How to prepare for a technical interview (and “live coding”​ part) for a Software Engineer role?

How to prepare for a technical interview (and "live coding"​ part) for a Software Engineer role? by Ela Moscicka. Helping you land a job in tech:

When I was working in Microsoft as a Tech Recruiter I’ve been helping candidates by sharing with them tips on how to prepare for their technical/ live coding interviews. While there’s a lot of resources that you can find online, most of the time people get confused and are unsure how their technical interviews will look like.

In my article, I’m focusing on 3 stages of a hiring process and sharing advice that has helped many people prepare in the past.
I’m sure that the below tips will be helpful for you as well and you’ll rock your interview process!

Before the technical (live coding) interviews:

1. Your technical interview will be (most probably) after the meeting with a Recruiter / Talent Sourcer, so use this opportunity to ask him/her what you can expect during the technical part:
  • Who will be interviewing you (is this technical person / Software Engineer from the team you want to work in?)

  • How long will the interview last?

  • Will it be only the theoretical part (questions) or you can expect “live coding” (if yes, in what programming language can you write your solution? Can you use your IDE?)

  • Should you review any additional materials?

  • Additional questions – you might be interested in knowing:
    – What are the next steps in the recruitment process?
    – Will I receive some materials from you so I can prepare?
    – How my work will look like?
    – How many Engineers are on this team? Will I work only with them or maybe with PMs, Designers, etc?
    – What technology stack do you use?
    – Do you offer flexible working hours?
    – How does a career path look like?
    & more. If you forgot to ask your questions, you should always have an option to get back to Recruiter / Talent Sourcer or ask them during the next steps.
  • Make sure to choose the most convenient time for a technical interview (the best time is before/after working hours when you’ll be at home and nobody will disturb you).

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2. Practice, practice, practice…
  • Review all the additional information you’ve received. If you have asked for it and still didn’t receive any, ask yourself do you want to continue with interviewing (for me it would be a “red flag” and I’d think twice before going forward). If you want to proceed, visit e.g., the website, where you can find questions that may appear during the interview.
  • Practice your coding skills – no matter if you’ve got 1+ or 10+ years of experience as a Developer, it’s always good to take some time and prepare (especially if you know that you’ll be asked to code!). A limited amount of time and/or stress can make it harder for you to concentrate. There’re plenty of websites where you can check your programming skills.
    You can also ask a more experienced colleague to help you and do a “mock interview” with you.

Below you can read about my first ever mock interview – it helped me boost my confidence and understand the areas where I need more preparation 🙂

  • Some companies will test your Algorithms and Data Structures knowledge so make sure to refresh them as well.

  • Prepare your questions: you may just want to know more about technologies that will be used, a product that you’ll be working on, or just found out about the teammates? By asking questions you show interviewers that you’re interested in the role!

Check my 2 articles where I shared additional tips:
“Questions to ask in a job interview” and the
“Interview preparation checklist”.

During the technical interviews/”live coding” part:

  • After receiving a task, do not start right away with coding. First, make sure that you understood what is expected of you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek clarification!
    I’ve seen many candidates who failed live coding because they either didn’t understand the task or didn’t ask enough questions and just made some assumptions – never do that.
  • Be communicative while writing a code. As you’re probably being interviewed by your future colleague, he/she needs to understand your ways of thinking while solving a problem, what kind of approach you take, would you be a good fit for the team, etc. And staying silent does not help in that.
  • Listen to what the interviewer is saying. They’ll probably try to help you when you’ll be stuck or your solution won’t be going in the right direction.

  • Think about edge cases.

  • Test your code.

After the interviews:

After the interview, I highly recommend you take some time to write down questions and task(s) you have received. You can then go one more time through them while you’re at home and think about other possible solutions/answers. This can help you a lot in the future!

Pro Tip: someone from the recruitment team should always get back to you with feedback, but don’t be afraid to reach out yourself and ask for the outcome of the recruitment process.

Good luck!

P.S as always I’ll be happy to read your comments.

Thanks for reading & have a nice day,

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9 thoughts on “How to prepare for a technical interview (and “live coding”​ part) for a Software Engineer role?

  1. Really enjoyed reading the article. Thorough discussion on interviews. Would be grateful if you could drop something similar for students as well 🙂
    Thank you Ela!

  2. Those are very useful tips. I very much enjoyed reading your article. Now feeling all powered up, let’s look up some offers 🙂
    Dziękuję, Ela.

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