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What I Learned From Bombing My Technical Interview

ceeoreo profile image Ceora Ford Originally published at ceoraford.com on ・5 min read

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. Feel free to leave any tips you have in the comments! You can also share your own interview horror stories if you like😆 Thanks for reading!

Discussion (40)

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craigewert profile image
CREEE

Thanks so much for writing this debrief. That takes a kind of courage that is rare in the world.

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omrisama profile image
Omri Gabay

This is a nice response

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Thank you😊

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coffeecraftcode profile image
Christina Gorton

🤗
I had one interview where I put so much pressure on myself and was completely scattered(Probably didn't help I was only a few weeks out from just having my 4th child) I ended up crying during the interview.
They called me back the next day and said they thought it was their interviewing and wanted to give me another chance. The second interview was a little better but yeah... that is one experience I definitely learned from.

I am sorry it didn't go like you hoped but I am glad you can take the time to reflect on what happened and how you can improve for the next time. Let it sting for a bit and then keep pressing on.
You are a wonderful developer.

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Ngl, I almost cried. But thank you!! And thanks for sharing your experience 🤗

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amdev83 profile image
Aaron L Marks

Thank you for sharing your experience. This is a particularly tough time to be doing interviews. I'm glad that you are being gentle with yourself. I get the feeling that you are acknowledging your mistakes, like in a retrospective, but doing so in a way that simply says "hey, I messed up and here's how I will do better next time".

We are all under an intense amount of pressure right now. The pandemic has increased the number of developers out there interviewing and has decreased our ability to be confident - because many of us are freaking the **** out. Keep being gentle with yourself and keep learning. You totally got this. I believe in you.

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

All of this is so true!! And thank you so much😊

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kj2whe profile image
Jason • Edited

I would recommend also asking some questions. Apparently the majority of candidates never have questions. It can be:
Questions about the company:

  • On your website you have X products that are being sold, how will this role help facilitate that?

Questions about the role:

  • Your looking to fill the role of {{role}}. What is the most important quality you look for in a person performing this role?

Questions about the interviewer (if they have provided their background via linkedIn or github)

  • I see that in your previous position you did application X. What kinda architecture did you use?

Remember you can take notes and write down the questions they ask.

What is a something (ex. delagate)? if you don't know it, learn about it afterwards, next time you'll know. In the mean time say 'unfortunately I don't know what that is. can you explain how it is used it in this company?' Maybe their explanation will cause you to say 'Hey I was presented with that same problem, here is how I solved it' Why is something better?

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hyper_debugger profile image
Harrison

Thanks for sharing this. This was me today. I haven't been sleeping well for a while and had an interview for a position I am really excited about. I kept on getting confused during the call. I knew I wanted the interview to end ASAP which wasn't a good thing. I forced myself to continue, I hope I didn't bungle it too much. I know I could have done better. Still hopeful for the feedback though.

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

So sorry to hear that!! Interviews are already pretty nerve racking. I hope you can get some rest soon!! And try to get feedback if you can! I just emailed one of the interviewers for feedback myself

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hyper_debugger profile image
Harrison

Thanks Ceora. I'll do that.

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cat profile image
Cat

This was so very helpful!! And don’t worry— you’ll get the next one! I believe in youuuu! Message me if/when you wanna do mock interviews!! 💕✨

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Thank youuu💗💗 I’ll definitely reach out in the future because I need all the help I can get😭😅

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ldrscke profile image
Christian Ledermann

I practice not only mock interviews but actual real ones by applying to jobs I don't really want. When you bomb these you can just shrug it off.

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ldrscke profile image
Christian Ledermann

The post One tip that got me hired by Google, Microsoft, and Stripe recommends something similar (good read btw)
dev.to/devinterview/one-tip-that-g...

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Someone recommended this on twitter!! I’ll be doing this from now on 💪🏾

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nickytonline profile image
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tsullivanphoto profile image
Theresa

It's so hard to do well in a technical interview when it's a job you really, really want and you're so nervous! I've forgotten things and given terrible answers in every one of my technical interviews - obviously I haven't cracked the code of getting past the nervousness. 😆 Just want to commend you for being so resilient, learning from your experience and sharing your experience so we can learn too - all great traits for a good developer.

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Same here! Hopefully, I’ll figure out a way to get passed the nerves. And thank you!!

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meg_gutshall profile image
Meg Gutshall

I'm sorry to hear it didn't go well, but the very fact that you did a retrospective, learned from the experience, and then shared what you learned are all signs that you have exactly what it takes to be a great developer!

I know I'm late to the party, but have you considered sending your interviewers a link to this blog post in a follow-up email? I bet that would make you stand out... possibly enough for a second interview. 😉

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that_developer profile image
K D II

Thank you for sharing this. Even as a developer with 15 years of experience, I still experience this and walk away knowing it happened and just have to laugh about it.

All the tips you mentioned are spot on!

This is awesome and so you are you :-)

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Kori Roys

I hope they give you a redo. Seems like a missed opportunity for both you and them when you have this much ability to self reflect on what you'd do better given another chance.

Rooting for you!

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Thank you!! And it’s fine if they don’t. There will be more opportunities (I’m hoping anyway😅)

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koriroys profile image
Kori Roys

With your attitude and skills, most likely even better ones! I'm excited for your future! And yes, do get some sleep. 😴

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z4ck987 profile image
Z4ck987

The same thing happened to me too. Two weeks ago I also did an interview, I think I had enough sleep, did the interview practice with my wife, wrote notes on what to say later during the interview on a piece of paper. And yeah, I feel ready for this interview.

Unfortunately I feel nervous and overwhelmed, a big fan of this startup company, so I have to think I have to make a good impression. But precisely because of this, I couldn't think calmly, couldn't give a clear answer, even I was checkmate because I didn't know the answer. And now I feel depressed because I feel I have wasted this opportunity.

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Cat Boxer

Great article. Thanks for sharing. :)

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Thanks for reading!

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davidyaonz profile image
David Yao

Definately one of the best reviews of technical process from truely honest perspective. Surely you will do much better and nail it next time.

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Thanks!! I really hope so😅

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abodmicheal profile image
Abod Micheal (he/him)

try asking for a do-over and good luck

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theworstdev profile image
Kurt Kemple

So much great advice in this post! Thank you for sharing your experience!

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Thanks so much Kurt😊

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dewhallez profile image
Akin Wale

Thank you for sharing your experience. I wish you all the best going forward.

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ceeoreo profile image
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Terry Threatt

Great post! Definitely had one of those and it helps to talk through it. Good luck on the next one.

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Ceora Ford Author

Thank you ☺️

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tajchana1

Great story, I feel the same way as you. I’m sure something will come for you soon. Keep the faith going 👍

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

Thank you😊

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rolandixor profile image
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Jessica

Thank you for sharing your experience and reminding me of the steps we shouldn't skip. I might just make a checklist from this :)

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ceeoreo profile image
Ceora Ford Author

That’s great! Thanks for reading 🤗

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