Employer reading a resume

I applied at a FAANG and failed: Three interviewing lessons

Overconfidence killed all my chances of success.

I applied for a role as a software engineer at a FAANG or MAGMA or insert-newest-acronym here.

And I failed.

I thought: “I have more than 10 years of experience. I’ve seen quite a lot.”

A “short coding assessment” got me off guard. 80 minutes and 3 exercises made me feel like an impostor. An uppercut and 10-second countdown.

I don’t want this post to be another “hiring is broken” and “life is unfair” post. So…

If I could go back in time, this is what I’d tell myself before that coding assesment:

1. Review data structures, especially those you don’t use often.

Take the time to review data structures. Lists, hash maps, queues, trees.

Trees, is this you?

I haven’t used trees since my data structure class back in university. And probably, I wouldn’t use them if I had passed the interview and joined.

But, surprise, surprise. That was one of the questions.

2. Practice using a timer and a coding editor without auto-completion

I know it’s unrealistic. These days, we have IDEs with autocompletion and even AI at our fingertips.

But MAGMAs insist on hiring using coding platforms without autocompletion. The old way.

Since practicing a skill should be as “real” as possible, close your IDE and practice using a bare-bones text editor. And with a timer on.

3. Read all questions first. I know!

Yeah, I wanted to be an A-student playing with the rules. I jumped right to the first question.

50 minutes in and I had barely an answer for the first question. I had to decide between solving only one question or moving on and trying to solve another one. One and a half questions are better than only one, I guess.

I could have nailed the second one first. It was way easier. And definitively, I could have solved the last two questions and skipped the first one. If only I had read all the questions first.

Read all the questions and start with the easy ones. Old advice that I forgot.

Voila! That’s what I’d tell myself before that coding assessment. Yeah, hiring is broken, but we have to go through gatekeepers. Or ditch our CVs and interviewing skills and build a place for ourselves.

For more interview content, read remote interview types and tips and ten tips to solve your next interview coding challenge.

Happy interviewing!