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Getting Past the Screener

Before you get to the white board you'll likely have to pass an introductory screening interview - a short call (or in person meeting) to suss out what you know.

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Nice to meet you…

Most companies will want to be sure you’re the right fit for their organization before scheduling a full “round” or “onsite”. There are two reasons they do this:

  • To help you get to know the company, the job you’re applying for and the process you’re about to go through
  • To make sure you’re who you say you are and your resume is “in alignment” with your skills

Here’s the simple truth: people lie on their resume. “Lie” might be a bit strong, but it’s true! When you need a job you need a job and people will emphasize what they need to in order to get in the door. Screeners and recruiters know this, so in this section we’re going to step through what that might look like.

Check Your Resume

First things first: check to be sure your resume is accurate in terms of how it portrays your skillset. Did you use the words “master” or “expert”? Your screener will zero in on that guaranteed.

Know Your Basics

You will be studying some super tough problems in a short while - but it will all be for nothing if you forget the very basics. Let me give you an example - something that happened to me a few years ago…

Rob, I see here that you really like Elixir and you’ve written some open source libraries with it and even given a few conference talks. I love Elixir too - great language. Would you say that Elixir supports first-class functions?

This is going to sound absolutely crazy… but I utterly froze. I know what first-class functions are - I’d written about them! When you’re in an interview setting, however, and depth-first traversal is cycling in your brain, even the most basic things can completely escape you. In this instance, I saw the concept in my mind, but the exact definition and phrasing just evaporated. I said as much to my interviewer and they were understanding. Unfortunately for me, I was completely thrown off my game and struggled to get back on track.

Note: if you don’t know, first-class functions are functions that are treated like any other variable. JavaScript callbacks are a prime example.

Ready, set…

Let’s go through some screening questions now. I obviously don’t know your skills, but I’ll do my best for each popular language out there. Before you go on - look over your resume. See if the words I focus on are in yours. If so, translate as appropriate.


The Code

Code for this video (and for the entire series) can be found in the production GitHub repo.

  • Let's Get Started!

    This is a quick introduction to what this production is all about and what (I hope) you'll learn. Please watch it. There are some supplies you'll need to get and some mental space you'll need to clear if you're to get the most out of this production.

  • Review: Big-O Notation

    It's a thing you'll need to know if you plan to get through any interview. It's actually quite useful and in this post I'll hopefully make the case that's it's simple as well.

  • Review: Data Structures

    Let’s review data structures! It’s fun and exciting! In this section you’ll review and then build your very own data structures along with me! I’ll be using JavaScript to code mine, but feel free to use whatever language you like.

  • Review: Algorithms and Strategies

    Now the fun starts! We have our data structures and now we need to focus on the algorithms we’re likely to be asked about in an interview. But that’s not enough! What you really need to do is to be able to tease out the strategy that you’ll need to use in combination with your data structures and algorithms. That will help you answer almost any interview question.

  • Your Interview Mindset

    You're not going to make it through this section unless you have the right frame of mind. Simply wanting a job isn't enough - you need to calm yourself and focus.

  • Getting Past the Screener

    Before you get to the white board you'll likely have to pass an introductory screening interview - a short call (or in person meeting) to suss out what you know.

  • Databases: How Would You Implement...?

    Screener questions tend to have a bit more broad and, typically, based on your experience... sometimes not. Think about how you would answer this one about databases.

  • JavaScript: What Time Is It?

    Sometimes a potential interviewer will 'cosplay' with you - pretending that you work at the company and seeing how you might solve one of their realworld problems.

  • Understanding the Mechanics of The Interview Question

    Don't hate me... and PLEASE don't skip this video. Let's walk through Fibonacci together as a way of understanding how interviewers will flex and extend a single question to dig into your brain.

  • Practice: Stock Price Calculation

    This is a real interview question that comes straight from Amazon. You'll be writing this one by hand so remember your strategies.

  • Practice Question: Product of All Numbers But This

    A straightforward problem that, at first, seems daunting - until you break it down and apply the strategies you know.

  • Practice Question: Smallest Range of K Lists

    This is a tough one and you might struggle with it some. If you do, practice speaking aloud to get help from the interviewer.

  • Jon Skeet: Creating a C# Linter

    Another traditional question: create a linter for X language. This is more about parsing a string and remembering where you are within it.

  • Jon Skeet: Falling From Great Heights

    Not all interview questions have to do with code - some are purely logical, designed to see how you would try and solve a really, really hard problem. Skeet couldn't figure this one out...

  • Jon Skeet: Binary Tree Troubles

    It's a rule of interviews: 'ask a binary tree question' and that's exactly what I do in this video with Jon. Traversing in different ways, trying to balance along the way.

  • Jon Skeet: Creating a Queue from Scratch

    This is another very popular question from larger companies, and requires you to be familiar with linked lists, arrays and stacks.

  • Jon Skeet: Anagram Checker

    Let's end things with one that's a bit simpler - creating a string walking function that evaluates anagrams.

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