Live Coding in Technical Interviews

Prior to Mentis, no employer I have ever interviewed with had asked me to write live code. At Mentis I interviewed with 4 separate people who asked me to write code on a whiteboard. After Mentis I had one other interview with a small startup company, and they also asked me to write live code. I’m surprised that some employers don’t require this in their interviews. To me it makes perfect sense to include code writing in the interview when you’re looking to hire a programmer.

I fortunately do not have anxiety while writing code for an audience. In fact, I feel more comfortable writing code than I do talking about what I’ve done. For those that do have anxiety though, Scott Hanselman has a great post about how to deal with anxiety when coding live in technical interviews. The only thing I feel I can add is, regardless of whether or not you feel anxiety writing code on-the-spot, it can be helpful to explain to the interviewer additional steps that you would normally take in addition to what you show them. For example, if you rely on IDE tools such as auto-complete, documentation links, or Internet searches, these may be things that you should mention. If you normally refactor your work several times before calling it done, this may also be something to mention. Ultimately, when you explain your process for creating quality code, this will supplement what you’ve shown them.

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