Getting Ready For A Software Interview

The First Steps for Getting Ready

In this article and the next few, we’ll talk about what to do to prepare for the interview. This article will center on the things you need to do to make the process as painless as possible. In the next article, we’ll discuss in depth how to practice well before interviewing. The goal here is to practice until the real thing feels easier than the practice.

Search for Common Questions and Problems

Here’s a secret that the folks interviewing you won’t tell you—interviewers are busy people. The fact that we’re hiring is evidence that there is more stuff to do than we can get done. We don’t have time to put a lot of thought into creating new interview questions and whiteboard problems. If we feel that the rest of our interviewing practices are good enough, we can just do an Internet search to find some suitable questions and problems. So, it’s in your best interest to do an Internet search for questions as well.

Start off by searching for “Interview Questions for [framework/language/platform/database]

where the items in brackets are the framework(s), language(s), platform(s), and database(s) that you will likely be working with for your job. For instance, if you are an ASP.NET developer using Angular and SQL Server, you might make separate searches for the following:

  • ASP.NET interview questions
  • C# interview questions
  • Angular interview questions
  • SQL Server interview questions
  • IIS Interview questions

Make sure you can answer the most common questions you find with these searches, as you probably will be seeing them again. If you have to research the answers, take the time to do so, because this will help you get through the interview long enough to get to the parts where you can truly differentiate yourself. It will also help you a little bit later if you actually practice with a whiteboard. If you see any short coding problems here, hang on to them for later.

This whole thing may feel like cheating. However, the idea here isn’t to memorize the answers; the idea is to internalize them. Not only can these answers help you in the interview, but there are pretty good odds that you’ll use the information in your job as well. You have tools that can help you—use them.

FizzBuzz

There is a particular type of whiteboard problem that is used a lot and is perfect for early practice with the whiteboard. That problem is known as FizzBuzz. First proposed by Joel Spolsky, FizzBuzz is a very basic coding exercise that shows you at least have the beginnings of thinking like a programmer. By itself, it’s not enough to prove that you can code in a real environment, but it is still used to screen job applicants.

Besides being simple enough to start with, FizzBuzz offers a number of other advantages. For one, there are versions for most programming languages, and if there aren’t, you can probably still figure it out without much trouble. Second, FizzBuzz problems in another programming language are still understandable, even if your friends don’t program in the same language as you do. This makes it easier to find a practice partner for the whiteboard. Finally, FizzBuzz does show familiarity with things like loops, the console, arithmetic operators, and strings.

Again, do an Internet search and get the basic outline of FizzBuzz in your language of choice and set it aside. We’ll be using it in article as a code kata.

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