I've got my first coding interview...any advice?

Hi, all. First I want to say that the time I’ve spent on free code camp has been the most valuable time spent in a long time. I’ve been on here for exactly one month, spending hours upon hours working at digesting as much information as possible and today I was confirmed for my first coding interview.

With that being said, has anybody got any advice. I intend for the next 48hrs (that’s how long I have until my interview) to be spent immersing myself in as much information as possible to prepare myself for the coding portion of the interview and would love to know what to focus on if anybody has any advice or has been through a coding interview, I’d love to hear their story.

Going to quote myself because I’m lazy and maybe a narcissist.

Attitude is so important

My personal tagline is “You’d be surprised how far stubbornness and enthusiasm can get you.” So much of job-hunting comes down to the impression you make. I know how hard it is to stay positive, but you gotta fake it. Don’t complain or trash-talk (including yourself), even jokingly. Physically smile when you’re on the phone. Smile during your interviews. Chose phasing like “I look forward to hearing from you soon” and “Hopefully I made a good impression, because I’m excited to move forward.” There’s a line between anticipating success and sounding cocky (I’ve crossed it), but people are attracted to happiness and are really very suggestible.

Dealing with those skills you don't have

I mentioned above that every job I applied for listed skills or experiences I didn’t have. How do I deal with that? I don’t try to learn the technology, but I do try to learn about it. In the initial phone screening, I find out what tools/languages/etc they actually use. Between then and the next conversation I educate myself on what that technology is, how it’s used, and why people choose it. Then I am totally honest (but with a positive spin). “What do you know about TypeScript?” “I’ve never worked on a project that used TypeScript, but my understanding is that it allows you to use JavaScript in a way that is more familiar for Java programmers by providing strict typing and tools for object oriented patterns. I can definitely see the appeal!”

Acknowledge your nerves and concerns

I always make a point of admitting my nervousness, especially since I am also working so hard not to act like I’m nervous. When the interviewer asks me how I am I say something like “Oh, you know, super nervous but excited to be here.” If there are specific weaknesses that worry me, I try to address those too. “I’m a little concerned that you’re looking for someone with a lot of C++ experience. While I’m confident in my ability to learn it quickly, I have to admit that I’ve barely touched it so far.”

Say "I don't know" with a smile

You won’t know how to answer every question. Don’t get hung up on it. If you get hung up on it, they’ll get hung up on it. If you think you can guess the answer, tell them that it’s an inference. If you are sure you used to know it and you brain-fart admit that. If you just don’t know, say that. Acknowledge it with a smile and act like it’s a little embarrassing but perfectly understandable that you don’t have an answer, because it is.

When you're whiteboarding, just keep talking

There’s lots of good advice out there on how to approach live coding challenges (the jargon for this is “whiteboarding” because traditionally they give you a challenge and ask you to solve it for them on a whiteboard without a computer). The only thing I’ll emphasize here is my own major “lesson learned”: silence is your enemy. I lead with “I’m going to say a lot of garbage, because I’m just trying to talk out my thought process” and then I do. Pretend you’re talking to yourself. Propose and reject ideas. Ask yourself questions and answer them.

Interview the job

Don’t walk into an interview with less that 20 intelligent questions to ask. There’s lots of reasons for this.

  • You genuinely want to know if the job is right for you.
  • It demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about.
  • It shows that you are interested in the work, the company, and the people. If you have any interest in the job, always make that very clear.
  • It changes the tone to more of a conversation. Interviews can feel like being put on the witness stand in Law & Order. Really, you and the job should be getting to know each other.
  • It communicates confidence and an expectation of success.

Thanks so much for your reply…I read the entire post and I wish I’d seen in a while back. I’ve been job hunting (not just in coding for about 5 months now) and I felt all the emotions that you said you felt. Frustrated, like I wasn’t adequate and that I should just go back to bartending. It made me feel a little more confident about where I am at. I think your points are fantastic. I think I need to go in and portray myself as somebody who has the ability to learn everything they need me to know very quickly versus somebody that knows everything and then crumbles during the technical part.

Thanks so much!

I’ve never interviewed for a developer job but one piece of advice I’ve seen online is to not get caught in “code trivia” i.e. the trivial rapid fire trick questions they’re going to ask you. The questions are meant to be tricky and it can get overwhelming. I read that instead of answering 100 trick questions you should find a way to tie something you worked on into your answer. For example if a question is about scope show them code you’ve written and use the code via github to explain how scope is working within your program. This pulls you away from the rapid fire questions, slows it down, and lets them see your actual work instead of just a brief answer.

You can come off being experienced and avoid answering so many trick questions by taking your time in answering them.