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6 tips to succeed in our coding interviews

Some advice on how to proceed when facing a technical interview where you are asked to code like ours.

Here at Intent HQ we deal with code on a daily basis (is there any software engineering team who doesn’t?). So, when we are about to hire somebody, her ability to write code is probably the skill we will take into account the most. That’s why we do have a coding interview in our process.

We know that sometimes candidates feel insecure and nervous when they are facing a code interview. We understand those feelings (we’ve been doing code interviews all our lives too), so we try to make you as comfortable as possible with rules like:

And, most of all, we understand that being watched by three guys while you’re coding is not the ideal coding environment, so we adjust our expectations.

In the past years we’ve seen some average candidates cracking the code interview while some great ones were failing miserabily in that task. That’s why we wanted to share some tips that should allow you to succeed in our coding interview.

Keep calm

Yep, we know, it’s easier said than done. But think a bit about it:

Also, we promise you we are not monsters and won’t bite you (well, at least most of us).

Don’t be shy, ask questions!

Sometimes you may feel that asking a question will make you look [insert-negative-adjective-here] in front of the interviewers. This is not true1, asking questions will make you look, well, just like somebody who is not afraid to ask questions. Also, asking the right questions can be a great help in solving the kata and, who knows, maybe it will make you look [insert-positive-adjective-here] in front of your audience2.

Explain what you are doing

Sometimes your coding will be self explanatory, but there will be other moments when you will just be thinking about how to approach a problem, or trying to remember what the name of that really useful method was.

Try to explain what you are doing and thinking as much as you can. It’s really useful for us to understand what’s going on in your head and to know why you are doing X and not Y. Not only this, we may be able to help you telling you the name of that method you forgot!

Think before you code

It may seem obvious, but we’ve seen candidates that looked like they were programming by trial and error: “does 5 work? and 6? maybe it’s 7?”.

Don’t ever do that, not in a tech interview, not while playing with a new language, not when coding production code.

Every change you do should be driven by some reasoning and expectations. “I think this change will fix that test because of X”. In case your brain works so fast that it may look like you are not reasoning, follow the previous tip and explain what you are doing.

Show your strengths, do what you know best

We’ve already stressed that coding is one of the things you do best, so we are presenting an excellent opportunity to show off.

Focus on simplicity and on what you know best. Don’t try fancy things you just read yesterday on HN, do what you’ve been doing solidly in the past years.

Listen to your interviewers

We can’t emphasise how important this is. We really want you to be our next hire so during the interview we will be trying to help you by giving you hints, tips or advice. Listen to us, it will be to your benefit.

 

We promise we will try not to ask cliched questions3

Five years by xkcd

Notes

Image of computer by Christiaan Colen is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

  1. There is no such thing as a stupid question

  2. “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers” Pierre-Marc-Gaston, duc de Lévis

  3. Cartoon by xkcd

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