7 tips for navigating a pair programming session during a job interview

Collaboration and teamwork are more crucial than ever as remote work expands into hybrid work. 

Organizations are looking for ways to recruit developers who have strong communication skills and coding. 

Pair programming is one way to test both.

If the recruitment process includes a conference working with an already existing employee, it’s important to understand the don’ts and do’s. 

Executives want to see how an applicant will fit into the team in addition to measuring a range of skills.

The aim of pair programming is about a job candidate and an employee working together to solve a problem, not about the job candidate solving the problem.

Confusing this point can trigger the candidate to make crucial design decisions without having an effective talk about the topic earlier, or even proposing additional complications to the exercise just to show knowledge about a particular feature of the language. 

Organizations measure these effectiveness during a pair programming session:

  • Problem solving skills – Was the candidate able to figure out the problem, break it down into subproblems and then come up with solutions ?
  • Quality of coding – Did the candidate write easy-to-understand and clean code ?
  • Correctness of the code – Did the code cover all familiar scenarios ?
  • Communication skills – Was the candidate about to debug various scenarios, speak about the complication of the code as an intermediary for writing excellent code, optimize the code and stress test ?
  • Aptitude to learn – Does the candidate seem to be capable and willing of learning on the job ?

Some of the more progressive recruitment processes have these proficiencies as a practice and each recruiter evaluates each proficiency and provides a rating, which they used to regulate overall – strong accept, weak accept or reject.

Here the three don’ts and four do’s for navigating pair programming

How to make a good impression 

Organizations are measuring soft skills as well as technical skills during pair programming sessions. 

Strong candidates will be able to show the ability to work on a team and overall coding skills.

  • Explain the thought process behind your outcomes.
  • Keep extensibility, maintainability and readability in mind. 
  • Accept effective criticism gracefully
  • Show you can learn and be part of a team

Developers should think about how to illuminate their skills at extensibility, maintainability and readability during the interview. 

Another crucial element of the process is manipulating the back and forth of writing code and being able to accept effective criticism and attempt it during the same conversation. 

Job candidates should be able to acquire an opinion of code without taking it personally and feel comfortable asking challenging questions during a pair programming session. 

Organizations also are seeking developers who can keep different users in mind, based on the task at hand. 

Don’t make these mistakes

In addition to seeking specific skills, organizations are also warning and watching signs that a single would not be a good fit for the team. 

The shortlist of mistakes looks like this :

  • Don’t bounce straight to the right answer – explain about your work
  • Don’t be nervous to ask questions
  • Don’t overdraw your skills

A recruiter expects the applicant to show how they are handling the problem, how they are reasoning through it, and how they are finding the solutions, and not just if they know the solution.  

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