Whiteboard Interviews Absolutely Terrify You: Survey

Earlier this month, we asked what worried you most about the tech interview process. The results are in, and wow, do you ever hate whiteboard interviews!

A full 42 percent of respondents say the thing they dread most about the tech interview process is standing at a whiteboard with a big problem to solve. It wasn’t even close: whiteboard fear enjoys a double-digit margin over all other options.

A long interview process ranked second, with 30 percent saying they dread it. With some tech interview processes taking many months to complete, it’s no wonder we’re inclined to loathe it.

‘Feeling dumb’ ranked third, with 22 percent, while ‘poor references’ chimed in with five percent. When it came to how we act on social media, only one percent (actually lower, but we round up or down for these percentages) say they’re worried something dumb they said on Twitter (or elsewhere) would give interviewers the wrong idea about them.

Between the whiteboards and ‘feeling dumb,’ we concluded that 64 percent of us are worried about looking foolish in some way during the interview process. The ‘feeling dumb’ answer related specifically to questions asked in the interview, but whiteboards are another means of making you feel inadequate. Maybe tech pros are afraid their interview habits don’t adequately reflect their skillset; it may also hint at imposter syndrome, something many of us experience. (An alternative to whiteboards is take-home projects, which at least let you work the problem at a “normal” pace.)

We’ve suggested in the past that whiteboard interviews should be ditched entirely, in large part because they don’t relay how developers actually work. Searching the web for answers is a daily occurrence, and chances are your IDE helps you avoid a lot of the code minutiae you have to write out on a whiteboard.

There’s even a GitHub repo dedicated to listing companies that don’t do whiteboard interviews. Maybe next time you’re asked to whiteboard, just write github.com/poteto/hiring-without-whiteboards on the board as your marker-drop moment.

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8 Responses to “Whiteboard Interviews Absolutely Terrify You: Survey”

  1. Christine Symons

    I absolutely agree with GitHub. To tech people as they were called, I also find it to be very reliable and reasonable. Gudos to Microsoft for creating this revolutionary update.

  2. Mike Barlow

    I completely disagree. If you can’t share what you’re thinking, you’re thinking may be flawed. This skill is critical to any member of an IT team. I welcome it, because it’s real, and the more you do it, the better you get, just like anything else. Don’t let technical brilliance be an excuse for professional shyness.

  3. Ive walked out of interviews because of some snobby kid asking stupid questions over my 35 years of experience. I won’t deal with a$$holes anymore thinking their $hite doesn’t stink.

  4. --------

    I got played by some young men at their consultancy. They interviewed me and asked me to design an office and data center for them. They saw the grey hair and the resume’ and knew I knew. I did it, but was pissed off about it.

  5. Sebastian

    I did well in an interview and answered all the tech questions. Then they asked me to draw picture and explain the process flow from start to finish. I stumbled and felt utterly stupid. My previous experience was on a gigantic project and every one worked on their own sub-modules and most people knew very little of their own modules because the modules were so big and had to be further broken down into sub modules . Drawing on the white board the business process flow of the entire work of two thousand people is absurd. I have worked for 30 years without any problems just knowing my part and the direct impact it may have on some other people’s modules. Sometimes I feel most interviewers are more interested in exposing what you don’t know than what you know.

    • As an interviewer I was both trying to expose what the candidate knows and also what they don’t know. That being said, I doubt that I ever would ask someone to write code on a whiteboard. As another person noted, that isn’t the way most people code.

  6. Yes, that is so typical of “C level” people who have “the grand vision” of boxes and arrows and yet never programmed a single line. We are in the trenches down at the bit level and they wonder why we don’t think like them. And yes, many interviews are just so that the interviewer can boost his ego at your expense. Such a god damn waste of time for everyone.