My experience with interviews

This story is different from the other ones I typically write, where I try to entertain you with absurd events that happened with me, or some technical storytelling. This story is about me suddenly realizing that I had missed something very important because of my ego that I didn’t know existed.

Alright, let’s get started!

When I was in the final years in my college, companies come into our college, looking for new talent to be working in the company as soon as they graduate.

Students have a guarantee of a job, even before they complete their studies, and the companies also get a bunch of new fresh meat, win-win right?

Absolutely! I love this system. In fact, I’d like to press the colleges to teach at least a year’s worth of basic current industry knowledge, so that when the student joins the company, they aren’t as clueless as I was when I joined.

Me, without any clue but with pen & paper to make it seem like I know what I’m doing.

But, before we reach there…, there is a major hurdle that we need to overcome.

Job Interviews

Companies cannot take any student from the college based on simple criteria like the scores they had during college, ( well, because of the education system ). So, what is it that they do?

A multi-step selection process, which typically looks like this for a computer student:

  1. Resume shortlisting
  2. Written / online aptitude exam
  3. Coding round
  4. Technical interview
  5. HR interview
  6. Done

We’re going to skip over steps 1 to 3, and only talk about my story about steps 4 and 5, because that’s where I failed the most, and the realization that made me overcome it.

Ugh, another struggle story? What’d you do? Burn the midnight oil?

No. In fact, it’s the opposite. In all my 17–18 attempts at a job that I made in my college, I can only recall very few being actually challenging. I could usually breeze through the first 3 rounds, have a relatively smooth 4th round, but I never used to get called for the final HR interview… why?

That was bugging me endlessly. I didn’t understand what was going on. I tried over and over and over, and yet I kept failing at the same step… why? It didn’t make sense.

  • I went back to my room, re-did the math…, yup, the answers came out correct. 🤨
  • Was my English fluency bad? No, I think I can keep with interviewers. 🤨
  • Is there something wrong with my resume? Hmm, nope, all feedbacks were good… 🤨
  • Is there something on my teeth, that made them think I’m an idiot? No…, my toothbrush is working fine 🤨
Me, tired, but willing to jump off a train 🤣

I simply couldn’t get it, with every passing day, and every failed attempt, it was biting into my self-esteem and making me feel bad about myself, I was consumed in self-doubt and was nearly on the brink of giving up. You can say I was at a point where :

I had to be taken out…, either by a date or by a sniper, either was fine.

Fortunately, none of my enemies can afford a sniper rifle.

Unfortunately, if you are an engineer or an engineering student, your chances of finding a girlfriend drops by 80%, and with a face & boring personality like mine with an added 80% reduction multiplier, do you really think I found a date?

Well of course not! silly! 🤣

That’s when my dear friend Vatsal Sodha kicked in. He wasn’t a date, nor a sniper, but he decided that a pizza should do us good.

Vatsal trying to pose like me, ✌ nice attempt bro. 👍

And while we were munching away at our pizza, I was ranting about all the stuff that you’ve read. He was listening, and I asked him what to do? I’m open to suggestions…

Now I don’t know what I triggered inside him when I said the magical words :

I’m open to suggestions

but, he was on fire post that, I haven’t figured out if it was the pizza or the phrase, but for the sake of drama, let’s say it was the phrase.

The conversation went like this:

What do you do, when you don’t know an answer to a question?
I say, “I don’t know”, and try to solve the next problem at hand.
Do you see the problem?
No. Why? I’m trying to save time by not making up an answer and trying to solve what I can.
Exactly.

This was the point where it hit me. A point that I never thought of. I kept on listening.

You quit without trying, and that was your mistake, you should have built a solution on the spot, and that’s why it has been going wrong all along.

I asked him of an example, a problem that I know he could not solve :

How and where will you install new petrol pumps throughout the city?

I’d use maps to figure out the population density, and then based on the nearest access road, I would come up with points of installing them.

Alright, what about the economics of the dense population? All dense populations are not equal, some would require more, some less…

Yes, that’s true, thanks for your feedback, considering what you just said, we would need to draw the lines all over again, and will come up with a better solution.

What about the supply? If you increase the number of pumps too much, supplying them is a logistical nightmare.

Agreed, that’s why we should build a strategy around how to fill it up, for now, I think starting from the center and spreading it out seems like the most viable option.

I was beyond impressed with his words, attitude & sheer knowledge.

Could this really be the person that I argue with on how to upload code?

He was able to take negative feedback, understand that, and integrate it with the solution that he literally made up 10 seconds ago, all the while I kept on “attacking”, he could keep countering, one by one, without breaking a sweat.

I on the other hand, near instantaneously gave up, saw every feedback as an attack, and tried to dodge them as best I could.

I took this learning and went for two more interviews, which I instantaneously nailed. Zero effort. All I had to do was realize 1 mistake.

Here is one such interview, for your entertainment, Yes, this happened.

Invent a new technology. Now!

Wireless electricity

Yes.🤣 I made it up. On the spot, without a single shred of regret. And I know that it won’t work with the tech capacity that we have today ( no startup ideas pls )

Why is it useful?
Imagine your life without wires, all the tangling, all the mess, all the extra weight that you carry around, and we’d be doing the environment a favor by not mining the wires.

Ok, how will it work?
The same way our Wi-Fi or Bluetooth works, find a target, broadcast a signal that can be used to power up all the components.

Isn’t that harmful?
Of course not. The light that is hitting us right now, is an electromagnetic wave, that is far more powerful than the radio waves that we use today. I think we can still squeeze out the performance a little bit.

***If you laughed at any / all answers, then yes, you’re like me… but, hey? it worked!🤣

You get the point. It’s not about lying, it’s trying to build a solution on the spot, with insane “restrictions” and equally insane “resources” that you have at hand.

Me, in a bridge-building exercise, with no clue on what I had made 🤣

So? What’s the playbook then?

  1. Don’t quit, the questions are intentionally hard, and likely impossible to solve. Don’t solve the problem in one go, build the solution instead, in steps.
  2. Appreciate and reflect the feedback in your results, this is super important, it makes the other person feel like you actually listened to them. If you doubt their feedback, ask them about it!
  3. Don’t panic! They are pressuring you. It’s just an interview, the worst that can happen is you’ll be rejected, you’ll get another shot. Look at me, 15 failed attempts before I made it!
Me after getting the job 😁 Cameraman: Vatsal Sodha

Problem-solving in a tense moment

Often, you would are in a make-it or break-it moment, like an exam or an interview; here are some tips, and follow them in this same order :

  1. By the book: if you know it’s a fact, just recall it and use it, no need to re-invent the wheel.
  2. Role model: for a brief moment, forget everything, and go through the list of people you know in your life, and who would be the best person to get out of this situation.., and do what they would have done!
  3. Optimist — Critic Analysis: When you have no clue how to solve a problem, become an optimist, and ignore all the reasons why you think a solution wouldn’t work, and just solve the problem however you can.
    Then become the critic and try to find flaws in the solution you just created.
    Then become the optimist, and try to find the answer to the flaws.
    Become the critics, then the optimist, and keep going back and forth, until you get the answer.

Ending Notes

I have no clue how we shoved everyone in the same staircase and managed to take this picture.

I may have given a lot of credit to Vatsal Sodha, for helping me out, but that’s not the case. A lot of friends were a part of my college journey, and they are as important as he was. Naming all of them will take too long, but from teaching me the entire course one night before the exam, to buying me a cup of tea in the canteen, all of you have helped me a lot throughout my journey, and I’m thankful to everyone. 😁

Samridh Tuladhar ( @tsamridh86 )

A computer engineer, with a passion for cheap, affordable & environmentally friendly automation and utter disdain for paperwork and waiting.