back to blog
Guide to Preparing for a Coding Interview
The excitement that comes with preparing for a coding interview can be overwhelming, but it's understandable.
Preparing for a coding interview might be a little bit complicated, especially when you don’t have a plan towards preparing for one; so this article aims at reducing the tension by providing you with guidelines for preparing for your next interview.
There are three key things you need to do before the interview. They are:
- Pick Your Best Language
- Study Algorithms and Data Structures
- Master Your Stack
# Pick Your Best Language
In some instances, choosing what language to use may not be left to you. The language to use is sometimes dependent on the job role you applied for.
For instance, you don't expect to use PHP when attempting a coding interview for a mobile development job.
# Study Algorithms and Data Structures
Coding interviews are a test of your ability to solve problems and your thought process towards solving those challenges.
Studying algorithms will make coding interviews easier. You may end up not applying the algorithms directly at work, but knowing them can be critical to you solving pretty challenging problems.
Your interviewer will also want to know about your knowledge of data structures as they go hand in hand with algorithms; hence the test of your knowledge of data structures and algorithms form a key part of the coding interview.
There are a lot of algorithms and data structures, so it'll be unreasonable for the interviewer to expect you to know them all. You should learn about common data structures such as arrays, linked lists, stacks, and queues, search algorithms like binary search, and sorting algorithms like bubble sort.
You can prepare for coding interviews by making use of platforms like HackerRank, CodeWars, and LeetCodeto take challenges on algorithms and data structure. Additionally, read the text “Cracking the coding interview,” as it contains practice questions on algorithms and data structure that are commonly asked at coding interviews.
# Master Your Stack
When a company wants to hire you as a developer, they'll most likely prefer that you have experience in writing software for their software stack; this is usually the case except in rare situations.
A company which uses and Django and Angular for web development may not consider you to be the right person for the job if your skillset is based on Node and Vue JS.
So it is important that you have an understanding of how the technologies used at the company work. Common issues faced and best practices when using the company's stack are things you should know and be able to discuss.
Preparing for Your Interview
Coding interviews can be broken down into various phases. You can have the following phases:
- The Introduction Phase
- The Brainstorming Phase
- The Coding Phase
These phases apply to both physical and remote interviews but there may be slight differences which will be discussed as the article progresses.
The Introduction Phase
Coding interviews are usually short and take about 30 to 45 minutes. So you need to be time conscious and focus on the key parts of the interview.
The introduction phase takes about 5 minutes but it can be shorter. Exuding confidence is essential when introducing yourself, you should also pass across as being friendly and excited about the interview to the interviewer(s).
Whatever you do, be yourself and let the interviewers see you through your personality.
In your presentation ensure you state projects you’ve worked on, the technologies you are quite versatile with, your career goals and current projects if you have any.
The Brainstorming Phase
After the introduction and all formalities have been done with, you'll get the questions from the interviewers, and the interview session kicks off fully.
It's normal to feel nervous at this point, but you have to keep calm and remain confident; this is key to you thinking properly in the brainstorming session.
For a remote interview, set up your environment and ensure everything is in place, make use of a notebook to jot down the vital points from the questions you'll be asked.
It is crucial that you ask insightful questions when the interviewer gives you the problem to be solved; this ensures that you are on the same page as the interviewer(s) and helps them understand your thought process.
You are not expected to find a solution to the problem instantly but you need to be strategic with your thinking as much as possible. If you studied algorithms and data structures well enough, you might have come across a similar problem.
It's best that you think out loud, and "think along" with your interviewer; this way they can call you to order if you happen to be going astray.
The Coding Phase
When you get some breakthrough with the algorithm, it's time to turn it into code.
During the coding phase, don't write code without carrying the interviewer along. That's indirectly saying to your interviewer: "hey, here is the solution to the problem written in [language name] programming language."
You should walk the interviewer through the process of coming up with a solution and explain the reasons for taking important coding decisions.
Additionally, you should review your code on completion to check and fix bugs. This same process also applies to remote coding interview.
The Conclusion Phase
Most people see the conclusion phase as where you pack up your stuff and leave the interview hall. However, the conclusion phase is to ensure you ask questions regarding the company, the job itself, such as your role and responsibility.
While the company is trying to hire you and are looking for the best candidate, you should also have the same mindset and be on the lookout for the best company. You don’t want to get into an organization with values contrary to yours or get involved in roles that won’t bring the best out of you.
In brief, use the conclusion phase to your advantage by making enough inquiries about the company.
In this article, you’ve learned about some guidelines that’ll prove helpful to you in your next interview. Interviews vary, so it may not go the same way as discussed, however, the concepts of a coding interview remain the same.
Ensure that you’re prepared for the interview, keep calm and always exude confidence; they go a long way in improving your interview performance.