While similar in some ways to software development, live coding interviews demand a unique approach. In everyday software development, you build knowledge and experience over time, getting more proficient each day.
In a live coding interview, you’ll be expected to showcase your grasp of essential software development concepts, as well as data structures and algorithms, all within a time frame of roughly 45 minutes. Most data structures and algorithms are actually the first thing implemented in any language, so it’s extremely rare for a software developer to re implement a data structure in the day to day job. Although challenging, live coding interviews are an essential part of the software development world, and preparation is crucial to success.
Here are some of my strategies for preparing for live coding interviews.
Use Leetcode Premium
The cost will pay for itself when you land a job with a pay increase. This justification can be used for most learning materials that you might want to purchase during your job search.
Read the solutions
Attempting to solve the practice problems on Leetcode right away is a huge waste of time and headache. Don’t spend hours attempting to solve the problems. At first it’s ok to just read the solutions. Eventually you will feel bored because all the solutions start to sound the same. Thats a good time to try to solve one yourself. Starting on “easy mode” is key.
Recognize Problems that are Iterations of Other Problems
All the problems that are asked in coding interviews are usually iterations of leetcode problems, and all leetcode problems are iterations of each other. Even the hard problems on leetcode are just 2 or 3 easy problems combined. Gaining mastery in easier problems can help facilitate a more rapid and straightforward understanding of harder problems.
Practice System Design
Practicing system design will help you understand the bigger picture before going into a live coding interview.
Resources: Book: System Design Interview – An Insider’s Guide: Volume 2 by Alex Xu (Author), Sahn Lam (Author)
Youtube: “System Design Interview” channel
Be Polite and Genuine
You will likely get frustrated when you get stuck in an interview. Its ok to get stuck briefly as long as you are able to get unstuck yourself without relying on the interviewer for help. In this competitive market, if you ask for help in the interview even once, you will probably miss out on the opportunity.
Don’t get Discouraged
There are many companies out there, even if you totally fail at 100 interviews all you need is to do well 1 time and you can get a job offer. I’ve failed live coding interviews more times than I can remember. But at a certain point you will be so practiced at them that you will start to ace every coding interview and get multiple competing offers.
Good luck, You can do it!