My interview experience with a US company (last part)

[Continue from part 5]

One week after the onsite interview, I hadn’t heard back from the Facebook recruiter. I thought maybe they needed more time to interview all candidates before providing the final result. I believed I would pass eventually.

Another week went by, still no updates. I started to feel worried. I didn’t think it would take that long for them to evaluate the result. Therefore, I sent the recruiter an email asking about my interview performance.

She replied a day later saying:

“Hi Hoang. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come interview with Facebook in Singapore. I really enjoyed speaking with you and so did our engineers, but unfortunately, we are not able to move forward with next steps at this time. Although we won’t be able to proceed, I still hope you enjoyed meeting some of our iOS engineers and have more insight on what it’s like working at Facebook. I wish you all the best! Thank you and take care!”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I felt a sudden chill down my spine. My hands were shaking slightly.

I had failed.

I failed the Facebook interview which I thought I would have a high chance of passing. I had failed my “American dream”. All of the future visions that I drew in my head were crumbling. I was so much deep in desperation.

“Was it a mistake? Maybe the interviewers had given the wrong feedbacks or something was wrong in the process?

I tried to find a reason to convince myself that this was not the truth. But I couldn’t.

That was the reality. And I must accept it.

After a few hours, I started to calm down a bit. I realised that there was no one to blame here. I simply did not perform well enough in the interview and that’s why I failed. This could be a learning experience for me.

I sent another email to the recruiter to thank her and also to ask for more detailed feedbacks on my interview performance.

A day later, she shared the feedbacks with me. It was so kind of her.

“Hi Hoang. Unfortunately, due to HR compliances in the U.S., I cannot disclose the full interview feedback. However, I can share with you the following:

  • We want to see that you can solve problems quickly, efficiently, and bug free; although you were able to find solutions to our coding problems, the performance was on the slower side and there was no time to optimize the solutions.
  • For the design and architectural problem, we weren’t able to see a functional system and there were avoidable mistakes that were made along the way.

I hope this helps. I wish the outcome would have been different, but either way, it was great to chat with you and thanks so much for your time!”

That was eye-opening. I thought I performed well in the interview, but in fact I didn’t. I was even a weak candidate compared to others.

I started to look back on each round of the onsite interview, and to each question. I realised what I had done wrong.

Here’s what I learnt:

  • It’s good to talk out loud as I’m solving the problem but I need to balance between “clarity” and “time”. If I don’t talk, the interviewer won’t understand what I’m thinking. But If I talk too much, it slows me down and I won’t be able to optimise my solution or go to the third question.
  • It’s good to test my solution at the end thoroughly. But I better do it quick and smart. Otherwise, I will be perceived as a “slow” guy.
  • I didn’t prepare much for the architecture design questions. That was a huge mistake. I thought I could just design a working system spontaneously. But in reality, it was more complicated and required more thought. A lot of the architecture questions have been discussed online in some websites. I just need to take a close look and practice more deliberately.
  • My spoken English was not good at the time. That affected my confidence and the way I explained things. I should have practiced speaking English more before the interview.
  • The most important factor of all, the one that I completely ignored during my practice, was “speed”. I was too focused on “how to solve the problem” and “how to explain it clearly to the interviewer”, but not “how to solve it as quick as possible”.
    • For example: even if I can reach the optimised solution with full explanation along the way, but if it takes too much time on this easy problem, it’s not a good performance, I will be perceived as “slow”.
    • Sometimes, the interviewer just wanna throw a warm-up question but then realise that the candidate is taking a lot of time just to solve that, it can be frustrating and boring to watch.
  • In summary, I believe the keys to success in an onsite interview are:
    • Confidence.
    • Able to solve problems correctly.
    • Able to explain the solution clearly.
    • Solve them as fast as possible.

Now looking back, I still feel pity for my opportunity at Facebook. I have always been dreaming of living and working in the US for a long time, probably since I started my reading habit.

However, this interview experience has taught me an invaluable lesson. I believe that if I ever want to interview again, I’ll know how to prepare properly and may have a better result.

For now, I have a lot of interesting things to do in Singapore and I am passionate about them every single day.

It doesn’t matter where I am or what I do, as long as my heart is into it.

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