The whiteboard interviews are a thing of the past, especially when it comes to hiring software engineering candidates. How can they prepare for an interview where they are asked to write code on a whiteboard?
Times change, and online interviewing is taking over. In that environment, a programmer will be more in their comfort zone than holding a marker in front of a whiteboard, with pressure from the interviewer reviewing their work.
On the contrary, in a remote interview this candidate can face a code challenge using tools and algorithms that are much closer to solving a real problem.
Technical validated interviews
A whiteboard is by far the least likely environment that the programmer will use to face a problem in their daily work.
On the contrary, in an online interview the interviewer can have a better idea of how the candidate handles a problem in real time. Another advantage of this method is that it is much more feasible to verify the quality of the code when it is available, rather than on a scribbled whiteboard.
There are many platforms today that allow you to conduct quality online interviews, such as Google Hangouts or Zoom. Through them the candidate can be put to the test, demonstrating their skills and abilities without pressure: that someone is able to solve a problem in an outdated environment and under pressure has nothing to do with coding skills.
Online interviews also allow the use of code editors in real time, so it is possible to verify if the code really works and compare it with other solutions.
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There is no way to prepare for a whiteboard interview
Another important aspect is the preparation for the interview, which is becoming more important today. It is not possible to have the resources at hand, when all you have at hand is a whiteboard, a marker and your memory: nothing is further from the real scenario that the candidate will face in reality.
On a whiteboard you can't figure out whether something works or not, but by using an online platform like Canvas on CodeLive or Codility, you can demonstrate whether or not the candidate's solution works and discuss what was wrong.
Does it matter that during the exercise the interviewee can search online for tools to solve a given problem? Not at all: it's the same thing they are going to do when they are working for the company. A coding exercise is not a test of memory, but of practicality and skills.
Classic whiteboard interviews are not about writing useful code, but demonstrating computer skills and insights. A whiteboard may be appropriate for brainstorming, but not for showing that the candidate knows how to code or not.
This can actually be done much more effectively through a remote interview, while being much fairer to the candidate, who may feel uncomfortable outside of their natural environment and away from their work dynamics.
Therefore, it is time to put away the maker and update to technical validated interviews to evaluate your candidates better.