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Interviewing in Big Tech and Cybersecurity: When you don't get the job

The worst interview experience of my career

Welcome to the latest issue of The Breach Report, a cybersecurity newsletter from the creators of the Cybersecurity Careers Blog. Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS.

This is a Career Advice editorial on the difficulty of getting hired in the tech and cyber industry. Whether you’re trying to break into cybersecurity or are an experienced professional, passing every interview stage and earning a job offer is very difficult.

For the full-featured editorial on this topic, we encourage you to read “Turning Tech Job Interview Rejections into a Growth Opportunity” on Cybersecurity Careers Blog.

Interviews won’t always go your way. Most don’t.

Let’s face it: the statistics are against you when you apply to any job opening in the tech or cybersecurity industry. There could be hundreds, maybe thousands of applicants for a role depending on the company or how much the market demand is.

So it’s natural that you’re going to interview for a job, and despite giving it your all, you don’t get the coveted hiring offer.

This can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, frustrating, and disappointing.

But anyone in this industry will tell you they’ve been through the same pain–you are not alone.

With that in mind, I’d like to share my experience interviewing at a top tech company several years ago, which was my worst career experience.

But as bad as it was, it prepared me for where I would go several years later (I am now employed at Google) and helped me develop some professional “thick skin.”

Indeed, at the end of the day, none of it was personal–it was just business.

The silver lining? I got really good at interviewing–a critical skill and probably what helped me refine my approach for future interviews at Google.

Without any further ado, here is my story. For more advice on job interviews, please check out the full version of this featured article.

When Tech Job Interviews Don’t Go Your Way…At All

Speaking from personal experience, I have personally interviewed at a top tech company that had five rounds of interviews (with each person being a separate round). This required countless hours of my time, including in-person interviews and others virtually.

To prepare, I invested hours reviewing relevant technical information about the company’s products and solutions and preparing for likely interview scenario questions. I had my suit ready for in-person interviews and multiple copies of my resume and certifications printed on resume paper.

Multiple interviewers expressed great confidence for the first team that I would be a great fit for the role. The hiring manager gave me all the strong positive signals that I was their ideal candidate, even confirming my potential start date to join the team.

Then it all went downhill.

A lengthy hiring freeze, holiday delays, and no progress led the hiring manager to refer me to two other potential teams with open headcounts.

Great, I thought. At least I still have a chance to get in.

The bad news?

I had to redo the entire interview loop because it was a new team. I essentially started from scratch, despite the first hiring manager speaking positively of my background and interviews with his team.

And all came up dry.

15 hours of interviews 3 teams 1 company 0 job offers

Each team had five members and required five different interviews, each lasting one hour. Multiply those five interviews across three teams, and that’s right—I gave up 15 hours of my time just to interview.

After three complete interview loops with three teams and about two months of my time in limbo, the best explanation I received was that one team lost headcount due to a re-org, another team chose an internal candidate, and a third team simply declined with no further explanation.

It was beyond draining and defeating. But it made me wake up and realize many of the harsh realities and ways to respond to interviewing in tech:

Nothing in tech is easy, and getting in the door isn’t either.

Remember how I said you’re not alone? Here’s an example of a professional experiencing the painfully extensive tech interview process only to be rejected. This individual also shared his tech industry rejections, some based on a recruiter inexplicably misinterpreting his gender.

Adopt a Growth Mindset: it’s not “No” it’s “Not Yet”

Remember, a “no” is not a failure; it’s simply a redirection. By leveraging the lessons learned from job rejection, you can build your network, understand your market value, refine your interview skills, and ultimately secure a fulfilling and rewarding tech career.

It isn’t “no” – it’s “not yet.”

Until next time…

Rob Waters
The Breach Report + Cybersecurity Careers Blog

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