August 18,2023

Top 5 Tips to Help You Crack Your Next Coding Interview

Sahil Maniar

Founder @Preplaced

Want to crack the coding interviews in MAANG? This brief guide gives you the top 5 tips to help you nail those coding rounds!

Mentor

Are you looking to secure a tech position in MAANG and top-tier tech giants but not sure how to handle those coding interviews? 

With the help of our expert mentors, I have compiled a list of top 5 tips so that cracking the coding interview becomes as easy as pie!

In this blog, I also discuss what kind of strategy you’ll need to succeed. 🎉

Let’s start with the basics and then move on to the specifics: 

  • What happens in coding interviews?
    • How are you evaluated in these rounds?
      • How can you ensure you are preparing the right way? 

        What happens in coding interview rounds?

        Getting shortlisted for the coding rounds is the second phase. 

        The first phase includes an HR round where it is determined if your profile is suitable for the role. 

        Once you move on to the technical rounds, you are expected to solve questions and code in real-time. These rounds are time-bound wherein a window of 30-45 minutes is given to solve one comprehensive problem or a set of short problems. 

        The technical or coding rounds consist of questions on data structures, algorithms, and system design (applicable for senior tech roles). 

        How are you evaluated in these coding rounds?  

        All companies follow certain parameters to assess the technical skills of a candidate. 

        With MAANGs and the top-tier techs, generally, they are evaluated based on the 5 parameters listed below. 

        🟠 Technical knowledge

        This one’s a given.

        Knowledge of various technical aspects of your domain like programming languages and algorithms is the most significant parameter to judge your competency. 

        The interviewers keep an eye out for your knowledge of the basics.

        🟠 Problem-solving skills

        Your approach to a problem and the journey to solving that problem is evaluated thoroughly.

        The interviewers want to see if you are analysing the problem correctly and selecting alternatives to reach the most accurate solution. 

        Along with this, clarity in thinking is another big box to tick on their checklist. 

        🟠 Testing

        Your ability to test and self-correct the errors in your code is also a crucial aspect of the evaluation. 

        The interviewers might nudge or hint you in the right direction, however, they would certainly want to see if you can catch those hints and use them to find the answers.

        🟠 Time-efficiency 

        As you know that in every coding round, there’s a ticking clock hovering over your head.

        Your interviewers want to know how time-efficient you are, and in the given time, how you can demonstrate optimised programming skills. 

        🟠 Soft skills

        Yes, soft skills and communication skills do matter a lot in coding rounds.

        The interviewers observe the way you put across your doubts or solutions.

        They also gauge your overall attitude toward looking at a challenge and your ability to work as a team player. 

        Image

        Ahem!

        (Source: Twitter)

        Now, let’s address the elephant in the room - how can you ensure you are preparing the right way? 

        Tips to help you Crack the Coding Interviews

        Of course, you know this!

        There are no shortcuts to coding interview preparation

        Consistent practise is the key. 

        Also, learn about the MAANG interview processes and practise keeping the same processes in mind. This will truly prepare you for what’s coming. 

        Read these five to-dos and incorporate them into your practice routine to make sure you’re on the right track. 

        1. Select a programming language; go back to basics 

        Some of the most commonly tested programming languages at MAANGs are C++, Java, Python, Ruby and JavaScript. 

        Most companies, except for Google, allow candidates to code in their preferred language. Google coding interviews only include selecting languages from Java, C++, Go, and Python.

        (One pro tip, if you’re interviewing at Google, they’re most likely to test your C++ knowledge.) 

        I would suggest learning and practising the language you are most familiar with. Just stick to your preferred language and practice coding algorithms with the same.

        Picking up a new one would require you to learn it from scratch. In either case, select the language where you get the standard library functions and data structures. 

        Most importantly, have faith in the basics. After all, C++ is the mother of most new languages. And don’t forget to revise your CS fundamentals

        2. First, plan; then practise with the right study resources

        A hell lot of planning goes into interview preparation that results in a beaming success. 

        So, always create a plan before beginning your coding interview preparation

        1. Divide your syllabus according to the time you have left to prepare ✅
          1. Have realistic goals and set a deadline to cover each topic ✅
            1. Set a timer for each problem and monitor your daily progress ✅

              With coding interviews comes overwhelming time pressure. So, do remember to practise with a stopwatch or a timer. 

              Having a period of at least two or three months in your hand will give you ample time to practise your coding skills. 

              Now, when it comes to practice, you want to be 100% sure of your study resources. 

              Here are some of the resources trusted by many:

              • LeetCode
                • HackerRank
                  • CodeChef

                    LeetCode is popularly recommended because it has questions similar to the actual interview variants and is dedicated to tech professionals. 

                    There are some other platforms as well, such as AlgoMonster and Grokking the Coding Interview which are good platforms for understanding question patterns. 

                    GeeksforGeeks and Github are other great places to get your hands on a ton of sample interview questions. 

                    And of course, for past mock interviews, you can always visit Preplaced’s Watch Interviews page or the YouTube channel

                    3. Think out loud, consciously

                    Why is thinking out loud necessary? 

                    As I’ve mentioned before, clarity in thinking is one of the important parameters of evaluation in coding interviews. 

                    Trust me, you should definitely let your self-talk show your thought process when you’re solving a problem. 

                    Imagine yourself going back and forth in your head, as you juggle with possible alternatives to reach a solution. In such a situation, when you voice that process out loud, the interviewer understands your approach easily. 

                    Most MAANG interviewers believe in enabling and helping a candidate such as yourself. 

                    And thinking out loud reflects your ability to be open or transparent about your problem-solving approach. It provides room for improvement or correction in your approach. 

                    So, while solving the questions, practise speaking as if you are explaining your problem-solving process. This will definitely help you get your approach validated by the interviewer.

                    4. Single out your interview phases while preparing

                    Take tiny steps. Go through the interview phases in your mind one by one. 

                    👉 Introduction phase

                    Start with a good self-introduction. Know exactly what to say and practise introducing yourself before the interview.

                    Do keep it short and simple. 💫

                    👉 Coding phase

                    Cracking a coding interview is not just about writing code clearly. Of course, you have to make sure to write code that is properly formatted and easy to understand.

                    But you also have got to be a good listener and be extremely focused and attentive to the question. 

                    If you don’t understand the question, ask and ask again. 

                    Once you have understood the question, repeat it to the interviewer for clarity.

                    Do ask follow-up questions about:

                    • Size of the input
                      • Range of values
                        • Types of values present
                          • Any duplicates present or other clarifying questions. 

                            Once you are sure about the question, move ahead by explaining your approach. If you are stuck, try a different approach and explain why you are doing this. 

                            After you have finished coding, review it before submitting it to rectify any errors.

                            Coding interviews generally focus on data structures and algorithms. Strings, binary trees, arrays, linked lists, stacks, queues, and dynamic programming are common concepts that are evaluated. 

                            The choice of topics also depends on the role you are applying for and the skills required.

                            👉 The last phase

                            When you are done with all the coding interview rounds, there will come a time when you are one asking questions. 

                            It’s best to prepare a list of questionnaires and keep it right next to you when that time comes. 

                            Do ask for feedback!

                            Not a lot of candidates do that. When you show the eagerness to learn where you might have gone wrong, it reflects your positive attitude and the ability to work on your weaknesses. 

                            You can ask questions about the role, team and the company. 

                            Very important: Thank the interviewer for their time. And follow up with the interviewer about your candidature on LinkedIn. 

                            5. Experience a coding interview before the actual interview 

                            This is a pro tip for all the beginners out there. If you’re going for your first ever coding interview, please go for a mock interview first. 

                            You can’t imagine how many different ways a mock interview will help you. 

                            You can ask your peers or seniors to conduct a mock interview for you, but it has to be done in a professional manner. 

                            The best thing to do this is by finding a mentor for yourself. 

                            Mock interviews will prove to be extremely helpful for experienced professionals as well. If you want to level yourself up to the MAANG coding interview level, you will definitely need guidance from someone who’s worked at MAANG before. 

                            When you’re stuck with a problem, a mentor is someone who will provide continuous, honest feedback which will help you improve rather quickly. 

                            With consistent interview practice with your mentor, you can polish your coding skills, gain different perspectives and adopt various approaches to solving problems. 

                            The cherry on top is a huge confidence boost you’ll get when you get into the habit of nailing those practice interviews! 🔥

                            One final piece of advice 

                            I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again.

                            Don’t jump into preparation without planning. 

                            Your interview preparation efforts need a clear roadmap, a strategy. This strategy needs a goal-driven approach. Your goals need to be SMART and their execution, consistent. 

                            If you follow my tips and advice religiously, you will be interview-ready in a matter of a couple of months. 

                            If you have any follow-up questions for me, feel free to write a question to my support team or you can also connect with me on LinkedIn

                            I hope you really crush those coding interviews. 

                            Cheers! 🙌

                            Sahil Maniar

                            Founder @Preplaced