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From preparation to rejection, my first interview as developer

By the title, you can imagine this is not a happy history, but I think it’s worth sharing.

A little bit of background here: I just finished Bootcamp at FlatIron London, where I became a software engineer, I learned things like Ruby on Rails and JavaScript, I don’t have any significant background, I had to drop out from university and spent all my years working as a receptionist/administrator.

After you finish the course at FlatIron you are assigned a career coach, that will help you through this process, from fixing up your C.V. to sometimes being the only thing that keeps you motivated.

For the future people reading this, I finished the course and started the job search in the middle of a global pandemic, even though it could be worse, it doesn’t make anything easier.

I started applying for jobs as soon as I finished, and this is how it went:

The preparation

Flatiron offers the students that graduate the opportunity to practice the cultural interview with their career coach and a technical one with Skilled, where a professional will evaluate your knowledge and will give you a score and if you’d have passed or not.

This was a priceless experience, as I have never been in a situation like this and didn’t know what to expect, I managed to do well in both situations what was very reassuring for a new and anxious developer.

To the people that don’t have this option, Pramp is a platform that let you interview other developers and be interviewed in return, I have had good and bad experiences there, but the practice is worth it.

The Job

I applied to the company by a reference from the Bootcamp, I can’t say I have heard about them before as it was not in my area of interest, I applied on their website, wrote a cover letter and waited for one month before getting a response.

I received an email asking me to schedule a phone call, in their email there was also a link to how the interview process goes for juniors, and it mentioned that the phone call would also have a technical challenge using the website HackerRank, so in order to better prepare myself, I decided to schedule it for the next week.

I was excited and nervous at the same time, just having an interview in the middle of the current situation is a difficult thing, I researched the company and even discovered that some friends were users of their product, and after my research and reading about them, I was excited with the possibility of working in a place like that.

I searched them in Glassdoor and saw what they usually ask in the interview, lot’s of the responses mentioned algorithms, binary search and recursive functions, which I don’t have much practice. I tried to learn as much theory as possible while still doing challenges on CodeWars.

When you apply you can choose the language, and I applied with JavaScript, so my test was going to be on this language as well as they are language agnostic.

The Interview

Ilustration of two people working together in a code in the computer
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I scheduled the interview for after lunch, not that I ate anything, I was expecting to talk to someone through the video chat function from HackerRank, I even logged in 5 min before just in case.

But instead, he called me on my phone, the connection wasn’t really good and sometimes I couldn’t understand what he said, but I mentioned it to him and as I could hear enough it was decided to keep talking to the phone.

He explained who he was and in which department he is working on, he also told me a bit of his background, he then asked me to talk more about myself, but I’m not sure if it was because it was by phone or because I was nervous, even the Who-am-I speech seemed forced and unnatural, and I had practised that same speech a couple of times.

He then asked me to go to HackerRank where he was going to give me a problem and I’d solve this on the website.

The question asked me to create a function that given an inserting with 0 and 1 if it has an unidentified symbol to return all the possible outputs, so if you give it ‘001?’ it should return ‘0010’ and ‘0011’, and it should accept that you could have more than one unidentified symbol.

I haven’t done this exercise before, but now I can think of so many other ways of solving this, I have the belief that I chose the worst possible way of solving the problem during the interview, he was helpful and would sometimes ask me things to help me guide through the process, but I kept getting stuck with no idea of what to do next.

I managed to solve the problem if it was receiving only one “?”, but it wasn’t working when given more, in the end, he solved the problem for and gave the option to ask questions about the company.

I think the whole process took one hour.

The rejection

I knew the interview wasn’t good, I could see that what I did there wasn’t my best or even my Okay, but the interview didn’t, and I received an email one day later saying that they wouldn’t continue with the process.

I won’t say that it was fine because it was what I was expecting, part of me still wished that job, but well, the process just started.

I hope it helps any new developers that like me feel stressed and overwhelmed in this process of becoming a developer

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