3 Pair Programming Interview Tips To Get Ready

pair programming interview

Wondering what a pair programming interview is? And how to get prepared for it? Look no further, we’ve compiled the best resource for you to help get prepared for your upcoming technical interview session.

Here’s what we’re going to cover in this comprehensive guide on pair programming interviews:

Let’s dig right in!

What A Pair Programming Interview Is

The setup for a pair programming interview is much like it sounds, it’s yourself and another engineer working together. The way this works is that the two of you share a display but have two keywords connected. The two displays allow you both to examine the same code base.

What the other engineer will do is give you some type of questionnaire, usually in the form of a sample programming challenge, to then solve through the code editor that’s being used.

The purpose of this is to get an idea for how you write code and what steps you take before you begin. For example, do you look through the directory tree? Do you examine the tests (TDD)? How do you start? How do you write your code? And do you write code that works?

These are all the types of questions that the other engineer is going to be asking themselves while you’re working. The point is that you two can work together, though. Meaning, this is collaborative. There’s not necessarily a wrong way to go about your programming challenge. But whatever way you take may indicate to the other engineer your skill level and expertise.

What You Might Expect To See In The Interview

You’ll most likely see their preferred code editor, the application that you’ll be working within, the terminal setup and any other tools that you might need to be able to solve a technical challenge. You won’t be given a whiteboard but if you need a pen and paper, they can provide it.

Expect this to be very similar to writing code for yourself. This is all about working with the application, making decisions, and writing functions or logic that work.

You’ll usually be given around 60-90 minutes for this session and be given a technical challenge that’s relatively small but will challenge you at the same time.

How To Prepare

In order to prepare for the session, try to get advance notice of the application language that you’ll be working within. If they are a Ruby or PHP shop, then that should make your preparation easier. The worst thing you could do is go into the interview not familiar with the preferred coding language that the company uses.

As long as you are proficient in that coding language, you should be able to do the best you can in the interview. Unfortunately, you won’t know the technical challenge in advance. That’s the purpose of them pairing with you.

The simplest tips to prepare for your pair programming interview are:

Mistakes You Can Avoid

In a pair programming session the worst thing you can do is not take advantage of what’s available to you. The other engineer is going to be working side-by-side with you throughout the entire process. It’s okay to ask them questions. But don’t ask too many. Get your bearings with a few questions up front that will provide you the right insight to make some good coding decisions. After that, set sail for a moment. And then go back to asking them another question, like, how does that look?

If you can keep the session collaborative, you can increase the chances of it going well. But don’t rely on the other engineer too much because they’ll interpret that as you don’t exactly know what you are doing and aren’t qualified for the engineering position.

Lastly, be sure you write code that’s DRY. Write code that works. And try to use their syntax or formatting. Don’t introduce new syntax or formatting into the application as that could make you appear like a “lonely coder” who’s never worked with another engineer.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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