Technical Interviews


Getting the Interview

The Usual

  • Resume
    • Companies love to see previous internships
    • If you don't have any, put projects and any experience close to an internship
    • Leadership roles/involvement in clubs is helpful
  • Applying
    • Apply everywhere, don't worry about being unqualified, you always have next year
  • Skills
    • Make sure you can talk about skills you list on your resume

Other important things

  • "Networking"
    • This just means having friends, ask upperclassmen friends or old intern friends for referrals or recruiter details
  • Sometimes you need to push HR a bit
    • If you've got deadlines and a company hasn't responded after an interview it can be worth it to send a couple emails
  • Put your projects on Github
    • Also, I'd say try have some unique side projects. Everyone made a basic Node web app, there are less flashy but more interesting projects out there

What is a technical interview

  • Generally 1-3 programming problems
  • Problems are often algorithm focused
  • Supposed to show how the candidate thinks


  • Sometimes the interviewer might ask a few general/resume questions first
  • Interviewer gives 1-3 programming problems
  • Interviewer asks if the candidate has any questions
    • Try to ask a couple of questions here, about company culture, average day, etc.

What companies look for

  • Communication
  • Solving the problem correctly
  • Thought process

(Disclaimer, we aren't recruiters and don't know how companies make decisons)


  • Discuss how you plan to solve the problem
  • Talk about your thought process while coding
  • Let the interviewer know if you need to take some time to think about the problem

Try do mock interviews with friends (or ACM) to help practice this

Solving the problem

  • Practice interview problems
  • Try practice without a computer sometimes
  • Resources
    • Cracking the Coding Interview
    • ACM workshops
    • CLRS, Skiena Textbooks (Advanced)
  • Practice problems later

Thought process

  • Companies say this is the most important part
  • How do you approach the problem?
    • Do you consider which data structures to use
    • Do you consider edge cases
    • Do you consider time complexity
  • Do you create test cases and test your solution?
  • Do you try check if there could be a better approach?

Some tips

  • Practice
    • Try do mock interviews with friends or mentors
    • If that isn't possible try solve the problem on paper
  • Take the interviewers hints
  • Plan out your solution before coding
  • Don't chase a solution you've seen but can't remember
  • Test your code

General Precurser

  • Time complexities
  • Data structures

Time Complexities

  • O(n) =>
  • O(n^2) =>
  • Basic time complexities included below
for(int i = 0; i < arr.size(); i++)
for(int i = 0; i < arr.size(); i++)
	for(int j = 0; j < arr.size(); j++)

Data Structures

  • Arrays
  • Hash Maps/Sets
  • Binary Trees
  • Stacks
  • Queues

Problem #1

2 Sum

2 Sum

  • Leetcode:
  • Given a list of integers and a value (v), return a list containing the 2 indices that sum to v.
  • Ex: S = 7, list = [1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 0].
  • We would return [2, 3] because 3 and 4 sum to 7.

Naive Solution

  • This solution is O(n^2), but are we repeating any work?
  • We are checking if i + j = S, can we change something so that we repeat work?


def twoSum(arr, S):

  sums = []

  for i in range(0, len(arr)):
    for j in range(i+1, len(arr)):
    # Here we are only looking for a single pair,
    # so we can return after we find it.
      if (arr[i] + arr[j] == S):
        return sums;
  return None

O(n) Solution


def twoSum(arr, S):

  sums = []
  hashTable = {}

  for i in range(0, len(arr)):
    sumMinusElement = S - arr[i]

    # Lets check if we have seen S - arr[i] before. If so, then we have a pair.

    if sumMinusElement in hashTable:
      return sums

    # Lets put arr[i] in the hash table so that if we get anther value j such
    # that arr[j] + arr[i] = s, we check if we have seen arr[i] in O(1).

    hashTable[arr[i]] = arr[i]
  return None

Problem #2

Coin Change

Coin Change

  • Leetcode:
  • Given a list of coins, determine the fewest number that can be used to create a target value


  • What algorithm can we use
  • How fast is it
  • Does it work in every case

Idea #1

  • Greedy algorithm
    • Take the biggest coin every time
    • Does this always work?
  • Test cases
    • [1, 5, 10, 25], 18
      • Answer: 5
    • [1, 6, 7, 15], 12
      • Answer: 2

Idea #2

  • Try every combination
  • Basically guaranteed to work
  • How fast is this?
    • Exponential complexity

Idea #2 Implementation

class Solution:
    def coinChange(self, coins: List[int], amount: int) -> int:
      	#base cases
        if amount == 0:
            return 0
        if amount <= 0:
            return float('inf')
        best = float('inf')
        for c in coins:
            best = min(best, self.coinChange(coins, amount-c))
        #deal with some edge cases
        if best == float('inf'):
            return -1
        if best == -1:
            return best
        return best+1

Idea #3

Dynamic Programming

What is dynamic programming

Two main requirements

  • Overlapping sub-problems
  • Optimal substructure
    • This means that sub-problems can be combined to solve the main problem

Why do we care

  • Can often bring time complexity down from exponential to linear on difficult problems
  • Commonly asked category in harder interviews

How does this apply to coin change

  • Example: [3,5,7], 16
  • With our brute force solution the functions calls will look like this:














Idea #3 Solution

class Solution:
    def coinChangeH(self, coins: List[int], amount: int) -> int:
        if amount in self.seen:
            return self.seen[amount]
        if amount == 0:
            return 0
        if amount <= 0:
            return float('inf')
        best = float('inf')
        for c in coins:
            best = min(best, self.coinChangeH(coins, amount-c))
        if best == float('inf'):
            self.seen[amount] = float('inf')
            return float('inf')
        self.seen[amount] = best+1
        return best+1
    def coinChange(self, coins: List[int], amount: int) -> int:
        self.seen = {}
        res = self.coinChangeH(coins, amount)
        if res == float('inf'):
            return -1
        return res
  • Some leetcode weirdness requires initializing seen in the main coinChange rather than making it global/member var

  • Need to make sure to cache results of the failiures too

Problem #3

Binary Tree Level Order Traversal

Traversing Trees

  • Depth First Search
    • Pre-order
    • In-order
    • Post-order
  • Breadth First Search

Binary Tree Level Order Traversal

  • Leetcode:
  • Given a binary tree, return the level order traversal of its nodes' values. (ie, from left to right, level by level).

BFS Solution

class Solution:
    def levelOrder(self, root: TreeNode) -> List[List[int]]:
        if root == None:
            return []
        ret = [[]]
        queue = []
        level = 0
        while len(queue) > 1:
            node = queue[0]
            if node == None:
                if node.left:
                if node.right:
        return ret

Technical Interviews

By theasocialmatzah

Technical Interviews

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