What I Learned From Bombing a Technical Interview
So... I embarrassingly bombed a technical interview yesterday. It was... BAD. In all honesty, this interview had the potential to be great. Both people interviewing me were very calm and kind. And I had the opportunity to show off my own project and add a new feature to it. If you've ever done a technical interview before, you know this is one of the best case scenarios (aside from no technical interview at all). And yet, I totally blew it.
I rambled A LOT. I forgot key terminology. When I was adding a new feature to my web app, I forgot key steps and I explained what I was doing poorly. I ended up ending the interview early because I was getting so stressed out and nervous.
This was a position I really wanted. I was really disappointed in myself and I felt like trash to be completely honest. I was kind of thinking about switching professions for a minute too😂 But, I want to look back on this experience and point out some of things I could have done better and will do better next time. So if you have a technical interview coming up, this one's for you!
1. GET ENOUGH SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE
This is number one for a reason. I pretty much pulled an all nighter the night before. I was practicing what I was going to say, preparing for an upcoming workshop I'm hosting, and watching Marvel movies. Basically, a recipe for disaster.
I thought I was in high school again when I used to pull all nighters and take a test the next morning and still get a near perfect score. My brain doesn't work like that anymore. So I will never be doing that again. I'm convinced this is the main reason why my explanations were all over the place and pretty much nonsensical.
So make sure you get enough sleep before your interview! In my case, I probably would have been better off sleeping than practicing like I had done. Without sleep, all that practice was pretty much useless.
2. Do a mock interview with a friend
I'm a huge believer in mock interviews. I've done one for almost every technical interview I've had... except for this one. I'm positive that walking through my code with a trusted friend or colleague would have helped me immensely.
I wasn't sure what feature I should build to impress the interviewers so I was really scattered. I was jumping between two features and I'm sure that didn't look good. If I had practiced with a mock interview, I would've asked for feedback and seen what feature I should have implemented during the interview. A mock interview also would have helped me to fine tune my explanations. So yes, next time I will be doing a mock interview with someone.
3. Take notes before the interview
The more I think about this interview, the more I realize how chaotic my brain was at the time (see point number one). Now that I think about it, it's actually kind of funny. Just a few minutes before the interview started, I thought it might be a good idea to write down the steps I needed to follow to add my desired feature. This was a good idea I think except I wrote them on sticky notes and the sticky notes somehow got scattered out of order all over my desk. Can you feel the chaos??
This obviously made things worse for me since I got so flustered that I completely blanked on what I was supposed to be doing. And the sticky notes were all over the place and I couldn't get them back in order. Now I know that it's probably best to either write them down on a sheet of paper or type the steps out in a markdown file.
4. Talk a LOT
This usually isn't very hard for me because I'm a naturally talkative person and I actually enjoy talking through my code. This time was different though. I couldn't get my thoughts straight (again, see number one) and I had a lot of awkward pauses. For technical interviews, it's best to just voice you're thoughts even if you're not exactly sure what's going on.
5. Use tons of pseudocode
Again, this is something I LOVE to do. Using pseudocode helps me to get my thought process straight and point out flawed logic quickly. It's also a great way to show your interviewer how you think and approach problems. I didn't use pseudocode enough during this interview but I'll make sure to utilize this technique during my next one.
6. Don't drink coffee before the interview!
Disclaimer: this is purely my personal preference so please feel free to disregard this completely This is something that might surprise you. But I tend to get a little jittery whenever I drink coffee. So whenever I have to do something that's nerve racking, I make sure to avoid coffee at all cost. I did not do that for this interview. I drank coffee because I hadn't slept and I thought it would help. But it just made me super jumpy and of course, I got the jitters. This made me more nervous and that made me panic. So yeah, as you can imagine, it was a disaster. Note to self: don't drink coffee before an interview.
7. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
This one is hard. Most of us need to work and if you’re out of work, that makes any job interview very high pressure. For me, I really, really wanted this job. I was excited about the role and the people I would get to work with. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to impress and perform well. But all that pressure made me do the opposite. This is a tough one to follow but I’m going to try not to do this next time. I’m still figuring out how to get pass this reaction I have to any opportunity I’m excited about. If you have any tips, please share!!
As you can see, a lot of my mistakes stemmed from lack of sleep. I'm not going to say that I'm the best at technical interviews. But I've never performed like this. There are some things I know how to do well and I just didn't do them this time around. And I'm 100% positive it's because I didn't get enough sleep. So if there's one thing you take away from this, it should be this: Sleep is very important! So please try to get enough rest before your interview!!
Now, to be clear, I'm not writing this article to overly criticize myself. Thinking about what happened still stings but I'm done beating myself up about it. I'm sure I'll think about this some day and laugh. But I'm writing this now to learn from the situation and maybe even help someone else! So please learn from my mistakes!
Lots of lovely people have been kind enough to give me some technical interview tips. I plan on putting all those together in a more comprehensive blog post! So stay tuned for that. Thanks for reading!
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