#5 Not practicing FizzBuzz before a tech interview.
Getting your foot in the door is one thing. Brutally failing the interview by shooting yourself in the foot where this could have easily been prevented is another.
The interview is your one and only chance to shine. It will serve you well to make an effort to properly prepare and get the most out of it.
It’s an opportunity to polish up your interviewing skills, without hiring a career coach. Of course you’re in it for the win, the job or project itself. Even if later turns out that is not the place nor the time, who knows if there will be a more suitable opportunity in future. It will only exist if you don’t make a fool of yourself now, estrange the person in front of you and burn all bridges to the ground.
This is an inexhaustive list of dumb mistakes I’ve made during job interviews, each with a short backstory pointing to the moment I learned my lesson. Each insight is from a different interview.
- Not learn about the company name.
After visiting a job fair and speaking with the people in person, I was invited to drop by at their office. The interview didn’t go well. The recruiter showed me his friendliest side. The team manager sat next to him. Him and me didn’t get along at first sight, so it felt like a lost cause from the beginning. At the end they asked me “So, do you know what our company name stands for?” I couldn’t answer this question, even though the answer was obvious and I hadn’t even taken the time to look it up. They were not impressed.
- Telling the recruiter you’re a cheap hire.
Do you even value yourself? Why would you sell yourself cheaper than you need to?
This is a pitfall because you could be missing out on a large chunk of income that would make your life easier and give you more headspace to worry about things other than rent. Years ago when I started applying to tech jobs, all I had to show in the beginning was a mediocre CV and several embarrassingly bad coding projects. One was an adventure game written in Python that you could play in the terminal. The other was a poorly designed personal website. I showed them to the recruiter with pride and insisted that they’d hire me as an intern in tech and, in time, grow into a pioneer for the department! I even blurted out “It’s okay, I’m very cheap!”. The recruiter laughed and shortly placed her hand on my shoulder, gesturing “Let’s see what we can do, child”.
- Dropping by offices without an appointment.
Younger me barged into the offices of tech startups around the city, unannounced. I was impatient and eager to get started. At one company I was interviewing at I didn’t wait for the recruiter to let me know. I thought, let’s visit her instead! I had nothing to lose anyway and thought it was a good idea.
Now I see how that could be perceived as rude and inconsiderate, as I was more or less demanding the person in question to make time for me on the spot. I wouldn’t do this again. Respect people’s time.
- Accepting the first offer.
Again, you could be missing out on income. Don’t be hasty, play the game right. Ask for more than what you should or expect to get. Leave some room to haggle, so you end up with a pay that’s at lest acceptable.
- Not practicing common coding questions when interviewing for tech jobs.
The one time I made it to an interview for a position in tech, I blew my own chances. When you know there’s a very, very high likelihood of you doing a whiteboard exercise, or a commonly asked coding question, thou shall practice. Guess what I didn’t do before my interview? Yep. I was served one of THE most common coding exercises. Techies might have heard of FizzBuzz. I had done this times and times before, but I hadn’t practiced it lately. My own ego got in the way. I thought I could dream it, but I was wrong. As I screwed up step after step during the interview, I could see the interviewer starting to get more nervous. Eventually I did, with his help, solve the question.
Do yourself a favour. Run a quick google search for “common coding interview questions” + your preferred programming language, and practice. Be prepared.
- Not asking any questions.
You are at the interview. Now is your chance to get insider information. To have your most burning questions answered. And to gather company information you need to evaluate whether you want to move forward in the application process after this interview. Glassdoor reviews are helpful, but seeing group dynamics of the people who are working there now might prove more insightful.
Mistakes are there to be learned from. When you didn’t get the job, project or contract, go back to the interview and think objectively about what might have been the reason why.
It’s possible it just isn’t a match. You can still look at your own behaviour, choices and how much you really prepared, to see what you can improve in the future and lower the chances of missing an opportunity that has your name on it.
Thank you for reading!