Coding Interview Prep for the Career Adviser Who Doesn’t Code

katie smith at duke universityKatie Smith, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center,
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ksmith258/
Twitter: @ksmith258

As a career adviser who works primarily with undergraduate students in the STEM fields, I meet frequently with engineering, computer science, and other students who are preparing for technical interviews. Technical interviews are used in a variety of fields and can vary significantly between industries, companies, and even individual interviewers. For the purposes of this post, the focus will be specifically on a certain type of technical interview, the coding interview.

Let’s start with a confession. I’ve never taken a computer science course. I’ve watched some online videos, but the only programming I do involves room and food reservations and facilitating presentations, not algorithms and data structures.

Without knowing how to code, helping students prepare for programming interviews can be challenging, and even a little intimidating. However, coding interviews aren’t so different from other types of interviews, so don’t overlook the skills you have as a career adviser!

Here are some tips for helping students prepare:

Don’t forget the traditional questions

Many technical interviews include traditional interview starters such as “Tell me about yourself.” “What do you know about our company?” and “Why are you interested in this position?” These are great ways to warm up when helping a student prepare, as students should always anticipate these questions.

Practice communicating and decision making

To succeed in coding interviews, students must know how to talk through problem solving. Interviewers present a question or scenario, and expect students to ask questions, consider responses and possibilities, weigh options and ideas, and make decisions, all aloud. It’s less important for students to come up with the right answer than for them to show a clear thought process, an ability to problem solve, and strong communication skills.

Ask questions and pay close attention to your student’s response. Does he ask further questions to better understand the target client (age, needs, interests), any restrictions (such as materials, budget, timeline), and resources available? Does she think creatively about client needs and how to address them? Does he weigh his ideas and mention why he chooses to go in a particular direction? Does she present something innovative? Does he address how he’d approach building the model he suggests?

Your student doesn’t need to invent the next piece of technology and regardless of your level of technical knowledge, you should be able to both ask and provide feedback on answers to basic design questions.

Types of questions that I’ve found to be particularly useful for this type of conversation are open-ended brainteaser, design, and scenario.

Some examples:

  • How many basketballs are there in the state of North Carolina?
  • How many quarters would it take to create a stack as tall as the Empire State Building?
  • Design a phone for an avid traveler.
  • Design a new voting system for a college student government election.
  • Design an alarm clock for a person who is deaf.
  • If you were to create an app for students who want to see and sort all events on campus, how would you go about that process?
  • How would you learn more about the technical needs of students with disabilities on your college campus?

Do you have recommendations of other types of interviews or examples of process-oriented interview questions to use in helping students communicate problem solving? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Consult technical resources

There are plenty of resources online for students to take advantage of for practicing specific technical questions. Leetcode.com helps users prepare for coding interviews by presenting practice questions and allowing users to submit their code for review. A wide range of other sites have programming questions to use for practice, including: Programmerinterview.com, Career Cup, and Geekinterview.com, which feature technical questions for a variety of other engineering fields as well.

A simple search of “coding interview” on YouTube will result in a wealth of interesting videos with experts speaking on the coding interview process, as well as some individuals sharing examples of walking through coding interview questions.

Several books worth checking out are Cracking the Coding Interview and Cracking the PM Interview both by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, and Elements of Programming Interviews: The Insiders’ Guide, by Adnan Aziz, Tsung-Hsien Lee, and Amit Prakash. Revisiting foundational textbooks on programming and algorithms can also a good way for students to brush up on the basics.

Recommend practice, practice, practice

Tell student you recommend they find a practice buddy. Students who are preparing for coding interviews will be more prepared and have a richer learning experience if they are practicing with a peer who can offer additional ideas and feedback.

As an additional point, students in a coding interview should anticipate coding on a piece of paper or a whiteboard instead of a computer, a skill they’ll want to get plenty of practice in before it becomes time to interview, and also a good one to practice with the feedback of a knowledgeable buddy.

In an in-person interview, students should expect to write code on a blank sheet of paper or on a whiteboard. This can be challenging since, prior to interviewing, most students have done all of their programming using a computer. Coding by hand will take some getting used to, and students who invest the time practicing prior to an interview will be glad they did.

Notably, if the interview is conducted over the phone or virtually, the student may be asked to code on a shared online document, viewable by both the candidate and the interviewer.

Collaborate with your partners

Does your office partner with a faculty member in computer science? Do you have active student organizations with student leaders who have successfully navigated coding interviews? How about an employer at a technical company eager to connect with students?

Last year, a conversation at a networking event turned into a local engineer generously visiting our (Duke University) campus to give a presentation on coding interview tips for students, a program that had a huge turnout for both undergraduate and graduate students. The engineer gave advice on approaching the interview process and specific technical topics that far exceeded my own technical knowledge, a great benefit for all attendees.

Share the programming love

Most interviewers leading technical interviews are engineers and programmers themselves, and they’re the perfect audience for geeking out. Engineers tend to enjoy swapping programming stories and challenges with others who share their interests. Engineers love asking and hearing about students’ technical experience, specific projects, why they enjoy programming, and interesting challenges or bugs they’ve encountered and overcome. Students should prepare to give specific examples of why they enjoy coding, how they’ve developed the interest over time, and interesting challenges or bugs they’ve encountered, and how they found, diagnosed, and fixed them.

Show your work!

Have your students been working on an app, a website, or other accessible code or technology? Taking out a phone or computer during an interview may go against just about every piece of advice we typically give, but showing examples of projects during an interview can show evidence of skills while leading to a rich conversation about challenges and ideas.

Students should check with their interviewer to ensure this is appropriate, and only do so if they are given approval. They should also be sure everything is already opened and readily accessible, with all other apps and programs turned off.

Don’t forget about testing

Several employers have mentioned that students rarely bring up testing in an interview setting, but those who do tend to impress their interviewers. When students write code for class or projects, it often does not undergo the same testing and maintenance necessary in industry, and not all students will think to bring this up. Students should think not only about writing the code, but how to check it as well.

In sum, you don’t need to know how to code in order to help your students prepare for coding interviews. Work collaboratively with your students to understand the coding interview process, and what they can expect.

Organize Your Workflow and Save Paper

Laura CraigLaura Craig, Assistant Director, Internships and Experiential Education, Temple University Career Center
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lauramn
Twitter: @BuckeyeVirginia

Happy summer semester everyone! Before you can get to the end of the summer, though, do you feel like you can get to your desk? Building on James Marable’s earlier post for the NACE 2015 Conference, I wanted to take a deeper dive into one of the apps he mentioned, Evernote.

Evernote bills itself as “the modern workspace that enables you to be your most productive.” It’s a cloud-based service that allows you to create text, photo, and audio notes across a range of interfaces, combine multiple forms of media into one note that you can share with others, and organize everything in a meaningful way for later use. It has radically changed how I look at productivity, and I hope it can do the same for you!

Here are three ideas from my workflow to help you make the most of Evernote:

Banish a blizzard of paper from your desk: Before Evernote, I planned everything out on paper and gathered more paper for handouts. Then I created physical file folders for all that paper and filed them away. My computer monitor was decorated with a wide array of Post-Its and other scraps of paper that were vitally important, but lacked a permanent home.

Not anymore!

Now, I create a new note with my ideas, and attach any ideas for handouts to that same note so I don’t have to hunt for them in multiple places. I organize individual notes into topical notebooks and tag categories across notebooks. The screenshot below shows you an example of note organization. You see my “Program Planning” notebook with historical/current data around past programs and supporting content I’d like to use for future programs. I’ve highlighted my tag list in yellow. This list allows me to group items by category across notebooks.

craig evernote desktop

I may have notes about how to use the Symplicity Counseling Module within this notebook, but I use the Counseling Module tag, highlighted in orange, to categorize everything I have about it in Evernote. 

To-do lists are also far more dynamic within Evernote. Instead of a list of static items, I can add additional information, updates, and next steps to accomplish each item. Once I complete an item, I don’t have to get rid of it if I don’t want to, making it easy to use it as a recurring to-do list.

Free your inbox from “reference” items: Raise your hand if your inbox contains hundreds or even thousands of items “for reference.” One of the best features of Evernote is that you can e-mail documents into your account and sort them into individual notebooks from the e-mail message. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that I’m sending a meeting agenda into my Temple University notebook, and the note will be tagged “communications.” It won’t get lost once you send it to Evernote because anything that’s in your account is searchable, so give your inbox a break!

craig evernote emailSlay the paper monster: I remember at my first job having folder upon folder of articles and ideas that I wanted to share with students. Did I ever do that? No—I never saw that paper again after I carefully filed it away. Two additional Evernote add-ons have really helped me cut down on the amount of physical paper I retain, making it more likely that I’ll use the paper I have.

Scannable App: This free iOS app allows you to capture high quality scans of any document and share directly into your Evernote account, as well as through other channels. I would call this a must have app to lighten your load!

Doxie Scanner: If you’ve got a bigger paper monster to slay, consider investing in a Doxie Scanner. These scanners are small, easy to use, and have great Evernote integration. The small size makes it easy to use for home and work, and you could also take this to #NACE16. I’ve probably scanned more than 2,000 pieces of paper with my Doxie, so they are quite durable.

Do you already use Evernote? What’s your favorite feature? What organizational project are you tackling at work this summer? Share your ideas in the comments.

 

Make Your Conferencing Easy

Whether you’re new to NACE’s annual conference or this is your 10th time attending, here are things that will make this hectic and fun week easier.

Download the app and schedule your time. Set up your itinerary and use your#NACE15 app smartphone or tablet to be your daily guide. The conference app offers information on all workshops and sessions, plus it links you to NACE’s social media so you can get updates and reminders for conference activities. (Go to your device’s app store and search for NACE15. The app is free.)

Weather Forecast: The average temperatures in the Anaheim area in early June are typically in the mid- to upper-70s.

shoesChoose your shoes for comfort. Business casual is the recommended dress for the event, but comfortable shoes are key. While all conference events are within a short walking distance, going to workshops, visiting the exhibit hall, and hitting the general sessions means the potential for a lot of wear and tear on your feet. Wear your most comfortable shoes.

Drop into the TECHbar in the Expo Hall to get quick demonstrations of how to use apps that will help you to be more productive. Look for “TechBytes,” special presentations on tech topics. (Sponsored by Macy’s.)gapingvoid

Recharging Lounge: Recharge your electronic devices while you recharge yourself by looking at artwork from gapingvoid.com. (See more from gapingvoid.com in booth 304.)

Picture this in the Headshot Lounge: Need a professional photo for your social media profile? Folks from University Photo will take your picture.

Tenley HalaquistIf the shirt is turquoise, it must be Tuesday. Questions? Need help? NACE staff is easily identifiable by the color of their shirts.

  • Wednesday, staff will wear emerald green.
  • Thursday, the shirt is red.
  • Friday, staff will be wearing light blue shirts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

Registration is open. Pick up your registration packet. Tuesday, June 2, registration is open from noon until 8:30 p.m. in the Platinum Ballroom; and 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. An information desk will be open from 7 a.m. to noon on Friday.

Get free Wi-Fi in the NACE space at the conference. Password: NACE15.

Toss in a card and win a prize. Look for entry forms in your registration packet to enter prize drawings—and drop them off each day at Booth 136 in the Expo Hall to win.

Campfire Conversations Join one of 10 brainstorming-the-issues sessions with your colleagues from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, in Grand Ballroom J-H. (See page 34 of the program for a list of conversation topics and facilitators.)NACE15PartyAd

Bring your Bermuda shorts and your favorite beach shirt. Surf City USA, a Thursday evening celebration, features a live band and relaxed networking.

Don’t Leave Your Room Without: Room key, electronic device with the NACE15 app and your schedule loaded, and conference badge (you can’t get into any sessions or events without it). Consider carrying a light sweater in case session rooms are chilly.

 

Apps to Keep You Sane!

James Marable

James Marable, Manager, Social Media (Executive & College Recruitment) @Macy’s Inc.
Twitter: @JMarable
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/james-marable/4/29a/93

Imagine living in a world without multiple deadlines, no crazy travel schedules, no back-to-back (to back) meetings, or a world where you don’t have to rush from work to your kid’s band practice because you forgot it was your turn to pick him or her up! Now imagine living in a world where your spontaneous ideas weren’t forgotten as fast as you came up with them, or a hard drive crash erases the presentation that you’ve been working over a month on because your hard drive crashed! Well keep dreaming because most of those things are still going to happen, but there are some great tools to help minimize all of this stress.

We live in a nonstop world—it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with everything going on. With the advent of the smartphone, we are armed with a device that allows us to be creative, informed, entertained, and productive. Although smartphones have great power, they can easily become another distraction without the right set of apps to keep you on track.

The first app that I recommend is Todoist, a productivity tool which allows one to detail project tasks in a very meticulous manner through a simple and direct interface. I was introduced to this program in 2013, and I can’t remember how I got by before it. I sometimes liken myself to the “absent-minded professor,” because I’m constantly working on something (whether it’s for my role as a social media manager or for one of the countless external activities I’m involved with) and it’s easy for me to forget a step or two (or three). It allows me to separate all of my projects, then break down individual tasks, and even share responsibilities/tasks with individuals I may be partnering with. The app is accessible on almost every device/platform you can think of; iOS, android, PC, Mac, Gmail, and Outlook, so you can access your lists whether you have your phone or not. Tasks can be flagged with “priority levels,” allowing one to decide what needs to be done and in what order. It’s very flexible—it allows one to mesh their own approach to productivity. If you want to gain greater control over defining what needs to be done Todoist is worth a look.

So you’re running a little late for a flight and after doing lap after lap of the parking lot, lugging all your (and/or someone else’s) bags, and making a mad dash to the terminal only to find out your flight has been delayed. Ever happen to you? Yeah, me too.

tripcaseTripCase is a great app for iOS and android devices (there’s a web version too), that lays out an overview of a full trip itinerary in chronological order, detailing flight information, hotel addresses, car rental reservation numbers, and more. It strips out all of the unnecessary information in those ridiculously long confirmation e-mails and just gives you the pertinent facts. TripCase also updates flight status in real time so you aren’t that guy racing through the airport (unless you’re really, really late)!

Inspiration strikes at a moment’s notice; when it hits, you want to be able to capture it completely to expand upon later, and Evernote is the app to facilitate this. One could evernotesimply write off Evernote as just a note taking app and question why one shouldn’t use the notepad on their phone. My pushback to that thinking is based on its flexibility and connectedness. Evernote lets you create all kinds of notes; text, photo, voice, and video, and gives you access to them on all of your devices (PC, Mac, android phone/tablet, iPhone/iPad/iPod). No matter where you capture your thought, it becomes accessible on any device that has the app. The interface is totally user friendly and everything is searchable via keywords and tags. All your notes are stored within digital notebooks that live in your personal cloud, so you don’t have to worry about your notes dying with a malfunctioning/lost device or misplaced piece of paper. Whether you’re in a team meeting and forgot paper and pen to capture everyone’s ideas, or you’re on an evening jog and the solution to world peace comes to you, Evernote allows you to compose your thoughts and store them in an archive you will always have access to no matter where you are.

These are just three of the apps that I use to bring a little order to my life from home to work to play and back again; give them a whirl and see if they don’t increase your productivity!

Lastly, here are a few other apps that I’d recommend you take a look at: FeedlyPocketCudaSign, and Google Drive —they are great time savers and make life on the go that much more bearable.

James Marable is the social media manager at Macy’s Executive Recruitment & College Relations. Macy’s is sponsoring the 2015 Conference TECHbar in the Expo Hall.

 

 

LinkedIn Limitations

Vanessa NewtonVanessa Newton, program analyst, University of Kansas
Twitter: https://twitter.com/vlnewt
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/vanessaliobanewton
Blog: www.wellnessblogging.com

I cannot tell you how many times I hear people chirping on about how great LinkedIn is and how useful it is to “up that knowledge rate” on your first-destination survey. And while I agree with that, I think it’s time we acknowledge some of the limitations of relying on LinkedIn for information. Blame it on my scientific research background, but I think discussing and acknowledging limitations is a good thing.

A lot of companies are selling their services to look up your graduates on LinkedIn. For just 50 cents per student or $5 per student, they do all the work and find information for you. That sounds great (sans all the money you could be spending if you have a large graduating class), until you think about it. Yes, these companies can find that information for you, but what if 60 percent of your graduating class doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile? What if everyone in the graduating class has a LinkedIn profile, but half of them made their profiles because they were required by a class two years ago—and they haven’t updated their information since? The data that you paid for could say (wrongly) this person is currently a Student IT Help Desk Worker!

And what about other data on the LinkedIn profile…how do you know that it is correct? How can you reasonably assume that the graduate is still a bartender? I have graduates who fill out the destination survey and indicate in the comments that the job that they are currently working is just to pay the bills and they are actively seeking a more professional position.

And then you get into the really fuzzy section—nontraditional graduates who appear to be working in the same position they held before they started working on their degree. Did they get the degree to move higher up in the company or did they just want to get the degree?

Then there are the graduates (I find this often with arts majors) who are working on building their businesses, but are also working multiple jobs to pay bills and make ends meet. How do you classify that information? Because I think the fashion designer who is working as a receptionist and a hostess might indicate on a destination survey that they are employed full time—and not mention the other two jobs.

LinkedIn is a hub for information, but it isn’t the end-all be-all source of information. Yes, we can educate students on how to use LinkedIn, and encourage them to use it, but when it comes to pulling destination survey data from LinkedIn, it should be used with caution and in conjunction with other methods of finding information.

Separating Millennial Myths From Reality

Smedstad-HeadshotShannon Smedstad, employment brand director, Global Communications & Engagement Team, CEB
Twitter: @shannonsmedstad
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/shannonsmedstad
Blogs from Shannon Smedstad.

As organizations manage employee populations with increasing numbers of retirement-eligible workers, they are investing in hiring the future of the work force. In doing so, most everyone has realized that there’s one group that is particularly important—Millennials.

The competition for this demographic is stiff. Although Millennials participate in the same number of job interviews as candidates from other generations, they receive 12.5 percent more offers. Organizations are using a variety of tactics to attract and recruit the Millennial generation, but how can they sort the Millennial myths from reality?

Understanding the Millennial generation and their preferences is key. CEB recently researched the ways that Millennials undertake a job search and found a few ways that they differ from other generations, and some ways in which they aren’t different at all.
To attract and retain top talent from this generation, there are a few strategies that organizations should implement in their recruiting processes.

1. Use social media – but don’t overestimate it
Unsurprisingly, Millennials are more likely than any generation before them to use social media to learn about organizations. However, fewer than a third actually trust the information they receive through social channels. Job seekers across all generations place the most trust in friends and family when looking for jobs, so traditional channels such as referral programs and careers websites are still a decisive factor.

 2. Tell, don’t sell
Millennials spend less than half as much time as other generations learning about organizations before deciding whether to apply. To give this generation the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to apply, an organization’s employment brand needs to stand out by using messages that are consultative, not overly promotional.

 3. Emphasize career and personal development
Where their parents prized stability, the younger generation seeks new and varied opportunities—Millennials value career and individual development more than other generations. Because of this, they need to see the potential to learn quickly and make a difference as soon as they start a new role.

However, the top two most important factors in attracting candidates are the same across generations: compensation and work-life balance. As such, organizations should not overlook those attributes in their employment value proposition, but should actively seek ways to include the factors that matter to Millennials.

4. Optimize career websites for mobile devices
Millennials are more likely than other generations to use mobile devices to learn about employers. While the number of people looking at jobs and prospective employers on their smartphones and tablets will continue to grow, two-thirds of companies have yet to optimize their career sites for mobile devices. Ensure that information is easily available to candidates where they are looking for it.

The Bottom Line
Millennials are an important generation for organizations today—they are already quickly rising to be future leaders. While businesses have to compete more for Millennials’ interest than other generations, attracting top talent isn’t impossible. By understanding their preferences, organizations can successfully recruiting the Millennial talent they are looking for.

Four Lessons We Can Learn From Business Leaders

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Pace University Career Services and Founder, Career Transitions Guide
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blessvaidian
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlessCareers
Blog: http://careertransitionsguide.com

1) The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder

Mark started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. Was it risky to venture out as an entrepreneur? Yes! It’s risky to start or try anything new. Whether you are in college or a professional with years of experience, our career choices are often masked with uncertainty. Industry leaders will tell you that it’s because they were not afraid of taking risks, that they are successful today.

2) You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. – Walt Disney

A few months ago, Business Insider published an article with a list of 23 successful people who failed at first. “Learn from life’s lessons and move on” was the underlying theme in all their stories. Don’t let failure keep you down. Sometimes when we don’t get what we want, another door opens. A mistake young college students make is to think that successful people never hit a rough patch. In fact successful people hit many obstacles, but keep moving forward.

3) We’re living at a time when attention is the new currency…Those who insert themselves into as many channels as possible look set to capture the most value. Participate or fade into a lonely obscurity. – Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable

Those people that are well branded and popular on social media outlets, and those with a wide circle of connections get job offers. Have your circle built so that when the time comes, your job search will be much faster than those that live in “obscurity.” The clients and students I work with that have a wide list of connections, attend events, and have a well-loved personality find jobs much faster. I work with hundreds of recruiters every year. They attend events to target candidates for open positions and to keep resumes on file for when there is a vacancy. If you are not getting out of the house and if you are not networking online, be prepared for a longer job search.

4) Technology empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. – Steve Ballmer, Former CEO of Microsoft

When reading a job description, the skills required are clear. A college degree does not guarantee employment. But having all the skills required in a recruiter’s job posting does make you more marketable. Apply to jobs only after you acquire the skills. This way you will not waste the recruiter’s time or get discouraged when you don’t hear back from human resources. You can learn almost anything using online resources or by partnering with the right technology tools.