Interview Tip: Checkout Online Code Environments before the Interview

Live coding is a stressful experience. One of the simplest ways to reduce stress around solving a unknown problem in less than an hour is to setup your environment before the interview. My anecdotal experience is that so few developers do this in practice. As an interviewer its a good sign when you check the coding environment before and see the candidate has already setup the environment and got a test up and running.

It’s a signal to the interviewer of several things in the interview:

  • You are naturally prepared
  • You are able to take full advantage of any tools/libraries provided
  • You are pretty motivated to work for this organization

Using CoderPad as an example:

  • You can login ahead of time into the pad setup for your interview or at least login to CoderPad’s site and try out a sandbox.
  • Select a few of the coding environments you are most comfortable with. Unless you are forced into a specific language always choose your day-to-day language.
  • See what libraries you have access to like RSpec, ActiveSupport in Ruby for example.
  • Look at the settings for including important things like vim/emac support, Intellisense, etc.
  • Get a test running in the environment, so you can TDD right away using your favorite testing framework or at least an available one.
  • Test drive a simple problem in the space like FizzBuzz just to get a feel for the environment and how it works.
  • If this is the actual coding environment for the interview leave your code in there for the interviewer to discover.

I know I see this level of preperation maybe 5-10% of the time, so it’s an easy way to start off strong.