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i suck at technical interviews

·3 mins

It’s difficult for me to admit, but I struggle with technical interviews. I don’t believe it’s due to a lack of abilities or insufficient practice on platforms like LeetCode; rather, I think nerves and my dyslexia play a significant role. I tend not to highlight my dyslexia, as I’ve managed to overcome it in several areas over the years, and I’m concerned that disclosing it might negatively impact my chances if interviewers perceive it as a drawback.

Reflecting on a recent interview, I realised I was completely unprepared. A recruiter had sent the interview details to my email, but they ended up in my spam folder. Unaware, I joined the technical interview without any preparation, which, in my mind, led to my downfall. During the interview, I was tasked with reviewing the code of a caching library and was informed that it contained seven or eight bugs. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t identify any. It wasn’t until the interviewer provided some hints that the bugs began to emerge. Feeling embarrassed, I continued to struggle, repeatedly uttering “erm” and “I’m not sure.” This situation is far from ideal for any candidate, as no employer seeks to hire an engineer who struggles with code reviews.

I don’t always believe the fault lies entirely with me, however. There are times when I have been mentally prepared and entered the interview with confidence, only for the interviewer’s approach to unsettle me, making me nervous and causing me to revert to a state where I struggle to read, review code, or solve technical problems. Some past experiences with technical interviews have left me feeling mentally scarred, and shaking off those negative memories has proven challenging. Every time I enter a technical interview, I find myself reflecting on those past experiences. I dwell on them, worrying that history will repeat itself. I fear encountering the same situations as before—interviewers laughing or becoming disengaged, focusing on something else while I’m on camera. Struggling to navigate through a technical challenge under these circumstances could happen again, further unsettling me and impairing my performance.

Moving forward, I realise the importance of being more vocal about my struggles with live coding interviews. The negative experiences have significantly impacted my performance, highlighting the need for me to request alternative ways to be assessed. I must advocate for accommodations that align with my strengths, such as using an editor I’m familiar with, participating in take-home tests that allow me to work through challenges in my own time, or facing challenges that reflect either my current daily work or tasks I would be performing in the role. This approach would not only bolster my confidence but also provide a fairer measure of my capabilities. Often, the tasks set during interviews do not mirror the company’s actual work or the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, frequently venturing into areas beyond my expertise.

It’s important to highlight that not all of my experiences with technical interviews have been negative. When matched with the right interviewer and given a challenge within my realm of expertise, I have thrived, delivering creative solutions that have led to job offers. This contrast underscores the inconsistency and often the unfairness of the technical interviewing process. There are plenty of articles, blog posts, and anecdotes from past colleagues that critique the methods of interviewing in the software engineering industry. My experiences, together with those of others, underscore the need for change in the technical interview process.