My question is, how on earth can I get past a whiteboard interview when my mind is so scrambled with so many languages?
A whiteboard interview is not a syntax exam.
It's an examination of your ability to break down a problem. You don't need to use a particular language for that. Pseudocode would apply equally here.
If certain companies are using whiteboard interviews as syntax exams, then they are woefully misguided in their expectation of people writing syntactically valid code without any kind of error checking or lookup (whether it's Intellisense or googling).
I am predominantly a C# developer, it's been years since I did anything else. And even I can't keep my syntax 100% straight. That's a normal consequence from having relied on outside help (Intellisense, Google, StackOverflow). I generally know and trust my logic to be correct, but I don't remember specific prebuilt namespace, class or method names unless I use them on a daily basis.
I cannot write down (from memory) how to get a specific node from an XML document using C#. But that's not important, it can be googled in under a minute. What does matter, and what makes me pass interviews, is that:
- I know that it can be done
- I know when to use it. In other words, the posed problem can be solved using this step.
Those are the main checkboxes that display developer skill. I'm not a walking snippet repository, I'm someone who breaks down problems into small logical steps. So I focus on showing that.
Having worked in so many languages, you should have a good understanding of how the process of developing software is exactly the same regardless of the language. The only thing that changes is the buttons you press on your keyboard, but the (broken down) goals you try to accomplish remain the same regardless of language.
- Use a descriptive method name that clearly signals what you're trying to do with it.
- Use a black box where you describe the input/output but don't delve into specifics of how you get from input to output. If that processing step is not the focus of the problem, then it doesn't matter whether you know it or not, what matters is that you know what it needs to run and what it will return.
- Feel free to point out that you're not sure about the precise syntax but don't feel obligated to point that out - the interviewers probably don't care about it. And if they do, they'll ask anyway.