Whiteboard Interviews Absolutely Terrify Tech Pros

Earlier this year, we asked what worried tech professionals most about the job-interview process. The results are in, and wow, do they ever hate whiteboard interviews!

A full 42 percent of respondents said 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 they’re inclined to loathe it.

‘Feeling dumb’ ranked third, with 22 percent, while ‘poor references’ chimed in with five percent. One percent (actually lower, but we round up or down for these percentages) said 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 tech pros 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 some tech pros 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 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 part of most professionals’ workflow, and chances are good that an IDE helps tech pros avoid a lot of the code minutiae they have to write out on a whiteboard.

There’s even a GitHub repo dedicated to listing companies that don’t do whiteboard interviews. In short, if you’re a hiring manager who’s debating whether to retool the interviewing process, eliminating whiteboards in favor of other tests might prove a very good move. At the very least, it will make candidates more comfortable during the process.