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What should you do after you fail the technical interview?

madisonkanna profile image Madison Kanna ・2 min read

Asking for a friend, of course...

But really. I'm not currently interviewing, but I've failed plenty of technical interviews before and I still shudder thinking of my very first one.

I bombed it.

After, I didn't know what to do. I wondered if I should just give up.

Doing poorly in a technical interview meant I wasn't cut out to be a developer. At least, that's what I believed at the time.

Fast forward to today and I know that isn't true. But I often hear aspiring developers talk about how failing technical interviews shook their confidence afterwards and made them question if they could really become devs.

So here's a question that I'd love to hear the answer to from other developers--how do you bounce back after a technical interview? What do you tell yourself? What do you do next?

One thing that's been helpul for me:

Always figure out the answer later. At the end of the interview, it seems like I'll never understand what the solution to the technical problem presented to me was. But later, when I learn as I go over it, I see that I can. That helps rebuild my confidence as I identify the knowledge gap that preventing me from understanding the problem, and I close that gap.

But I wish I would have known this sooner. That's why I created this thread.

In your experience, what should you do after you fail the technical interview to ensure that you'll learn and grow as a developer because of the experience, not in spite of it?

Discussion

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simoroshka profile image
Anna Simoroshka

I failed a technical interview but I asked for some tips on how and where I could improve and got really good and useful feedback. I helped me a lot by showing where I actually should put my efforts. For example, I thought I need to know frameworks and all kind of tools they put in job descriptions, but instead I was told to focus on things like functional programming and other basics and to become really fluent in them. It paid off. I think of that interview as an enlightening experience.

Btw, 1.5 years later I was invited there again and the interview went really well.

So, my advice is to ask for advice from your interviewers. :)

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therealkevinard profile image
Kevin Ard

Always ask for feedback. Unfortunately, it's not that common to actually get it, but definitely ASK. Even if it comes through 5%, that 5% usually has some real gems in it.

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madisonkanna profile image
Madison Kanna Author

That's great advice!

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antero_nu profile image
Antero Karki

Yeah, it could be slightly gut wrenching the first times. My focus when I started out in software development was to pass the interviews.

Today it has shifted to also finding out do I want to work here?

For me the best interviews are more like good discussions and if a company treats it more like a pass or fail exam rather than a discussion I see that as a warning sign that this is how they will see your work as well. A continuous individual pass or fail exam rather than work together to build the best possible product.

And yeah, don't be discouraged about failing an interview, everyone who's ever done anything interesting has too. (Probably)

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Jorge Castro

In short, years ago I failed an important technical interview, I feel inferior and I think for myself: "ok, they hire the best one and I am not one of them" 😆.

And now, in a twist of life, I own a business and the same company hires me (hire my business) to train their personnel. How does the process of hiring work? I'm clueless. 🤔 but trust me, they don't always pick the best one. In fact, I think it is the opposite, the pick the worse one.

https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-KEENpmDWSlk/Vtlv9lCZu9I/AAAAAAAABbA/ZrqnsNIGRAw/s1600/meninblacksupbitpic1.jpg

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madisonkanna profile image
Madison Kanna Author

That is a twist of life for sure. That just goes to show hiring processes aren't always the best. Thanks for sharing! Also, love this image haha.

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nullthingy profile image
Kalyan(கல்யாண், कल्याण)

First accept the failure. It's never going to be permanent. Understand the cause for failure and work on getting it right next time. Interviews are meant to assess a person to the job at a specific situation and it is by no means to test your capability. As a matter of fact everyone is capable. Let it go, but learn from failures. Pat in your back that you failed this time, but you won't fail the next time! Keep going.. good luck.

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Tomas Eglinskas

Look at the interview as an experience, from which you can take something and improve. Of course it's not the best feeling in the world to get rejected. Yet over time I understood that if I really like some specific company and couldn't get there - I'm still closer, cause I know what to improve and now it will be only a matter of time and practice.

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msarit profile image
Arit Amana

I had two significant tech interviews in my job hunt.

One was a combination of on-the-spot programming in Javascript (which I wasnt strong in at the time), and Ruby whiteboarding. I didnt get that job, and I felt devastated. But it provoked me to beef my JS skills up.

The second was a code review of the takehome they'd given me some days back. I took notes while they tore my code apart - in a nice way, but they still tore it apart lol. That night I took time to incorporate all their feedback into my code, and I actually felt myself become a better programmer in the process. That company actually suspended the hiring process for that position due to budget constraints.

Just like others have said: the only helpful reaction to a failed tech interview is to learn and grow from it. Now are tears and frustration and a deep-dive into caramel icecream (my personal favorite) necessary? Yeah sure sometimes (ok all the time!), but not helpful. There's nothing that cannot be learned - so focus on learning and the rest will always be worked out.

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256hz profile image
Abe Dolinger

I do the ice cream before all the other stuff, but yeah, same.

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msarit profile image
Arit Amana

😂 😂 😂

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devjunhong profile image
Junhong Kim

It was always tough to face failure experience frankly, but I have to recognize the gap without being painful. I tried to remember what's the point and core during the interview. If I have a chance to get feedback, I tried to get it. And I feel I'm not alone according to this page. rejected.us/

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Madison Kanna Author

I love that page, I've never seen it before. Thanks for sharing!

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Max Ong Zong Bao

For me, this quote essentially covers what I feel when I fail an interview.

When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. By Alexander Graham Bell

I just think that we should not be too hard on yourself and just reflect on what we could have done better after a fail interview.

Sometimes it just might mean that this company might not be the correct company for you which they had did the favour in letting you know.

So that you can pursue a much better opportunity in a different company. I will always have my pity party and dust it off to go and apply to another company with what I had learnt from my fail interview.

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madisonkanna profile image
Madison Kanna Author

That's a great quote. Such a good way to look at it.

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adyngom profile image
Ady Ngom

Personally it really humbled me and made me understand the gap. At the time I was very proficient with jQuery and could do pretty much anything with it. I lured myself into thinking that I was a kick-ass Javascript developer. So when I saw a great opportunity for a Senior JS position I went for it with the highest rate of confidence (read cocky) imaginable.

That was the first time I've ever heard of a closure, let alone try to explain what it does and give great examples of how to use it.

I really was devastated and just wanted to hide in a corner and cry it out. The next thing that happen though was crazy, I decided to write Javascript for a whole year without the help of any libraries.

I still have failed many others, but the attitude was different now. I will always ask feedback to my interviewers so I could understand and close the gap. I also would not rest until I could find a solution to the challenges that were to be solved.

It's been a wild ride and I'm very happy with my actual professional state, but truth be told that humbling moment on a cool summer afternoon in the Bay Area, was a blessing in disguise.

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Ofer Vugman

Accept the failure and as kitschy as it might sound, embrace it. There's nothing wrong with failing.

Once you do that try to understand what caused it, try to find other's solutions to similar technical questions. See if and how different your answer was. Also, not all failures are because of a wrong answer, it's sometime the process that lead you to it that failed you.

As an interviewer I always advice candidates to approach me whether by email or phone and ask why they failed. I understand, It is sometimes hard to accept the reasons and you might not always agree with the interviewer but if you really want to grow because of the experience you must be know why you failed.

Greater people already said it, best way to learn is to fail.
Whatever you do, never ever give up!

Hope this helps.

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dvddpl profile image
Davide de Paolis

nice article.

  • remember that coding and solving problems in software engineering is not the same as answering tricky quizzes during technical interviews.
  • tell yourself that every failure helps you to improve and do better the next time
  • send an email to the company/interviewer if you can get feedback about the tech interview. some emails might go unanswered, in some you will get a very generic and politically correct reply ( which is basically useless) but in some cases, you might get some valuable info to let yourself learn from the experience.
  • try to go through all the questions and see if you can - in a more relaxed state and with the help of google - finally answer them properly
  • keep a "diary" of all the questions and periodically go through them. ( your skill will have grown over time and you will smile at the memory of how you struggled to answer some of them)
  • practice, practice, practice i wrote about it this morning as well ;-)
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madisonkanna profile image
Madison Kanna Author

Thanks for sharing, great advice. And also, awesome article about practicing for whiteboarding interviews. Definitely using some of your tips!

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tunacado profile image
Robb Manes

I failed my first tech screen, and the company was unusually forgiving. They gave me homework on a particular topic, and said, “let us know everything you can about X when you come back”, and that showed I could learn the new material quickly. I wish there was a bit more innovation like that, but I’m appreciating everyone’s answers and views from their experiences here.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Been there before. This is my advice from a past article:

Not sure why spongebob keeps coming up 😂

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madisonkanna profile image
Madison Kanna Author

This is awesome. Thanks for sharing, Ben! Also--LOL--I love the Spongebob coincidence.

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newspeedtech profile image
newspeedtech

I’m a dev lead and I fail interviews a lot! Well, I’m busy leading and that limits my coding but it doesn’t matter one bit in an interview, I have to hit the books every time. I agree that every time you fail, find the answers and learn. The more often you fail, the more you will learn and ultimately achieve the goal you were striving for.

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Tammy Lee

If I don't know an answer I tell them up-front then describe how I'd go about getting it. It's not like we can memorize everything, especially if we're stretching outside of our comfort zone by pursuing a position that will force us to grow!

I haven't failed one yet, but if I did I would definitely ask for feedback and study up on where I am lacking. (And I like to talk to other devs about their interviews! I learned about JS hoisting through this and it WAS a question in a technical interview!)

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the_power_coder profile image
John Dorlus

Hi Madison,

I have been on a ton of technical interviews. I am not the best interviewer, by far. I am not the most proficient. I have passed and failed whiteboard interviews, Hacker Rank interviews, etc. After I failed the interview, I did a few things.

I tried to look online for a similar problem to the one I was not able to pass and I would work on it. I also send an email to the team who interviewed me (if available) thanking them and ask them for some feedback on what (specifically) I could work on and if they have any book/resource suggestions for me. Most teams don't mind doing this. If you built rapport during the interview process, the team likely saw you as a future colleague and is somewhat bummed not to get you. If that's the case, they may want to help out.

You can also think about some of the more subtle things about how the interview went. I like to measure things like

"Was the interview natural?"
Did conversations feel forced? Was someone trying to show off their intellect? Were there trick questions? Could I really see myself with the interviewers as peers?

"Was the interview a 2 way street?"
Was the interview a power struggle where one side was trying to do all of the talking? Did the interviewers actually show interest in me and my experience?

"Did the interviewers answer my questions sufficiently"
The interview process is definitely one where the candidate feels the they are on the hot seat. But we are interviewing the company and its representatives as well. Make sure to have some pretty thought provoking questions for the team? A question like: "How have you and your team handled a release that didn't go as smoothly as planned? What was the course of action and where did responsibility lie?"

When going over your previous interviews, it's not a time to beat yourself up. It's a time to reflect, review and revisit your approach to interviewing. Hopefully this helps.

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Pietro Ghezzi

In my experience there have been different types of technical interviews. But from all those I failed they helped me to discover or deepen themes I didn't know and so it was also a way to improve myself.
There is disappointment, especially if it is a very desired potion, but in the end the goal for a developer must always be to improve day after day because perfection does not exist.

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jeoxs profile image
José Aponte

Get up, learn and kill it in the next one! Basically, we as developers are in a journey finding solutions to problems. This also means getting answers.

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El Housseine Jaafari

Right now I failed 2 interviews, one was because they stressed me out and gave me like 30min to solve the problem. The second one got me confused so hard, because I know I did great but still failed.

Usually I ask them why I failed in order for me to understand and go learn to improve my skills, but only few get back to you with an answer.

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benrice23 profile image
Benjamin Rice

I like what others have said, and some have said this in part: Go write code. Go solve a problem using a language or technology that will expand you beyond your comfort zone. Go do some code katas. Refactor some existing code.

A big part of the satisfaction of being a developer is watching this machine obey your commands, being in control of technology that is important in many people's lives. Remind yourself of that.

One of the Agile principles is "Working software is the primary measure of progress." We don't measure teams here by how quickly they solve FizzBuzz. We measure them by the code they produce. Remind yourself of that.

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alebiagini profile image
aleBiagini

A personal opinion from my experience:
I really standed out in the interview for my first job. It was not the first interview I've done, so I prepared myself quite well. I knew what to answer every single time. Result? They had too much confidence on my skills, and didn't understand my real profile. After this, I spent six months in the company, getting bad looks everytime I did not grasp something immediately, like I did in the interview. Sometimes it's better to fail, rather than being the perfect candidate.

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Trevor

Try not to take it personally.
I failed a technical test even though my solution worked. I took the time to learn some new tech while doing the test. Now I know typescript, GraphQL. So even though I fail there assessment I gain some new skills.

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Marco B

After failing countless of interviews and hit literally rock bottom in my confidence what I did was I asked for helpful advice, feedback and push myself more.

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smz_68 profile image
Ardalan

In which country there are this fa**
Interview

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kbcbals profile image
kbcbals

Mate, there is no PASS / FAIL, in a interview.
U take an interview as a learning experience.
When u fail it hurts, yes it will defo hurt.
But if u r determined , does it matter ?

There is no quickfire solution to success.

Be grateful, u got the opportunity and were courageous enough to make 'The attempt'.

You wont believe , when i was a fresher i took interview after interview, i used to keep a log of the interview questions,

Interestingly there was a pattern in all the interviews.

For programming jobs, tech test first, your projects or portfolio next, then u clear HR at last.

I had to take 6 interviews and struck gold in my 7th,which was a promising start up.
Sadly, i stayed there for 7 weeks, bcos they didnt know what they were doing.
I moved from the startup, to a Multinational company and there was no looking back from then on

Just keep in ur mind Mate, companies are starved for good developers. 'YOU' can be one of them to help them accomplish business success.

Just keep trying , even if u fail, keep logs , u will crack it sooner than i have done.

Its all business at the the end of the day, if you dont fit in one of them, u will defo find another one.

ALL THE BEST.