Locking coveted offers at the biggest tech companies is a dream most software engineers share. FAANG and tier-1 companies are known for their stimulating, enriching, and rewarding work cultures, attracting a wellspring of talent from all over.
However, there’s a sobering fact that tags along - the average acceptance rate at these companies is as little as 2%. Google, for instance, has an under 1% acceptance rate for software engineering positions. Even engineers with solid work experience frequently fall short, often for reasons ranging from an unstructured prep strategy to inadequate problem solving skills.
The question of “how long to study for coding interviews” depends on a host of factors, as the road isn’t all that straightforward. The bottom line is that in pursuit of cracking these interviews, your prep timeline is a crucial element to weigh up.
If you want a meaningful answer to how long you must study for these interviews, it's 2-3 months. That is if you want to give yourself the best chance.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The technical interview process at FAANG and tier-1 companies
- Coding interview timeline: how long should i prepare for technical interviews?
- Factors to consider while deciding how long to study for coding interviews
- Two months coding interview prep plan
- Dealing with distractions along the way
- How to prepare for technical interviews the right way?
The technical interview process at FAANG and tier-1 companies
Coding interviews at the biggest companies typically comprise three rounds:
i) The Initial Screen
ii) The Technical Phone Screen
iii) The Onsite Interview
The Initial Phone Screen:
This round involves speaking with a recruiter from Human Resources. After your profile is initially considered, the recruiter gets in touch to understand details about your past experience and technical skills to see if you’re the right fit for the role in question. Expect questions around your stints with past organizations, important projects you were part of, and your professional qualifications.
The Technical Screen - Coding Assignment
The technical phone screen is conducted by a technical recruiter, and involves solving one or two coding problems around data structures and algorithms. The fundamental purpose of this round is to see if your problem solving skills are at par. Recruiters in this round mostly want to understand your approach, how you applied concepts, and how best you arrived at the solution.
The Onsite Interview
The outcome of your technical interview is determined in the onsite. You’re usually required to go through two or three rounds of interview, one of which is the behavioral round.
The important thing is to prepare for each of these rounds in earnest. That’s plainly because your performance in every one of these rounds has to be exemplary if you aspire to land coveted offers at the biggest tech companies.
Now, coming to the part on how long you should prepare for coding interviews.
Coding Interview Timeline: How long should you prepare for technical interviews?
If you want to give an upcoming interview your best shot, ready yourself to prepare for at least two months before appearing for it. This is essentially because the concepts to cover are vast, and passing over certain portions because of limited available time can prove costly.
While preparing for a minimum of two months is encouraged, your level of experience, the number of times you’ve interviewed in recent months, and your confidence in general, largely dictate your prep timeline.
Factors to consider before deciding how long to spend on studying for coding interviews:
Your knowledge of data structures and algorithms
Extensively covering concepts in core data structures and algorithms is decisive in influencing interview success. Before you start off, take a day or two to sift through topics you have to cover.
Below is the list of topics that feature in technical interviews:
- Arrays, Linked Lists
- Sorting algorithms
- Recursion and Backtracking
- Stacks and Queues
- Graphs, trees, and graph algorithms
- Dynamic programming
- Basics of programming and computer science
How long back did you graduate?
If you recently graduated, there’s a good chance you are …. Familiar with the core topics. The fact is, someone who just graduated will be better prepared for tech interviews than someone who’s been out of college for 5 years. This is primarily because the knowledge of data structures and algorithms is still ripe for recent computer science graduates.
If you’re an engineer with a few years of experience, you might want to spend more time swotting for the interview.
That said, a structured, well-strategized, and thorough 2-month plan is exactly what you need to crack technical interviews at the biggest companies.
Your knowledge in distributed systems design
The tech behemoths design massive infrastructure-heavy distributed systems that define the modern world. Building these systems requires distinct proficiency, enjoyed only by a handful of software developers.
By preparing extensively for the onsite design interview (along with data structures and algorithms of course), you can very well carry the day.
Here are the topics to cover under distributed systems design:
- Object Modeling/API Design
- Scalable Systems
Have you interviewed in the recent past?
Interviews at FAANG and tier-1 companies are significantly difficult. That adequately explains why a huge percentage of engineers fail in their first attempt. A lot of the time, the first interview experience at a top company can open up a lot of closed doors on how these companies evaluate candidates.
If you’ve interviewed at the big firms and haven’t brought the gold home, you shouldn't really fret about it. That’s because you’re without doubt in better stead to unlock a big offer.
How much time can you spend in a day?
Before you devise a prep plan, you might want to ask yourself - how much time can I really commit to solving problems everyday? Is my job too demanding to devote time everyday? How long would it take me to revise the concepts I’ve studied?
By asking yourself these questions, you can form clarity around what your timeline should look like.
Moving ahead, you must commit to solving at least one or two coding problems everyday, as problem-solving only comes with practice. And to land offers at the biggest firms, you must be nothing less than a superb problem solver.
Being consistent with how much time you spend everyday is extremely important. To begin, spend at least two hours a day solving problems, and practicing coding questions on platforms like Leetcode, Codechef and TopCoder.
If you’re willing to take it to the next level by giving yourself a formidable chance, sign-up for Interview Kickstart’s webinar on cracking technical interviews.
Two months coding interview prep plan
Here’s what your ideal plan should look like if you’re serious about cracking interviews at Facebook, Google, Amazon or Microsoft (or any other top tech company):
Week 1 and 2
- learn the important concepts in data structures and algorithms
- Enrol for a good resource or program to help you with your journey. Choose a resource that has a proven record of helping engineers successfully land offers at FAANG and tier-1 companies.
- Attend webinars on technical interviews to get an idea of the roadmap ahead.
Week 3 and 4
- Practice problems on competitive programming platforms such as TopCoder, Leetcode or Codechef.
- Solve at least 5 problems a day at this stage. Don’t mug up solutions - allow yourself to think about solutions deeply and intently by applying patterns to solutions.
- Touch up on your engineering design fundamentals.
Week 5 and 6
- Practice mock interviews with hiring managers from FAANG companies. Diligently practicing mock interviews can give you an incredible chance at nailing tech interviews.
- Practice coding problems everyday and classify problems into patterns.
- Spend time revising concepts in Object Oriented Programming
- Work to boost your LinkedIn profile and resume. Make sure your LinkedIn profile has the optimal keyword distribution.
- Brush up on computer networks and database management systems
Dealing with distractions along the way
Distractions, in whatever form, can disrupt momentum and throw you off guard. While preparing for tech interviews, as much as it is important to practice everyday, it is essential to keep distractions at bay.
Bring-in discipline in your everyday life and have a balanced routine if you want to avoid burnouts and keep interview anxiety in check.
If you think interview anxiety is a lurking threat, find out the best way to deal with Interview Anxiety in this comprehensive guide.
How to prepare for technical interviews the right way?
If you’re determined to crack coding interviews at top companies, you cannot hose down the importance of an organized, structured and calibrated prep approach.
Well then, here’s the best way to prepare for technical interviews.