whiteboard interview linux

Let’s be honest, we are all getting submerged by posts, tweets, pseudo-articles, instagram posts, stories and so on about how to interview with Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.

When I was preparing my interviews I read a lot of this how-tos but after the interview, most of them revealed to be general tips and being honest, seems like that who wrote them probably never interviewed with those companies.

At least, this was the impression that I felt after a discrete number of interviews with different companies.

The background

I love learning, I love errors and failures as they are the most profitable sources of knowledge, and I have to say that any experience I did in this field has been a great step forward my career and myself as a professional.

In the past 5-6 years I had the chance to interview at Amazon, Google, Atlassian, Booking, PwC. Everytime it has been a great emotion and behind those calls and on-site there was a great preparation, but probably I needed someone that could address me in any way to be more incisive!

In the above processes I’ve been failing sometimes, but in 2 cases I declined the offer even if I was successful in the process and I gained a bit of experience that I want to share with you.

In this article I would like to transfer some of the things I learned from these experiences to you, hoping that you can reach every goal you want in your life.

1. It isn’t that HARD

Well, I know that hard or easy could be different for everyone and strictly depending on the individual, but, honestly, you are not going to face a nightmare.

Of course it is not easy, noone is there to gift you the job, Google will probably like to hire a brilliant person, and you are not supposed to get ready for the interview in a night, but with a good preparation and the correct mindset.

If the position you are applying for is suitable for your knowledge you shouldn’t be scared about it.

In my case, the worst failure was because the position I got contacted revealed to be not a 100% match with my skills (they were looking for a 90% dev/10% ops position), so I was completely not ready to sustain an interview about coding.

In the other cases, I was able to sustain the interview without any great problem, even when I got rejected.

2. Mindset rules them all

It seems a cliché but being mentally ready to be interviewed is the most important part of the process, if you are there, there should be something that caught the attention of the recruiter, so you are there to show what you can do.

Never start your interview thinking that you are not good or that you will surely fail, because this will be what will happen, 100%.

Be comfortable, do your exercises to relax and keep yourself in peace, don’t listen to negative people trying to get you back from what you are going to sustain and you are a step forward in the process!

3. Noone is there to judge you

If you applied for something that is in your field, interviews are not about being judged able or not able to do something, especially if you are applying or getting in touch via Linkedin with great companies. You are there to show that you are able to do things RIGHT. 

Interviewers will be very focused on:

  • Understanding how you approach problems
  • How do you try to solve them
  • How do you behave if you don’t know what to do

Every question, aside from theoretical ones, doesn’t necessarily involve a single correct answer, but it’s more a process of analyzing how do you approach troubles.

Don’t fear asking questions if you didn’t understand the question correctly, it is better than giving the wrong answer or talking about something else.

4. Failure is a strenght

Getting hired on the first attempt is tough, in my case I got an offer on the first attempt and another one on the third appliance.

Get mentally ready to be rejected and don’t see this as a failure, as it is only a starting point. Motivation is the best engine, it is very hard to stop someone that is motivated, and it will not be a rejection.

Keep in mind that for instance, even great personalities like the creator of Homebrew got rejected by Google for not knowing about binary trees and how to invert them (check this out).

You will learn from every single experience that you do, whether it is an interview, a stage, creating a script in a language you are learning, or whatever.

Never, NEVER, get down when you are doing something that you love (or you don’t love) as it will leave something back to you, even learning 1 thing per day, it is a knowledge base of 365 new things learned in a year, and you cannot ignore this.

5. Don’t fear the whiteboard

whiteboard interview linux

One of the most complicated things during an interview is being placed in front of a whiteboard, where there are you, yourself and your ideas/knowledge.

I can tell you that by far, whatever it is the role you are applying for, there will be a moment when you will have to show how you face a problem, it makes no difference how tough it is, and how do you approach the research for a solution.

It could be a piece of code, a flow, a graphic, a draw, but anxiety and uncertainty could skyrocket.

Take your time, no one will rush you and no one is going to put you in harm’s way, so just relax, focus on your task and go straight for it.

In my experience, since the roles I applied mostly covered scripting/coding/high level architectures and problem solving about people management, I’ve experienced the whiteboard almost in any interview, growing more confident each time.

Get your time to train, use it in your room while studying for the interview, get comfortable with it interacting with your parents/gf/friends while you solve problems.

6. Never give up

It will not be easy, but if you have a dream, it is your right and duty to pursue it. Study, training, effort are the way to achieve your dreams and go get your dream job.

The world of IT could be very suprising, it’s all about ideas, innovation and being brilliant while making things work. There’s almost nothing that cannot be learned, it’s all about how much time you want to invest in yourself and your future.

Be ready to listen to suggestions, but always be critic about that, you are the only one that has the right to choose for yourself, don’t let others change your mind about you.

You’ll take wrong decisions, you could be overestimating/underestimating yourself, but it’s all up to you.

7. TL;DR

A short cheatsheet about most important points to figure out before an interview:

  • Be relaxed
  • No one is going to judge you
  • Interviews are your time to shine, don’t waste it
  • Don’t be afraid of asking questions or interact with interviewers
  • Study, train, repeat, get used to a whiteboard while solving exercises
  • See rejections as a starting point for next interview
  • Learn from your errors to avoid doing them in the future
  • Keep the right mindset

Good luck!


If you are going to prepare for a coding interview (or a position that involves coding/algos/scripting) I strongly suggest you to buy/rent the following book, it is a sort of Bible of the interview, covering even specific problems for each company (FB, Amazon, Booking, etc.)