Top 5 tech interview no-nos

A tech interview is one of the most strenuous things that a programmer can be put through. Companies like Google and Facebook put prospective employees through as many as...

A tech interview is one of the most strenuous things that a programmer can be put through. Companies like Google and Facebook put prospective employees through as many as 8 to 9 rounds of interviews before making a hiring decision. Each round is tougher than the previous round and the number of mistakes that you can make is directly proportional to it.

Most mistakes are hardly ever technical. They’re mostly related to interpersonal skills or the lack thereof!

Here are 5 ways in which you can mess up your tech interview.

Talking too much 

Alright. You’re interviewing with Google. You’re excited! That’s understandable. But being too excited can cost you that job like it did for Prakash Tibrewal.

Here is his story.

“During campus selections, I had an interview with Facebook. I had butterflies in my stomach!

The interview duration was 50 min. When the interview started, the interviewer was talking about what he was working on (just to make me comfortable). I was so excited that I asked him questions for the next 25 minutes.

That, believe it or not, was my biggest mistake. After those first 25 minutes, he gave me a problem to solve. While I figured out the algorithm quickly, I couldn’t finish writing the code in time.

My interview as over after round 1.

This experience taught me that I must gauge a situation and learn to ask questions at the right time.”

While asking too many questions can be unfavorable, asking a few or no questions can be interpreted as a display of lack of interest in the company. It is important to get the balance right.

However, as a rule of thumb, it is better to let the interviewer do most of the asking.

Being over confident 

Coding interviews can be a nerve-racking ordeal. You may know the answer to every question but nervousness can get the better of you and you are prone to making silly mistakes.

Prakash Deivakani let nervousness get the better of him at his interview with Facebook.

Here’s his story.

“I was interviewed by Ajay Somani of Facebook (Red in Topcoder). I was a grey coder by then. He asked me to solve a problem on the board.

I made a mistake and he asked, “Are you sure your solution is correct?” I identified the mistake and corrected it.

He asked again, “Are you sure your solution is correct?”. Again, I identified the mistake and corrected it.

He asked yet again, “Are you sure your solution is correct?”. While I remained silent, he said, “Your solution is correct. You can wait outside.”

There are a few coders who are overconfident bordering on arrogant. It is very important to be confident yet humble. Any sign of arrogance is just going to tell the recruiter that you could be a bad team player.

Find that sweet spot between confidence and humility and you should be fine.

Taking the competition into office 

Do some ground work about the company you are going to interview with. Who knows, using your favorite device might not go down too well with your prospective employer.

Here’s what Doug Luce found out.

“I pulled out an iPad mid-interview to google the interviewer’s question. He became visibly agitated and told me I couldn’t do that.

The rest of the interview went downhill from there.”

We’re not quite sure if he was upset about the iPad or the fact that he was googling the question.

Rajat Khandelwal also had a similar experience.

“On the day of interview, I went to the Google office and just as I reached there, I realized that the bag I had was the one I got from InMobi. I didn’t think ahead and carried that bag. I don’t know but I like to think that it was one of the factors.

The interviewer asked a few questions, which I answered as best as I could. And in the end I asked him this question:

I’ve heard rumors that all good projects at Google are moved to MtV office so working at Google India is not as great as the name suggests. How true is this?

As soon as I asked the question, I realized that it was inappropriate. Even though my interview was great, my application was terminated at that level.”

It’s just that simple. Don’t ask inappropriate questions or google your interviewer’s questions.

Being too eager about the perks and privileges 

IT companies set benchmarks in spoiling their employees. From free lunches and unlimited snacks to family severance packages and free health insurance—IT companies have probably covered every possible perk and privilege. This doesn’t mean that you ask for it.

Naveen Kumar found it out the hard way.

“I was making a jump from Google to Facebook and I’d heard about the great perks that the Facebook office provides. I was particularly interested in the exotic meals that they provided—so excited that I asked a lot of questions about the meals and other benefits at Facebook to the interviewer.

I think the interview went off quite well, but I never heard back from them. Maybe they thought I was greedy.”

Maybe they did. Questions about perks and benefits should be reserved for the HR preferably after you receive a job offer. Stay away from what’s-in-it-for-me questions till then.

Not getting enough sleep before the interview 

Whether its nervousness or plain old fun, lack of sleep before a big day has never helped anyone. Especially before an interview.

Nakul Agarwal made this mistake and he lost it all.

“I had just completed an interview with DirectI from 2 AM – 4 AM.

Earlier that day I had given two written tests for DirectI (for around 4 hours).

Yet there I was sitting in a black suit all ready for my interview at 5:30 AM with Intel India Pvt. Ltd.

I also had an Nvidia interview at 10 AM.

You can imagine the stress and exhaustion.

So I walk in, he asks me to sit down and asks my name. I give a smile and tell him my name. He then directly starts with the technical questions.

Interviewer: Can you write code for merge sort?

Me: Do you really want me to write the code for merge sort? Won’t an explanation suffice? (I mean it is a well known algorithm! What can you possibly test by that?!)

Interviewer: Yes. Please write the code.

Me (writing on the paper) – void mergesort(int a[], int n) { } 

Me: Do you really want me to write the code?

Interviewer: Yes

Me: I am not able to write it.

Interviewer (Smiles): Thanks. That will be enough.

Me: Thanks (A sigh of relief)

I go to my room and sleep like a child. I got late for Nvidia test next day 😛 and still finished first and went back to sleep. Like a child.

Now that’s how you screw up interviews.

I didn’t get through DirectI, Intel or Nvidia.”


Always get enough sleep before your interview. Also, try to space interviews and schedule them for different days.

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