Most of the popular companies such as Google, Microsoft, or Oracle hire new candidates using ‘white board’ test. There are literally something essential can be found out about a candidate in this test, for which they emphasize this test a lot. Basically, a programmer always writes code on their laptop using their favorite text-editor. They can run their code joining small bits of code together and corrects them as new error pops up. Most text editors and IDE (Integrated Development Environment) highlight syntax, keywords and support auto-indentation. Furthermore, software developers can customize them according their needs, so that they can improve their workflow. If that’s true, the following question appears in our mind:
Why software companies emphasize on whiteboard test?
What is Whiteboard testing?
Whiteboard testing is a part of the technical interview in the software companies that is used to evaluate how quickly, clearly and concisely a candidate addresses a particular algorithm problem.
This is a great question to think about. I was particularly skeptic about whiteboard testing. But, later my research and findings opened my eyes and showed me how important it is for a programmer to be able to write code correctly on whiteboard. First of all, there are much more in it than only writing code on whiteboard. An interviewer can learn how candidates think about particular problems, how they approach it, or whether they break it into smaller chunks of code to make a whole.
Whiteboard Test From an Interviewer’s point of view
Interviewers prompt an interviewee to write code on white board. This lets them know whether a candidate has an algorithm set in his mind to solve the problem, or he’s just memorizing a set of codes.
Believe it or not, an interviewer never wants the elegant solution of a given problem, rather they tend to learn how a programmer approach a certain problem. In other word, how a programmer choose a number of steps to solve it. An interviewer can figure out if a candidate is not sure about the solution, or just rambling.
On a whiteboard test, dealing conversation while writing code is most important. By this, a potential employer can learn of the candidate’s communication skills. Here, an employer makes decision whether they will be able to carry a professional relation, which is very important in scaling business.
Though whiteboard test is a part of technical interview, it equally plays roll as a non-technical interview as well. How a candidate uses his hand, how he utilizes certain gesture to make a point and so on. Is he arrogant? Is he serious about this job? Is he equally productive in teaching the same code to another person in a classroom, in a word, can he express his expertise in that language?
So, whiteboard test is not only about writing some bit of code on the board, rather it is a playground of a programmer to show his expertise and thinking pattern for solving problems.
How to Crack Whiteboard Test
Practice! Practice! and Practice! Whiteboard test is not about any trick, rather it is far more than being a programmer. It’s about being able to teach someone how an algorithm can solve a given problem. So, continuous practice is the key to crack the whiteboard test. Along with practice, one needs to be confident and bold enough to try new solutions in order to sharpen thinking capability.
Expertise on Algorithm and Data Structure. Knowing proper algorithm and data structure is essential to beat the whiteboard test. This can be done by practicing writing code on whiteboard or a paper and describing (eg. to your friend) what is happening on each line of code.
Think aloud. Write a fragment of code and echo it in your memory. Try to think on each fragment at a time. Don’t plan for a solution straight away. Slow down! Give your brain opportunity to think as a computer interprets a program.
Most interview questions are the basics of programming. Candidates are prompted to write code on whiteboard because they are either test very basic operations or not so complicated (if not easy). Sometimes, candidates forget to keep sufficient space on board. For example, a program needs twenty lines of code, and a candidate might think it can be solved in five lines, and finally, runs out of space.
Maintain the syntax and indentation of programming languages. Remember, every conditional statements, or loops have their own syntax of using in different programming languages. Every statement that has a colon (:), or semicolon (;) are part of the statement, and without it the program will show syntax error. So, forgetting such kind of small stuff can cost many points on interviews.
Iterate what you are doing. If you get stuck on a step solving a problem, try to iterate what you’ve done up to that point, who knows, the interviewer might think to help you by telling the next step.
Since most software companies rely on whiteboard test to hire employee, it is essential to ace this skill. Slicing a problem in some steps, using basic operations to follow along the steps, and good communication with the interviewer can make a interview successful.
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