How I was  Successful at Technical Interviews as a New Software Engineer with less than 5 Months of Coding Experience

I had three interviews before accepting my first position as a software engineer. I considered two interviews very useful and one that was just a waste of my time. There were two “whiteboard” interviews and a “virtual take home.” I often get asked how I prepared for technical software engineering interviews with only a few months of coding under my belt and a career that is unrelated to software engineering. My education was in the 100Devs program.

Before interviewing I was following along with 100Devs. Class 34 goes over in-depth on how to prepare for technical interviews, including constructive tips/tricks. I know this class alone helped me with technical interviewing. There is now a youtube video that has combined all the interview tips/tricks, you can check that out here: . Everything I learned is contained in that video.

I prepared for my interviews by using an Anki flash card deck dedicated to just interview questions. In 100Devs it is called “Banki” because the questions come from “the bank”. I highly recommend going through this question list and answering them on your own. I learned a lot just by doing this and it really helped to have a community that was also filling this out. I would dedicate about 15-20 minutes in the beginning to memorizing these questions. Eventually it dwindled down to only like 5 minutes a day or less because I had them memorized. Which is another reason I really like Anki. It doesn’t make you go through the whole deck. There’s an algorithm that basically makes you repeat stuff you are not good at.

I found that using websites like Codewars and pushing my solutions to GitHub on a daily basis helped me prepare for technical interviews as a new software engineer. By consistently practicing coding challenges, I was able to hone my problem-solving skills and become more comfortable with writing code on the spot. Additionally, by pushing my solutions to GitHub, I was able to develop a portfolio of code that demonstrated my technical abilities to potential employers. Seeing the green squares on my GitHub profile also served as a visual reminder of the time and effort I put into preparing for technical interviews. Overall, using Codewars and GitHub on a daily basis was a valuable part of my preparation process and helped me land my first job as a software engineer.

What helped me stand out as a new software engineer against applicants with CS degrees or more experience was the PREP method, which is also discussed in the video linked above. The PREP method stands for:

Problem: Understand the problem you're trying to solve.

Requirements: Clarify the requirements of the problem with your interviewer.

Examples: Provide examples to show how you would approach the problem.

Pseudocode: Write out pseudocode to show how you would solve the problem.

As I got closer to applying to jobs I started using PREP method on my Codewars questions and pretending to whiteboard every problem along with use a 20 minute timer.

By using the PREP method, I was able to demonstrate my problem-solving skills and show that I could work effectively with my potential supervisors.

In addition to “the bank” questions I created some “catch all” answers. Sometimes there are just questions you won’t be prepared for. I created some “catch all” answers that usually showcased an example of how I faced something similar, if applicable etc. Some of my categories were: uncomfortable situations, direct conflict, new challenges, unpredicatable, positive situations etc. For example with uncomfortable situations: If I got asked the question, “what would you do if you saw a coworker stealing from the company”, my “catch all” response was: “what the employee handbooks says and what I learn from your onboarding to handle this particular situations and if I’m ever put in an uncomfortable spot at work I would go to HR”.

I experienced three types of technical interviews during my interviewing season. I had whiteboard, testing software, and take-home exams. Every interview had a behavioral portion as well. I did not like the testing software and take-home exams. You didn’t have someone to answer questions in real-time. I think the worst experience was the testing software. Pretty much it is like taking a proctored exam. I found out I actually could’ve answered questions I got wrong if someone would’ve clarified the directions. I really liked whiteboard because I got to see how my potential supervisors would be like if I got stuck or if they’d offer help etc.

In summary, the PREP method, using Anki flashcards to memorize interview questions, and practicing coding challenges on websites like Codewars was instrumental in helping me succeed in technical interviews as a new software engineer. The PREP method helped me approach problems systematically, while Anki and Codewars helped me develop and hone my technical skills. By combining these resources, I could confidently tackle interview questions and demonstrate my problem-solving abilities to potential employers.

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