Monday, December 4, 2023

Review - Is Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle McDowell still worth it in 2024?

Hello guys, if you are preparing for coding interview and wondering whether the classic Cracking the Coding Interview book by Gayle Laakmann McDowell still worth it in 2024 then you have come to the right place. This was one of the first book I used to prepare for coding interview and due to its focus on evergreen topic, I am happy to say that it's still relevant, but whether it's good enough now is another question, which we will find in this article. In the past, I have shared best books and courses for coding interviews where I mentioned this book and today, I am going to review this book in depth.

I first come across this book many years ago when there was no online courses for coding interviews. At that time this book was holy grail for coding interview preparation but things have changed a lot from then.

Nowadays both coding interview has changed and you also have access  top notch online courses on coding interviews like this Master the Coding Interview: Big Tech (FAANG) Interviews by Andrei Negaoie or Grokking Coding interview courses on DesignGuru, and many others , so the big question comes whether Cracking the Coding Interview book still worth it or not?

The short answer of this question is that Cracking the Coding interview book is still relevant because it focus on evergreen topics like data structure and algorithms, behavior interviews, and general tips to do well on interviews which have not changed much, but focus on topics like System design have increased exponentially and that's where this book lack. 

In coming section I will share my review of this course and also suggest alternative courses, books, and tutorials which you can join or read to fill the gaps and prepare better for your next coding interview. 

What is Cracking the Coding Interview 6th Edition book?

The "Cracking the Coding Interview" is a comprehensive guide written by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, a former software engineer at Google. The book is tailored for individuals preparing for technical interviews, particularly in the field of software engineering and computer science. 

It is widely regarded as one of the go-to resources for anyone aiming to succeed in competitive coding interviews conducted by top technology companies.

In the dynamic landscape of the tech industry, staying ahead in the competitive job market often hinges on a candidate's ability to navigate the challenging terrain of technical interviews. "Cracking the Coding Interview" by Gayle Laakmann McDowell has long been considered a cornerstone in the arsenal of aspiring software engineers and computer scientists preparing for such interviews. 

As we step into 2024, a critical question emerges: Is "Cracking the Coding Interview" still worth the investment of time and effort? In this review, we'll explore the enduring relevance of this book, considering its strengths, potential limitations, and the evolving demands of contemporary technical interviews.

The current version of book is titled as Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions and you can get it now on Amazon which also sell used copy for huge discount. 

Is Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell Still worth it

Cracking the Coding Interview Book Structure and Contents

The book is structured in a way that aligns with the typical software engineering interview process. It covers various essential topics, including data structures, algorithms, system design, and behavioral questions. The content is organized into several chapters, each addressing a specific aspect of technical interviews.

1. Introduction

McDowell starts by providing an overview of the hiring process in top tech companies and the role of technical interviews. She emphasizes the importance of preparation and understanding the interviewers' expectations.

2. The Interview Process

This section gives a detailed breakdown of the interview process, discussing phone screens, on-site interviews, and behavioral interviews. McDowell provides insights into what interviewers look for and how candidates can make a positive impression.
Behind the Scenes:

McDowell shares her insider knowledge about what happens after the interview, how decisions are made, and what factors companies consider in the hiring process.

3. Special Situations

This chapter addresses scenarios like handling offers, dealing with rejection, and negotiating compensation. It provides practical advice on navigating the post-interview phase.
Before the Interview:

McDowell delves into effective preparation strategies, covering topics such as the importance of practicing on a whiteboard, time management, and creating a study plan.

4. Behavioral Preparation

Understanding that technical interviews often include behavioral questions, McDowell offers guidance on how to approach and excel in this aspect of the interview.
Technical Questions:

The heart of the book lies in this section, where McDowell covers a wide array of coding problems. She categorizes them by data structures and algorithms and provides clear explanations, sample solutions, and analysis.

5.  Appendix

The book concludes with additional resources, including a glossary of terms, further reading recommendations, and a list of companies that frequently conduct technical interviews.

best book for coding interview

What is I liked about this book? Strengths

Let's talk about what are things I really liked about this book or what are things which makes this book a valuable resource for coding interview preparation. 

1. Comprehensive Coverage

"Cracking the Coding Interview" comprehensively covers the technical aspects of coding interviews. It goes beyond just providing solutions, focusing on the process of problem-solving, which is crucial for success in interviews.

2. Real-world Examples

McDowell draws on her experience as a software engineer to include real-world examples and scenarios. This adds practical relevance to the theoretical concepts discussed in the book.
Structured Learning Path:

The book is organized in a logical and structured manner, guiding the reader from understanding the interview process to mastering coding problems. The progressive difficulty of the problems helps readers build confidence gradually.

3. Practical Tips

McDowell's advice on behavioral interviews, negotiating offers, and handling rejection is practical and valuable. These aspects are often overlooked in other interview preparation resources.
Accessible Language:

The book is written in a clear and accessible language, making complex topics understandable for readers with various levels of technical expertise.

best coding interview book

What could have been done better? Weaknesses

Now let's see few weaknesses about this book and how you can overcome those by referring to alternative resources. 

1. Focus on Certain Companies

While the book provides valuable insights into the hiring processes of top technology companies, it might be more tailored to individuals aiming for positions at these specific companies. The interview processes at smaller companies or startups can differ significantly.

2. Not Updated Frequently

The tech industry evolves rapidly, and interview practices can change. The book, last updated in 2015 , may not reflect the most current interview trends or practices at the time of reading.

3. Limited System Design Coverage

The book just barely touches on system design, but the coverage is relatively brief compared to the depth of coverage for coding problems. As system design is a critical aspect of technical interviews, you might seek more extensive guidance on this topic. 

I strongly suggest you to either refer ByteByteGo by Alex Xu or Grokking the System Design Interview course on to prepare well for System Design interviews. 

best system design interview course also provide an all course bundle where you can get all of their Grokking courses which are very valuable resource for coding interview preparation it including Grokking the Coding Interview Pattern, Grokking the OOP Design Pattern, Grokking the advanced system design pattern, and Grokking the Dynamic Interview pattern, and you get all these courses for a big discount. Just use the code GURU to get 30% OFF. 

Is Cracking The Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell still relevant in 2024?

As of today, "Cracking the Coding Interview" remains a formidable resource for those gearing up for technical interviews in the realm of software engineering and computer science. Its comprehensive coverage of coding problems, structured learning path, and practical insights into the interview process continue to make it a valuable companion in the preparation journey. 

While the book has been instrumental for many, individual preferences, the specific nature of target roles, and changes in industry interview trends should be considered.

For those embarking on the quest for a coveted position in the tech industry, "Cracking the Coding Interview" serves as a robust foundation. 

Is Cracking The Coding Interview worth it?

However, it should not be viewed in isolation; a well-rounded preparation strategy that includes hands-on coding practice, exposure to diverse interview formats, and staying abreast of the latest industry developments is crucial. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, success in technical interviews is not just about mastering a single resource but about adapting to the dynamic challenges presented by an industry that continually pushes the boundaries of innovation.

Here is the full table of content of Cracking the Coding Interview book for your reference, you can click on the image to see the bigger, full size image:


That's all in this review of Cracking the Coding Interview book by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. There is no doubt that "Cracking the Coding Interview" by Gayle Laakmann McDowell is an invaluable resource for individuals preparing for technical interviews in the software engineering and computer science domains and it is still worth it in 2024. 

Its strengths lie in its comprehensive coverage of coding problems, structured learning path, and practical advice on behavioral interviews and negotiation.

The book's real-world examples and accessible language make it suitable for a broad audience, from recent graduates to experienced professionals seeking to brush up on their technical interviewing skills. While it has some limitations, such as a focus on specific companies and a relatively brief treatment of system design, it remains a go-to guide for many aspiring software engineers.

To make the most of "Cracking the Coding Interview," you should complement you study by joining online courses, hands-on coding practice, mock interviews, and staying informed about the latest industry trends. Additionally, seeking supplemental resources for system design and staying updated on changes in interview practices is advisable.

In conclusion, "Cracking the Coding Interview" is a must-read for anyone serious about succeeding in technical interviews, offering a comprehensive and practical approach to preparing for the challenging and competitive landscape of software engineering interviews.

Other Programming and Interview Articles you may like

Thanks for reading this article so far. If you like my review of Cracking the Coding Interview book, then please share them with your friends and colleagues. If you have any questions or feedback, then please drop a note.

P.S. - If you prefer books for coding interview preparation and need more options then you can also check out my list of top 10 books to prepare coding interviews.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Thank you Javin for review. I still have a copy of this book and use it to revise key concepts and questions before interview, thank you Gayle for such an wonderful book.

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