What can you expect during a whiteboard interview?

A survey conducted among 10,000 developers and 4,000 tech recruiters predicted that more than half of recruiters still use whiteboard interviews during the hiring process for developers and tech-related roles. hire tech talents and developers. But before you can get to cracking the whiteboard interview, you must first understand what you might face during a whiteboard interview. This article will give you a thorough understanding of whiteboarding, from its meaning to its best practices.

 

Whiteboard interviews: Know what they mean

A whiteboard interview is a coding interview that evaluates a candidate's technical and non-technical skills. It is a part of your tech job interview that aims to test your technical foundation skills to become an expert in computer science and assess other skills like logical reasoning, problem-solving, and communication.

 

Traditionally, whiteboard interviews, as the name implies, consist of a whiteboard on which candidates are tasked with solving a given problem statement on the spot. And while a physical whiteboard is not possible for online interviews, common platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom have Whiteboard features in which candidates can demonstrate their thought process and solve the questions asked by interviewers. When a candidate uses a whiteboard to write and explain anything, it helps others assess their way of expressing their thoughts, communicating their problems, and solving them.

 

This interview is a live assessment of your technical knowledge and your presentation styles and confidence. It might go from one hour to one day. Interviewers ask coding questions on the spot while the whole interviewing team observes your work.

 

Whiteboard interview is a coding interview

 

Why whiteboard interviews are important

Research says a developer shortage exists, but another source says it is a perception created by technical hiring managers. As per this source, the rise of algorithm-centric whiteboard interviews is one of the trends behind this perception. It makes the interview challenging for candidates regarding technical knowledge, logic and problem-solving skill testing, and soft skills.

 

Despite how difficult it is to pass the whiteboard interview, unicorns and FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) still preferred to follow whiteboarding as a critical part of the hiring process.

 

Why?

It is quite simply because the coding interview allows tech hiring managers and recruiters to test the candidates' fundamental technical knowledge and evaluate their performance under high pressure to solve real problems!

 

Whiteboarding is essential; every candidate must undergo this process before joining the company. It helps recruiters and interviewers justify their decisions when selecting and rejecting candidates. Rather than arguing that a particular candidate is not well-suited to the company's culture, they can claim "a candidate is unable to write code for sorting and merging a tree."

 

A successful whiteboarding and hiring process empowers recruiters and interviewers to believe in their abilities when evaluating candidates and their enthusiasm for joining their companies.

 

Hence, whiteboard interviews are popular for finding the best tech talent.


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The key topics and questions for whiteboard interviews

You must be aware that some topics in computer science are always relevant. These topics are necessary for building a solid technical foundation for a successful career in coding and software development. It is well known that algorithms and data structures are primary computer science concepts. Undoubtedly, every developer should be familiar with these concepts, especially if they want to succeed in a whiteboard interview. Interviewers prefer to use such topics during whiteboard interviews.

 

Here are three ever-relevant topics

  • Arrays (types of array, different operations on array list, Sorting, Searching, Recursion)
  • Data structure (LinkedIn list, Tree, Binary search tree, Graph, Heap, Stack, Queue, Hash table)
  • Algorithms (Big O notation, Complexities, Dynamic programming)

 

Here are sample questions

Key Topics Sample questions
Data structure
  • Create a clone of the graph
  • Check whether binary trees are symmetric or not
  • Reverse nodes in a LinkedIn list
Array
  • Generate all unique possible letter racks in scrabble.
  • You are given an array with a non-negative integer character. Find the contiguous subarray that comprises the maximum sum
  • Find out the median of two sorted arrays
  • How to reverse two words in a sentence
  • Given a string, find out the smallest sequence of identical characters
Algorithms
  • Print subsets of a list and find its time complexity
  • Largest rectangle in the histogram
  • Find out the Kth permutation
  • Minimum windows substring
System designs
  • This is a real problem; you need to develop an application to solve this problem. Design a system architecture or structure of the appropriate system.

 

All these key topics are popular in Google Whiteboard Interview, as well as the other FAANG companies. To get more examples of coding interview questions, you can read the book Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Answers by Gayle Laakmann.

 

In a recent conversation with a technical recruiter, it became clear that these topics have remained relevant for decades. These topics help recruiters to evaluate the design and architecture experience of candidates. While they choose topics during whiteboard interviews based on job posts and candidates’ experience.

 

HackerTrail Insider Tip: The best way to sharpen your coding skills is to discover top interview questions and answers on different programming subjects.

For this, click this link and practice your coding knowledge.


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The best practices for acing whiteboard interviews

To crack any interview, you must do a before and during interview preparation. It applies to whiteboard interviews, also. Prepare yourself for both challenges. Here are the best practices to overcome all challenges associated with whiteboard interviews.

 

Before the whiteboard Interview

Your application has been accepted by your dream company, and you received your interview date. Now, it's your job to start preparing for your most challenging whiteboard interview. Follow the following 5 practices for your preparation:

 

1. Start practicing on the whiteboard

Standing in front of a group, figuring out a solution, and writing codes on the whiteboard without using any tools is not easy. But you can make it easy by practising on the whiteboard. You must purchase a real whiteboard and start practising on it before the interview. You can also use a virtual whiteboard, but it is good to use the physical whiteboard to practise your communication skills and body language.

See the below image that shows how it is useful for companies and developers!

 

Start practicing on the whiteboard

 

2. Create a simulated environment

Seek help from your friends and college professors to help you conduct a mock-up interview and simulate the situation. Choose those friends who are experts in coding who do not hesitate to give feedback and cross-examine you. That feedback can help you to discover your strengths and weaknesses.

 

3. Make a list of questions

Practice can make anyone an expert in any area. You can practise your coding skills without using tools by solving coding questions daily. Check out your target companies, research them, and compile a list of common whiteboard interview questions. You must also prepare a list of common interview questions to evaluate your behaviours and potential.

 

4. Evaluate your tech knowledge

You can try out coding platforms and test your technical knowledge. Taking mock interview tests and common coding challenges would help assess your current level of expertise, which areas or subjects you need to work on and which areas you are good at. Reviewing the answers to these coding challenges is one of the best practices you can do to ace whiteboard interviews.

 

5. Work on your mindset

A whiteboarding interview is also a test of your thought process. This refers to the way in which you approach any problem and how you go about solving the problem. This interview also evaluates your ability to be calm and think fast while solving problems. You must train your mind to remain calm even under immense pressure.

 

HackerTrail Insider Tip: The mockup quiz is another way to know different factors to assess your programming skills.

You can do this assessment here and find out your preparation level


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During the whiteboard interview

You are sitting before the interview panel, including recruiters, consultants, and other tech experts. You must consider some points during the whiteboard interview to reduce its complexity. The following practices can help

 

  • Choose the programming language in which you are comfortable and confident for solving the given problem and writing any code.
  • Pay attention to the power of follow-up questions once you understand the problems/questions and related rules. For greater clarity, repeat the questions in your own words and ask your interviewers questions, if necessary.
  • Write down your assumptions, verify them, and take time before writing any code on the whiteboard. It would be best if you outlined your solutions pointwise with pseudocode. Documenting everything helps you think clearly and find the solution quickly.
  • Once you are done with the solution, review it, and present them appropriately. Explain it step-by-step with proper reasons. For example, it might be possible that you do not remember some syntax; you can ask for help and discuss that "you know logic but not recalling some syntax.". Don't worry about mistakes that might happen while writing codes without using built-in tools. Express your thoughts, solutions, and logic confidently.
  • Focus on resolving problems confidently and clearly throughout the interview. If necessary, take a moment, pause, and speak at a moderate pace if you don't know how to answer any follow-up questions; instead of saying, "I don't know," say, "I don't recall its exact answer at this moment."

 

David Yang, CEO and co-founder, has designed a method, the REACTO approach to ace whiteboard interview. The REACTO approach stands for Repeat, Examples, Approach, Code, Test, Optimization. He explained this approach in his interview. You can watch it here.

Click here to get tips on technology, interview preparation, and trends.

 

Final Thought

A whiteboard interview allows you to demonstrate your talents and USP on the spot. Connect to our platform and get every preparation material from the same place. Prepare yourself for the whiteboard interview by following all the shared practices.

 

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