How To Get The Most Out Of Your Coding Interview
Track Your Weak Spots
One of the most challenging aspects of practice is knowing what to practice. Tracking what you struggle with can help answer that question.
To get started, grab a fresh notebook. After each question, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, “What did I get wrong about this problem at first?” Write down one or two things you got stuck on and what helped you overcome them. Compare your notes to our [tips for getting unstuck].
After each full practice session, read through your entire list. You should also read it at the beginning of each practice session to add rigor to your practice and better internalize the lessons you’re learning.
Use an actual whiteboard
Coding on a whiteboard can be awkward at first. You have to write out every single character, and you can’t easily insert or delete blocks of code.
Use your practice sessions to iron out that awkwardness. Try running a few problems on a piece of paper or, if possible, a real whiteboard. A few helpful tips for handwriting code:
- Start in the top-left corner. You want all the space you can get.
- Leave blank space between each line of code. This makes it much easier to add things later.
- Take it slow. Spend an extra second thinking of descriptive variable names. You might be tempted to move faster by using short variable names, but that can actually end up costing more time. It’ll also make your code harder to debug!
Using a Timer
To get a feel for the time pressure of an actual interview, try to finish a problem in 30-45 minutes, including debugging your code at the end.
If you’re just starting out and the timer adds too much stress, you may want to put this technique on the shelf. Consider adding it later as you become more comfortable with solving problems.
Think out Loud
Thinking out loud is an acquired skill, much like writing code on a whiteboard. It may feel awkward at first, but your interviewer will expect you to think out loud during the interview, so you need to power through that initial awkwardness.
A good trick to get used to talking out loud is to grab a buddy. Another engineer would be great, but you can also do this with a non-technical friend.
Have your buddy sit in while you talk through a problem. Better yet, try loading up one of our questions on an iPad and giving that to your buddy to use as a script!
Set aside a specific time of day to practice
Allocate an hour each day to practice, preferably at the same time each day, such as after dinner. Doing so helps you establish a more consistent habit of practice.
Instead of cramming in long sessions every once in a while, opt for smaller, daily doses of practice. This method of distributing your practice sessions will help you learn more with less time and effort in the long run.
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