Being rejected in an interview can be frustrated. However, there should always be some takeaways from the failed interview. Otherwise, you are likely to fail again.
Many people don’t know what to do after a bad interview. They only keep complaining and feeling disappointed.
I know sometimes it can be really frustrating, but you should eventually get over it by learning from the failure. This post is not about how to cheer you up. Instead, I want to provide practical tips on how to help you be more aware of yourself if you failed an interview.
#1 – Maintain a positive attitude
The truth is that even for excellent engineers, they may still get many rejections from job interviews.
If you ask Google/Facebook engineers how many rejections they’ve ever had, probably none of them got zero. Part of the reason is that there are lots of non-technical factors in an interview like culture fit, company’s headcount etc..
But more importantly, good engineers are able to learn from failed interviews. That’s exactly why it’s recommended to interview with companies you are less likely to join first.
So it’s better not to keep complaining things like the interviewer is a jerk, which is totally meaningless.
#2 – Summarize all the details
You won’t be able to pinpoint the cause of failure without a clear picture of what happened in the interview.
For most of the companies, interviewers are required to write down all the details of the interview as feedback. Things like questions the candidate has asked, reactions to any hints, time used for each question are all recorded.
You’d better do the same thing. But most importantly, don’t underestimate the importance of detail.
One common mistake is that when reviewing interviews, people tend to emphasize things they care most with many details overlooked. The result is that things they ignored this time are likely to be ignored the second time. For instance, some people are not sensitive to interviewer’s hints, which can hardly be amplified without reviewing details.
So ideally, you can note down most of the conversations and things like hints interviewer provided, time you spent on each phrase and so on.
#3 – Check solutions
Believe it or not, more than 90% of coding interview failures are caused by weak technical background. In other words, candidates are not able to provide correct coding solutions within a short time.
If you are not certain whether you were too slow in the interview, you should definitely check this post – Warning! Are You a Slow Programmer in Interviews? In a nutshell, most technical interviews require candidates to finish 1-2 coding questions within 45min. If you believe that the question wasn’t a hard one but you didn’t finish it or the 2nd question never got a chance to ask, you might be too slow.
Remember that the interviewer will never tell you that there’s an extra question not being asked. They will only say they’ve finished all their questions.
Besides, it’s also common that candidates fail to provide correct or optimal solutions. One easy way to check is to search the question online and most likely you will find something similar or exactly the same. Try to join the discussion and evaluate your solution.
#4 – Ask experienced interviewers
As I mentioned earlier, things you’ve ignored this time are likely to be ignored the second time. That’s why I’d suggest you have someone else to help you pinpoint the cause.
If you have recorded all the details, an experienced interviewer can definitely tell you what went wrong. Also, the interviewer isn’t necessary to work for the same company as most of the coding interviews are general and standard. That’s why many people like to discussion their past experiences with Gainlo interviewers.
I’d also like to share some common causes here:
- Weak technical background. As mentioned above, the candidate either failed to provide correct/optimal solutions or he was too slow.
- Bad analysis. Interviewers like to discuss pros and cons of different approaches. However, many people don’t have a good sense of this kind of analysis. Things like time-space trade-off are quite important.
- Culture fit. It’s better to have a clear answer why you want to join this company. This post covers this topic in detail.
If you feel like you did a great job but still got rejected, I’d highly recommend you read Why I Got Rejected From a Job When I Felt I Did Well In The Interview.
#5 – Make a concrete plan
Knowing the cause is far from overcoming the failure. Once you figure out why you failed the interview, it’s time to make a concrete plan about it.
A lot of people like to set goals that are too vague. For instance, if you failed to finish the code in time, setting something like “next time I’ll be faster” makes no sense.
Instead, I would strongly suggest everyone make actionable items. Everything should be clear and practical. Let’s get back to the above example. What actionable items I would create are things like setting a timer when preparing or writing down solid code for every question I prepare.
For most people with a weak technical background, the common solution is either getting more familiar with basic knowledge or practicing with more coding questions. If you are still confused about many basic concepts like BST and Hash, there’s no point to work on coding questions before reviewing your algorithm textbook.
So the general takeaway is creating actionable items for each of your weak points. You should always be honest with yourself.
Failing an interview is common. You should take it as a great opportunity to improve yourself.
Different people have different reactions to bad interviews, which is exactly why some will get offers later but some just keep failing.
If you are still confused about why you failed the interview, feel free to email Gainlo team at firstname.lastname@example.org.