How to prepare for the Technical Interview

This resource will cover how to prepare for the technical interview required for acceptance into the Software Engineer Track.

Overview

In the technical interview, we try to get a feel for how you work through problems and communicate about code. This will include solo timed coding challenges along with some pair programming. You may use Ruby, JavaScript, or Python.

Watch these short videos to learn more:

Technical Prep

We strongly recommend completing the Intro to Programming I and Intro to Programming II courses before your interview. This is essential because concepts from the courses may show up in the interview.

The courses include practice problems and video walkthroughs to help you practice your new skills. Make sure you can solve all the problems in 15 minutes or less. Beyond just coding a solution, you will also need to explain your approach in detail. Our video walkthroughs provide a guide for how to verbalize code and strategy clearly.

CodePair

We use HackerRank’s CodePair platform, a browser-based text editor with integrated video chat. It is best if you use Chrome or Firefox as your browser.

We will email you a link to join the CodePair interview room at the scheduled interview time.

The CodePair environment has a feature to run your code. You may use it, but you shouldn’t rely on it. If you want to run your code in the interview, ask your interviewer and be sure you know exactly what you expect the code to output. Also be prepared to debug any error messages you might get.

The interview is closed-book (no notes or external websites). You may ask your interviewer questions related to syntax or your general approach to a problem.

Pair Programming

Students do a lot of collaborative work in our program, so we will do some pair programming with you in the interview to see how well you work with others. It’s also good to try it out since it’s something we do a lot of in our program.

Driving and Navigating

Start by watching this introductory video.

In pair programming, two programmers work together at one workstation. The driver types at the keyboard while the navigator directs the driver.

The foundation of pair programming is communication. Both partners should always be on the same page. The navigator directs the driver, but the driver will often need clarification about what the navigator intends for them to do, and any disagreements should be talked through.

Driving

     
  1. Listen to the navigator’s instructions. If you disagree with the instruction, talk it through with them, but ultimately they are the one to decide.
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  3. You should understand the code you’re typing. Don’t just blindly follow directions. You can ask them to explain the strategy to you.
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  5. Be patient. Give your partner some time to come up with a plan of action, even if you have an idea of what you want to do next.
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  7. If the navigator gets stuck, talk through it with them. You can make suggestions, ask for clarification, and even challenge them a little bit. Remember that the key is communication.

Navigating

     
  1. Be engaged. Your driver is waiting to execute your algorithm, so do your best to lead in a good direction.
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  3. Ask questions. Navigating doesn’t mean you have to know exactly what to do at any given time. Part of what makes pair programming great is that you can talk it through with your partner and give each other ideas.
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  5. Be patient. If the driver doesn’t understand, explain the strategy it to ensure you’re both on the same page.
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  7. Don’t micromanage. Your driver understands how to code - you don’t have to dictate the exact code for them to type. Try for something higher-level like, “Make an if block with condition X,” or “Let’s create a loop that uses method Y to do Z.”

Tech Interview Checklist

     
  • Complete Intro to Programming I and Intro to Programming II on App Academy Open.
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  • Work with the practice problems until you can consistently solve them in 15 minutes or less without running your code until the end.
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  • Practice talking through your solutions the way we do in the video walkthroughs. Try explaining your solution to someone else, even if they don’t know any code. Get feedback from them.
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  • Practice debugging. You will probably run into bugs during the interview and your ability to diagnose and fix them on the fly says a lot about your coding ability.
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  • Practice tracking every variable at throughout your code.
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  • If you have the opportunity, practice pair-programming with someone who knows how to code.
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  • Review the pairing video.
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  • If you do not have one of them already, download Chrome or Firefox.
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