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Do Better in Coding Interviews by Being Confident and Humble

By Lane Wagner on Sep 20, 2022

I think we often do a great job of flogging the dead horse of whiteboarding problems when giving coding interview advice. Heck, that’s what I’ve dedicated the entirety of to. While the hard skills you’ll need to be able to solve technical interview problems are necessary, it’s also critically important to work on your soft skills.

From a high-level, there are two qualities you really want to exhibit in a coding interview:

Let’s talk about why these two qualities are so important.

At the end of the day, companies don’t hire people. People hire people. #

Companies are a myth. If you don’t believe me, read the “Sapiens” book. Anyhow, the point is that a company doesn’t think for itself. Companies are made up of people, and the people in a company don’t belong to a singular hive-mind. They don’t do exactly what’s in the company’s best interest at all times. The people in a company are loosely aligned in their mission to make the company money, but each person has their own wants, needs, pains and incentives.

When you walk in (or sign in) to a job interview, remember that the people interviewing you are people. If they decide to hire you, it’s not just because you’re the candidate that they believe you’re the best option for the company. Instead, it might be because you will:

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People want to hire people who make their job easier #

This is the first point I’ll make where confidence matters. When you’re in an interview you’re making a sales pitch. You’re quite literally selling your services to your interviewer. Your interviewer is very interested in your skills because they want to know if hiring you will take some work off of their plate. Your interviewer will be wondering things like:

By coming across as confident and self-assured you will naturally ease a lot of their concerns regarding your competence. Of course, false confidence won’t help you - you need to actually know your stuff! That said, once you do know your stuff, getting yourself into a positive and confident mindset can help a lot.

I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. That said, like Simon from Gurren Lagann, you can always believe in the me that believes in you.

People hire people who are enjoyable to work with #

Being “confident” isn’t the same as being a boastful goober. When I say “be confident” I’m saying that you should believe in your abilities, and if you don’t know something, believe in your ability to figure it out.

However, competence is only one piece of the puzzle.

It’s also very important that you have a fun, positive attitude. Remember, the people interviewing you are hyper-aware that they’re going to have to spend hundreds of hours with you if they decide to extend you an offer. They want someone on their team that’s fun to be around!

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Be humble - know-it-alls are not fun to work with #

Let’s switch gears and talk a little bit about humility. Like the title of the article says, it’s important to have confidence and humility. Confidence communicates to your employers that you can help solve their problems, but humility helps in a few ways as well:

How can you be confident and humble? #

Humility and confidence can seem like a conflicting set of characteristics to be sure. I’ve chosen my words carefully; you should have confidence, not pride.

A confident person believes they are able to do something, or at least that they can figure it out. When they discover that they were in fact doing something wrong, or that there was a better way, they happily change their methods. Conversely, when a prideful person learns they weren’t doing something well before, for example, maybe they receive some constructive criticism, they take it personally. Their feelings get hurt and they become stubborn; they may even refuse to admit that they had it wrong.

Be confident, but don’t be prideful.

How do I “become confident”? #

I don’t have a good answer, but here are a few things that have helped me:

Anyhow, I hope this helps you a bit in your job search - Good luck!

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