Intro to Whiteboarding

Welcome to the fun of whiteboarding! In this tutorial, we'll be going over:

  1. What whiteboarding is, in terms of interviewing
  2. Why whiteboarding is necessary
  3. How to be successful in whiteboarding interviews


The whiteboard: How does this four-sided, empty surface invoke fear for many a would-be interviewee?

The whiteboard should be familiar to most students in the program. Instructors will have used the whiteboard to display concepts, write out code, and maybe even draw some funny pictures.

A whiteboarding interview is usually (but not always) done after the applicant completes preliminary steps such as the phone interview and behavioral interview.

Whiteboards are used a bit differently for technical interviews than they are in the classroom. Instead of asking about certain concepts, an interviewer will ask the interviewee to solve a problem or a series of problems on the whiteboard. The problems might be more conceptual (less likely), or they might be more technically focused (more likely). The interview is generally conducted by a single senior engineer at the company but may involve more interviewers.

The following are two examples from actual coding job interviews.

Conceptual Question Example

  • From Glassdoor: "During an interview I was asked if one robot was chasing another on a round playing field with a circular hole in the middle, and you can fall into the hole or off the edge, what would the algorithm be like to hunt down the fleeing robot?"

  • Note that the question doesn't necessarily involve any kind of writing to solve the problem. Still, it's important to display and explain your thought process, even for non-code problems. We'll go over why later in the tutorial.

Technical Question Example

  • From Glassdoor: "Describe and code an algorithm that returns the first duplicate character in a string."
  • This is a more typical question asked in technical interviews. Later we'll show you how to solve for these types of problems.

Now that we've gone over what a whiteboarding interview is, you might be wondering why such an interview is necessary to determine one's development skills. We can help answer that question in the next section.