I recently volunteered to help code newbies practice whiteboard interviews, and below are some of the tips I shared that helped me when I was the interviewee, and that I use now to judge candidates as I help interview at work.
- It’s more about your thought process and engagement than it is about getting the right answer.
* Whiteboard interviews are a great way to gauge how someone will work with other engineers on the team. So, see the interviewer as your partner when trying to solve the problem.
- Don’t be defensive.
* When your ideas are challenged, as they oftentimes will be during code reviews, be receptive to feedback. Building great software is all about teamwork, and a defensive attitude when your ideas are challenged communicates that you won’t be a good team member. Always be learning.
- Don’t lie.
* Most of the time, interviewers can tell when you’re pretending to know something you don’t. And honestly, your ability to admit you don’t know something is crucial to your success in this field.
- If you don’t know something, don’t just stop there, ask for an explanation.
* What I like to see when I’ve interviewed candidates is their eagerness to understand something when they’re stuck, rather than just stop. Building software requires you to almost always be learning new tools, so your ability to WANT to understand things is imperative.
- Write your pseudocode in plan sentences describing what you’re going to do, like a list of instructions, without using actual code syntax.
* This reduces the risk of you writing incorrect code syntax, which can cause some interviewers to think you don’t fully understand the basics of the language you’re using.