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Pair Programming Interview vs Whiteboard Interviews

Talent Assessment | 8 Min Read

Game-Changing Interview Approach: Pair Programming vs. Whiteboard Coding


Technical interviews are essential for an organization’s selection and hiring process and are designed to gauge candidates’ ability to tackle real-world problems. Hiring managers devote significant time to holistically assess potential employees’ experience, knowledge and personality to onboard the right talent. It is undertaken to gain comprehensive insights into the candidates on-the-job and their long-term potential. After all, hiring the best and the brightest lays the foundation for a successful company.

However, interviewing and onboarding technical employees is tedious. ‘Almost 90% of hiring managers say finding qualified professionals in tech is challenging.’ Blame it on the long list of considerations, lengthy screening processes, wrong candidate filters or an outdated interview approach. Add to that a limited knowledge about candidate assessment, which exacerbates the hiring challenges. It is globally acknowledged that hiring a coder is more challenging than usually believed. 

How does one sift through a massive pool of candidates and make better selection decisions is the question? How does a hiring manager avoid selecting bad candidates for interviews and improve their hiring quality? 

The answer lies in streamlining the technical interview process and strengthening the recruitment process by eliminating pre-interview inefficiencies. The more clarity you have in the initial selection, the better are your chances of interviewing and hiring worthy fits.



Two Prerequisites of a Successful Tech Interview

Here are the two prerequisites to conduct a successful tech interview:

Right Candidate for the Interview

An efficient interview process begins with zeroing in on the right candidate for the interview via effective screening methods. Companies usually receive a large number of resumes and often struggle to filter quality candidates from the pool. By using a combination of knowledge and application-based questions, such as MCQs and coding simulators, hiring managers can gain a holistic, evidence-based overview of a programmer’s potential before advancing to the interview level. Here’s how

  • MCQs are the first filter to shortlist the candidates based on knowledge, concept, application and analysis 
  • Afterward, the selected few are assessed practically via coding simulators that provide a real sense of candidates’ ability by asking them to mirror real-world challenges 

Technical screening verifies a coder’s fundamental skills, ensuring that the employers don’t have to manage time-consuming interviews with applicants, who are neither qualified nor suited for a particular position. You’ll be amazed at the remarkable number of candidates technical screening weeds out. Also, valuable, evidence-based analytics on candidate potential and performance deter hiring managers from shortlisting based on bias. Hence, the company is left with only the best candidate pool for the interview process. 

Modern Interview Approach

Currently, the most common interview approach used by hiring managers to assess a coder’s capability is via “Whiteboards.” This interview approach traditionally involves using a whiteboard for developers or a paper to write an algorithm or actual codes instead of an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) or an editor. The coder uses a specific programming language and attempts a solution to a coding problem by penning down the process on the spot. Sometimes, whiteboard coding questions are simple wherein the candidates are asked to draw a circle or a grid using only an algorithm. They are also often complicated with more than one programming language to analyze how coders handle complications. During a whiteboard coding interview, the interviewer is face-to-face with the candidates. Hence, they observe how candidates articulate the question, break it down and solve it. They also gauge how often the candidates communicate and discuss the use and functionality of their codes, which can take hours or even a day. 

But is the whiteboard programming interview, as an approach, sufficient to understand the candidates’ potential without testing them in an actual coding environment? 

Hiring managers need clarity when deciding what to judge in a technical interview. Let’s elucidate what a hiring manager must consider in a technical candidate during a coding interview.



Whiteboard coding online interviews may have sufficed to understand a coder’s efficiency in the past. But in today’s competitive, time-sensitive scenario, it is inadequate in updating the interviewer on numerous issues. Hence, for a more effective technical talent measurement, hiring managers must go beyond the resume, simulator and the whiteboard for developer approach. 

Hiring managers must consider an interview approach that mitigates whiteboard coding challenge  and offers a deeper understanding of the coders’ proficiency. 

  • With modern tools, employers must be well-informed about the coders’ unique skills set, ability to collaborate, solve problems and strong analytical thinking
  • Interviewers must be able to deduce the coders’ agility in coding, the complexity of the code used, proficiency in using features such as CodeEditor, auto-suggest, and much more.
  • A modern interview approach must evaluate how well coders handle ambiguity. It must highlight their attitude toward the challenge and aptitude for learning.


Ideal Game-Changing Approach

We understand that the ongoing disruption has impacted the usual interview process. Hence, to streamline the interviewing process of tech talent, organizations must creatively assess candidates. Phenomenal technology advancements have made it possible for companies to digitize their entire technical recruiting process, without compromising the candidate’s experience. Online coding interview tools have lent unparalleled ease to the recruitment process, regardless of the number of candidates.   

With a shared, live development environment, enhanced by audio, video and chat functionality, hiring managers can undertake pair programming interviews to assess skills in real-time, and make quality decisions for tech candidates. This efficient interview approach in today’s remote hiring environment makes for an ideal online process.


What is a Pair Programming Interview?

Pair programming interview is a modern, game-changing interview approach. It is also famously used as an online coding interview tool that assesses a coder’s proficiency using embedded code simulators. It involves a pair programming developer and tester.

How Does a Pair Programming Work? 

A code pairing interview is essentially a structured session that helps interviewers understand the candidates’ technical skills more in-depth. The process includes administering a coding task that takes about thirty to forty-five minutes. The code pairing interview takes place on an interactive coding platform where both the interviewer and interviewee collaborate to solve a technical problem.

A pair coding interview intends to understand a candidate’s technical skills more exhaustively through a coding assignment that takes about thirty to forty-five minutes. This interview process is qualitatively different than a whiteboard interview process. This interview approach helps recruiters assess a coder’s proficiency using embedded code simulators. The code pairing interview is composed of two sessions.

This agile and interactive code pairing interview practice consists of the coders and the assessors. During the pair programming test, the coders write the code, and the assessors (interviewer) guides them through the process to gauge their skills. This approach boosts candidates’ confidence by making the process fairly conversational. During the code pairing interview, the interviewers and the coders can easily ask questions, voice opinions, and assuage concerns about the next possible steps. 

Pair programming test also goes hand-in-hand with test-driven development (TDD), meaning both parties get a genuine idea of the written code’s ability to function without errors.

Pair programming online is qualitatively more realistic than a whiteboard coding interview process. It provides the interviewer with an accurate understanding of a candidate’s thoughts, collaboration, utilization of various languages, frameworks, library or APIs when writing code. The pair programming interview tool mirrors the coders’ real-life scenario, using the same resources one has on the job. It is possible to undertake the entire interview remotely, from start to finish. Hence, it reduces the time to hire, without compromising on the quality of your candidates, streamlining the process.


Advantages Of Pair Programming Online

Besides testing algorithmic and necessary programming skills, you can structure in-depth interviews in a real programming environment that empowers both candidates and interviewers. Pair coding online offers various advantages.

On-the-go, real-time review:

When the interviewers are viewing the coders’ pair programming online, live, they are also listening to the coders explain the design decisions and the thought process behind it. Hence, the interviewers review the code’s performance and gain insight into the coders’ potential, focus and productivity, all in real-time.

Shorter decision-making cycle:

Automated grading of online pair programming interviews replaces the static grading process, scaling an organization's interview capacity, which improves operations. Pair coding online eliminates the unnecessary back and forth while reducing the possibility of human errors and inaccurately recorded information. This ensures a continual interview process, considerably shortening the decision-making and feedback process.

Objective Evaluations:

Online Pair programming interview tool enables evaluating the candidates thoroughly and objectively based on auto-graded simulators. Comprehensive reports elucidate the candidates' performance, offer a comprehensive summary of their attempt and enlists a detailed code journey. This thorough evaluation of a pair coding interview is free from hiring bias and ensures immediate results with optimum reliability and validity of a coder's potential.

Faster Hiring and Onboarding:

Talented developers are in short supply, which requires being time-sensitive, or you risk losing out on top talent. Hence,during an online interview pair programming offers speed, efficiency, and convenience to the hiring process. A custom environment can be set up seamlessly. One can create new and meaningful tests, quickly compiling any popular programming language with the pair coding interview. This saves time that can be utilized better in strategic tasks. Furthermore, a real-time review optimizes selection quality.

How to conduct an online pair programming interview?

Pair programming interviews can be administered on a dynamic coding interview platform. A purpose-built, all-in-one coding interviewing platform allows recruiters to build a variety of pair coding interview questions and scenarios without having to toggle back and forth between different platforms.


How Mercer | Mettl Helps Hire The Ideal Fit

Mercer | Mettl offers a unique advantage for recruiters and candidates, with access to an easy-to-use interactive environment to conduct pair coding interviews online. Mercer | Mettl’s coding interview platform enables the recruiters to connect and easily evaluate the live coding skills of the coders. 



Functions such as video, audio and chat support, easy API integration, versatile coverage of coding languages, simulation across programming languages and test history help widen a company’s talent funnel. Provisions such as location-agnosticism, customization, hands-on skill support, swift auto-evaluation, a suite of anti-cheating solutions, result validation and proficient tracking of the tech hiring funnel enable quality hiring at scale. Hence, using pair programming interviews, using an online coding assessment platform, is an excellent means of evaluating the candidates while interviewing them. It is also one of the best ways for companies to maintain agility.  There is more. 

Mercer | Mettl’s online coding platform has a host of game-changing features, including: 

Expansive Topic Coverage

We offer an unprecedented range of programming languages and frameworks, available for all significant coding job roles. A rich repository of 100,000+ technical questions for 300+ skills helps comprehensively test a coder’s pair coding skills and techniques at every level. Our offerings give an accurate picture of a candidate’s all-round fitment for a required position. You can choose from a set of readily available standardized tests or instantaneously customize them as per your need to assess a coder’s skill.


Mercer | Mettl I/O

Mercer | Mettl I/O is a first-of-its-kind, all-in-one coding assessment platform. It helps simplify and improve your lateral hiring processes at a large and small scale. This highly sophisticated and customizable tool is in-built with real-time, insightful reports that auto-evaluate codes, provide best-in-class integrated development environments (IDE) and a host of programming tools to evaluate a coder/developer/programmer’s proficiency levels. Mercer | Mettl I/O is exceptionally efficient in measuring the real ability of candidates.

Simulators for all Roles

Mercer | Mettl’s coding platform is embedded with a list of simulators that evaluate a coder’s hands-on coding skill ability for various roles. Simulators incorporated with some notable, state-of-the-art features such as a supremely user-friendly interface, online code editor, plagiarism checker, Intellisense, Code Playback empower the recruiters to test real coding skills in any programming language. Mercer | Mettl offers a suite of simulator environment for:

Data Analysis

During pair coding online, the online coding interview platform offers the interviewers the option to assess candidates using data from previous screening rounds, also on the same platform. This comprehensive assessment, with feedback from multiple rounds, enables highly reliable, quick and effortless interview analysis and decision-making.

Digital Ideation Using Inbuilt Interactive Whiteboard and Notepad

Interactive notepads and whiteboards for developers act as collaborative substitutes to share, draw, discuss, decipher and digitally ideate with your candidates as smoothly as you would offline but with more flexibility.



Most hiring managers believe that an unstable job market and remote work are principally responsible for a significant slowdown in hiring, affecting the quality of the onboarded talent. We think it is about perception, attitude and approach. The ongoing churn in the market has underlined the criticality of embracing the online model. Any reluctance by companies or hiring managers in adapting to the change will hamper their agility, consequently robbing them of competitive advantage. There was a time when whiteboards were a trending concept, and scribbling random algorithm codes on paper solved the purpose.

Organizations wish to hire efficient individuals, who can get the work done on time, possess the functional skills needed for the role, and can yield noteworthy returns. This is why assessing them using an online coding interview approach such as pair programming interview is the future of technical hiring.

The ideal use of these tools empowers recruiters to make better decisions and accelerate an interview process if a company has an urgent need. Coherently, pair coding online also accurately predicts who might do well in the organization and help it to succeed. And, online pair programming platform offers an ideal environment. It reflects the actual on-the-job work and often includes writing from scratch and editing existing code. If the coders are stuck, you can assess how they address the problem. You can watch the code run live and note its complexity or simplicity. You can see them conclude while gauging work-relevant traits, thereby gaining a wholesome and dynamic review of whether the coder has the potential to successfully meet the organization’s and the role’s requirements.



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Originally published August 10 2020, Updated September 1 2021

Written by

Shirisha has been helping countless brands gain traction with her content. Her deep understanding of the education sector and sound knowledge of technical skills have helped her structure the most creative solutions for key stakeholders. Shirisha has also ghosted pieces for several industry honcho’s successfully published both online and offline. When she's not keeping up with the world, you're sure to find her catching up on bollywood stories or gramming for fun.

About This Topic

Online coding interview tool automates physical pre-hiring interviews using a digital platform. It enables organizations to conduct interview drives in a virtual setting, using tools such as digital whiteboards, auto-schedulers, coding simulators, digital notepads, etc.

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