How to handle interview rejections gracefully?
5 min read
Uhh… Interviews. I have written this from the freshers’ perspectives. I talked to many of my friends, and seniors regarding their interviews in which they got offered or rejected.
While getting offers, we all feel blessed and confident, it’s just awesome.
While getting rejections takes us through self-doubt, stress, etc.
How rejections affect you is mainly dependent on your college experience.
- Those who participated in coding clubs, contests, and hackathons and liked being a part of it, regardless of how well they did. These folks had previously experienced failure in some sort. So, unless they have unrealistic expectations for interviews, they take interview rejections considerably better.
- Those who find these competitions stressful or it's just not their thing, find it hard to accept these rejections. I found several examples of people who took rejections too personally.
- Those who find internships, Open Source, in general, any real projects to work on.
- Those who do it, just to add in resume. Well, I find them more confused than any of the others.
- Those who engage in these activities out of curiosity. I find them to be more confident, and it appears that they have some type of safety net since they know what to expect in the real world.
- Those who are aware that they began only a few months or a year ago. They are more self-aware, and they have less baggage. These folks just do not have time to process these rejections; they are working hard to secure at least one offer.
Statistically, most of the interviews you will face will end up in rejection.
This statement is harsh. I didn’t understand this until I got rejected twice.
Many great bits of advice on DSA, Leetcode, System Design, etc. are available. I'll try to explain psychological techniques that can help you become resilient to rejection. You may think some of these are clichés or that I've said it before, but at that point, you need to hear these or at least go through a couple of them.
Phase 1 - Before Interview
- Dream Company - The idea of Dream Company is a double-edged sword. In short term, it will help you to get started with preparation, in cultivating the habit to learn and practice. However, it also increases stress when you are giving interviews in that company or trying to get interviews. At the end of the day, it’s still a company. Better will be to make a list of companies with some basic checks like Culture, Benefits, or reviews from seniors or peers. This way you will be open to changes that life will throw at you and adapt accordingly to give your best shot.
Phase 2 - During the Interview
- Be Detached from the process - Interview processes take time. We invest too much into thinking about what will happen and that also helps us to prepare for the moments when things go south. However, use a filter to determine whether or not this thought is actually helping you to prepare or it’s just overthinking. This will help you to have an eagle-eye view of the whole process and prevent stress.
Phase 3 - After Interview
- Talk to someone Senior - They have already gone through these situations. Since you relate to them, you will likely give constructive thought to what goes wrong.
- Raw Conversation with some friend - Just explain the whole situation to a close friend without any edits, completely raw. It’s okay to complain about it for a short period but to process what went wrong you need a raw copy of the whole case. Take a break; your mind will manage.
- It’s not you - There are many factors involved in hiring. You can get plenty of weird reasons. After all, companies are run by humans with beliefs and policies. There are other aspects than your performance that will affect how your interviews went and how things will turn out.
Most importantly, analyse the whole case, and what went wrong. Make clear distinctions between things you missed and those not in your control. After all, in interviews, you play bet on your instincts and there you add another layer of experience and intelligence to analyse whether the solution is right/optimal or not. Once you process this, your mind will be at ease. Although you will get some areas, where you can improve a lot.
Phase 4 - Look for new Opportunities
You processed everything and investing more time on that is of no use. To get going you need more challenges and start applying, reaching out to folks or sitting in on-campus placement, etc. Get ready to test yourself again. To be honest you just need one offer from a company where you want to work for the next x years. After getting an offer, the game changes entirely. You will find yourself calmer. Changes in getting opportunities increase.
Phase 5 - Got the offer
Have a little fun. Allow yourself time to unwind and begin with a clean slate. Aside from interviews, there is a lot to learn about software engineering.
Well, that’s a lot of deep discussions. You'll develop your own variation over time. I needed a blog like this throughout my preparation time. I hope I did a decent job here in writing this out. Let me know your thoughts and interview dairies. Wish you all the best.