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#1 AC-10  Icon User is offline

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Interview Depression

Posted 01 May 2013 - 04:09 PM

Hello everyone,
this is my first post on this website and I'm still a little unsure of how to say what I want to.

Essentially, I'm still a regularly new developer (graduating in 2010 with a Computer Science degree from a co-op program). I've been got laid off my last job, which was unfortunately a build position.

I have one problem, in that I have an anxiety disorder. Certain things (including interviews and tests) make me disproportionately nervous. I'll often only be able to get about 3 hours sleep, if any, my heart rate stays very high for the hours leading up to the interview, I panic immensely, etc). I went to therapy for awhile to try and help me, but only so much can be done without medication, yet my doctor recommended we not medicate as i don't have generalized anxiety disorder.

As a result of this, I've been furiously working on my interview skills as it helps me relax a bit. I can at least get a good night's sleep now. I've spent weeks prepping, reading interview guides, working on programming questions, etc. But I've just been failing a long string of interviews, or at least I must be as everyone seems to be turning me away. In the rare case when someone does reply to my inquiries with why I wasn't hired, they pretty much just say something along the (paraphrased) lines of "You did really well, we just want more someone with more experience".

I always seem to get very far in the interview process, making them a monumental waste of time and effort (in extreme cases, flying to Seattle for Microsoft and Amazon). I always do programming challenges set out for applicants, even if it takes days to do. Basically, I'm trying really, really goddamn hard. This morning, the constant rejection just finally got to me. I was woke up, checked my phone for emails and found I was declined a position from a local startup. I thought the interview went extremely well and I was very surprised. For some reason, more than all others, this rejection hit me really hard. I just couldn't take it anymore. I rolled over and I just... cried. I was so frustrated, I was so hopeful and now I'm just in a massive depressive funk.

Part of me just wants to give up. Just say "to hell with it, you win." and just go serve coffee at a cafe around the corner until I die.

The other part of me wants to make this work somehow. Have any of you encountered something like this in your work history? Would doing a masters degree help my odds? Does anyone have recommendations or maybe some secret interview tips (as the "official" ones aren't working for me)? I just... don't know what to do anymore. I feel like I've tried everything. I'm not sure what the job situation for programmers in America is like, but I live in Southern Ontario and I wouldn't really call it booming. Better than after the crash in 2008, but it's still not fantastic.

Another thing I'm curious about, what is the one thing, in your opinion, that defines a fantastic coder? How can I not only BE this, but show that and express it to my potential employers?

Thank you all for indulging me on this, it does feel kind of good to just let it out.

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Replies To: Interview Depression

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:34 PM

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That's a bummer, and quite disheartening for sure.

As for your situation in general - dude/dudette, who is to say? I mean you clearly have things working against you, or this large psychological block when it comes to 'the launch'. No bit of advice, insight, or pithy comment will make it some how magically better. Who knows - maybe study less (outside the cursory interview bits) before an interview, run, go shoot hoops, or get a lap dance the night before. Then again that takes some sort of innate confidence in yourself to just let go for once.

On the plus side - you are getting interviews. I know folks who are not even getting that far.


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Have any of you encountered something like this in your work history?

I think everyone has hit a dry patch now and then - especially when starting out. Are you shooting too high on the job ranks? Too low? Missing bullet points?

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Would doing a masters degree help my odds?

Yes? No? Maybe? A masters doesn't always translate into that 'experience', right? I mean.. hell.. you can come out with one and still not interview well or have the magical amount of experience.

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Does anyone have recommendations or maybe some secret interview tips (as the "official" ones aren't working for me)?

There are no secret interview tips or everyone would exploit them. Try bumping up some open source work, start a portfolio, design some apps, show clean code, documentation, etc.

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Another thing I'm curious about, what is the one thing, in your opinion, that defines a fantastic coder?

That's a difficult question.. some theory (in a non-exhaustive list).. the ability to solve problems when presented, not one to swoon and moan "oooh.. where do I start?!". Someone who has some zest for their current areas and are willing to experiment outside of their comfort zone, and who can work well with others.

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How can I not only BE this, but show that and express it to my potential employers?

Do more independent projects, hook into some open source projects, show your work, and keep beating down doors.
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#3 JackOfAllTrades  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 03:25 AM

As someone who hates interviewing, I totally feel for you. Even though I've been in this business for >15 years, I still freeze up when I get there and start talking. I will give you a tremendous amount of credit if you are actually interviewing for positions at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, though; I would not even attempt an interview there, just from the horror stories I've read on the net.

Just keep trying, don't get down (I say this, even though I would certainly feel similarly), and don't let your recent rejection affect you too much. My company has in the past had trouble getting decent applicants, and we lucked out with our recent posting and got TWO very good applicants. Both did very well in their interviews, and it sucked to have to reject one of them, but there was only one position available. It's no comfort to that job-seeker, but he was a very good candidate, and his rejection was not a comment on his overall abilities to do the job; it's just that the other applicant was slightly better.
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#4 stackoverflow  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 05:49 AM

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I believe I am quite a great developer. I also get rejected from many companies. I just got rejected from Amazon twice in a row. It happens-- some companies have an ideal candidate and regardless of how good or prepared you are they won't hire you unless you fit their ideal.

The best you can do is not take it personally. Always thank them and ask for feedback about your interviews and see if there is anything you can improve on. Most big companies like Amazon and Google won't give feedback though. Just keep at it and eventually you will find a good fit.

Keep working on your coding skills and portfolio in the meantime!
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#5 Apokio  Icon User is online

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 05:59 AM

I feel your pain, I have got the "we are looking for someone with more experience" plenty of times. I started working on more open source projects on github and posting some of the code for my personal projects on github. Anytime I went to an interview and they asked me about a technology that I knew nothing about I would do some project with it. Just keep working at it something will happen.
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#6 AC-10  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 09:32 AM

Thank you for the kind words and support! Reading others with similar interview pains really helps. It's one thing to know you're out there, and another to directly hear people's experiences.

I've got my head out of the depressive thoughts and back on track and you all really helped! Also spending a day on a patio with drinks and friends helped me to unwind a bit :P.

Taking advice given; my portfolio is something that is woefully incomplete, and I'm going to focus on that now. I've got a site whipped up, but nothing to put on it because I just don't have anything to show (partially because I'm still relatively new to the field). However, I think it's mostly because most (okay... all) of my side projects are far too large in scope to realistically complete within even a year.

My plan is to instead make little demos for my portfolio that are completable within a few weeks. So, for example, write something highly concurrent to show I know how threads work, how my code is laid out, etc. That way an employer can get a better feel for how I code and the sample should still be small enough that they don't get overwhelmed with a massive foreign code base.

Again, thank you all :)
I haven't given up yet!
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#7 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 09:34 AM

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However, I think it's mostly because most (okay... all) of my side projects are far too large in scope to realistically complete within even a year.

Needs some 'splaining.
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#8 WinkyCode  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 11:53 AM

Great thread. I will bookmark it. :)
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#9 mrburnttoast  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 09:33 PM

As someone who has interviewed numerous candidates for my team, I will tell you that it's not always about coding skills or experience. I have interviewed a bunch of applicants who I'm sure were fine developers but might not have been a good fit. Things that may be a turn off to interviewers: too aggressive, no personality, serial killer vibe, weird personal projects etc. Just something to think about.
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#10 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 09:38 PM

I also hold the "underwear goes inside the pants" as a metric for an interview.
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#11 stackoverflow  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 02 May 2013 - 10:18 PM

I have interviewed many people as well but I have never held "weird personal projects" against someone. I have however held the following against people:

* Bad attitude. One guy would refuse to try an solve our problems and would say, "This isn't a code problem it's a math problem!"

* Bad online presence. We rejected one guy because we felt he was too risky. We read a large number of forum posts/reviews people that worked with him and/or knew him talked about him. This man is pretty well known in the community and has a wrote a number of textbooks etc. So it was very easy to find people talking about him. In addition to the bad personal reviews I read in forums I watched a conference talk by him and was not impressed.

* Inability to communicate well. Not a deal breaker but not being able to speak clearly or communicate your thoughts is certainly a mark against them.

* Inability to do simple coding problems. This is a deal breaker for me.

* Inability to demonstrate basic computer science understanding (algorithmic complexity, difference between programming paradigms, core concepts of object oriented programming, the difference between pass by value and pass by reference, difference between the various parts of a process such as heap, stack etc)
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#12 C.Andrews  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 03 May 2013 - 06:28 AM

I don't mean to come off as a condescending jerk here (I'm going to anyway), but would you mind sending me a copy of your resume via PM? I notice there are a number of grammatical errors in your postings (which may just be the result of hammering them out on a web forum), but I'd be happy to read over your resume and see if I can spot any of the same. When I'm interviewing, I never take anyone seriously who doesn't use impeccable spelling, grammar, and syntax in their resume, CV, or cover letters.

Sometimes even small mistakes can stick in the mind of an interviewer.
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#13 Generic_User_2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Interview Depression

Posted 03 May 2013 - 06:25 PM

One thing that may or may not be entirely relevant to you, but is related to spelling and grammar mistakes:

many, many programmers and HR folks haven't gone through formal english training. As well, many, many english speakers in general aren't familiar with other 'dialects' of english.


if you use more sophisticated grammar structures: a is to b as c is to d, you will be dinged for having poor english skills even though your grammar may be completely incorrect. That example is a little ridiculous to use in a cover letter, but the point still stands.

on the issues of dialects, look at color and colour; only one of them is correct to the interviewer.

errr, may be 'correct' instead of 'incorrect'
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