By September 5, 2019

Buy More Time On Coding Interviews!

Getting stuck is never fun. Especially when you’re working really hard. And yet, I find that this happens to people preparing for coding interviews all the time.

You put in consistent work. You’ve gone through hundreds of practice problems and block out an hour every day to study. And suddenly… You forget everything.

Most of the time, it happens during coding interviews because you get anxious. You feel the urge to answer the interviewer right away. But that's not always the best choice.

There are ways to buy more time in coding interviews – without looking awkward – that will make a huge difference when it comes to giving the right answer.

In today's video I'm going to show you how to buy more time in coding interviews.

Transcript Of The Video

Jason Humphrey: This video is all about the six tips to get more time in a coding interview. Here's why we should care about this. You ideally want more time to think. Anytime you get one of those really tough questions, you want time to think because you can give a better answer. You can be calm. And let's be real, at the end of the day, you can get your shit together. That's why we're going to care about this and that's why we're here to talk about getting time back from the interview today.

Earlier in my career, I went looking for jobs. I failed a bunch to be honest in the very beginning, and I ended up succeeding towards the end. I shouldn't say end because I'm still in it. But the only way I found to grow is through failure. And one of the things I picked up in this failure or in these failures was that I had to buy more time in interviews.

So let's talk about the six ways I've learned to buy more time that I'm going to show you so you can do in your next interview. First and foremost, write down your questions or thoughts. This is not just buying more time but it will actually help you is to actually, when they ask you a question, write it down. Because for some people with learning disabilities, it is easier to physically write something in because you commit it to memory a little bit easier and allows your brain to think about it a little more clear. But in general if you have or ask or just take the time to write down your thoughts, it's a little bit easier to collect it to see it down there so that way if you write down three quick points, you can come back to it. Go on each point and knowing you can come back and you won't have forgotten what you just thought about. That's what I've been able to use before when I get long winded questions. I can right take the time to write it down. Now obviously if you get a quick question like what is Ajax? We kind of expect that one on the spot so that's a little bit harder, but you can buy anywhere from 15 seconds to about a minute, minute, half, so very still effective method.

The second is to ask clarifying questions. What do I mean by that? Well, what are the pros and cons of [No 00:02:04]? And you can potentially then respond back with, “Oh, what parts of No would you like me to focus on? Would you like me to focus on the core modules? Would you like me to focus on some of the open source modules?” And by doing that you're going to make the interviewer take the time to think which is going to entail buy you a couple seconds and then they respond. You can anywhere buy about five to 10 seconds by just asking a clarifying question, and there's a ton of thinking you can do in five to 10 seconds.

Now the other thing you can do is a natural pause. Now normally when I teach a natural pause, I physically pause a bunch because I don't want to make this video really awkward. Not that it's awkward at all, but I also don't want you to draw it out just because I'm doing pauses in the middle. You can give natural pauses of anywhere from one to two seconds without anyone thinking twice because it's pretty common for people to take pauses. But in interviews, sometimes people just don't take pauses. They start talking really fast and then it just becomes really hard to listen to them, and it goes down a path that you just don't want to go on. Pauses are extremely important because you can buy the one to two seconds back and think quickly through things. So don't be afraid to use them because they're not socially awkward until you feel they're socially awkward, which I've learned is anywhere from two to four seconds is that range where you're going to start feeling it. Four seconds and on you're definitely at that point of you should stop pausing.

The fourth way is to pseudocode. People forget this one all the time, and I encourage you to do this one. You can buy more time back in thinking if you start pseudocoding down your thoughts. It will allow you to buy time to show you have a thought process which really you're also coming up with the answer on the spot, and pseudocoding will allow you to put some notes down and really let you think through. You can buy anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds between what you're typing. But talk your thoughts out loud. If there's a whiteboard there, write them down. You compare the talking out loud with your thoughts with clarifying questions really well. I see it done all the time very effectively, and that is what I'm going to encourage you to do. Talk your thoughts out. Ask clarifying questions as you go. It'll buy you more time.

Last but not least, small talk. If you are on a larger scale question where you are trying to think through your thoughts, I've found that it's actually been effective for some people. This one doesn't work as well for me. I don't like to do small talk personally. Do they always listen to the interviewer? Not always. But I found that some people can multitask and can get this done, which will buy them more time. It just depends on how much small talk they keep up, but it can at least buy you anywhere from five to 15 seconds pretty easily.

No matter what you do, time matters. Figure out which one of these you want to try to implement and then practice it. Practice this by either doing a mock interview with someone like me or someone in your peer group. Don't care, but practice it by that and do them mock interviews. Whether you're in a boot camp, whether you're in a job, find a way to do an actual mock interview with someone that can help you to test out these skills. Because the hard part about these is they're great, but it's easy to read this, hard to implement because it takes practice to be like, “Oh, how do I ask a good clarifying question? Oh, I should pseudocode here, but am I pseudocoding and the right thing or the wrong thing? Do I do pauses? Do I write down questions? Do I small talk?” It takes practice.

If you're interested in help with this, I've created a service called Coding Career Fastlane where I help you with the job hunt and interviews. And yes, I do mock interviews to help you make sure that you've practiced and you're prepared for the interview so that you can buy back more time, because that time is extremely crucial for you to get the right answers, to be more calm, and to set yourself up with new opportunities in life by getting the job.

That's it for this video. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out, leave a comment below. And until next time.

About the author

    Jason Humphrey

    Jason Humphrey is an full stack development, entrepreneur and investor. He is a professional programmer and engineer working in Node js, Angularjs, HTML5, CSS, JavaScript/jQuery, Mongodb, and Jive. He is a full stack developer, with a special emphasis on and passion for MEAN stack. You can find more about him on his website.