How to Prepare for Getting Stuck on a Launch School Interview Assessment

Nathan Worden
Sep 3, 2019 · 4 min read

I got stuck during the interview portion of RB 109. You will get stuck as well. Here is how to prepare.

Image from Getty | Credit: Logan Faerber

Getting stuck in an interview is common. This is not a bad thing; it is part of the perennial process to mastery. Getting stuck will happen in actual job interviews. Human’s can’t regurgitate every page from a book word for word- so while we always strive for complete mastery, part of the journey (and also what interviewers look for) is how you respond to moments where you get stuck.

Here’s the trap I fell into: I thought that upping my study hours would be a way to brute-force my mastery of the material and be prepared for the interview. Before the RB 109 interview assessment I started studying 3.5 hours per day (which is a lot for me because I’m currently working full time.) I thought that the sheer increase in hours would be the key to success. Practice makes perfect right?

The truth is that practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

This is my little brother Joshua going hard while doing his layup drills.

Back in high-school I had a basketball coach who would say that line: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

What that meant was this: If you do your layup drills and give yourself as many dribbles as you need, going up with your strong hand, right at your favorite angle to the basket, you are not preparing yourself to succeed. In a competitive basketball game you will never get an opportunity to score in an easy, comfortable way. Basketball- and coding- and life, are more competitive than that.

Instead, you need to practice under game like conditions. That means you need a defender. It means you need to get to the basket in three dribbles. It means you may have to take the shot left-handed even though you are right-handed. The way you train your body to move under these conditions will be extremely different than doing the easy layups.

The trap I fell into in my preparation for the interview was essentially to think: “If I do 100 lay-ups instead of 20 lay-ups, the sheer effort of doing five times more will propel me to success.”

In reality, 10 lay-ups in game-like conditions are better than doing 100 layups that do not resemble what you will be required to do in an actual game.

My coach used to say that doing 100 easy layups was worse than doing nothing at all, because it tricked you into thinking you were prepared while also simultaneously engraining bad habits.

So how do you prepare for getting stuck on the assessment?

Mirror the test conditions as closely as possible, and force yourself to perform under game-like conditions.

Interviews can be intense. Making sure your studying conditions are intense too.

I put in about 3.5 hours of studying a day in the week leading up to the test, but only 45 minutes of each day was under conditions where I was timing myself and speaking out loud while I worked through the PEDAC process step-by-step. The other 2 hours 45 minutes was time where, yes, I was sitting in front of my computer with some code pointed at my face, but I wasn’t emulating game-like conditions. This was like doing easy layups. Not good.

Only the time I spent practicing in a state of mind where I told myself “ok, you are being interviewed right now” was able to directly translate to the actual interview. The things I learned during the other study time existed in another part of my brain, and I couldn’t retrieve it in the same way as what I learned when I was in “test conditions” study mode.

Here is how to simulate game-like conditions for your interview assessment:

Find a study buddy and schedule a time to Zoom interview each other. Use CoderPad. Time it. Ask them to give you the hardest problem they have come up with while studying for the upcoming interview, and Practice. Getting. Stuck.

You want to put yourself in that moment where you have already left your feet for the layup but the defender got in front of you just in time and is about to block you. Do you keep moving the ball up into the defender’s hands just like you would have done in one of your 100 lazy layups? If you have been practicing in game-like conditions your body will know that you have other options. You can spin mid-air and pass it, you can double pump and switch hands, you can hang in the air and then try a reverse layup. Normal practice doesn’t teach you how to do these things. Practicing under game-like conditions will.

Practicing under game-like conditions is more work. It is uncomfortable and it more intense. But it’s also worth it. And it’s way more fun. Let’s have some fun.

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