tough technical interview

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Last week I stumbled across a thread on Hacker News about technical interviews. It was about how interviews are getting harder these days, but aren't very useful. It seems like they are purposefully made hard mainly to filter out candidates rather than to see how well a candidate is suited to a job.

In other words, recruiters are asking questions that often have nothing to do with the actual, day-to-day tasks of the job that they are hiring for. But why is that? And what's the best way to handle this? It appears that this is a multi-faceted topic. Let's dive in.

Weird technical interviews

You might have faced this situation yourself, or heard it from others, or you can skim through the thread I shared. What you will observe is a pattern - technical interviews have some weird questions. Sometimes puzzles, sometimes an attempt at redesigning an algorithm, sometimes having to come up with a solution to a problem without using the most commonly used solution, and so on. How many times do you actually have to solve a puzzle for your day job? Unless you are working on the script of a movie, the answer is "never."

Sure, sometimes there will be the necessity of having to rework or recreate an algorithm or look up something about a topic that you are already an expert in. But in those situations, you don't have a deadline of 60 minutes, or you aren't stopped from using the internet. Of course, there are interviews that allow you to search on the internet, but they are rare. And the bigger point is about how vastly different interviews are from actual jobs.

So why do recruiters still use it?

The simple reason is this - there's not enough time in the world to evaluate every candidate in a one-on-one manner. Think about it: every day, the recruiters get a handful of résumés that they have to look at and analyse; for each available job. And this is on top of all the other tasks that they have to do. So the simplest solution is the plainest - build a wall so high that only the strongest can jump over it.

And of course, as one person commented in that thread, "interviewing skills != working skills." One can be a great manager, a great talent, but that might not automatically mean that they are great interviewers; that is a totally different skill set.

Alright, what's the alternative?

Just as the question doesn't have straightforward reasoning, it doesn't really have a straightforward answer. Sure, being really good at your skills is the most preferred method, but expertise doesn't come easy, and definitely doesn't come fast. So build expertise, no doubt about it.

But a more important thing - and this applies to any industry - is to have a publicly viewable portfolio on your profile. Again, this too doesn't happen without putting in the time and work, but at least it is better than being at the mercy of an unknown, time-bound puzzle.

Also, having a strong network helps. One of my favourite quotes is "your network is your net worth." People, in general, love to help, and the bigger your impactful network is (no, the 1400 Facebook friends don't count), the more people there are that you can ask for help; the more opportunities you come across, and the easier your job search becomes.

The best of all? Combining the two - having a public portfolio that you always showcase to your great network means that jobs come to you rather than the other way around.

Do you think I have the time for this?

No, I know you don't. But here's the thing - ideally, a job hunt should be a luxury, something that you do when you can afford to, not something that you do when you are cornered. When we are desperate, we make choices that are sometimes illogical and irrational. This is why your job hunt should be a strategy and not a blitzkrieg. It should be very well planned and thought out so that you attract jobs that you love, rather than find yourself in a position where you must take the first job you find.

That's my hope with my content - to be able to help you create a strategy to get AJYL, A Job You Love.


Technical Job Interviews are tough. Most of the time, the interviews are not connected to the actual job at all. But if you want to avoid such an interview, you need to be strategic about your job search. You need to have a portfolio and continuously update it. You also need to build a network. Both of these actually go hand in hand. And when your network sees your portfolio, they will open doors for you because it is easier for them as well, this way, to hire good candidates.

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