company's preferred language can showcase your competency only if you are confident in your skills.

Gather information about the programming languages commonly used by the company you are applying to. This strategy will help you align your skills with their requirements. Next, assess your proficiency in different languages and identify the ones in which you excel the most. Conduct mock coding tests specifically tailored to your chosen language to enhance your coding abilities. By practicing this manner, you can improve your problem-solving skills and become more confident for the interview.

5. Handle Performance Anxiety

Whiteboard exercises and coding tests can be stressful. Acclimate yourself to the pressure by running mock whiteboard challenges and explaining your thought process. Focus on demonstrating your problem-solving approach, be bold, and ask for clarification.

Practice mock whiteboard challenges and verbalize your problem-solving approach to someone, even if it's a friend or pet. Refrain from fretting if you encounter difficulties. Demonstrate your thought process and strive for a solution. Employers appreciate honest efforts. Stay humble and avoid pretending to know more than you do. Additionally, enhance your coding skills by practicing handwritten coding at home, using a whiteboard, or attaching white paper to your wall.

6. Memorise a Quick Sales Pitch

Craft a concise pitch highlighting your qualifications, employment history, soft skills, goals, and independent projects. Practice and refine your pitch to deliver it confidently during interviews.

Showcase your previous projects and explain your contributions and accomplishments. Provide relevant details and documentation to give interviewers a comprehensive understanding of your work.

7. Seek Insights from Others

Gather insights from colleagues and other professionals in the programming industry regarding their own coding interview experiences. This practice is precious if you can speak with individuals who have previously interviewed with the same company. Inquire about the nature of the questions and the interview process to better understand what to anticipate. By learning from others' experiences, you can proactively prepare for potential challenges you might encounter. Social media platforms may offer opportunities to connect with past interviewees.

8. Allocate Your Time Effectively

Before commencing your preparations, ascertain the type of interview you will be facing to allocate your time effectively. Consider contacting the company directly and requesting information about the interview format to gain insight on how to prepare best.

Coding interviews can adopt various formats. For instance, your interview may involve responding to questions or utilising a whiteboard to write down information for the hiring manager. In other cases, hiring managers may require you to complete a coding test before the interview, shifting the focus towards assessing your work process and compatibility with the company culture. There is also the possibility of coding in real-time while managers ask questions to evaluate your reasoning and intentions.

9. Articulate Concepts Verbally

Explaining coding concepts can be challenging, particularly when conversing with unfamiliar individuals. Indeed advises that hiring managers may inquire about your thought process and ask you to define complex coding topics. To enhance your preparation, try explaining intricate concepts out loud to a friend before the interview. This exercise enables you to assess your understanding of the topic and identify areas that require further review. Moreover, explaining concepts in advance boosts your confidence by helping you recognise knowledge gaps and address them accordingly.

10. Clean Up Your Social Media Presence

Examine your social media accounts thoroughly. and remove any content that could raise concerns or reflect unprofessional behaviour. Consider sharing industry-related content to demonstrate your interest and knowledge.

  • Perform a Google search of your name to identify visible profiles for potential interviewers.
  • Examine your social media accounts thoroughly to delete any content that may raise concerns during the interview.
  • Develop a routine of sharing industry-related content online to demonstrate your knowledge and interest in the field.

11. Engage In a Practice Interview 

To effectively prepare for your upcoming coding interview, engage in a mock interview session with a friend or family member. This valuable exercise involves rehearsing answers to common questions, simulating the entire interview process. Cover essential aspects such as introducing yourself and responding to interview inquiries, ensuring confidence throughout the process.

Upon completion of the mock interview, take the opportunity to discuss areas for improvement and identify what you did well—Seek the assistance of someone knowledgeable about coding to conduct the mock interview, as they can provide more specific feedback.

12. Remember to Make Small Talk

Engage in conversation during the interview to build a connection with the interviewer. Ask questions about their experience with the company and use appropriate humour when appropriate.

  • Prepare insightful questions to ask the interviewer about their experience with the company.
  • Incorporate appropriate humour into the conversation when suitable.
  • Engage in casual conversation to build rapport.

In the quest to master the coding interview, there are three essential ingredients: practice, persistence, and guidance. As you embark on this journey, it's crucial to remember the importance of having the right support by your side.

At The Recruitment Company, we understand the challenges that aspiring software developers face during the job hunt process. That's why we're here to empower you with the necessary tools and resources to confidently navigate coding interviews and secure your dream job in the ever-evolving world of technology.

Thinking of changing jobs or aiming to expand your career then let’s start with a chat. Call us today on (02) 8346 6700 and speak to a recruitment agency that knows your market.

The Recruitment Company – Making people enjoy the recruitment experience again

Specialist Recruitment Agency within Information Technology, Project Services, IT Infrastructure, Software Development, SAP, Data and Analytics, Devops, Cloud and the Public Sector.

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