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I don't prep for the 'tech' part of tech interviews; does that work for you, too?

daniel13rady profile image Daniel Brady Updated on ・3 min read

This has always been met with vehement opposition, feelings of being offended, and made sages out of friends as they become suddenly protective of me and wanting to "steer me right."

So let me just preface this with, "This works for me, I'm open to improvements, and I'm not disparaging what works for anyone else."

I don't prep for the 'tech' part of tech interviews.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It has nothing to do with having a large ego or confidence in interviewing or anything like that, but rather more to do with how I judge myself.

It's mostly an extension of my approach to any sort of examination or evaluation growing up: if the progression of my life thus far hasn't already prepared me, then I'm obviously not ready for whatever the next step is, regardless of what the examiner says. Intentional preparation for things like exams has always felt...fake, I guess? If I pass an evaluation after spending days or weeks of studying for it specifically, then what is the evaluation really telling me about how well I'm prepared for whatever comes next? Isn't it mostly just telling me how well I passed the test?

When I transitioned out of a formal school setting and into "the real world" several years ago, that attitude towards evaluating myself didn't change. Job interviews are very obvious forms of evaluation, and I approach them with the same attitude: if I'm not ready, I'm not ready, and stressing myself out to get a job I'm not ready for doesn't help anyone, especially me. Failing an interview helps me learn where I should improve if I want a similar role in the future.

It's worked well for me so far: I've held two professional software jobs, and I started both of them with minimal self-doubt and virtually no imposter syndrome.

That said, I've had a few interview experiences that have revealed what I consider a major flaw in my approach: it assumes too much about the ability of the examination process to adequately and accurately evaluate.

Basically, as a student I tended to think that if I did not pass an exam, I was not ready to proceed in the coursework. Similarly, I now tend to think that if I was not given an offer after an interview, then I was not a good fit for the role.

But the reality is that accurate evaluation of people is hard; any feedback (external or internal) about yourself and your abilities has to be taken with a healthy amount of skepticism.

And this is why I specifically said I don't prep for the tech part of interviews. The tech part is the simpler (but not necessarily easier) part for me: once I'm asked a question, my own reaction to it can generally tell me how equipped I am to approach a solution to it, and hopefully that tells me something about how equipped I am for the role I'm trying for.

The real challenge of interviews, for me, has always been the part where I'm supposed be interviewing them as a prospective employer and potential teammate. 😓 This is the part of tech interviews I often forgot about early on and actually try to prepare for these days, because my success in that area relies on my ability in judging others accurately, and as I've tried to establish previously, that's hard.

Anyways, this is getting longer than I intended. I mostly wanted to share my flawed-but-works-well-for-me approach to tech interviews, and I'm curious if anyone else follows a similar approach. If you follow a different one, why does it work for you more than others you've tried?

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Daniel Brady

@daniel13rady

Success is something you tell your friends about, but failure is what you learn from.

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I respect that a lot. The last round of interviews I did I took a similar approach. Mostly to weed out companies that I would have to prepare for. I figured that if I had to prepare for a technical interview process, then their process sucks.

This meant turning down some interviews but ultimately landed me somewhere I've been pretty happy at.

Regarding interview them, have you ever seen this "Culture Queries" tool?

You can basically put in what you're looking for in a company, and it will give you a bunch of questions to ask during the interview process to see if that company aligns with your values/what you're looking for.

I used it as part of my last interviews and it was really helpful.

 

That tool is amazing! Going to share that with my candidates going forward

 

That is 100% the view I always took - everyone thought I was mad when I said revising felt like cheating!

That being said, I would always advise my candidates to prepare for interviews and provide as much guidance as possible about where they should concentrate their efforts. If all the other candidates ARE preparing for the technical portion of the interview, could it not be argued you're putting yourself at an artifical disadvantage by not doing the same?

 

That said, I've had a few interview experiences that have revealed what I consider a major flaw in my approach: it assumes too much about the ability of the examination process to adequately and accurately evaluate.

The challenges given to you during the recruitment process may not reflect the actual activities required by the position. This misalignment is bad for the recruiting company because they will have a hard time getting a candidate that they need. In theory this should make them less competitive than other companies that have more aligned recruitment process.

So you are on the right track I think :)

Unless you are interested in a specific company with a known recruitment process. Then of course you should prepare for the test to increase your chances.