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I failed a coding Interview 😞

“Hi Oj, thanks for meeting Matt today for a second interview. After careful consideration, we decided not to move forward at this moment…”

This is a response I received from a CTO looking to hire a React Native developer. So, what did I learn?

As a Nigerian living in Nigeria who is trying to switch jobs with an offshore company or start a career with an offshore company, It can be discouraging to hear comments like "So you have to be in the US for this job" or "we assumed you are in the US" despite the remote tag in the job description and even after a series of conversations with recruiters/hiring managers and attempting to pitch yourself and your skills; this could even be after you have scheduled a call or gotten on a brief Introductory call.

But, unlike so many prior interactions with recruiters/hiring managers, this was not the case this time, because this specific company was more concerned with your competency than your location. After an initial introductory call with the CTO, who seemed very cool, I believed this could be a good team to work with because the personality of an organisation's leader can reveal a lot about its working culture. I was already imagining myself working with this amazing team.

I was thrilled to learn more about the technical interview requirements, which turned out to be a React test rather than the more conventional algorithms test. I believe myself to be a proficient React developer and have worked with a few teams.

Fast forward to the feedback after the technical Interview.

“Hi Ojonugwa, Thank you for taking the time to interview at XYZ company (intentional omission). Unfortunately, we will not be moving forward at this time. I wish you the best in your future endeavours.”

Feedback like this can cause you to go to bed earlier than you intended. Could it be that I was nervous or rusty from attending live-in technical interviews? I thought about it for a while before deciding to contact the CTO once more.

“Hello, Apologies for bothering you, but is it possible for me to retake the technical interview?  I believe it would only be reasonable to request the opportunity to participate in another technical interview given that I consider myself to be a good developer and have been a part of a few teams that have developed decent products that have scaled. I admit to feeling nervous during my most recent attempt because it had been a year since my last live coding interview, hence the performance. I look forward to your response :).”

To my amazement, the CTO agreed to a second interview.

This time, I practiced a little based on my prior experience and concentrated on the nervousness that comes with technical interview time limits.

Fast forward to the feedback after taking the second technical Interview.

“Hi Oj, thanks for meeting Matt today for a second interview. After careful consideration, we decided not to move forward at this moment. Feedback was similar, we believe you are a knowledged developer, but the way you structure your components and your problem-solving procedures can be improved. Thanks again for being interested in XYZ company (intentional omission), best of luck!”

This time, instead of being hard on myself, I opted to carefully consider the CTO's feedback.

So What did I learn?

  • Technical interviews focus on your problem-solving approach rather than merely your ability to complete the given tasks.
  • Try to demonstrate your technical prowess in your code rather than applying the quick fix to the task at hand.
  • As much as possible, communicate your steps and intentions aloud.
  • Prior to the interview, enquire as much as you can about the requirements and the other things they expect to see from you outside your ability to do the task at hand.

Importantly, honest and detailed feedback should drive you to continue learning and improving your competence.

Top comments (43)

favourfelix profile image
Favour Felix

Love the confidence in your skills that made you request for another interview. Epic! Surely, there are better days ahead.

anurag_vishwakarma profile image
Anurag Vishwakarma

Bro keep learning.

kanekotic profile image

as an interviewer and having created this process in multiple places. I want to also add, that is important the interaction and attitude.The thing that is less important for me is the code.
Communication is key, do you accept feedback, do you share knowledge, are you an active listener, anyone can code, not to much people are able to cooperate without ego, specially as they move forward into being "seniors".

mortensenc profile image
Mortensen Cristian

You will have a lot of interviews in your life, and you will fail lots of them. The important thing is to learn from them as much as possible, and always ask why you don't get the job it could be (technical reasons, communicational reasons, money, timezone) and always be transparent, that way you will be more prepared to the next opportunity. Trust me! And good luck next time!

adam_gardner_ed9d6a4f26f8 profile image
Adam Gardner

Keep on keeping on man, the hardest part of working...getting the job. As someone who interviews many developers for the company I work at, its all about selling yourself. 90% of the interview I have with each person is all about personality and who the person is. I can teach anyone to code, teaching someone to interact with people that has to be there already. Best of luck to you Ojay.

cubiclesocial profile image

Jobs for "remote work" are generally limited to country of origin and every business everywhere will always prefer a local resident who works remotely over a really remote worker. Many remote workers are still generally expected to come into the office from time to time for on-site meetings and the like. So they want the person to live in the country and also not be too far away physically from the office building. So just because a job description says "remote work" does not mean halfway around the world or even in the next state over within the U.S. Some "remote work" jobs actually want people to live in the same state or even same city as the job. Those requirements make it easier for tax purposes for the business but I can see how it would be confusing to the uninitiated or upsetting to get through an interview process and find out everyone's time had been wasted.

Should you keep applying to U.S.-based jobs? It doesn't hurt to try.

Question: Do you go by "Oj" or "Ojay?" The reason I ask is because you say the CTO said "Oj" in their message, not "Ojay." You should stick to your full first name when interacting with U.S. employers. There was a certain "O.J." a while ago that people here in the U.S. still remember.

alexparton profile image

At some point we should talk about companies doing stupid technical tests with problems that will never appear in the field like the ridiculous bucket algorythm that doesnt reveal anything but a programmer with good memory.
Red Flag, move on OJ, you deserve better!

ownlin profile image

The next one will always be better!And ~~ review this interview to understand your weekness❀

mellen profile image
Matt Ellen

Thanks for sharing. There are not enough stories like this in public.

jeffchavez_dev profile image
Jeff Chavez


ftinoco profile image
Fernando Tinoco

Keep it up bro!

As for me, I've had several interviews in last weeks, but unfortunately I haven't been able to get a new job, but this is what it is, and the only thing I can do is to keep trying, I believe that good things are coming our way :)

In my case, my English level is my stopper to get my dream job, but I'm improving it every day.

Don't lose heart, just have confidence in yourserlf.

khuongduybui profile image
Duy K. Bui • Edited

I agreed with everything you said except for this.

Try to demonstrate your technical prowess in your code rather than applying the quick fix to the task at hand.

Do neither. Instead, solve the exercise as if it's a real task you are going to solve on the job. Show your consideration for maintainability, extensibility, security, scalability, performance, etc. If you don't have enough time to take care of something, add an in-code comment or at least say something to the interviewers about it. That is how I usually tell junior developers from the more mature ones: the juniors focus solely on coding while more mature ones consider other aspects of building a system. Senior ones will have to consider even more, like deadlines and business objectives, and are able to make reasonable (and later amendable) compromises when needed.

oj_redifined profile image

I totally agree with you, @khuongduybui... This serves as a more illustrative example of my summary. Thank you

mightytechno profile image

Try and try one day you will get a offer. Please take a note what are things asked and the. You can study those part. I am also attending interviews these days and still no luck. But I will never give up until I got a offer.

hjrobinson profile image
hjrobinson • Edited

Sometimes it's impossible to know exactly what's in people's heads or what they want. It's not always about your skills. Someone may write their code in a certain way and they want someone who just happens to write code in a similar fashion. This is not an exact parallel to what you experienced but I remember when I took my first (and only) programming course in college (which I ultimately failed) that I managed to find a solution that worked perfectly for the problem that that the instructor presented. But because I didn't solve the problem the same way he would have or what was the most common solution I got a low grade. Some folks are more concerned with the route you take. I can see how this makes sense of if your code is overly verbose but aside from that it's just being finicky and that's just how some people are. Sooner or later you'll find someone who's less finicky or who's style of coding lines up with yours. You may find an employer who is patient enough to allow you to learn to code in their style. If you really want to find a job don't quit. Otherwise try to find a way to freelance. Good luck.

alexkapustin profile image

As an interviewer, i expect to have some dialogue. Code task is just a subject to have some discussion around it.
The worst thing you can do is look into task and do nothing or write terrible solution.
Instead, you can discuss how would you solve a problem, why would you choose this solution.
Also, it's very important to ask questions, it's better to ask something rather than assume.

jmau111 profile image

nice feedback @oj_redifined ! No success without failures. I'm sure you'll get through next time!

oj_redifined profile image

Thank you @jmau111

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