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Technical Interview-Preparing Methods & Tips

Before the Interview

Get a Book

As early as possible before your interview (though I only managed a meager two weeks), start preparing. Working through a prep book will not only refresh your algorithms and data structures knowledge, but itíll also put you in the right problem-solving mindset.

Most importantly, pick the right prep book for your level and interests. Cracking the Coding Interview is a great resource, but if youíre not already a reasonably experienced programmer, it wonít make up for experience. If youíre just starting out, there are other books youíll get more mileage out of, such as Programming Interviews Exposed: Secrets to Landing Your Next Job. And there are plenty of more specialized and advanced books for those with more experience.

Practice Makes Perfect

Few things beat panic like practice does, so start whiteboarding whenever you can, even really small problems. Coding interview books offer nearly endless sample problems, but you can use problems youíre already working on, too. Pose the problem to yourself (or ask a technically inclined friend to pose it to you, for a more realistic setup), map out your strategy, and put marker to dry erase board. The more comfortable you are with marking up that blank board at home, the less hesitant youíll be at the interview.

If youíre short on time and want to get over the shakes quickly, you can add pressure that wonít be there in the actual interview. If you give yourself a time limit or have someone you respect playing the role of your interviewer, the real deal will feel like a piece of cake.

Donít Overload Yourself

When youíre scheduling interviews, be sure to leave at least a couple of hours in between each one. This sounds like a first-world problem, but any time I had multiple interviews in a day, I didnít perform as well as I could have. I either worried about getting to the next one on time or I had already maxed out my logic hours before.

Oh, and get some sleep. This sounds like something your mom would tell you, but there are few things that will throw you off your game like sleep deprivation. Itís comparable to showing up drunk.

In the Interview

Be Ready for Anything

Once youíve made it to your interview, you should be prepared for a few different kinds of problem solving. Your interviewers may ask you to talk through how you would solve a problem, they may open a computer and ask you to guide them through creating code, or they may have you write the code yourself on a whiteboard. Be prepared for variation, and donít get tripped up on the details! No matter what method your interviewers are using, itís your problem solving skills that they're really testing.

Ask Questions

When youíre presented with a problem, think it through and make sure you fully understand what youíre being asked to return. Donít be afraid to ask questions early if anything is unclear. If there are edge cases, for example, ask how your interviewers want them to be handled. Should you throw an exception? Break?

Also make sure to ask procedural questions to understand what the interviewers are looking for and what your constraints areóe.g., ďIs there a specific language youíd like me to give you my solution in?Ē or ďCan I assume I have access to any Python library?Ē

And donít make assumptions. Even if youíre pretty sure itís safe, mention out loud what it is youíre thinking so the interviewers can let you know if youíre missing something.

Take Your Time

Once you understand the question youíre being asked, donít be afraid to take a minute to think and process before you start solving the problem. As long as you arenít being barraged with quick, knowledge-based questions, pausing after being asked the question is a good thing. Of courseómake sure youíre not taking 10 minutes to solve it in your head without saying a word! The point is to use your time up front to structure your approach, not to try to write all the code in your head before you touch marker to whiteboard.

Think Big Picture

Think about the big picture of the problem first. Itís fine to pseudo-code the overall structure, as long as you tell the interviewers thatís what youíre doing and that you intend to go back and actually code it later. Itís a good way to off-load the organizing of the problem so your brain has more room for processing. This will also help if you run out of time in the end; the interviewers will at least know how youíd planned to finish out the task even if you didnít get to the details.

Also, donít worry at first about finding the most efficient way to solve the problem, unless it naturally pops into your head. Nail a less-efficient solution, and then discuss why itís less than ideal. Then, if you have time or see a better way to solve it, move on to a more time- or space-friendly algorithm. Even if all you have time to do is finish your less-efficient version and then explain how you would do it better, thatís not a bad answer.

Talk it Out

Most importantly: Talk. Bring your interviewers along with you in your problem solving. This can be as simple as outlining what youíre about to do when youíre doing it (ďSo, Iíll need a for-loop to iterate through all the items in this listĒ) or posing problems to yourself as you go (ďThis means Iíll need a better way to access the information; hmm, Iíll get back to that laterĒ).

Talking through your thought process gives your interviewers a window into how you think, and thatís ultimately the point of the interview. Even if you think your solution is amazing, itís better for them to know how you approached the problem and got to your answer than to see the full-fledged answer and not have a clue about what led you there. It also gives the interviewers a chance to help you along if youíre stuck or going down a path thatís a dead end.

Bring Your People Skills, Too

Just because youíre going for an engineering job doesnít mean you can slack on being personable and responsible. Iíve heard horror stories of fantastic programmers who werenít hired because they werenít a culture fit or had a bad attitude. Iím sure you have, too. Donít be that person.

Curiosity and enthusiasm are prized in any employeeóand developers are no different. Ask about the companyís engineering team, its stack, and the toughest problems itís tackling for the product. Of course, thereís a fine line between being enthusiastic and being a sycophant, so keep it genuine, but everyone loves a candidate who is interested in the product he or she will be working on.

Learn Something New

Finally, one thing that interviewees most often miss is the learning opportunity. Hopefully, you will learn something new in each interviewóyouíll acquire a new idea or new tool, or get some insight into interesting products and technology. The more you think about your interviews in this way, the more valuable that time will be to you in the long run.

Source: Contents are provided by Technicalsymposium Google Group Members. Disclaimer: All the above contents are provided by technicalsymposium.com Google Group members. Further, this content is not intended to be used for commercial purpose. Technicalsymposium.com is not liable/responsible for any copyright issues.


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