If you’ve never practiced for a coding interview before or have never even been to a coding interview, you may have many questions. The most important being, how do you practice for a coding interview?
Tech companies these days are not asking you just to describe your previous experience, your life goals, or your soft skills, though these are still important. Instead, when hiring developers, tech companies want to know you can write code and write it well. So you will be doing coding interviews where you are given one or more questions or requests, and you must turn that into real code in a short amount of time, often as little as 30 minutes.
Below are some steps from AlgoMonster to help you prepare and practice for your next coding interview.
Use whiteboards and text editors for coding interview questions
Most tech companies will have you write out your code on whiteboards or in a basic text editor. You will not be given any fancy editor or development environment to make things easier.
So when you’re practicing writing your code, practice writing it out by hand on a whiteboard or piece of paper. You should also be comfortable with writing code out in a basic text editor. This ability will be essential to ensure you are not relying on any autocompletion or features of your favorite development environment or fancy editor.
Pick one programming language to practice your coding interview
You are not being marked on how many programming languages you know. Pick a standard programming language and one you are most familiar with, and stick to that.
You will need a thorough understanding of all aspects of the programming language you pick. It’s never a positive point if you switch programming languages during the interview process.
Suppose you are interviewing with multiple companies requiring different languages. In that case, you may need to pick or limit how many you’re studying or reviewing at one time.
Review programing language specifics for your coding interview
Not only do you need to be a skilled developer, but you also need a thorough understanding of the programming language you pick for coding interviews. Interviewers are likely to ask trivia or specific questions about your preferred language. If there are quirks or anything interesting or different about your language, then you should review it.
The best way to prepare for these questions is to google coding interview questions for your specific language to see what interviewers may be looking for.
Review algorithmic principles for your coding interview
Algorithms are one of the most common question topics for coding interviews. Interviewers want to know you can write code, but they specifically want to know you can write excellent code that runs efficiently.
Big O and algorithm design are things you should be reviewing and practicing, even if you have a good understanding. These concepts will come up in your coding interview, and if you don’t know, you may fail to get the position.
Practice coding interview questions online
Many websites offer free or paid options to practice coding interview questions, such as LeetCode.com. These can be general, or if the company you’re applying to is big enough, you will be able to search for specific types of questions that the company asks.
You must practice interview questions at least once per day until your interview date. Preferably you have at least four weeks to practice coding interview questions before your actual interview.
An essential aspect of your practice is to time yourself. You must be fast so that you can complete your code in the time allotted for your interview. You could be a fantastic developer, but the interviewer can’t assess your skills if you don’t complete code.
Practice coding interviews with someone
Part of your coding interview will be discussing your code as you’re writing it. So not only do you need to write your code fast, you need to discuss and explain what you’re doing as you’re writing it.
Practicing with somebody to show them the code and explain what you’re doing will be an essential skill to get for coding interviews. If you can’t write code and talk simultaneously, you will need to practice until you can.
Record and review your coding interview mistakes
Record any mistakes you make during real or practice coding interviews. These are topics or areas you need further review and study to ensure that any knowledge gaps are covered for your next real coding interview.
Recording and reviewing mistakes doesn’t even have to just be where your code failed; it can be where your code wasn’t as efficient as it should have been. Review each question you answer and record what could have been done better and with what method. You can slowly build a list of topics that need covering and mark them off once they are no longer a gap in your knowledge.
Schedule real coding interviews as practice
It’s great to practice coding interviews at home, but you need to do some real practice. So apply for positions that would be great to get but aren’t your top pick. This interview will give you a real-world taste of how coding interviews are performed and may even open up new opportunities and job offers.
You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket with your top pick and have that be your first coding interview. It may go well or be a disaster if you haven’t experienced a real coding interview before.
Final thoughts on how to practice for coding interviews
The best way to practice coding interviews is to do coding interviews. You should be doing as many and as often as possible. You should be writing down mistakes or areas you are not strong in and then studying those areas.
Keep studying, keep practicing and ensure that you time yourself. Coding interviews are generally 30-60 minutes long, and if you can’t complete your code in that timeframe, you will fail.
Data structures and algorithms are the two most common areas that will come up during coding interviews, so understand the most common topics in these areas.
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