DEV Community

loading...
Cover image for The Interview Study Guide For Software Engineers

The Interview Study Guide For Software Engineers

SeattleDataGuy on September 15, 2019

By Ben Rogojan Software engineering interviews, like other technical interviews, require plenty of preparation. There are a number of subjects tha...
pic
Editor guide
Collapse
scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

I think we really need to face a reckoning in our profession. And the reckoning is this: requiring an overload of stuff that's simply not-important on-the-job just to get through the interviewing process and land a position.

Some of it is mildly useful for the actual job. But the rest of it is a bunch of hurdles that we don't need to put in the way of people.

And we need to do a much better job of building bridges into the profession that actually build people up into valuable devs.

The current approach of "leetcode" gatekeeping to the industry is a failure.

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

I think many developers and engineers hold this same sentiment. Most of us study really hard to figure out how to reverse a binary tree into a linked list blah blah blah(I hope you get thats a joke)....and then we get the job and....

We are just calling APIs of libraries developed by people before us. So what was the point. So yes, there are many of us that agree. But, since this is still the current way, I hope this list can be useful but would also like to see it deprecated :).

Collapse
eanx profile image
Zack Z.

It's hard to demand change when you're interviewing for a new job. However, once you have the job, I think it's a lot easier to demand change. Be that person who asks, "Why are we doing interviewing like this?" Be that person who says, "This interview question provides no useful signal." Be that person who says, "We shouldn't use Leetcode / Hackerrank / etc. as a filtering step."

Collapse
ollelinux profile image
Olle Linux

Very true! Still thanks for the great list of 'todo\'s'

Thread Thread
jomanwalter profile image
JomanWalter

Software Companies mainly focus on developing software for other companies and individuals on a contract basis. Some companies and individual entrepreneurs prefer to get their company software, webpages, mobile applications, etc. to be made and managed by a software firm. I`d like to suggest you read a relevant blog about it intellias.com/how-to-get-the-most-...

Collapse
eurowhisper profile image
EuroWhisper

I'm very glad to see that this is the top comment on the article. Honestly, these hiring processes that start with some algorithm challenges straight out of that controversial "Cracking The Coding Interview" book benefit nobody, but hurt everyone.

It reinforces the "imposter syndrome" experienced by many perfectly competent candidates and companies basically rob themselves of valuable prospective employees by insisting on taking this approach to interviewing.

As someone looking for their first frontend job... Can I solve a bunch of advanced algorithm challenges? Nope, I don't have the computer science background for that. But can I build a reusable component library, consume REST/GraphQL API's to communicate with the server and display data in a sensible way on the client-side? I sure can.

Yet, people like me are being glossed over, even though we are perfectly able of solving real-world problems.

I suppose another way to look at it each time this happens is "the trash took itself out". As in, if this is their hiring practice and they see nothing wrong with it, would I like working for that company anyway? Though, that doesn't help me get my foot in the door.

Collapse
rjlacanlaled profile image
rjlacanlaled

But they need to know your skills are above average as to effectively Google search the simple solution to their "super project" needs.

Collapse
leesmith profile image
Lee Smith 🍻

This is all well and good...brings back a lot of memories from undergrad school.

But after enduring such an interview from a company, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't forget to then ask your interviewer how they've used/applied said "algorithms, data structures, design, optimization and honestly just an ever growing basket of subjects" in their CURRENT work.

If you get a blank stare back, you'll know that you were just put through an "interview" that was essentially algorithm hazing and nothing more. I'd seriously question whether or not I'd want to work for this company.

Collapse
bedmison profile image
Bob Edmison

This x 1000. I interviewed with a Big Name Company once, early in my career, and was asked some question about implementing a AVL tree or some such. I asked the guy ( and it was a guy because they all were at Big Name Company, but that's a diff issue ) if he had ever, in his entire working life at that place, ever implemented an AVL tree, or any other primitive data structure from scratch. When he said "no", I asked why they were asking me how to do it. He said because they always asked that question. I said I'd answer when I had my data structures book handy. I got the gig anyway.

These questions are pointless. I'm a hiring manager now. I never ask interviewees questions about how to implement basic structures or algorithms. If someone is rolling their own now, they need to have a damn good reason for it. However, I will ask questions to tease out if they understand WHEN AND HOW TO USE different algorithms, structures, design patterns, etc, and the tradeoffs associates with those choices. I think that is fair game, and also a better indicator of what kind of software engineer you will be.

If you can code up a quick sort, but I don't ask you that kind of sort to use in a given situation , and then don't find out until after I hire you that you use bubble sorts for everything, me knowing you can code a quick sort is not terribly helpful.

Collapse
theodesp profile image
Theofanis Despoudis

You were asked for AVL tree? Jesus

Thread Thread
adarsh_menon_ profile image
Adarsh Menon

I was asked - what is the data structure that databases usually use to store data. I said B trees or B+ trees (we were discussing indexing, fan-out et.. ). Then he said ok now implement a B tree with all the crud operations. I told him I can explain the logic to you, but I don't think i can code that. Maybe I could, but it would take me a log time to convert the logic into code.

Collapse
eddie profile image
Eddie

Thirthirded

Collapse
spqrbob profile image
Bob McCann

100% this! Same with not allowing you to use Google as you attempt to formulate a solution. I assume you would be allowed to use Google day-to-day as you perform your job, right?

Collapse
gnalck profile image
Kevin Lang

Exactly! I'm disappointed by how many people accept these whiteboarding rituals as a necessary or unavoidable evil. They aren't. There are plenty of companies out there that offer more sane alternatives that mirror day-to-day work.

Collapse
fleepgeek profile image
Collapse
belverus profile image
Belverus

Seems like I will never be ready :)

Collapse
mongopark profile image
Ola' John Ajiboye

In first interview. I was asked to sum up all integers in an array. I used reduced method.interviewer asked me to use for loop instead. I completely froze. They laughed at me an sent me out. That was a push in the right direction for me.

Collapse
belverus profile image
Belverus

I was asked:

  • OOP & all related concepts on Java. It was very detailed. (answered 85%)

  • Data Structures & Algorithms (BST, RB Tree, Sets, Maps, Hashing, Graphs, BFS, DFS, MSP, etc..) (answered 90%)

  • SQL: they nearly asked every single keyword on SQL. (answered 99%)

  • Implemented a LinkedList on a blackboard. Then they made me do couple of sorting algorithms on that.

  • HTML & CSS live-coding.

And they rejected me yesterday because I don't know JS Which was already very clear on my resume. This was a junior FE position :)

Thread Thread
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

Welcome to interviewing....

Thread Thread
mongopark profile image
Ola' John Ajiboye

Most companies have no clue how to interview and the process is similar for senior and Junior. I interviewed at another company for an internship where I was asked to implement a LinkedList in Java even though I made it clear I was more into Javascript. But somehow I did well because I was prepared for anything. The interview gave a glowing review and said he was really impressed. The recruiter contacted me to ask if I had another offer I was considering, I said No. Then he said they were going to interview other candidates. Next thing I heard was that they picked other guys.

I just kep working harder. Months after that I got a dream offer. I am glad I missed that opportunity.I would have had to start form an intern. But I got another offer as solid mid-level Engineer. Just keep pushing. ItΓ€s a matter of time. I was rejected around 300times , some after 6 rounds.

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

Don't let this stress you out. You don't need to do every problem to be ready. I just recommend doing a few of each. Doing an interview or two, seeing where you need to study and then do more :).

Collapse
belverus profile image
Belverus

I did my first interview today. It was bad. Not that bad as I imagined. I could answer what I learned since from the start. I was already aware but rediscovered that I need to learn a lot.

Thanks for the boost!

Thread Thread
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

We have all had that first interview. I remember my first interview at Amazon. The very first question shut me down and I froze and just couldn't think of a good answer. Luckily the interviewer allowed me to move on so I could get some answers in. But those first interviews show you what you don't know...it's painful but good :);

Thread Thread
belverus profile image
Belverus

Haha exactly. Happened to me either. I asked to "move on" and get back to that question "later".

Collapse
chrisachard profile image
Chris Achard

You know something's going to be a great resource when it already has a whole bunch of "saved for later" tags πŸ˜ƒ

Great list! Love that you included more than just algorithms (like system design, etc too). Even if you're not interviewing right now, it's a great idea to just pick a few videos off the list and watch them :)

Thanks!

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

Thanks for your kind words! Yes almost 1k saves as of right now. I really tried to make it comprehensive. Also, that isn't meant to intimidate anyone. The reason I add a checklist is so you can do a few in each section and go for an interview. Figure out where you need to work on things and focus on that area.

Collapse
napoleon039 profile image
Nihar Raote

Took only 3 days for that number to jump up to 2000. Just goes to show how awesome this checklist is. Thanks for creating this!

Thread Thread
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

It's crazy how fast it got liked o.O

Collapse
mcloide profile image
Cristiano D. Silva

Questions like these do not prove that the candidate has knowledge or experience, it only proves that the candidate has academic experience.

The test that I give to all my candidates is simple and direct to the point. It expects that the candidate knows engineering and coding and test those aspects with non-standard questions and problems that could have more than one solution where you could verify how the candidate responded the question and follow up with him/her about it.

This is my opinion off course but it does seem foolish applying tests like this.

Collapse
peksapro profile image
Krzysztof Peksa

Nice article.
I would mention about application security.
Let's start with OWASP: blog.sucuri.net/2018/10/owasp-top-...

Collapse
method5440 profile image
Scott Fenton

Wow, that β€˜12 minute read’ is really misleading here lol

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

Like, 12 minute read...100 hours of practice

Collapse
lakincoder profile image
Lakin Mohapatra

Awesome List. It really helps. Thank you so much for contributing to the community.

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

I love being part of the community!

Collapse
wavegxd profile image
Michael Roa

Thanks! This is perfect!

I had some trouble figuring out what I should tackle first. The warm up and pre-study problems are a great idea.

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

After the warm-ups I think I would personally just hit a few of each subject at a time and then check them off the checklist.

Collapse
spqrbob profile image
Bob McCann

The "warm ups" made me sit back down and reevaluate my career entirely. Is it too late to change my major to Underwater Basket-Weaving?

Collapse
mazentouati profile image
Mazen Touati

Congratulation, you just won the internet πŸ‘πŸ‘

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

I don't know if that is true! But I hope this helps :)

Collapse
mazentouati profile image
Mazen Touati

Indeed, Developers are lazy by nature. They may know/be aware about these topics in general but having all of them curated this way is a great help. It may also saves time when refer it for new comer to the field in your circle. So thanks man ^

Thread Thread
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

Having checklists :) just help make things easy!

Collapse
jorgecc profile image
Jorge Castro

Let's say we want to sort in C# and we want to hire a seasoned developer:

  • Bubble sort = The candidate is a novice, he or she doesn't have real experience.

  • Sort in the database = Now the candidate knows how to do his job.

  • Sort without a database (LINQ) = Again, the candidate knows how to do his job.

It's pretty easy to weed out bad candidates, especially candidates that remember some questions by memory (such as sort, merge sort and to obtain a Fibonacci sequence), they are cheaters.

Also, the goal to do an interview is to find (and hire) the best one, or at least, somebody acceptable.

Our goal (as the interviewer) is not to kick out candidates but to find a good one. And no, it is not the same.

For example, I spend a whole week trying to find a good candidate and I was unable to find a good one. It is the nightmare of the interviewer.

Collapse
sudheendrakv profile image
Sudheendra

Thanks a lot!

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
bgalvao profile image
Bernardo

I am not a guy from computer science, will learning from this guide change the way I approach programming problems? Just asking as an outsider.

Collapse
n8chz profile image
Lorraine Lee

Yes. Mastering the list above might even turn you into a guy from computer science. At minimum, it will change the way you approach programming problems to the computer science way.

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

In many ways you are very correct! If you can really get a handle on all this stuff. You could land a job as a software engineer.

Collapse
joellau profile image
Joel Lau

I'm still rather new myself, but I think so! Especially with regards to performance (think 100k users or records), and maintainability (how organized your entire code base is e.g. 200 java files)

Collapse
jawwad22 profile image
jawwad22

thanks dude

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
iwpgeek profile image
Mohammed Imtiyaz

Thanks for sharing great resources.

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
lucaaslr profile image
Lucas Lima

Amazing work, thanks!!

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
godolatunji profile image
Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
gbgurman profile image
G. Gurman

I was asked the parking lot problem in an interview. It was hard to try to develop a solution only with a pen and a sheet of paper. After that interview, i googled it and found out that it was one of the most common interview questions. But it was too late. I think it pays off to practice operational and system design problems with pen and paper to simulate the interview conditions.

Collapse
fleepgeek profile image
Emmanuel Okiche

Me last week: I would learn software development and get a job within 6 months.
Me after reading this post: 404

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
sridharpandu profile image
sridhar pandurangiah

Awesome. Circulated the URL to all my colleagues

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
anahitghazaryan profile image
Anahit Ghazaryan

Apps for video meetings: Liveboard app review, cons & pros

LiveBoard is a multi-platform collaborative whiteboard application which will help visualize your ideas during online co-working process.

Over 100.000 teachers, professors, tutors, instructors and other educators already use it. Click to learn more about Liveboard app review

Collapse
juliabekesh profile image
Julia

Nice post! I found a lot of new and interesting information here. This is great guide for every software engineer.

Collapse
nooxouille profile image
Mauryl Saint Jalmes

Many thanks! Saved "for later" as it is a very dense post, but it seems to be massive gold!

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

Such kind words!!

Collapse
sanketdhole profile image
Sanket Dhole

That's really great references to have a look and to test your preparation.
Thanks for sharing.

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
eliascm17 profile image
Elias Moreno

This is a great post.

Collapse
kzvonov profile image
Kirill Zvonov

You know... I saw two types of people (1) who are hard working and (2) who are preparing to the next interview

P.S. just a joke

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

There is a little truth in every joke hahahaha. But its true, I have recently been giving interviews...and I am suddenly reminded how different my work and the questions people ask on interviews are...

Collapse
max_tulian profile image
Max (he/his)

That's pretty awesome, huge thanks for share!

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
Collapse
itscosmas profile image
Cosmas Gikunju

This is definitely a unicorn, going through this post as a study guide to my interviews

Collapse
seattledataguy profile image
SeattleDataGuy Author

Thank you for your kind words!

Collapse
pabhishekabhi profile image
pabhishekabhi

Nice information also for android may visit androidcoding.in

Collapse
jasterix profile image
Jasterix

This is an amazing guide! Thanks for putting it together

Collapse
meghangh profile image
MeghanGH

Thanks CS DoJo.