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Is Cracking the Coding Interview Book still worth it?

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is cracking the coding interview book worth it

Hello devs, if you are preparing for a technical programming and coding interview and wondering whether the classic Cracking the Coding Interview book by Gayle Laakmann McDowell still worth it in 2024 then you have come to the right place.

This was one of the first books I used to prepare for coding interviews and due to its focus on evergreen topics, I am happy to say that it's still relevant, but whether it's good enough now is another question, which we will find in this article.

In the past, I have shared best books and courses for coding interviews where I mentioned this book and today, I am going to review this book in depth.

I first came across this book many years ago when there were no online courses for coding interviews. At that time this book was the holy grail for coding interview preparation but things have changed a lot since then.

Nowadays both coding interview has changed and you also have access to notch online courses on coding interviews like this Master the Coding Interview: Big Tech (FAANG) Interviews by Andrei Negaoie or Grokking Coding interview courses on DesignGuru, and many others, so the big question comes whether Cracking the Coding Interview book still worth it or not?

The short answer to this question is that Cracking the Coding interview book is still relevant because it focuses on evergreen topics like data structure and algorithms, behavior interviews, and general tips to do well on interviews that have not changed much, but focus on topics like System design have increased exponentially and that's where this book lack.

In the coming section, I will share my review of this course and also suggest alternative courses, books, and tutorials that you can join or read to fill the gaps and prepare better for your next coding interview.

What is Cracking the Coding Interview book?

The "Cracking the Coding Interview" is a comprehensive guide written by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, a former software engineer at Google.

The book is tailored for individuals preparing for technical interviews, particularly in the fields of software engineering and computer science.

It is widely regarded as one of the go-to resources for anyone aiming to succeed in competitive coding interviews conducted by top technology companies.

In the dynamic landscape of the tech industry, staying ahead in the competitive job market often hinges on a candidate's ability to navigate the challenging terrain of technical interviews. "Cracking the Coding Interview" by Gayle Laakmann McDowell has long been considered a cornerstone in the arsenal of aspiring software engineers and computer scientists preparing for such interviews.

If you don't know Gayle Laakmann McDowell is one of the most famous tech authors when it comes to interviews and has written many popular and best selling books like Cracking the PM Interview, Cracking the PM Career, and Cracking the Tech Career

She has also worked as an engineer for Google, Microsoft, and Apple, the top 3 technology companies on anyone's list. Most recently, at Google, she served on the hiring committee where she interviewed hundreds of candidates and evaluated thousands more.

It was here that she discovered the disconnect between candidates, their skill set, and their interview performance and that's what shows in her book.

As we step into 2024, a critical question emerges: Is "Cracking the Coding Interview" still relevant? Is it worth the investment of time and effort?

In this review, we'll explore the enduring relevance of this book, considering its strengths, potential limitations, and the evolving demands of contemporary technical interviews.

The current version of the book is titled Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions and you can get it now on Amazon which also sell used copy for a huge discount.

is cracking the coding interview book worth it


How is Cracking the Coding Interview book structured?

The book is structured in a way that aligns with the typical software engineering interview process.

It covers various essential topics, including data structures, algorithms, system design, and behavioral questions. The content is organized into several chapters, each addressing a specific aspect of technical interviews.

1. Introduction

McDowell starts by providing an overview of the hiring process in top tech companies and the role of technical interviews. She emphasizes the importance of preparation and understanding the interviewers' expectations.

2. The Interview Process

This section gives a detailed breakdown of the interview process, discussing phone screens, on-site interviews, and behavioral interviews. McDowell provides insights into what interviewers look for and how candidates can make a positive impression.

3. Behind the Scenes

Since McDowell has worked at Google and Apple and has also been part of the hiring committee, she shares her insider knowledge about what happens after the interview, how decisions are made, and what factors companies consider in the hiring process.

4. Special Situations

This chapter addresses scenarios like handling offers, dealing with rejection, and negotiating compensation. It provides practical advice on navigating the post-interview phase.

5. Before the Interview

McDowell delves into effective preparation strategies, covering topics such as the importance of practicing on a whiteboard, time management, and creating a study plan.

6. Behavioral Preparation

Understanding that technical interviews often include behavioral questions, McDowell offers guidance on how to approach and excel in this aspect of the interview.

7. Technical Questions

The heart of the book lies in this section, where McDowell covers a wide array of coding problems. She categorizes them by data structures and algorithms and provides clear explanations, sample solutions, and analysis.

8. Appendix

The book concludes with additional resources, including a glossary of terms, further reading recommendations, and a list of companies that frequently conduct technical interviews.

cracking the coding interview book review


What did I like most about this book? Strengths

Let's talk about what things I really liked about this book or what things make this book a valuable resource for coding interview preparation.

1. Comprehensive Coverage

The "Cracking the Coding Interview" does provide great coverage.

It comprehensively covers the technical aspects of coding interviews. It goes beyond just providing solutions, focusing on the process of problem-solving, which is crucial for success in interviews.

2. Real-world Examples

McDowell draws on her experience as a software engineer to include real-world examples and scenarios. This adds practical relevance to the theoretical concepts discussed in the book.

3. Structured Learning Path

The book is organized in a logical and structured manner, guiding the reader from understanding the interview process to mastering coding problems. The progressive difficulty of the problems helps readers build confidence gradually.

4. Practical Tips

McDowell's advice on behavioral interviews, negotiating offers, and handling rejection is practical and valuable. These aspects are often overlooked in other interview preparation resources.

5. Accessible Language

The book is written in a clear and accessible language, making complex topics understandable for readers with various levels of technical expertise.

Here is a list of the table of contents to give you a glimpse of which topics are covered in this book:

best coding interview books


What are the cons of this book?

Now let's see a few things about this book that could have been done better and how you can overcome those by referring to alternative resources.

1. Limited System Design Coverage

This is by far the biggest disadvantage of this book. The book barely touches on system design, but the coverage is relatively brief compared to the depth of coverage for coding problems.

As system design is a critical aspect of technical interviews, you might seek more extensive guidance on this topic.

I strongly suggest you to either refer ByteByteGo by Alex Xu or Grokking the System Design Interview course on DesignGuru to prepare well for System Design interviews.

coding interview book reveiw

DesignGuru also provides an all course bundle where you can get all of their Grokking courses which are very valuable resource for coding interview preparation it including Grokking the Coding Interview Pattern, Grokking the OOP Design Pattern, Grokking the advanced system design pattern, and Grokking the Dynamic Interview pattern, and you get all these courses for a big discount. Just use the code GURU to get 30% OFF.

And, if you need books Designing Data-Intensive Applications By Martin** Kleppmann and System Design Interview --- An insider's guide By Alex Xu are two great books you can read to prepare for system design interviews.

book review designing data intensive applications

2. Focus on Certain Companies

While the book provides valuable insights into the hiring processes of top technology companies, it might be more tailored to individuals aiming for positions at these specific companies. The interview processes at smaller companies or startups can differ significantly.

3. Not Updated Frequently

The tech industry evolves rapidly, and interview practices also change. The book's 6th Edition was last updated in 2015, which is good 8 years back, and does not reflect the most current interview trends or practices at the time of reading.


Is Cracking The Coding Interview book still relevant in 2024?

Now the biggest question of the day is, is the Cracking the Coding interview book by Gayle Laakmann McDowell still relevant in 2023, and 2024?

If you ask me, as of today, "Cracking the Coding Interview" remains a formidable resource for those gearing up for technical interviews in the realm of software engineering and computer science.

Its comprehensive coverage of coding problems, structured learning path, and practical insights into the interview process continue to make it a valuable companion in the preparation journey.

However, you need to combine this book with the likes of System Design Interview --- An insider's guide By Alex Xufor a complete preparation.

While the book has been instrumental for many, individual preferences, the specific nature of target roles and changes in industry interview trends should be considered.

For those embarking on the quest for a coveted position in the tech industry, "Cracking the Coding Interview" serves as a robust foundation.

should I read racking the coding interview

However, it should not be viewed in isolation; a well-rounded preparation strategy that includes hands-on coding practice, exposure to diverse interview formats, and staying abreast of the latest industry developments is crucial.

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, success in technical interviews is not just about mastering a single resource but about adapting to the dynamic challenges presented by an industry that continually pushes the boundaries of innovation.

Here is the full table of contents of Cracking the Coding Interview book for your reference, you can click on the image to see the bigger, full-size image:

table of content cracking the coding interview


Conclusion

That's all in this review of Cracking the Coding Interview book by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. There is no doubt that "Cracking the Coding Interview" by Gayle Laakmann McDowell is an invaluable resource for individuals preparing for technical interviews in the software engineering and computer science domains and it is still worth it in 2024.

Its strengths lie in its comprehensive coverage of coding problems, structured learning path, and practical advice on behavioral interviews and negotiation.

The book's real-world examples and accessible language make it suitable for a broad audience, from recent graduates to experienced professionals seeking to brush up on their technical interviewing skills. While it has some limitations, such as a focus on specific companies and a relatively brief treatment of system design, it remains a go-to guide for many aspiring software engineers.

To make the most of "Cracking the Coding Interview," you should complement your study by joining online courses, hands-on coding practice, mock interviews, and staying informed about the latest industry trends.

Additionally, seeking supplemental resources for system design and staying updated on changes in interview practices is advisable.

In conclusion, "Cracking the Coding Interview" is a must-read for anyone serious about succeeding in technical interviews, offering a comprehensive and practical approach to preparing for the challenging and competitive landscape of software engineering interviews.

The Gayle Laakmann McDowell has also written many more Cracking the Interview books like:

  1. Cracking the PM Interview
  2. Cracking the PM Career
  3. Cracking the Tech Career

If you like this book, then you can also check them out, particularly Cracking the PM Interview if you are preparing for PM (Product Manager) interviews** in the Technology field, it's one of the most exciting and lucrative jobs out there for senior engineers.

best tech interview books

Other Programming and Interview Articles you may like

Thanks for reading this article so far. If you like my review of Cracking the Coding Interview book, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. If you have any questions or feedback, then please drop a note.

P.S. --- If you prefer books for coding interview preparation and need more options then you can also check out my list of top 10 books to prepare coding interviews.

Top comments (2)

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Martin Krause

If you're preparing for an interview or a review meeting, check out my LevelUp Series where I focus more on the soft-skills of the process!

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martinkr profile image
Martin Krause

Great Post!