I applied for a software development job at a unicorn. The job ad did not mention having tons of experience as a requirement.

I went to the first interview with a manager, and he asked me how would I design a particular system. Then he proceeded to ask me how I would scale the system. I got the impression that he liked my answers and left the interview having a good feeling.

A week later HR calls me and says that they were not going to continue with my application. I was taken aback. They said that I lacked technical skills. She asked me whether I left the interview having any concerns and I said "no". She explained to me why they rejected me but to be honest I didn't understand what she said.

I don't understand why companies expect applicants to be able to design a system from the ground up. IMO, system design is an area in which you need to have experience in order to do it well and understand the tradeoffs of a design. I think I understand the basic concepts behind system design but this seems to be not enough. I kind of get the feeling that the reason I flunk all my applications is because I lack experience in this particular area, but it's like a chicken and egg problem. How do I get experience if I don't have experience?

Also, since I did not understand the reason they rejected me over the phone, should I ask them to send me the reasons over email so I can learn from my mistakes? Or would this likely burn a bridge?

  • 4
    Consider that it's possible you answered perfectly and there was nothing wrong; they just found someone better (more experience; less risk for them). See also - workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/21675/…
    – Brandin
    Jan 24 '17 at 17:55
  • You could work on an open source project or create one of your own to learn this without getting a job. It's not ideal, but it is a start along with a good thing to have on your resume.
    – user8365
    Jan 24 '17 at 20:05
  • Why did you say you had no concerns if you didn't understand what they were telling you? That would have been your chance. Jan 24 '17 at 20:42

You get experience by taking an entry level job that will give you the experience. This position was obviously intended for someone with more experience than you have. It may not even have been a lot more experience than you have but just a certain subset of skills that you lacked.

So for you find a job that you can get, that is probably going to be entry level. This job is not going to pay as much or seem as rewarding but it will get you the start you need. Do everything you can to be the best at that job that you can be and get a great reference. Get better job, repeat the process.

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