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How to balance interview prep with a job?

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Data Engineer at Financial Companya year ago

What's the right way to balance interviewing for FAANG roles when you have a full-time job? I've heard of people carving out their morning for an interview or interview prep, so dedicating 2-3 hours. Is this reasonable? What's a minimum amount of time I should spend on interview prep or interview every day?

This question assumes I don't have trouble getting interviews and have a few lined up. The prep I have in mind is the classic DSA/Leetcode, systems design, behavioural, mock interviews, etc.

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  • 61
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer at Nike
    a year ago

    What has helped me is to put simply is have a routine, that's it. I know this isnt something you asked, but to be honest it boils down to this. Sure, personal life differs and not all can have this “luxury” per se. I will share what I have been doing since start of this year. Not getting any calls, neither have any scheduled. But, to be honest I am not focusing on them as I am still preparing; I would like to focus on the grind before committing to interviews.

    Now, since that is addressed here is what I do on a weekdays:

    • I work from 9-5. Gym 3 days/week from 530pm-730pm.
    • Come home, wrap up dinner around 9-930.
    • I am following neetcode and hence i just get right into it. But, to “warmup” I read through what I solved the previous day, if it was something i couldn’t come up with a solution, try to resolve it.
    • After spending around 15-30min I start my pomodoro timer (1 hr focus/10min break), and get down to business. I do this till i just can’t/dont want to solve anymore. This usually happens when i am frustrated (most of the times) since i am not able to see through a pattern (think prefix sum, or bitmasks i hate it), i make a note (have an excel sheet) on what are my weak areas to target when i am done with neetcode’s pattern list.
    • Then I go back to the problems I have solved for that day as a mini revision.
    • Then I go to sleep.

    Come weekend, you guessed it, do all of that but try to spend more time think 4+ hours (following my pomodoro). And, this repeats. I try not to mix my work times with preparation times, yes i know its very difficult, some are early birds, but i realized i am a night owl 🤷‍♂️.

    Tl;dr time: It's ok if you solve 1 easy, its ok if you dont solve anything: Point is, when i come home either tired or amped up, I bloody make sure my motivation doesn't die to open the laptop and take that extra mile to open leetcode, i at the very least read a blog post of folks who “made it”, that keeps me going.

    Hope this helps. Sorry if I went on a tangent in answering your query. Happy to chat/answer more.

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    Mid-Level Software Engineer at Nike
    a year ago

    Please note I haven’t mentioned about behavior/system design, as i am too early in my prep. Sorry for not seeing that

  • 52
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    At a high-level, I strongly recommend doing whatever it takes to meet expectations at your current job and then routing most of your remaining energy (on weekdays) into interview prep.

    To add more color to this, here was my strategy back when I was on the interview grind:

    1. Keep the job on lock - I hyper-optimized my time spent at work to comfortably meet expectations (i.e. be far away from PIP territory) without spending >8 hours per day. For the most part, I was able to do this with just 6 hours a day, giving me a lot of outside-of-work time. In the current economy, it's much better to be safe and not sacrifice your existing income.
    2. Study after work - This was mostly LeetCode, but I also did side projects. Side projects are great for practical interviews (important for startups) and building up your portfolio. They're also more fun! I would do some form of interview improvement on 4 out of 5 weekdays on average.
    3. Protect weekends - Burnout is real with interview prep, so I made sure the vast majority of my weekends were open for seeing family and socializing with friends. At most, I would study 1-2 hours on a weekend day.
    4. Make it a habit - This means a medium amount of time (1-3 hours) with high frequency as opposed to just having 1-2 days where you do 6+ hour deep-dive blocks. I don't believe in doing 8 hours of interview prep straight, especially for LeetCode (it's too miserable). If you want to improve job prospects with an entire day, work on a side project instead, not DSA.

    I cover all this more in this video: [Masterclass] How To Ace Your Big Tech Interview - Data Structures And Algorithms

    Here's some good resources on maximizing your productivity on the job to hit the expectations bar: