How to Prepare for a Coding Interview

  revature |

The technical interview — more specifically, the coding interview — is a fact of life for software developers. From coders just entering the workforce to programmers with years of experience, a key part of professional development is learning how to prepare for a coding interview. Fortunately, a world of resources is available to entry-level coders who have the technical and soft skills training they need to start their career.

What Is a Coding Interview?

The purpose of a coding interview is to assess a candidate’s technical skills. A deep dive into a developer’s knowledge of a particular software language, the coding interview tests mastery of coding techniques. Hiring managers will ask developers to explain why they chose their solutions, and they’ll ask about broader technical issues.

A coding interview is more than just the technical skills assessment, however. Hiring managers also ask behavioral and situational questions that determine a candidate’s aptitude for critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving. These and other soft skills are key to a successful career as a software developer.

What Skills Does a Coding Interview Test?

When preparing for a coding interview, experienced coders plan ahead for the skills assessment — a key part of the process. Knowing how to code isn’t enough; developers have to know why a software language works the way it does. Hiring managers’ questions are aimed at determining these skills, namely software knowledge, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity and collaboration.

Software Knowledge

This part of the coding interview covers a candidate’s basic and advanced knowledge of a particular programming language or languages. The hiring manager will pose technical questions that cover a candidate’s facility with several concepts, including the following:

  • Solving coding problems
  • Debugging existing code
  • Solving logic puzzles
  • Demonstrating knowledge of algorithms

The interviewer will ask questions about the programming language itself. Test complexity will vary by job level. Entry-level programmers will be tested on basic concepts, such as algorithms, multithreading, and data structure, that are part of every coding language.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

A software skills test will also assess how candidates solve a problem and why they chose that solution. This involves critical thinking ability and provides insight into a candidate’s problem-solving abilities. Many software developers advise candidates to work the problem out loud. They say it’s not only acceptable to discuss with the interviewer but also important to ask questions in this section of the interview.

Collaboration

Software development is a team sport. Coders work with a cross-disciplinary team of developers, usability experts, marketing and sales professionals, and cybersecurity experts. Working together on solutions is an asset for a coder. The hiring manager will ask questions about team projects and how a candidate worked with a cross-functional team to develop a product.

What Is the Structure of a Coding Interview?

Although companies differ, coding interviews typically follow the same structure. This standardized structure means that learning how to prepare for a coding interview becomes a lot easier; candidates will know what to expect.

Nontechnical Phone Screen

Once a company selects a candidate for an interview, the first step is a phone screen. Someone in human resources who goes through a candidate’s education, training, and work history usually handles this. It will cover a candidate’s availability for interviews, potential start date, and other high-level details.

Technical Phone Interview

A hiring manager or other technical expert will handle the technical phone or videoconference interview. The hiring manager will ask in-depth questions about a candidate’s training and work history. It will also include the first set of technical challenges. Candidates will code live in front of the hiring manager.

On-Site Interview

When candidates pass the phone interview, companies invite them for an in-person interview, or more accurately, interviews. Candidates may meet with several members of a company’s development team. It will also include a technical interview portion. Candidates may use screen-sharing software to code in front of the hiring team, or in some cases will code on a whiteboard.

Behavioral and Situational Questions

Software programmers urge candidates not to disregard the behavioral portion of the interview. These questions provide insight into how a candidate works with others and how they manage in the face of challenges. Behavioral questions ask how a candidate handled a particular situation in the workplace or in their personal life. These questions are often framed as, “Tell me about a time when.” Situational questions are framed as hypotheticals, such as, “What would you do if.”

How to Prepare for a Coding Interview: Tips and Resources

Proper preparation for a coding interview can be essential to advancement in a tech profession. Fortunately, tech professionals don’t need to do all of the legwork for interview preparation on their own. Associates in Revature’s training programs receive support not only in development of tech skills, but also in the soft skills essential to acing a technical interview. Revature also provides mock interview opportunities.

Coding Interview Prep

Preparing for a coding interview can be summed up mostly in two words: practice and research.

  • Create a resume and portfolio. Put together a one- or two-page resume, which covers education and training, certifications, programming languages, and work history. Research technical resumes and follow these standards. Build an online portfolio of projects.
  • Practice tests. Practice code questions in the programming language. Read up on theory, since that will be part of the test. Use resources such as LeetCode and GitHub.
  • Practice whiteboarding. Even though the whiteboard has largely been replaced by screen-sharing, experienced programmers say that the whiteboard portion of a coding interview can be nerve-racking, since it is such a different medium. Get used to coding on a whiteboard to build confidence.
  • Practice mock interviews. Mock interviews with friends and colleagues are a great way to prepare for technical, behavioral, and situational questions.
  • Join a coding community. Coding communities are great repositories of resources and are excellent for peer connections and networking.
  • Research. Before applying for a job, research a company. Know what it does and who its customers are.
  • Prepare a self-introduction. A self-introduction is a chance for candidates to show who they are and why they love to code.

Coding Interview Tips

You passed the phone screen, and the hiring manager wants to conduct the first technical interview. You’ve practiced and researched, and you’re ready. Here’s how to stand out.

  • Be on time. Whether online or in person, be ready to start five to 10 minutes beforehand. Pro tip: Don’t show up too early.
  • Test your hardware and software. For online interviews, make sure that you have headphones, a stable internet connection, and access to a web-based code editor. Take the interview in a quiet place.
  • Communicate. A good hiring manager will ask you about your work, certifications, and training; why you became a coder; and specific projects. This conversation is an important part of the process. In turn, a good candidate works the problem with the hiring team, asking questions and talking it through.
  • Take behavioral and situational questions seriously. For some candidates, these types of questions can be harder than the technical interview. Companies want to know that you’ll be as successful an employee as you are a coder.
  • Ask follow-up questions. As with the self-introduction, follow-up questions show that a candidate is professional and interested in the company, not just the job.

Build Your Technical Skills and Career With Revature

Learning how to prepare for a coding interview is often an important part of being an IT professional, whether your path leads you to a career in software development or a role with fewer coding responsibilities. At Revature, associates learn in-demand skills — ranging from coding languages and business intelligence platforms to teamwork and communication — that are stepping-stones to a successful career. Find out how Revature trains and supports its associates for a rewarding career in tech.

Recommended Readings
Technology Careers: Outlook, Paths, and FAQs
(It’s Always) a Good Day to Hire More Women
How to Compete for Entry-Level Jobs in Software Development
Advice to New Graduates Starting a Career in Technology

Sources:
GitHub, “Interview Process at Google”
Interview Cake, What It’s Like to Interview for a Coding Job
Medium, “6 Extraordinary GitHub Repos for Your Next Coding Interview”
Medium, “10 Essential Topics You Can Prepare to Crack Coding and Programming Job Interviews in 2022”
Silicon Republic, “5 Tips to Help You Ace Your Next Technical Interview”
Tech Interview Handbook, “Coding Interviews: Everything You Need to Prepare”
The Balance Careers, “Technical Interview Questions (With Tips for Answering)”

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