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Intimidating Job interviews

by Lea Rosema

This is a fictive challenging job interview session where I get asked serveral challenging or intimidating questions and I'm trying my best to describe how I would react. I feel I cannot handle them too well and I wrote this down to prepare myself better for interviews.

The questions are generated by AI and I specifically asked how prominant people I consider very unsympathetic would ask them, such as a famous rich person playing Monopoly but in real life while doing private space tourist trips or a politician with a ruthless and authoritarian government style.



Some of the questions are not respectful, confrontational and quite intimidating. Unfortunately, this is sometimes also the case in real job interview situations, although the majority of interviews I experienced were very respectful.

Why did you leave your previous job?


This is a question that is often asked in job interview settings. For me personally, who didn't have a straightforward career path, this question can make me uncomfortable. It can steer a conversation in the direction the candidate has to justify for their career path, especially when things didn't turn out as planned. 🚩

Why should we believe it won't happen again here?


I'd call this question a red flag. You cannot really determine from a 90-minutes interview whether the candiate is a fit for the company or not.

One thing that is pretty common is the trial time and I think this would be a more suitable way to find that out. The trial time is not only for the company to find out whether the candidate is a fit but it is also for the candidate to find out whether the company and the job is a suitable fit for themselves, not only based on performance but also on personal growth and work-life balance.

Asking this in a job interview builds on doubt and distrust and this should not dominate the feelings in an interview.

Can you provide specific examples of how you've implemented certain technologies or frameworks mentioned on your resume?


This question is a more reasonable one to get asked in an interview. Still, this is not always easy to answer. I didn't work on too many opensource projects and many projects I worked on was subject of contract work under a non-disclosure agreement.

I am in the comfortable situation that I have one side project I worked on. It's already 5 years old and there are a couple of things in this project that I'd implement differently by now, but still this was a thing I'm able to show off. This way, I was also able to explain the parts I'm not so confident about and how I'd implement them today.

If you don't have a side project, that's okay. One thing you can do is maybe to start screensharing and show how your process would be to create a new frontend web project.

Can you walk me through the gaps in your employment history and the valuable experiences you gained during those periods?


This is again a very provocative question specifically asking for weaknesses. Candidates can have gaps in their resume for several reasons. I'd call them quite natural. The only propose of this question is to expose the candidate in a bad light.

In my humble opinion, it shouldn't be part of an interview process. 🚩

How do you intend to make an immediate impact in this role, demonstrating your value to the team from day one?


Let me have a look into my glass sphere. This is something I can't really tell in advance. All I can do is to create perfect preconditions for a successful collaboration in the team. In my personal preference, this includes some kind of kick-off session where people get-to-know each other.

In a remote setting, there should be time to have some video calls for some introductory virtual coffee sessions with the colleagues.

In non-remote settings, have in-person meetings, maybe have a hot beverage of your choice together or go out to lunch together. This can help break the ice, but is also highly dependant on how comfortable the candidate is with this. The video call is often the more inclusive option, especially for marginalized people and/or people with disabilities.

A thing which helps me a lot is to have a lot of pairing sessions where you work together with another colleague or two on good first issues to get familiar with the code base. I also love the idea of recurring mob programming sessions.

Can you share a time when you encountered a significant career challenge or setback? How did you navigate through it, and what did you learn from the experience?


This question can also be very intimidating. It is specifically asking whether the candidate has already experienced being laid off and how they handled it. While this can give the company certain insights about the resilience of the candidate, it can make the candidate very uncomfortable and may even open up trauma from a bad situation or challenging point in their career.

If I was an interviewer, I'd avoid questions digging too deep in the past. I'd say it's a legitimate reaction to say you don't want to answer to this question. 🚩

What unique contributions do you believe you could bring to this role that set you apart from other candidates?


This question is a bit more reasonable, but it still contains a passive-agressive connotation ("What do you believe you could bring?"). A less offending variant of this question would be to ask: "Where do you shine? What makes you stand out?"

That would be an opportunity to mention your strengths and personal superpowers. I'd refer to my solid groundbase which are agnostic from certain frameworks. While I have worked a lot with React as well as with Angular and Vue.js in former projects, I have a solid understanding of the web platform and I know about accessibility fundamentals in web development.

My secret superpower is writing svg paths manually by hand.

Are you willing to go all in for this job, even if it means sacrificing your weekends and holidays?


This question is a very confrontational one.

The working time is strictly regulated in Germany. Sacrificing weekends and holidays is usually only legitimate in exceptional situations. When working in IT in Germany, a 40-hour work week is very common. In my humble opinion, this is already pretty much is more than enough. To the maximum extent, you can increase the working time to 60 hours.

I believe we can reduce the workload of the week to a 4-day work week with a maximum of 32 hours while keeping the exact same amount of productivity.

Additionally, I'm in the federal german country with the least public holidays. So unless in really exceptional situations which should usually never happen or at least not happen on a regular basis, it can wait.

Furthermore, many work contracts explicitly mention that the regular work time should never extend the average of 40 hours.

Walk me through your thought process when facing a particularly challenging technical problem in one of your previous projects


My primary strategy is "divide and conquer". Try to break problems in smaller ones and try to solve them one by one iteratively. Also involve other colleagues from the team, or better: work in teams via Mob programming.

Describe a challenging bug you encountered and how you debugged it


The most challenging bugs I encountered involve deadlocks or race conditions in multithreaded programming environments. Combined with an API such as the Win32 API, this is where you can really scare me to hell. A general principle to remember in Win32 API programming was not to mix UI-based API calls into your threads. But this was a long time ago.

How do you typically approach collaborating with team members on a complex frontend project?


It's really helpful to have some kind of communication tool such as slack so you can reach out team members through a slack channel. There, it is important to follow the no hello principle.

When you have clarified who you can reach out to, schedule a meeting with them to pair on the work artifact. In case their are difficulties finding collaboration partners, it can be helpful to have a dedicated team member as collaboration partner.

Explain a situation where you disagreed with a team member on the approach to a project. How did you handle it?


Key is to talk and to listen to each other. I could maybe convice the team member but the team member can also convince me on their approach. Or we find a compromise. Listening, emphasizing and talking to each other is the best way to get the most out of these situations.

In case of conflict situations, it can also help involving a neutral third person or facilitator. In an agile project setting, this can maybe be the scrum master.

Share an example of a time when you had to communicate technical concepts to a non-technical stakeholder or team member


One thing that helps is to visualize as much as possible. Avoid the use of technical terms. Make use of a draw tool to create diagrams. Also involve a non-technical colleague to check if the presentation is free of technical slang.

Alright, that's already a big wall of text which I wrote for myself to help deal me with uncomfortable interrogation-style job interview settings. Do you have further questions? Maybe not only work-related ones? I have an Ask Me Anything repository on GitHub 💜.