Join me on an exciting exploration as we delve into the realm of coding interviews. In this article, I shed light on what a coding interview entails, equipping you with invaluable insights and expectations.
By the end of our journey, you will have a solid understanding of the process, empowering you to prepare confidently. So, without further ado, let’s look at the coding interview from the inside.
Phase 1 of the Coding Interview: The Phone Screen
The phone screen is Typically the first contact you will receive after submitting your application. This is usually a light-hearted conversation between you and your potential employer consisting primarily of small talk or icebreaker questions.
The phone screen is the part of the interview where your employer learns a bit about who you are. You will discuss past experiences, personal projects, and your motivations for applying to the company.
This part of the interview aims to determine if you are a cultural fit for the company. It helps the hiring team decide whether to move your application to the next step.
There is nothing too special about the phone screen compared to other companies. However, to be fully prepared, you should expect to answer detailed questions revealing your strengths and weaknesses.
Let's take a look at some example questions:
- What is your greatest professional strength, and how has it contributed to your success?
- How do you leverage your strengths to overcome challenges and contribute to team success?
- Tell me about a time when your weaknesses hindered your progress or presented a challenge. How did you overcome it?
- How do you actively improve your weaknesses and expand your skill set?
The interviewer may even sneak in a technical question or two based on what you wrote on your resume. But it shouldn’t be anything too serious at this stage.
If all goes well, your interviewer will reach out to set up the next phase of the interview. This may require some time, so stay positive and don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear from them immediately.
Pro Tip: Follow up with them if they have yet to contact you after a week.
Phase 2 of the Coding Interview: Answering Technical Questions
The next part of the coding interview ups the ante from the previous round. In this phase, you will be asked various technical questions about diverse topics.
Topics include anything from data structures and algorithms to programming language-specific concepts or features. To be successful in this round, you need to be well studied on the fundamental concepts surrounding your chosen languages.
This particular round of the interview varies wildly among companies. Unlike the previous round, most questions here are not open to interpretation. Therefore, in most cases, your answer will be either correct or it will not.
However, if you followed the template when we explored becoming a junior developer, you should stand out in this phase.
Let's look at a few example questions:
- What is the difference between an interface and an abstract class?
- What is OOP (Object-Oriented Programming)?
- What is the difference between a clustered and a non-clustered index?
- What is an inner join?
- What is the best algorithm for sorting an array with less than 15 elements? Why?
Every company has its own set of questions that they like to ask. Therefore, it’s best to research the company on a website such as Glassdoor before the interview.
Additionally, you can research the most common technical questions based on the technologies you listed on your resume. Helping to understand the topics that the company you are interviewing with may delve into.
Phase 3 of the Coding Interview: The Whiteboarding Interview
The whiteboarding interview is part of the coding interview process that gives candidates the most anxiety. This is a sink-or-swim style interview that puts your problem-solving skills to the test.
Traditionally, the interview takes place on-site in front of a whiteboard. You must solve Leetcode-style problems within a specific time limit and ensure the solution meets particular requirements.
Today, many companies do coding interviews remotely over Microsoft Teams or similar. So no whiteboard, but don’t let out a sigh of relief just yet. You will be required to code inside Notepad, Google Docs, or another similar bare-bones application instead.
You have no help from your IDE, syntax highlighting, or debugger; it’s just you and the problem. The expectation? That your solution is bug-free, efficient, and solved in a timely manner.
Let's take a look at some example problems:
- Given a string s, write a method that will return true if it is a palindrome or false otherwise.
- Given an array of integers and a target integer, return the indices of the two numbers such that they add up to the target integer.
- Given a string s, find the length of the longest substring without repeating characters.
To get the full effect go ahead and give them a try. You may be surprised by how deceiving the simple rhetoric may be.
Don’t despair; the whiteboarding interview just involves selecting the right data structure or algorithm for a problem. Of course, with some slight modifications.
The good news is that you can prepare for this interview in advance. With preparation, you can ace this coding interview and look like a rockstar in front of your interviewers.
In an upcoming post, we’ll explore how to enhance your problem-solving skills using data structures and algorithms.
Pro Tip: Talk out loud about your thought process. Your interviewer may jump in to help you out when needed.
Phase 4 of the Coding Interview: Candidate Q&A
We’ve come a long way in our journey thus far. Up to this point, the company has been interviewing us. So now, it’s our turn to interview the company through a brief Q&A session with our interviewers.
Now is the opportunity to ask your interviewer some questions that you may have. They can help you clear up questions that you may have about the company, its culture, or its stance.
Our interviewers expect us to ask meaningful questions; it is imperative to have some questions prepared beforehand. However, your questions should be sincere and should address your concerns.
Let's look at some example questions you may want to ask:
- What are the typical day-to-day responsibilities of someone in this role?
- What are the opportunities for professional growth and learning within the company?
- How would you describe the company’s development process?
- How does the company adapt to new technologies and industry trends?
- How does the company support work-life balance and employee well-being?
By the end of this final round, you will have some insight into what it may be like working for this company and your role. Always tailor your questions to the company you’re interviewing with.
Ensure you don’t miss out on a job opportunity just because you didn’t ask thoughtful questions during the final phase. Be prepared.
As we conclude our interview, a couple of possibilities arise. If we’ve performed admirably, we might receive an offer immediately. However, they might need some time to think before getting back to you, which could take a few days.
We have completed our journey through the coding interview from an inside perspective. We’ve strolled through every phase and gained invaluable insights into what it takes to succeed in the coding interview.
Remember, the key to success is in our preparation. By investing time and effort, we pave the way for remarkable success.
Share your interview experiences or discuss your preparation strategies in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you! Until next time.
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