Interview Lesson: About Self Confidence and Preparation.


This story is still a continuation over the previous one: my failure to get a scholarship in a tech-academy. To know about the context better, you may read the story (beware it’s a very long story and contains some emotional baggage 🤪).

Anyways, after I realized that maybe I did something wrong during that ‘happy’ interview, I tried to remember what kind of questions that were asked and how well I answered the questions. This will not be talking about manner, because I believe I showed a great manner. I also was answering in English while some participants are speaking in Bahasa and “campur” – (so I don’t think this variable matters).

The Lesson

The interviewers didn’t asked me a lot of thing. They asked me mostly about my current job, my main obstacles and how did I overcame it and my understanding about coding. Here are some lessons learned 🌈:

1.    Weak Answer

When he asked me about whether I can code or not, I answered It directly that “I can’t code”. I know a little bit of coding but I am not an expert. He asked me again what I did know about coding and I answered that I only knew a bit about programming language (I mentioned some of them) but I am not able to perform any of it.

What (I Think) I Did it Wrong: Even though this is an honest answer (“honesty is the best policy” rules), my answer showed that I am weak. It was a neutral question and I answered it negatively. This is a bad move.

What (I Think) I Should’ve Done it Better: In an interview, your main goals are to impress the interviewer with what you have. Since this is a scholarship competition, you are competing with other people and you need to show why you deserve it better than anyone else. You need to tell them why you are the right person they are looking for to the investment. Therefore, I should’ve tried to reply any questions with positive answer.

Photo: Amanda Jones (Unsplash).

But what if I really can’t code? Should I lie about it?

Definitely no. Being positive doesn’t mean you need to give a yes answer, but you can elaborate to why you are still eligible even though you might not exactly fit to their expectation.

I should’ve answer things like this: “No, I am not capable to perform any advanced coding such as creating an apps without the help of a mobile builder. However, here’s what I knew: I knew a thing about algorithm. This is the basic thinking of programming. The sequence of problem solving, from understanding the problem (input), designing a solution (process), and creating the output. This process is done through a certain language, thus we need to understand programming language based on its purpose (mention each language that I know with each purposes).

I believed that before we master the language, we need to master this algorithm and pseudo-code first because code itself like an alphabet. The most important thing is we need to be able to learn the logic to solve the problem, then learning the language step by step.

Even though I haven’t had any experience in performing advanced level of coding, I am able to applied the use of “code” during my experiences working with data (state my experiences). As simple as doing a Mail Merge, composing a personalized email and content, or composing a “color-grading” in making a graphic or vector, they also use code. It was very simple, but I believe it set the basic of interest and knowledge for me to learn coding in a more specific context and deeper learning.

I also learned Pascal when I was in High School. It’s decades ago, but I still remember the basic logic of it. I also am very ready to do extra miles by enrolling in an online class as a supplement to this Academy, so I can learned faster.”

See the answer?

I don’t lie, but I elaborate my understanding with example and details on what I know. I just don’t stop in negative statement. I twist it positively by saying what I have done to understand about the subject. It might at least gave the impression that I am not blind in IT or tech, that I might still be given a chance should they are lacking candidates from IT background.

FYI, I actually stated that I have learned some basic coding in and I wish to enroll in Udemy if I get selected. But still, without the previous elaboration I mentioned, a commitment is a burden of proof. Everyone can do it. It won’t matter if the other candidates are showing better understanding than you.

2.    Shallow Assumption

I tried to think why I answered it briefly without any further explanation. Before the interview phase, I was googling for any “Pengalaman Ikut Interview Tech Academy” and find no reliable sources. I was confused on what to prepare. So I thought, I will just answer to my honesty and (limited) knowledge.

Photo: Julia Kouzenkov (Unsplash).

What (I Think) I Did it Wrong: I assumed that since the Academy are not looking for someone who has IT background only, I didn’t think that the interviewer will ask me a lot about coding. I assumed he would asked me more on what I could contribute to the class and I thought I could explain well about Business and Design to my knowledge and experience. I was very confident if I were asked about this since it is what I do for a living and I am very familiar with design-thingy.

What (I Think) I Should’ve Done it Better: Yet, I am all wrong. The interviewer didn’t asked me about those two variables, rather, he asked me about coding and IT stuff, my weakness point. I didn’t think that the Academy might preferred those with IT background instead of someone with Business/Design-background because the University which partnered with the Academy may have a lot of applicants from this background. This is my current assumption of course, and it might not be true as well (the percentage is not published). But I should’ve think about this scenario. This “what if”. Then, I could’ve done much better preparation instead of relying on what will happen tomorrow.

I remember the saying of: expect the unexpected. I wish I remember this few weeks ago before the interview ☹️

3.    Lack of Self Confidence

When the interviewer mentioned about coding, all I can think is someone who writes thousands of code and create a mobile apps, a software, or a web program out of it. My brain told me that this is not my professional field or something I do in daily basis. I pictured some of my friends who are working in IT company as Data Scientist, programmer, software engineer, even CEO himself. I pictured them during the interview and I compared myself to them. Of course, I was nowhere near their expertise.

What (I Think) I Did it Wrong: I compared myself to the wrong guy. The interviewer didn’t ask me how to code during the interview, nor that he asked me to solve an algorithm. He just asked me, “what do you know about coding?” He might expect that I know many things about it but I didn’t even give a nice try (see my answer in #1).

The thing is, I wasn’t confident to answer that because I feel like my answer could be wrong, or that I am not an expert that I might be laughed at if I made a mistake in explaining something outside of my field. I am afraid I am wrong and it will worsen the situation.

They said: “You’ve gotta own it!”

What (I Think) I Should’ve Done it Better: I should be focus on the question and answer it based on my knowledge, passionately. I might not give a perfect answer that is OKAY, because I am not a programmer anyway (and they should’ve read that from my CV).

At least, if I were confident enough with my knowledge, I might be able to show the interviewer that I have an understanding of three important variables: Business – IT – Design, even better than the IT background candidates who only has one aspect of understanding.

I should’ve also bring this up. I should’ve justify my answer by saying that I have those knowledge which could laid a strong foundation to start learning in the Academy. I might not be an expert in each field, but I should’ve showed that I would be able to combine those three disciplines. I can explained my leadership ability and experiences that could be a plus point to the answer. That is a CONFIDENT answer I should have said.

4.    I Didn’t Maximize the Time and Chances

In one of his Youtube video in “Level Up with Benakribo” channel, Bena (@benazio) and his brother (@Jenderalfeb) talked about How to Pass That Job Interview Flawlessly (watch the video here). His brother suggested that we shouldn’t let an opportunity of asking a question to the interviewer passed by. Instead, we should give a nice question that might leave a good impression and prepare us for what’s going to come should we be selected.

What (I Think) I Did it Wrong:When the interviewer asked me: “Do you have any question?” before the interviewer ends, I said: “No.” I felt like he wanted to end the interview soon and I felt like I should’ve not let him have a boring conversation with me. This is a totally wrong mindset, because when he asked a question regardless he is intentional or not, he did gave me a chance to ask, and I have the right to ask. Even if he might have to stay longer with me, still, it is not my fault if I asked him a question because he gave me a chance to.

What (I Think) I Should’ve Done it Better: I should’ve asked him a question (duh!)

I wish I were him a week ago.

I should’ve asked things like: “in the website, the program stated that it will combined expertise from people with IT, Business, and Design background. How will be like in the learning curriculum or in the class? Will the Academy teach every one of us those three basic understanding? How will the learning mechanism be like?” or things like “How would the assignment and final test will be like? What is the final test be like? How to determine if someone passed the Academy after 10 months?

Yeah I know. I messed up real bad here.

5.    Practice and Preparation

In the end, it’s all about practice an preparation which I was lacking thereof. I should’ve thought that I am competing with those from IT background who have better understanding in this tech-field while I’m not. Thus, I should’ve done 2, 3, or 10x preparation than them. This is a basic rule of competition (well, recruitment also about competing with other candidates, right?) and I missed it. I missed it and now I learned it the hard way.

However, all of this self-evaluation of mine are just my assumptions. I might be wrong. It also may not applies to everyone. I believe that every interview experiences are unique so there’s no typical answer to these questions.

This also doesn’t guarantee the right answer because the scholarship might looked more candidates with IT background more seriously so my current understanding are still weak compared to other participants. And that’s okay, too. For me, what matter most is that I can evaluate and assess my own performance, to understand what I need to do better if I am given a chance to be interviewed in a scholarship again.

When that opportunity come in the future (aaameeen to that!) I can look up to this notes and remind myself to be confident and practice well before anything else. I have no regret for this experience and I am grateful to be able to follow all the recruitment stages. To those of you who read this, hope you can learn from this and I wish you the best of luck for whatever you’re aiming for! 😉 ***

Feature image: Kyle Glenn for Unsplash.


f/27. ENTJ. Hufflepuff. Student. Rookie Wifey.

Comments (19)

  • Finastri Annisasays:

    February 27, 2019 at 4:49 am

    Nice article, cinta!

    I also have experience at job interviews. In 2016 I attended many job interviews. First experience, I felt like a failure. As you said in the article, I have expectations, but there were questions beyond my expectations. Poor preparation also made me not confident.

    Anyway, you are right!
    The question for the interviewer is also very important. I have experienced this. Giving questions to interviewers is a plus point for us. In the last session of the interview, I gave the interviewer questions about how to work at the company. Some of them are, how is the culture that develops in this company, what are the things I can optimize from this company so that I can make the best contribution, and questions about the work I will do.

    These questions were the process that maked the interviewer become excited to explain the company / organization. The conversation became flowing and comfortable. We can exchange ideas with each other.

    Thank you for the article.
    I asked permission to share it

    • Cintasays:

      February 27, 2019 at 5:47 am

      Thank you for sharing your experiences Cha!
      Experience indeed is the best teacher. Wish that someday both of us will do better should God grants us the opportunity 🙂

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