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Don't be discouraged, technical interviewers expect you to fail

Today's blog post is written by Ohio State alum, Nathan Stuller, who has a degree in Computer & Information Science. He's currently a programming consultant living in Cincinnati who primarily focuses on Microsoft technology. He has over nine years of experience developing, designing, and supporting enterprise software systems has come from a variety of roles, including Fortune 500 companies such as Procter & Gamble and Charter Communications as well as software start-ups. Nathan will be providing tips on how to keep your cool during a technical interview...

Do not strive to “ace” a technical interview. To try to do so would be flawed thinking because:


  • Trying to be perfect is stressful

  • It is not necessary to get the job

  • The interviewer is trying to stump you




Consider this, interviewers challenge many candidates and have a great deal of experience evaluating responses. They are trained to increase the difficulty of questions to a point where the candidate cannot successfully answer in the limited time given. Suffice to say, the interviewer hears incorrect responses frequently. Likewise, a question that someone struggles to answer provides just as much information about the candidate as one made to look easy.

Think about it from the interviewer’s perspective. He or she wants to determine the technical level of candidate on the other side of the table. As the interview progresses, the questions’ difficulty must be increased to determine your limitations. An approach that allowed questions that are easy enough to have multiple “perfect” scores would fail at differentiating among the most intriguing prospects. With this in mind, every candidate fails at least one question during a technical interview.

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to perform well during a technical interview; therefore, preparation is essential. However, the key to a job offer is how you perform relative to the other job candidates. Take comfort in knowing that you still have a chance at an offer, even if it seems like you struggled to answer most questions.

If a question seems perplexing, don’t lose all hope, there are strategies you can employ:


  • Relax, try to regain your focus

  • If the question seems broad, ask follow up questions of the interviewer

  • Take a moment to structure your thinking

  • Think out loud



Some questions are designed to force you to pause. The interviewer is trying to see how you think when faced with a difficult problem. Also, you may find that sometimes discussing your thoughts and questions openly will create a collaborative environment where you get hints and direction toward a solution.

It is so easy to buckle under the pressure of a high-intensity interview. Just remember to relax and be confident. Some failure is to be expected. There are plenty of opportunities to exhibit your skills.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
-Winston Churchill