How to fail a big company interview (a short guide)

So, you got yourself an interview with Googamazbook and you are set on failing it. Or maybe you’re not set but you’re simply not trusting the 99.9+% failure rate that is typical for these companies and you want to be in some sort of control over you failing the interview. Either way, you got to the right place!

1st stage failing

Well, the 1st stage is the screening by the recruiter. This is actually pretty hard to fail if you are conditioned from school, like many of us, to always give the (expected) correct answers. Some people are failing at this stage due to not “speaking the same language” as the current employees of the company, but they are a minority.

So if:

  1. you’re set on failing the recruiter screening;

  2. you got yourself a lot of experience;

  3. you were pretty good with quizzes during the school years:

… it’s basically impossible to fail on this one. Sure, you can make up wrong answers, but that’s just lame. Let’s simply forget about it and go to the next stage.

2nd stage failing

So you got yourself a phone interview with an engineer, maybe even 2 of them. No more quizzes, now you have problems to solve!

Failing in this stage is easier, you only have to solve the problem with a different method than the one expected by the person conducting the interview. Sure, you can put some brute force solution in for a quick way out, but if you’re into a “do things well” mindset then this is quite a challenge. You’ll just figure the optimal solution out and fail at failing. Luckily there are some things that can help:

  • Call quality: if you don’t really understand what the interviewer is saying then it’s almost guaranteed you’ll fail the interview. Even if you understand something, some rough ideas, you’ll likely miss on nuances and the tone of voice. This is a BIG help. Pray on poor call quality and strongly refuse to be called back!

  • Interviewer’s benevolence: sometimes you’ll be called by a really nice interviewer, set on helping you to solve the task at hand. This can make failing really hard. You really have to hope that you get someone with a radically different attitude.

  • Open questions: just go solve the immediate problem, as you see it, straight to the point. Never ever ask for clarifications on what’s really needed or expected of you. If you do ask questions first then you’ll likely be doomed to pass this one.

  • Questions at the end: just ask about workplace perks and work/life balance. Not a guaranteed fail but you’re on the right track, though.

3rd stage failing

Against all your wishes, you made it to onsite; now you need to bring in the big guns.

The simple, lame way of failing is to not show up for the onsite interview at all. If they brought you to a new city, then nothing can stop you from making the best out of 1-2 vacation days with (most) expenses already paid in full. But you’re not that lame and you actually get to the company headquarters at the expected hour, sober and prepared for the long day.

With the onsite, the classical way of failing is not solving the interviewer’s problem, be it a coding challenge or a debugging task. But sometimes these problems may seem easy or average, so failing can be pretty hard. A few ideas can help, though:

  • In a debugging scenario, stop immediately after figuring out the issue the interviewer had in mind. He expects you to bring the problem to its conclusion (e.g. provide a definitive fix for the issue) and you can fail easily by not providing a complete closure for the problem.

  • In an architecture design scenario you can fail really fast by proposing Round-robin DNS load distribution as the load balancing strategy for your particular service. Really fast failure, keep a note on this one. May even get your interview day shortened at certain companies. More free time! Yay!

  • If logging gets mentioned, stick to internal (local) logging and refuse to think about any other alternative.

If nothing helps, just trust the stats: at this stage more than 90% of the candidates do not receive an offer so do put your hopes into that.

4th stage failing

You’re done with the onsite interviews and a couple of days or weeks later the recruiter calls in and asks for a few people to provide references on you. That’s really bad news, as nothing more than a lukewarm reference from someone you barely know may actually get you an offer at this point.

Your best bet is to develop a multiple personality disorder, get some phone numbers from a different country and answer the reference request calls yourself – but only if you’re also pretty good at faking your voice, though. Otherwise you might try to convince someone to give a reference in the line of “who? don’t get me started on that lazy pr1ck!”. That one will surely help.

5th stage failing

Tough luck, at this point you have to refuse the offer. But you won’t get there by following the advice from this text, so don’t think much about it.

Nevertheless, I’m done for today, thank you for your read!


NB: this text is not necessarily based on my personal experiences so please take any advice from here with a grain of salt.


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