Coding interviews require a bit more preparation than most job interviews. Tech employers need to confirm that you have the coding chops to thrive in the position they’re trying to fill. As a result, you’ll be expected to answer basic coding questions and solve coding problems, either on an at-home test or on a whiteboard during the interview.
One of Ben Franklin’s adages was “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The best way to ace a coding interview is to walk into it well prepared. Before your interview, take the time to follow through on these five essential steps:
- Do your due diligence: Start by researching the company to understand its business and culture. Review the specifics of your potential job position. Your education and experience will speak for themselves, but you need to be able to present yourself and your past work projects in the most appealing light. Your goal is to demonstrate why you’re the best fit for this particular job.
- Hold mock interviews: Have a friend conduct an interview to help you prepare for the real interview. Draft a list of questions an interviewer is likely to ask about your qualifications and skills and practice answering the questions.
- Practice connecting with your interviewer: An interview is a conversation, so in your practice interviews, be sure to keep up your end of the conversation by smiling when appropriate, maintaining eye contact, and engaging in small talk. Find opportunities to let your personality shine through, such as discussing your professional or personal interests.
- Refresh your foundational knowledge: Brush up on your understanding of coding basics, including data structures, arrays, trees, hash tables, and heaps.
- Be prepared for a coding challenge: Take practice tests to familiarize yourself with common coding interview challenges. Coderbyte, Codewars, and other websites offer a wide range of coding challenges that will help you hone your skills.
Algorithms are a crucial part of coding interviews that can trip up some candidates. No matter what programming language you use, a coding interview will include questions to assess your knowledge of data structure, algorithms, and optimization. It’s a good idea to brush up on algorithms and other coding basics before your interview. Code testing platforms, websites, and YouTube videos can help you learn or review coding basics.
To get you started, here are five types of algorithms that commonly arise in coding interviews:
- Binary search: This algorithm helps run a sorted input list faster. Don’t overlook that a binary search can be performed using either an iterative or a recursive method.
- Graph search: These algorithms work on trees and certain graphs. The primary graph search algorithms to know are depth-first graph traversal, breadth-first graph traversal, Dijkstra’s algorithm, and A*.
- Sorting: Common sorting algorithms include merge sort, quick sort, bubble sort, insertion sort, and selection sort.
- Tree traversal: This type of algorithm enables you to visit every node in a tree in a structured order. The two major algorithms to refresh your memory are depth-first search and breadth-first search.
- Dynamic programming: These algorithms remove the need for recursive calling. The primary dynamic programming algorithms are ugly numbers, Fibonacci numbers, binomial coefficient, and permutation coefficient.
Here’s a long list of potential algorithm interview questions that you should consider studying before your interview.
A quick online search will yield plenty of lists of common algorithm and data structure questions. Here are five top sample questions that you may encounter in a coding interview:
- What are the differences between a stack and an array?
- How would you remove duplicate elements from an array in Java?
- When should you apply a binary search?
- How would you implement a postorder tree traversal recursion?
- How would you detect and remove a loop in a linked list?
Preparing for a coding interview can be hard work, but the results are well worth it. With proper preparation, you’ll not only boost your odds of getting a good job but also learn the skills you need to advance your career. If you have coding job interviews coming up, consider the tips outlined above and adapt them to suit your needs to ensure you’re ready and able to handle whatever your job interview entails. And check out our other resources for additional help in your job search.
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