101: Pair Programming and Coding Interviews
When applying for a position, you may be asked to participate in a Pair Programming and Coding interview. Gulp, what’s that?
During a typical Pair Programming and Coding interview, the job seeker is given a problem to solve with an interviewer. Often, the interview is structured like an ordinary workday, with the interviewer acting like a coworker. In fact, you may be working closely with your interviewer as part of the job. An interactive coding platform may be used to collaborate with the interviewer to solve the technical task.
And don’t worry, the interview should not include trick questions or non-coding questions that would be discussed in other interviews.
Big picture, these interviews are opportunities to display and use in real-time your technical skills, thinking ability and ability to work with others.
What The Interviewer Will Notice
The interviewer wants to understand how you approach a problem, design a solution and why you approach it in your way. They also will pay attention to how you incorporate feedback and suggestions.
Frequently, your communication style will be the most important aspect the interviewer will assess, so it pays to communicate even when you hit a roadblock.
- Deciding between two approaches? Discuss the pros and cons of each one.
- Dealing with something you do not know? Tell your interviewer what you already know, where you would start from, what path you would take.
- Struggling with a problem? Discuss your concerns and possible approaches.
You can also let the interviewer know that you may need a bit of time to think and that you will discuss your solution after you spend time silent. This shows that you will be communicating your thoughts after you process them.
Train of Thought
The interviewer will judge your ability to structure your thoughts, how you define a strategy for solving the proposed problem and how well you can anticipate potential problems. They want to understand your thought process, so, again, communicate what you are doing and why.
Collaboration and Teamwork
How you work with the interviewer to solve the problem and communicate your choices will be evaluated. It’s OK to (professionally) push back on things you disagree with, discuss your ideas, and accept the interviewer’s suggestions.
Obviously, the interviewer wants to understand how well you can write code that’s correct, readable and testable. They want to know why you make certain decisions and evaluate trade-offs when building code.
Most interviewers expect that you will ask questions and engage in conversation – otherwise, you could come across as uninterested or aloof or that you know everything.
If the interviewer seems to be lost or unsure about your direction, take a step back and ask what needs to be further explained. Finally, your interviewer isn’t there to just assess you. They are also there to help. It’s crucial to understand the problem to solve, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.
One more tip: Treat this as a normal pairing day
Remind yourself that this is more of a pairing “test drive” instead of a tech interview. Don’t just start typing the moment the keyboard is given to you.
Since 2010, SIGnature Recruiting has operated with respect towards all of our candidates and clients, making us the preferred IT recruitment agency in the Greater Vancouver area. If you are seeking talent or an employer, let’s talk.