4 Things to Remember for Your Next Technical Interview
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technical interview questionsI recently had an interview 5 Video Channels For Learning Basic Job Interview Skills 5 Video Channels For Learning Basic Job Interview Skills Read More (for a summer internship) for which I was told beforehand I needed to bring a pencil in case there were technical interview questions to do with coding. I was particularly nervous about the last bit but soon enough, Google winded down my nervousness a bit. I scoured the web for any type of prep material and was glad to find many sources of guidance for situations like mine.

If you’re soon facing a technical job interview, here are a few resources you should probably check out before the big day.

Find Out What NOT To Say Or Do

technical interview questions

This really applies to all types of job interviews, not just programming job interviews. I think it’s safe to say that you should really think your answer through before you blurt anything out or do anything. That’s quite common sense, but when you’re nervous, it’s easy to blank out and forget things. Well, you’re not alone.

There’s a relevant discussion on Stack Overflow called “What is the worst interviewee answer?” where you’ll see a lot of amusing things interviewees have said or done. Here are samples from the poll:

I can’t tell you how often this happens in phone interviews: Me: [asks interview question about a specific technology]
Them: [repeats question as I can hear them typing]
[short delay]
[I hear a “ding” from IE when Google gives them a list of pages, “click”]
Them: [reads from a webpage]
Me: OK, well, thank you for your time. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

That was the top voted poll answer. Lesson to take away – don’t cheat. Surprised?

Here’s another one:

I’ll never forget it. I said…
“So tell me a bit about yourself…
and he replied…
“I recently invented the div inside a span.”
He had it listed on his resume too – just like that – invented it.

You probably should NOT say you invented invalid markup. Just a thought.

Here’s another simple thing you should not say:

“Will you write out a little function for me on the whiteboard here?”
“No.”

Not putting a lot of effort into an interview might just bite you back later on. Lying on an interview might also bite you back.

The setup: “I’m an expert web programmer, was a DBA for a few years, lots of background in security, yeah I know all about that
The lowball: “Okay, so how would you go about preventing SQL Injection?”
The fumble: “Weeell, thats not really the type of thing I’ve ever dealt with….what is it exactly?”

For more responses, be sure to visit the original poll. Though you may feel tempted to mock some of the poll responses, just remember that when nervousness strikes on the big day, it’s not all fun and games anymore. What you can do before the big interview is realize that there are actual lessons to be learned from these funny responses.

Find Out What Coding Questions To Expect

technical interview

There’s no guarantee that you will receive a coding question 8 Websites To Get Tips On Job Interview Questions & Answers 8 Websites To Get Tips On Job Interview Questions & Answers Read More that’s been posted on the web but if you can answer some of the ones that have been asked and shared online, you might have a better chance of not freezing during this part of the interview.

Here are a few sample coding questions:

“Coding exercise: return the summation of a list of line-separated numbers from a text file.”
Give a one-line C expression to test whether a number is a power of 2. [No loops allowed – it’s a simple test.]
“How would you count the number of words in a string consisting of uneven number of spaces between words( not dictionary words)? With and without library functions.”

Test yourself with more questions on GlassDoor and Kundan Singh’s website, the latter of which also provides excellent general strategies for technical interviews. Don’t assume all data is given to you during a coding question, think out loud, etc.

If you want actual books on the topic, here are a few titles that have been recommended (links lead to Amazon):

Get A Refresher In C/C++/etc. And Logic

technical interview questions

If the last tip revealed that you are rusty in a programming language, here are a few places that will help you get a refresher or crashing course. The book, Programming Pearls (2nd edition) is a classic book that has been recommended quite a bit since it has lots of exercises and tutorials in C and C++ to help you think like a programmer. James also is posting a course here on MakeUseOf The Basics Of Computer Programming 101 - Variables And DataTypes The Basics Of Computer Programming 101 - Variables And DataTypes Having introduced and talked a little about Object Oriented Programming before and where its namesake comes from, I thought it's time we go through the absolute basics of programming in a non-language specific way. This... Read More , so go check that out. There are also Top 5 Websites for Java Application Examples Top 5 Websites for Java Application Examples Read More many Top 5 Websites To Learn How To Hack Like A Pro Top 5 Websites To Learn How To Hack Like A Pro You might be surprised to learn just how many people want to learn how to hack. The stereotype is that of the young college guy - a computer science major for sure - who spends... Read More websites 6 Free Sites To Learn About Programming in PHP 6 Free Sites To Learn About Programming in PHP Read More with Top 5 Sites To Learn CSS Online Top 5 Sites To Learn CSS Online Read More tutorials Learn The Ruby Programming Language While Having Fun With Hackety Hack Learn The Ruby Programming Language While Having Fun With Hackety Hack Read More (and even video tutorials! 14+ YouTube Playlists To Watch & Learn Computer Programming Quickly 14+ YouTube Playlists To Watch & Learn Computer Programming Quickly With the advent and growth of YouTube and plenty of other high-quality video-sharing websites and tools like flashcard software, learning new things visually by yourself has never been easier. Since it never hurts to learn... Read More ) that you can review.

For actual coding practice, a site that I haven’t seen talked about anywhere but that my Java professor had us frequent a lot is CodingBat. It’s a site with simple (and sometimes difficult!) coding exercises in Java and Python. For practice with your logic thinking skills, Project Euler has lots of logic/coding challenges.

Find Out What The Overall Interview Experience Might Be Like

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There’s a lot of people that have blogged about their overall experiences while being interviewed for corporations like Microsoft and Google. Even if you’re not interviewing with precisely these companies, your technical interview experience may be similar. Here are a few blog posts of interest:

There are plenty more if you search around. From these posts, you’ll find out that the candidates had a lot of preparation beforehand. The other thing you’ll learn is that the interview process lasts some strenuous 6 hours or more. There are other little things that will help you get a feel for what to expect during on-site interviews, which come after the initial screening interviews. Regardless of how far you get in the interview process, it’s always good to know that there are similar people in your shoes that have survived these interviews, and it is always interesting to read their experiences.

I unfortunately didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for my interview, so I invite you to prepare yourself now with the steps outlined and get lots of practice 8 Online Programming Contests That You Can Challenge Yourself To Win 8 Online Programming Contests That You Can Challenge Yourself To Win Read More in logic and coding problems.

Have you had a technical or programming interview before and wish to share your experience? Let us know in the comments!

Image credits: Ambrophoto, Andre Blais, winnond, kentoh

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  1. Tim bain
    November 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    My buddy went to an interview, he's been a pretty highly paid programmer working freelance for a few years now and when we asked how it went he said "They asked a lot of questions I used to know the answer to like :A bat and a ball cost £1.10p, the bat costs a pound more than the ball so how much was the ball?..stupid question but i couldn't remember the answer so i said 10p. Dunno why they bother with silly questions like that" He missed the point completely, if he had thought the answer was 10p and quickly checked his simple figures he'd have instantly noticed it couldn't be right and would never have said 10p, he'd know the right answer ...so based on that impression he wouldn't be much for checking the code he wrote either.
    Same guy once worked for a major university for a 6 month contract and when asked how it was going...admitted he'd been playing Doom online for the whole period and had done almost nothing, and recently he got the boot from a very large bank midway through a contract...leading us to assume that it's just a matter of time until we insert our card into the AtM and it proclaims "Player one start, 3 lives remaining" :))

    • Jessica Cam W.
      November 11, 2011 at 3:50 am

      I guess a few lessons from your buddies' experiences are:

      - If the answer to a logic question on a technical interview seems too easy, it probably is.

      - If you get the job, try hard to keep it!

  2. Justin9
    November 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Loved the article. Hope u nailed the interview and got the job ....!!!

    • Jessica Cam W.
      November 11, 2011 at 3:45 am

      Thanks, Justin! My fingers are crossed!

  3. Richard Servello
    November 10, 2011 at 2:02 am

    I work in a tech field (visual fx artist), so I don't tend to get coding questions but I do get a lot of practical questions and software/technique questions.  I've found that as long as you know what you are talking about your good.

    • Jessica Cam W.
      November 11, 2011 at 3:36 am

      Thanks for the insight, Richard. It's always good to receive advice from people that work in the field!