Let’s admit it: there’s not a whole lot of love out there for the whiteboard interview.
Maybe it’s because programmers and other tech pros are used to typing code, and so writing it out longhand with a dry-erase marker feels weird and unintuitive. Or maybe it’s how the interview format prevents candidates from using Google to look up code, which is something that even the most experienced tech pros do on a regular basis.
“How many people can actually write BFS [breadth-first search] on the spot, without preparing for it in advance?” Sahat Yalkabov, a developer, wrote in a much-circulated Medium posting in 2016. “Again, I am not a recent college graduate anymore who has breadth-first search memorized, and aren’t my open-source projects and my prior work experience at Yahoo enough to show that I can write code and deliver software into production?”
Despite tech pros’ hatred of the format, it’s easy to see why so many companies decide to rely on whiteboarding to sift through candidates. Hiring managers like to think that breaking down problems on a whiteboard will give them crucial insight into a candidate’s problem-solving abilities; that’s why, as a candidate, it’s just as important to talk aloud through your thought process as it is to solve the actual challenge in front of you.
But not all companies offer whiteboard interviews, and a new (and growing) list on Github shows exactly which ones. “The companies and teams listed here instead use interview techniques and questions that resemble day-to-day work—for example pairing on a real world problem, or a paid/unpaid takehome exercise,” reads the list’s introduction.
“Discussing a real world problem with the help of a whiteboard is [thumbs-up emoji],” reads the “tl:dr” section beneath. “Solving basic CS questions, technical puzzles, brainteasers (with or without a whiteboard) is [thumbs-down emoji].”
Companies listed (so far) include Basecamp, Instacart, Netflix Enterprise Platforms, Slack, and Thread. In place of a whiteboard interview, these firms offer some combination of take-home exercises, pair-programming challenges, and coding sessions with senior team members. If you’re in the market for a new position, and hate the idea of whiteboarding, the list is worth a look.