How To Deal With Anxiety In Your Software Engineer Interview

Software Engineering
Exponent TeamExponent TeamLast updated

Technical interviews for software engineers are almost never plain sailing. But that’s exactly the point. These rigorous interview processes are designed to distinguish candidates, preventing everyone from passing with flying colors. The tech industry is looking for the best of the best, with technical interviews challenging even the most capable candidates.

Job interviews can be enough to make anyone nervous. However, the intensity and challenge presented in software engineer interviews can be a different beast entirely. The interview stage usually consists of around five or six short, 45 minute sessions. In these sessions, you will meet a handful of interviewers, from a wide panel, who will individually score you on technical and behavioral aspects of your interview.

In order to tackle anxiety, we first need to identify the cause. If you just say that interviews, in general, make you nervous, you need to start asking yourself some questions. What is it about the interview that is making you nervous? When it comes to software engineer interviews, you might have a list longer than your arm of things that are making you anxious. In this case, you can use different methods to tackle each of the triggers.

Most candidates are afraid the interviewer will ask them a question that they don’t know how to answer. You can understand why this would make a person nervous. If they ask you a lot of questions and you don’t know how to answer any of them, the interviewers will give you low scores on technical knowledge, jeopardizing your chances of securing the role.

Insecurities over lack of experience can also make candidates nervous. You might be afraid that the interviewers will ask you questions that could ‘expose’ or ‘reveal’ a lack of experience in software engineering. Whilst other candidates may just be nervous about the prospect of not securing the role. With bills to pay and families to feed, there could be significant consequences resting on the fate of their candidacy. This kind of pressure can be all-consuming for candidates.

Here are three practical tips to calm your nerves and give you the confidence to conquer anxiety in a software engineer interview…

1. Get Prepared

When you’re feeling some anxiety in the days building up to your trip to a tech company’s headquarters, it’s very easy to bury your head in the sand. At every turn, we try our best to avoid thinking about things that make us feel uncomfortable. In other words, as humans, we sometimes pretend that a problem doesn’t exist in order to avoid confronting it.

In many ways, a job interview is like a game. If you go into the room with a strategy and some tactics, you’re going to increase your chances of winning the role. Take some time to brush up on your coding knowledge in anticipation of some tricky problem-solving questions. For visual learners, write down answers to potential questions with the key terminology to remember for the day. For auditory learners, say your answers to sample questions aloud and perhaps record yourself in the process.

2. Treat It Like A Conversation

Once you’re in the room, there’s only so much that you can control. It’s important that you don’t start panicking about what you don’t know. All you need to focus on is what you do know. Ideally, you will have already prepared some software projects to talk about and you will have brushed up on your coding knowledge for those inevitable problem-solving questions. The questions that you will be posed are designed to be unpredictable, that’s just part of the game. Embrace the challenge of every question and always have a go!

Successful interviews can sometimes evolve into a back-and-forth that is more conversational in tone than you might expect. To release anxious energy, treat the interview as an opportunity to find out more about the tech company. All too often, candidates can be combative towards an interviewer, putting up a barrier and going ultra-defensive in their response to every question.

3. Simply Smile!

It sounds very corny, but seriously, there’s some real science behind the benefits of cracking a smile. Smiling more can lower your blood pressure, providing muscle relaxation to help you keep your cool in an intense interview. Stress generally causes increases in heart rate and blood pressure. So, maintaining a smile during your interview can give you both a psychological and physical advantage. From the interviewer’s perspective, positive behavior could present your personality as being just as beneficial as your technical knowledge.

Additional Tips:

Practice recording yourself before your interview. Tools like Voice Recorder can help you hear what you sound like beforehand so you can cut out ums and ahs on your big day.

At Exponent, we offer a range of free online courses to help you ace your next software engineer interview. Explore our courses today!

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