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Top 7 beginner level coding interview questions you should know how to answer

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay | 14 April 2020


With automation and AI set to replace 2.7 million Australian jobs by 2034, coding has become an increasingly popular skill among workers. “Program or be programmed”, as they say; with the future growing ever-digital, employees will soon need basic programming skills to stand out in the job market. 

In fact, reports estimate that 50% of the nation’s job roles will require coding and software design abilities by 2030.

As an industry currently ripe with employment opportunities (with a projected 80,000 job openings over the next few years to 2023), aspiring IT experts will find no better time to enter the field. 

But for those just entering the workforce – what can you expect from your first interview?

SkillsTalk explore the seven most common interview questions for entry-level coders, and how you can be sure to ace each one

1. Programming language questions.

Above all else, it’s imperative to prepare for questions on your coding experience and knowledge.

Interviewers will most likely inquire on the programming languages you’re familiar with. Be prepared to not only list those you’re strongest in, but to describe real-life experiences of when you’ve worked with these languages. For example, you may bring up a time when you coded a simple game using JavaScript; cases like these demonstrate your ability to put coding languages into practical and creative use.

You may also be asked about the most recent languages you’ve learned. To truly impress, it helps to be adventurous and keep atop the latest programming languages. Having an experimental coding background demonstrates your enthusiasm to employers.

For instance, knowledge of established languages such as Python or C++ is attractive enough; though throw in a few skills in Julia, Elm, and Groovy – and you may just hold their attention. 

2. Questions programming terms and processes.

coding concept

Employers will likely quiz you on your knowledge of basic coding terms and systems

These can include questions on algorithms, loops, arrays, and operators, among plenty others – asking you to explain their purpose, their features, and their various types. It’s crucial to familiarise yourself with these central coding elements, as they show a comprehensive, well-rounded knowledge of the craft.

Knowing the specific components of languages – such as “numeric” and “string” constants, variables, and its “reserved words” (also known as a language’s “keywords”) can also help you answer basic vocabulary questions. 

Finally, the interviewer may ask you to discuss some coding best practices. Ensure you’re familiar with common methods of improving programming efficiency – such as the “DRY” principle, naming conventions, consistent indentation; and maintaining straightforward, concise code.

3. Debugging questions.

Along with writing code, employers will be interested in your abilities to fix it. As they say, “programmers spend 20% of their time coding, and 80% of their time debugging.”

Preparing for these questions can be tricky without an actual program to fix, though Sam Gavis-Hughson of BytebyByte recommends improving your abilities in reading and interpreting code. Doing this will help you analyse programs at a faster and more accurate rate – making it easier to pinpoint any evident issues. 

Additionally, train yourself to debug code – both with and without debugger tools. Knowing how to debug manually will help in interview tests where the only tools provided are print statements. When practicing with an actual debugger, be sure to keep things general; your interviewer likely won’t have your favourite niche tools on hand. 

4. Conceptual questions.

“Conceptual” questions in a coding interview are designed to test your knowledge on the concepts and systems of a specific programming language. For example – should you add “Java experience” to your resume, your interviewer will likely quiz you on what a “finally” clause or “Boolean” value is. 

To successfully answer these questions, you must first ensure your job application accurately represents your coding abilities. Claiming years of fake experience in a coding language you’re unfamiliar with will leave you stuck (not to mention damage your chances of earning the role) once you’re tested on its actual components. 

It will then help to brush up on the basic elements and frameworks of these languages, and research on specific interview questions asked for each. Prepare clear, concise answers; these are also meant to highlight your communication skills and ability to explain concepts on top of your technical know-how. 

5. Whiteboard or computer coding questions.

coding concept

In a pre-laptop era, whiteboard interviews were a popular method of testing a job candidate’s coding skills. The process involved them solving a programming problem on a whiteboard or sheet of paper – all without the help of an IDE (integrated development environment) or computer. 

These questions are still common among coding interviews today, as they demonstrate an interviewee’s ability to read, write, and fix code without having automation and digital tools to fall back on. They’re pure tests of knowledge; to successfully pass, one must thoroughly familiarise themselves with code and frequently practice in manually writing it

Practicing code on a whiteboard or paper will reduce your reliance on an IDE, helping you understand the processes and systems on a deeper level.

This will help when tackling coding tests on an actual laptop – giving you a strong foundation to work with. Of course, it can also help to experiment with common IDEs for your languages (or ask your interviewer in advance on what development environment to expect). 

6. Personal experience questions.

Like any job interview, your recruiter will likely enquire on your history in the field – including any notable projects you’ve contributed to, current ones you’re working on, and lessons you’ve learned along the way. 

When asked about any past or current projects, it helps to have a portfolio on hand. Providing your interviewer with a first-hand look at the programs you’ve created (or are currently working on) grants them better insight into your creative visions, technical skills, and passion for the field. 

Recruiters will also typically ask questions on your creative process – such as how you start a project, and how you cope with failure. Be descriptive in how you assess, prioritise, and plan out new assignments; and demonstrate your methods for responding to mistakes or crises.

Be sure to bring up real-life examples and the decisions you made to bring these projects to completion. These prove your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as your ability to take calculated risks. 

7. Culture fit questions.    

Finally, interviewers will often ask you “behavioural” questions to determine your personality or culture “fit” for the job.

These typically include questions on how well you work with teams, your response to high-pressure situations, and the vague – but often asked: “Why should we work with you?” 

Preparing for these simply requires having practiced, memorised, and meaningful answers that highlight the strengths in your professional experience and personality. Be honest, but avoid any unflattering facts; try and frame any weaknesses or failures as learning experiences or opportunities to improve.

Generally, demonstrating your abilities to collaborate, adapt, and communicate effectively will attract most prospective employers – both in the coding industry and beyond.

Prepare yourself through formal training.

Ensuring a successful coding interview takes proper practice and experience. First-time job-seekers in the field can stand out with a wide breadth of technical knowledge (i.e. familiarity with both classic and new programming languages) and a substantial portfolio of projects, to boot. 

Through Upskilled’s generous range of information technology courses, aspiring coders can build both their technical skills and practical experience through programs in software development, website development, programming, and plenty others. Students can complete their training with newly-equipped skills and a project portfolio to aid in their careers – on top of nationally-recognised qualifications. 

Best of all, each course is delivered 100% online, helping you study according to your personal needs and schedule. 

Advance your coding career today, and enquire with Upskilled on a course today.
 
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