Monthly Archives: January 2012

Rejected by Google: Now What?

You’ve interviewed at Google (or Facebook, or Amazon, or the hottest new startup) and been rejected. I know what it’s like. My first interviews at Google went well, but I turned down their offer because I didn’t want to move to Mountain View. Later, when the Waterloo Region office was well-established, I re-applied and had to be re-interviewed. The interviews didn’t go as well — I didn’t take them seriously enough — and this time I didn’t get an offer. Oops!

So what do you do after you’ve been rejected? Here are my tips:

  • Don’t take it personally. I know, it’s hard, because in many ways job interviews are personal. Read Steve Yegge’s description of the ‘anti-interview’ to see why the rejection may not have anything to do with you at all. Generally speaking, I think it’s important not to place too much emphasis on where you work or what kind of title you have. If you’re a good programmer, have confidence in your own abilities. (Bonus tip: being confident will also help you do well in those interviews…)
  • Be honest with yourself. You usually know when you’re blowing an interview. It’s not a good feeling. But the lack of an offer probably won’t be that much of a surprise.
  • Don’t rant about the company. It’s never a good idea to diss potential employers. It’ll hurt your chances if you re-apply, and it makes you look bad to other employers.
  • Learn from the experience. Hopefully you read a good programming interviews book before the interviews, but reading and doing are different things. Write down the questions that you were asked and how you thought the interview went. Were you asked about algorithm complexity and you didn’t get the right answer? Go re-read the relevant book chapter and then work on some complexity problems. Don’t be afraid to explore other books, too.
  • Prepare for more interviews. Don’t stop preparing! You have to keep reading, keep working on problems, and keep programming. You should also be updating your LinkedIn profile and building an online reputation.
  • Re-apply when you’re ready. If six months have passed and you’re still interested in working for the company, re-apply for the job. Most companies will give you a second chance. You’ll be in a much better position this time because you know what to expect from the interviews and you’ll be much better prepared.

Don’t forget that hundreds or even thousands of people apply for jobs at high-profile companies like Google and Facebook. Most people don’t even make it past the screening stage. These companies spend a lot of time, effort and money to find talented employees. Making it to the interview stage is a big deal. You just have to make it a little further!

And as for my story…. I applied to Google again after about a year, took the interview process much more seriously, did proper preparation…. and this time I got in. I’m very happy working in the Google Waterloo Region office and glad it worked out in the end. I hope it works out for you, too!

Don’t Diss Your Previous Employers

I’m always surprised to see people dissing their previous employers in public, and it’s not something I recommend you do. I think it paints you in a more negative light than your previous employer.

People leave jobs for all kinds of reasons. Some people leave for better opportunities — that’s what I did last year. Some people leave because of personal issues not related to work. Some people leave because the job just doesn’t fit them anymore or because there’s nowhere else for them to advance career-wise within the company. Some people leave because of poor performance. And a very few people leave because of harassment and abuse.

But recruiters looking to determine if you’re a fit for their company don’t want to see you badmouthing your previous or (even worse) current employers. It’s not professional and it makes them wonder if you’ll be doing the same thing with their company.

Of course, you’ll never be completely happy with everything your employer does. There will be policies and decisions you disagree with. But don’t rant about them in public. Try to work internally to fix them, if you can — and I know this can be very hard in many companies. If you can’t fix them and you can’t live with those policies/decisions, maybe it’s time to look for another job.

There’s very little to be gained by complaining about an employer in public. Remember what Thumper said: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.