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Cracking the Tech Career: Insider Advice on Landing a Job at Google, Microsoft, Apple, or any Top Tech Company by Gayle Laakmann McDowell

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12The Programming Interview

If you're applying for a software development position, you've got a special set of skills to prepare. Yes, you'll be asked to code. No, you don't get a computer (usually)—just a whiteboard, or sometimes just a sheet of paper. Whiteboard and interviewing coding requires a special set of skills. Even the best coders can bomb coding questions.

A typical software development interview consists of a little bit of conversation at the beginning about your prior experience, and a little bit at the end about the company. The bulk of the interview is spent on coding and algorithm questions.

Coding questions can be very quick, but will often take up the full interview time. You're not expected to be a flawless coder. Most questions are tricky enough that even the best candidates make a few mistakes.

What's the Point?

Coding interviews are a sore spot for many job seekers. What's the point of coding on a whiteboard? Don't they know that you can code by looking at your prior experience? And why do they force you to use a whiteboard rather than a computer? After all, you can't possibly be expected to write correct code on a whiteboard.

When asking, employers will usually make one or more of the following points:

  • By coding on a whiteboard, you're encouraged to have a conversation with your interviewer. This helps the interviewer understand how you're thinking.
  • Coding on a whiteboard encourages you to focus on the meat of the algorithm and code, rather than getting ...

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