Written by Joanne Sacco

Cracking the Coding Interview: 4 Questions to Expect and How to Prepare

So, you’re interviewing for your dream coding job.
You’ve aced every other aspect of your interview. The hypothetical scenario challenges are done, you slayed the whiteboard task and did well in the remote code tests.
It’s now time for your face-to-face interview. And you only have around 60 minutes to leave a great final impression.
But then, your interviewer starts with a left-of-field question and you’re left floundering for an answer. What do you do?
To help you avoid that sticky situation, we’ve put together four of the most common questions you can expect at your next coding interview, with tips on how to answer them.

Question 1 – Describe a problem you helped solve and how…

Why it’s asked
This is one of the most frequently asked interview questions for a good reason. It can not only reveal to your prospective boss how you problem solve, but also your preferred working style when you’re under pressure.
How to answer
Use this an opportunity to showcase your problem-solving skills with bonus points if you can articulate what you learnt along the way.
Pick one or two of the best real-life examples you can and memorise them before your interview. Ideally, they should be ones where you effectively isolated the problem and worked systemically and creatively to get results. If you can slot in a few great stats, all the better. An example: “The project helped us make $XX in savings in the XX department”.
Extra tip

If the job you’re going for is heavily reliant on collaboration, use ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ to demonstrate that you’re a team player.

Question 2 – What is your favourite programming language and why?

Why it’s asked
This question helps interviewers to determine your:

  • technical experience
  • enthusiasm & willingness to learn
  • proactivity in staying on top of emerging technology

It also helps your interviewer determine if you enjoy languages used within their company, as well as any other projects you may like working on.
How to answer
If you really want this job, you should already know what languages are used in the team. Hopefully one or two are amongst your faves, but if not, that’s still ok.
Answer honestly. Ensure you frame it to show off your tech experience and why you love it.
For example, “I love using [insert language] because it’s [insert your reasons]. I first learned how to use it when I was starting out building apps.” 
If the team uses a language you’d like to learn, make sure they know your interest level. For instance, “I’ve learnt a bit about Python recently and it really captured my interest because there are lots of open source libraries available. I’ve applied what I’ve learnt in a personal IoT project. I’d love to learn more about it.”
Extra tip
Check out our blog on the fastest growing coding language for some inspiration here.

Question 3 – How do you keep up to date with news and advances in coding?

Why it’s asked
The interviewer’s main objective in asking this question is to find out how passionate you are about your career, and whether you take initiative to stay ahead of the curve.
How to answer
You should easily be able to rattle off a few of your favourite websites, forums, books, blogs and apps, plus why you like them. It doesn’t hurt to speak about some tech influencers too, those who may have shaped the way you code by offering up unique insights or perspectives.

Question 4 – What do you enjoy about programming?

Why it’s asked
The interviewer is looking for your why – what is it about programming that gets your motor racing (or keeps your fingers glued to the keyboard!). They also want to determine if you’re a good cultural fit for their tech team. Perhaps you like performing tasks others in the team don’t, or you have a natural affinity for fixing errors that many of the current team share.
How to answer
You need to demonstrate your passion and personality. Your answer should reflect both what you love and why. So, for example, “I love solving abstract problems and coding helps me do this. I get a real kick out of it, especially if I come up with an elegant solution.” Follow up with a detailed explanation of such a situation. It will naturally reflect your enthusiasm and joy of coding.
While there’s no magic algorithm that works for every interview, being armed with unique and memorable answers to these questions will surely impress recruiters. If you’d like more help with other questions you might encounter at programming interviews, we have plenty of experience in that field. Over twenty years in fact! Get in touch to find out how we can connect you with your dream coding role.

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