An initial call with the hiring manager: Check. A second call with the department manager: Check. A video call with the dev team: Check. Now, there’s only one thing standing between you and your dream job: A whiteboard interview.
It may sound intimidating at first, but with a little practice and these helpful tips, preparing for a whiteboard interview will seem as easy as copying and pasting your cover letter. Ready to get whiteboarding?
What is whiteboarding?
The good news: whiteboarding is exactly what you think it is! It’s when you integrate a whiteboard into a process (in this case, a job interview). Because people process, focus on, and remember images better than words alone, adding a visual tool like a whiteboard can work wonders for your professional endeavors.
Whiteboarding is often incorporated in business processes like brainstorming sessions, business pitches, and product design meetings. Whiteboarding is so effective in these kinds of meetings because you can organize thoughts and images as you’re working. It doesn’t matter if you veer off your current topic; just throw up the question or idea on the whiteboard where it most makes sense. Another benefit is that you can erase just as easily as writ. As soon as something becomes irrelevant, you can erase or delete it.
You can whiteboard with a physical board in front of you or take it online. Our own tool, Cacoo, offers the ability to whiteboard online by yourself or as a team. With everyone logged in, you can create and edit whiteboards together in real-time. Even better — there’s a video chat feature so you can discuss face to face right in the app. Sound perfect for your team? That’s why we made it.
Another place you’ll see whiteboarding is in last-round interviews for development positions. Although it is similar to a whiteboard design challenge, the whiteboard interview poses unique tests for a developer.
What is a whiteboard interview?
To demonstrate their skills in action, candidates for a dev job might complete a whiteboard interview. This will usually be the last and most time-consuming part of the candidate process.
With nothing but a whiteboard, the interviewer gives the candidate a problem or a task — similar to those they will perform if hired. There are a few classics that interviewers tend to choose from, but you should never count on being that lucky. From here, the developer must write out the code by hand that they would create to solve the problem they’ve been given. And, they need to explain their process and the decisions they’re making along the way.
Most modern developers have their favorite open source codes saved and an IDE to check how their code is working along the way. This is a test to show what the developer is capable of without all of their favorite tools. Processes, vocab, and steps you haven’t thought about since your college days as a Comp Sci major are likely even to come up. So, with all this pressure and no hands to hold, how can you begin preparing to impress your next employer?
Never fear! We’ve put together a list to help you get ready. Since time may be of the essence: let’s get started!
How to prepare for a whiteboard interview
Like anything else in life, there are ways you can start preparing now (whether you have an interview coming up or just want to be ready when you land one). Here are some ways you can practice to increase your chances of success:
Do your research
Whiteboard interviews have been around long enough that the internet is full of resources to help you prepare for yours. Let’s go over a few easy preparation methods!
- Google questions
Some questions are more common when it comes to whiteboarding interviews. Knowing a list of the most popular questions, the traits they share, and why they work well is a great place to start. Don’t waste your time memorizing them or the steps to solve them (this will only be to your detriment), but the more you understand what makes these questions useful, the better you’ll perform on your own question.
- Find video tutorials
You can find videos of others online walking you through how to solve the problem. Watch a couple of them, and pay attention to their methods when working without a computer. What are the things that they say out loud? How do they overcome not being able to look up answers?
- Research the company
Another great tip is to know as much as possible about the specific tasks and culture of the company you’re interviewing with. The more you know about this, the more you’ll be able to tailor your preparation to what they’re looking for. You’ll know what success looks like, and you’ll hopefully have a more in-depth knowledge of the specific functions they’ll be asking you to write out from memory.
Practice practice, practice
- Get on a whiteboard
Whether that’s a physical whiteboard or a blank sheet in Cacoo’s whiteboard, get to practicing as much as possible. If you’re working with our online whiteboard, make sure you’re really limiting yourself from any other resources (as tough as that can be). You’re not doing yourself any favors by practicing with resources you won’t have available come the real deal. Do this at least a couple times until you feel (more) comfortable with the process.
- Get a second opinion
If you know someone who also works in the field, ask if they would let you practice a whiteboard interview with them acting as your interviewer. Go through the process with them there (or on a video call) and make sure you have some Q and A along the way. At the end, they can give you feedback on steps where you seemed more or less confident. Where could you continue to improve before doing it live?
Work out loud
To start getting into the mindset, make sure you’re narrating every time you practice. One of the most important aspects of the whiteboard interview is your ability to talk your interviewers through your process. To test yourself, make an audio recording of your explanation to see how you REALLY sound. It might be a bit less confident than you think. Find your weak spots and work on those more.
- Make a habit
Even when you’re not specifically working on a practice question, make a habit of explaining your processes. It’s most useful when working on other coding projects, but even if you’re doing the laundry, it can help. You’ll feel less self-conscious if you’re used to talking your actions through as you do them. Eventually, it’ll become second nature.
Even though a whiteboard interview is intimidating, people have been completing them for years, and you’ll be able to too! Practice makes perfect, and we’re here to help get you through the process.
By signing up for Cacoo, you’ll be able to use Cacoo to start practicing your whiteboard interviewing skills before the big day comes. You can also use it in other facets of your life — with real-time collaboration and hundreds of built-in templates, Cacoo offers more than just a whiteboard at the convenience of a few clicks. Get started and start nailing those interviews!