We often come across candidates who, after a few unsuccessful attempts at nailing a tech interview, develop what’s termed ‘interview anxiety’. While every interview can produce some degree of anxiety, it’s a problem when it affects your performance, especially if you are dealing with a few successive rejections. .
Technical interviews are incredibly difficult, and it’s not uncommon for people to do badly at them. Why are technical interviews so difficult?
Not because the interviewer wants you to fail or do badly. In fact, most interviewers will say that they want you to succeed and be hired, because they have a role to fill.
If I had to break down the causes of interview anxiety, it’s these:
- The questions you are being asked are not directly related to your role.
- There’s a focus on speed, and the need to solve and respond within a fixed time frame, which is stressful.
- This stress is further compounded by the fact that when you interview for a role, you are putting yourself out there to be judged by people who don’t know you at all.
Now, the fear is real and many, even extremely successful engineers, experience it some time in their careers. What you need to remember is that it’s not impossible to overcome interview anxiety. And you certainly don’t want to let the fear paralyze you.
We have seen it over and over at Interview Kickstart. Many who come into the program with interview anxiety have managed to get past it, interview with top companies, succeed with offers upwards of $500k! Technical interviews need not be stressful.
Interview prep to alleviate interview anxiety
Tech interviewing is a skill that one acquires. And it’s a tremendously valuable skill because the ROI on the skill can be 10-20x in the first year itself as you uplevel to a better job. We believe that adequately preparing for an interview is key to reducing this fear and anxiety.
A comprehensive interview prep program will help you:
- Take a structured approach to interview preparation
- Offer you the opportunity to work with hiring managers and tech leads from top companies
- Put you through mock interviews so that you get comfortable solving under pressure
Prepare well and you may actually begin to look forward to the interview process!
Here’s an interview prep framework
Treat interview prep as a marathon rather than a sprint and ensure you have time to get through it steadily.
Part 1: Follow a structured curriculum
Interviews at Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other top companies largely focus on three areas - coding (algorithms + data structures), system design, and career skills (seriously underrated by most engineers). While these may not be directly related to the actual role, companies want to ensure that your foundation is sound and that you are a good fit for the team. Follow a structured curriculum to prepare for these questions. Please refer to my answer on Quora here.
Part 2: Choose a methodology for interview preparation
You can prepare on your own or by leveraging an interview prep platform like Interview Kickstart. Our focus is to help you become a better engineer. All our instructors are hiring managers and tech leads from top tech companies, and we have trained over 2,000 engineers successfully.
To decide if you need an interview prep platform, ask yourself if your day job allows you to give interview prep the time it needs. It’s very easy as a working engineer to get pulled into your day job and for this reason alone, a program can help; it forces you to commit time and attention to it. In short, it’s a great forcing function.
Part 3: Practice interviews to overcome anxiety
The most challenging thing about the technical interview process is the actual interview itself (for all the reasons mentioned above). Most engineers make the mistake of showing up at multiple interviews, hoping they will nail one. Unfortunately, the reality is that when you start failing interviews you keep failing them because there’s no feedback loop in the typical interview process.
We strongly recommend practicing with mock interviews before you go on to interview at actual companies. Mock interviews in a sandboxed environment where you interview with actual hiring managers and get detailed feedback is a powerful way to identify patterns, refine your thinking, and manage yourself in an interview room. An interview prep program like ours comes with several mock interviews so that you can be absolutely ready to face a real one.
Part 4: Getting interview calls
Hiring managers and tech recruiters are inundated with thousands of resumes every week. Your best bet of getting an interview call is to try and go through a referral and/or have a resume that stands out. A typical tech recruiter is likely to spend 10 seconds or less reviewing your resume. Making sure your resume is positioned well and customizing it for the job you are applying for should help.
Use this framework to mentally prepare for your next technical interview. And remember, anxiety can always be managed and overcome.