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5 Tips on How To Prepare for Coding Interviews

To overcome the challenge, here’s a list of the techniques you could use to prepare for coding interviews and be in full control of your next one.
Daniel Zacharias

Alan Sperber

October 21, 2022
coding interviews

While many can agree that the majority of hiring interviews often stress the candidate, it appears that coding interviews bring along some extra pressure. Usually, the only demand from interviewers is that regular job applicants provide answers in theory. On the other hand, developers are expected to show off their skills in practice and communicate as they perform the actions. To overcome the challenge, here’s a list of the techniques you could use to prepare for coding interviews and be in full control of your next one.

Practice makes perfect

The good thing about coding interviews is that it all comes down to resolving a single issue. For it to be a success, you must study and practice the right languages. The more you practice, the greater your skillset will be and the shorter the time spent on solving the coding tasks.

There are several steps you can take to enhance the learning process:

  • Make a list of your mistakes. Find your weakest spots and work on them.
  • Find targeted questions and solve them — research the common problems of the company you are applying for. Always time yourself. That way, you will get used to the expected time frame.
  • Cheat sheets are not just for cheating but improving oneself. Do revise them regularly. 
  • Generally, it is wise to become proficient in one or two areas instead of studying everything you could ever be interviewed about. JavaScript and C++ are quite similar, so a lot of developers focus on those two. On the other hand, Python differs from both of them, and you may wish to combine it with another language.

Ideally, one would need to spend two or three months preparing for a successful coding interview. 

Make clear priorities

If everything is so straightforward, how is it that so many candidates fail the interview? The main culprit may be poor organization.

Once you have decided which coding language to focus on, you need to make room in your schedule for some serious daily practice. Moreover, you must stick to the hours you decided to dedicate to preparing for the coding interview. Avoid unnecessary going-outs if you set the afternoon for making coding cheat sheets.

Prepare the problem-solving steps in advance

To be totally comfortable with the ambiguous tasks ahead, you can practice problem-solving techniques before the interview and get used to applying them with confidence.

We suggest following these steps during your coding interview:

1. Make sure you understand your assignment.

If you have any doubts, you should clear them at the very beginning. For instance, if an interviewer has asked you to search for an element in the problem by giving you a sorted array, your best bet would be to opt for a binary search. What’s more, sometimes you can get a clue on how to tackle the task by simply carefully listening to the problem descriptions.

2. Feel free to discuss an example and write it.

This should help you spot any irregularities before giving any final statements.

3. Define the solution (state brute force solution) and start optimizing it. 

It should show off your self-confidence and buy you some time if you have made a wrong statement. When you begin the optimization, you’ll check if you have used all the information available, create a time and space trade-off, use sorting algorithms, or perhaps think of a different example and eventually get to the optimized solution. Don’t be afraid if you make mistakes and correct yourself in the process — that is all a standard part.

4. Check for errors or dry runs.

Trace the value of your variables to eliminate any hiccups.

5. Finish your code and implement it. 

Start implementing your code in the code editor while ensuring it operates on both expected and unexpected input. Make your code look simple and readable without excessive comments. Basically, your code should appear pretty self-explanatory, so your future colleagues can find it easy to review. Before finally submitting the code, test it even for edge cases and fix any bugs that may appear.

Have a mock interview

A coding interview is like no other — you need to code and guide the interviewer through the process as you are typing. There are several ways to live the experience.

The feedback from a professional is extremely valuable and could be a deal breaker. Luckily, you can find various mock technical interview resources and platforms, such as LeetCode, CoderByte, or HackerRank. Typically, you are expected to pay a certain fee to have your knowledge tested by an expert and receive feedback on what you need to work on. 

The other option, of course, would be to be open to actual interviews even if you aren’t entirely confident about your skills. However, this can be a two-edged sword in case you leave a bad impression on an employer you are interested in.

On the other hand, a helping developer friend is an excellent option for smoothing your interviewing skills.

Finally, don’t be afraid to keep learning and do mock interviews simultaneously. As you are very much aware, coding implies a never-ending learning process.

Show off your soft skills

Besides the interviewer, who is also a developer, you can expect to meet another interviewer in the room, focused solely on your soft skills set. This is common for all types of interviews, coding ones or not: “selling yourself” to the potential employer.

Essential pieces of advice would be to appear self-confident, open, keen, and communicative. You need to come across as a developer with a passion for working in their company. To demonstrate the wish to become their team member, you should research the company’s history and organization before the interview. Sometimes memorizing a few details can be just as valuable as your hard skills.

Also, make sure you have a few interesting questions up your sleeve once you finish the practical part and are given a chance to enquire about the details of your future position in the company.

Pick the best language for yourself

Depending on the potential employer’s requests, you will decide which language you are most comfortable in. Currently, Java, JavaScript, and Python are some of the most popular coding languages. The latter owes its popularity to the fact that it focuses more on algorithms than syntax. Kotlin, Golang, and C++ are also among the top ten interview coding languages.

Before the interview, brush up on your skills in the most suitable language for the potential FAANG (or some other) interview.

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