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Programming Interview Questions: What They Are and How to Answer

programming interview questionsIndividuals with a degree in computer science, electrical engineering or computer engineering will likely need to participate in a programming interview during the hiring process. This is unlike a traditional job interview. Programming interview questions are highly detailed and require the applicant to show off their skills, so to speak. Rather than focusing heavily on the applicant’s personality and how they would handle themselves on the job, programming interviews zero in on the candidate’s coding ability, problem solving skills and technical knowledge. This is, more or less, an exam of sorts to ensure the applicant is qualified.

During the interview, the applicant will be asked to solve algorithms, puzzles, programming problems and other related technical questions. Some problems may require math or logic to solve. Example questions include:

- Write a program which will find all of the prime numbers within the list of given numbers.

- Write a program that will remove a specific character from a string.

- Write a program that will sort numbers using quick sort.

If the position involves using a specific programming language, such as Java or Perl, it is best to use it to solve the problem. General programming or development positions may only require knowledge in one of the popular languages like Java, C, C++ or C#. Applicants that are given a choice of languages to use should, choose the one they are most knowledgeable in. Although another language may impress the employer more, their lack of proficiency will show through and may hurt the applicant in the end.

Programming interviews are typically conducted on-site. Applicants should be prepared to spend the entire day in the interview. Some last only half a day, but others may take up the entire day. Typically, there will be between three and six interviews lasting up to one hour each. During each interview, the applicant will be given all of the tools needed to solve the given problems (i.e. computer and internet access). The potential employee should use this opportunity to really show off their skills. They should ask questions if needed and listen carefully to the problem given. Interviewers will also use this time to assess whether or not an applicant would fit in well with other team members. Although programmers work behind the scenes, they still must be able to work well with others.

Because the questions are technical in nature, it is important that the applicant is proficient in the language they are working with. Someone who is not skilled with Java should not apply for such a position. If they are even able to make it past the phone interview, they will likely find themselves in hot water during the on-site interviewing process.

Programming interview questions may seem daunting, but they are just a test to see how skilled an applicant really is. It is unlikely that the candidate will be asked to solve anything overly complicated or out of their expected range of knowledge. Although the process may be a long one, it allows the employer to really see who is the most qualified and would also be the best fit for their company’s culture.