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When I started targeting these top hi-tech companies, I also thought on your line: it would be hard to crack programming interviews, if I don't do competitive programming. Consequently, I joined TopCoder. Soon, I found out that I was not enjoying it much.

I then shifted my focus on general problem solving and doing coding projects for my courses. I figured out that I really liked building stuff, systems. I tried LeetCodeInterviewBit, etc. and I found I enjoyed solving coding questions there. I especially admired InterviewBit because it increased and consolidated my understanding of data-structures a lot and how to use them in different cases.

I subsequently practiced interviews alone and with a very few others online. Then I gave Google Internship interviews. I won't say that it was a cakewalk, but it was pretty easy. The challenging part was follow-up questions. However, rather than being a challenge, those questions actually proved to be nice discussions on optimizations in the data structures. I liked the adaptive nature of the interviews.

To sum it up, competitive programming is not even a prerequisite to have success in the interviews of the top tech companies. However, strong practical knowledge of various data structures and their usage are.

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I used to think the same way! Let me get into competitive programming and things will become easier.

In reality, competitive programming questions can be way harder than interview questions.

Also, competitive programming doesn’t test your communication skills.

Or writing clean, concise code.

Or explaining technical concepts.

You can do it by studying books and courses. That’s how most people do it. A vast majority of engineers at these companies didn’t do competitive programming.
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For most of SDE interviews, one can prepare well by practicing on interviewbit, leetcode and skimming through topics from geeksforgeeks. I think the main challenge is getting an interview and if you already have interviews lined up, then practice, along with brushing up on Computer Science basics like networks, OS should be enough for entry level roles. Apart from that having good interpersonal skills and being proactive in the interviews is important. Developing and showing a structured problem solving approach is also crucial.
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Most engineers at Google, FB, MS, have never participated in programming competitions. I hope that answers your question and puts you at ease. Any person that says you need competitive programming experience to crack an interview at these place are either from a different country (probably India) that has an intense culture for ranking, or has never actually worked at these places. Good luck!
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