Interpreting mock interview "hiring decisions"

How do I use mock interview "Hiring Decisions" to judge if I am ready for my live interviews? Should I delay my interviews? Should I go #YOLO?

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What's this post about?

A lot of candidates email us to ask "I got a Leaning towards No Hire. Do I need to delay my interviews?" Or alternatively - "I got a Strong Hire. Will I get the job"?

I've now replied to enough candidates (n=28), and received enough feedback on the applicability of the advice I gave (n=16) that I feel slightly confident in sharing this advice publicly.

A caveat though - I wish I could give a yes/no answer. I can't. What I can do however, is (a) share some guiding principles on how to come to a decision, and (b) share examples of what candidates have decided in similar circumstances.

Ultimately, this is a pretty personal decision which needs to incorporate factors beyond the mocks themselves. I'd recommend thinking about mocks as one (important) factor within the context of all the interview prep you've been investing bandwidth into.

What are these guiding principles that can help me decide?

I have 5 "data points" I would recommend using as guiding principles, to come to a decision regarding your live interviews.

  1. The hiring decisions you've received in your Prepfully mock interviews. These are a good representation of what you would likely get in your actual interview, were you to be asked similar questions and delivered similar responses in your live interviews.
    To some extent, if you are getting "strong" reactions from your experts (either positive or negative) - these should help simplify your decision making. Eg. If you are receiving "strong no hires" then I would always advise pausing and preparing a bit more. Less than 8% of all sessions receive this hiring decision. Unless of course you felt your coach doesn't know what they're talking about (in which case - you'd have received a refund obviously, and we'd then advise ignoring the advice). On the flipside - "strong hires" are given by experts equally rarely (6% of the time) - you only get that if you genuinely ticked the checkboxes in the context of the questions asked.
    "Leaning" decisions can be quite subjective. A "Leaning towards Hire"means you did have room to do better. And "Leaning towards no hire" means you would definitely need to do better. Having said that; in both decisions - you would be receiving feedback from your coaches, that you will likely incorporate into your answers, which should nudge you in the right direction.
  2. The "trend line" of hiring decisions you've received. 70% of you end up doing more than 1 mock with a coach on Prepfully. Which means you 70% have at least 2 data points. For the 24% of you who do more than 5 mocks on Prepfully - you now have enough data to create a rudimentary trend line.
    Are your hiring decisions moving in the right direction? eg. from strong no hire -> leaning towards no hire -> leaning towards hire? If yes, this is a good proxy for you being able to incorporate feedback and improve your responses. And in this context, you should take faith in your ability to do this in live interviews as well.
  3. The importance of the role. How crucial is this specific interview to your career goals. Prepfully provides incredibly targeted practice (down to a specific interview type for a specific role in a specific company), and from those of you who provided info - for 22% of you, this is your only "live interview" at the moment. Is this is a dream job / something you've been preparing for, for ages? If yes, or if you've been gearing towards this specific role for a very long time, it could be worth waiting until you consistently get at least "leaning towards hire" before you give your live interviews.
  4. The transferability of the feedback to other roles. Are you interviewing for additional (similar) roles? We've seen candidate performance generally improves tremendously across nearly all other companies they're interviewing for; after a few mocks. So if you have active interviews with other companies, then there is less weightage on just one specific interview, and hence lower impact of consequences. This does depend a lot on the role, of course. For instance - if you've done a couple of Stripe style "bug squash" or "integration" mock interviews on Prepfully - while very enjoyable interview types (I wish more companies used these) - most companies *don't*. Whereas System Design practice for instance is extremely transferrable across most Senior level engineering roles. Or if we were to look at PM mocks - Google's "analytical" round has barely any overlap with Meta's process. Whereas Product Strategy still has meaningful overlap with Product Sense. Or for UX designers - Meta style "App crits" aren't really common across most other big companies, whereas Whiteboard challenges are used by most of tech at the moment. And so on. My point here is - if you've practiced mocks which are "transferrable" in nature, and are interviewing for other companies; then there is a bit less to worry about when it comes to the specific company you might have practiced these mocks for.
  5. Finally - I generally also recommend over-preparing through mocks. You're never going to be able to guarantee 100% prep - it just isn't realistic given the really broad range of topics that can come up. You also *shouldn't* be trying to do that as much as building an approach and using mocks to sanity check this approach and your style of presenting it. After a point, if you're still receiving "no hire" decisions, we'd instead recommend an "advice session" to discuss how you could potentially evolve your approach or figure out if you're missing something or should look at something different. There's absolutely no shame in considering this - quite the opposite, it's a difficult and brave decision when you do go ahead. It's a small number, but until today 37 candidates who did career focused advice sessions on Prepfully ended up changing the roles they were interviewing for. Sometimes these were minor tweaks (eg. Shifting to Program Management instead of Technical Program Management). In a few cases they were larger changes (eg. a candidate interviewing for a Data Analyst role decided to shift into a UX Designer role; admittedly for an Analytics company ;)). And the most common change has been in swinging between IC vs Manager paths within Sr. engineering candidates.

Final section - some examples of how candidates have used the principles above

These are examples. The goal in listing these out is to show other candidates' thought processes. I've cherry-picked examples to show how things worked out or didn't work out.

Candidate A

Interviewing for: Meta Software Engineer (E5).

4 System Design mocks across 2 weeks.

  • Mock 1: Strong no hire (Expert: Meta Sr. SWE)
  • Mock 2: Leaning towards no hire (Expert: Meta Sr. SWE)
  • Mock 3: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Meta Sr. SWE)
  • Mock 4: Leaning towards no hire (Expert: Oracle Principal SWE)

Trajectory of results was somewhat improving. Went ahead with interviews.

Outcome: Didn't receive an offer from Meta. Received offers from Deliveroo and Wise.

Candidate B

Interviewing for: Amazon Principal PM, Google L7 PM, loads of other companies.

12 mocks: 3 mocks across 3 days; then 7 mocks across 1 week, then 2 mocks in 1 day.

  • Mock 1: Strong hire (Expert: Amazon Principal PM)
  • Mock 2: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Amazon Principal PM)
  • Mock 3: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Amazon Mgr. of Product Management)

Outcome: Received offer from Amazon.

Candidate then did 7 more mocks for Google L7, across 1 week

  • Mock 4: Leaning towards no hire (Expert: Google L7 PM)
  • Mock 5: Leaning towards no hire (Expert: Google L6 PM)
  • Mock 6: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Google L7 PM)
  • Mock 7: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Microsoft Principal PM)
  • Mock 8: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Amazon Director of Product)
  • Mock 9: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Google L7 PM)
  • Mock 10: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Microsoft Director of Product)

Outcome: Received offer from Google.

Also interviewed with Netflix, DoorDash, Lyft, Affirm, Stripe, Zillow, Intuit and LinkedIn.

  • Mock 11: Strong hire (Stripe Group PM)
  • Mock 12: Leaning towards hire (Lyft PM)

Outcome: Received offers from Lyft and LinkedIn.

Accepted Google.

Candidate C

Interviewing for: Meta Data Scientist. Also interviewed for Yelp, Shopify, Apple, Square and CarbonBlack.

6 mocks over 2 months.

  • Mock 1: Leaning towards no hire (Expert: Meta Sr. DS)
  • Mock 2: Strong no hire (Expert: Meta DS)

Delayed interviews by 4 weeks, and did 4 more mocks (1 per week)

  • Mock 3: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Meta DS)
  • Mock 4: Strong hire (Expert: Meta DS)
  • Mock 5: Strong hire (Expert: Meta Sr. DS)
  • Mock 6: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Meta Sr. DS)

Outcome: Received (and accepted) DS offer from Meta. Also received offers from Yelp and Shopify.

Candidate D: Product Designer interviewing at Palantir, Google, Etsy, Reddit.

5 "whiteboard challenge" mocks over 3 weeks

  • Mock 1: Leaning towards no hire (Expert: Meta Sr. Product Designer) - day #1
  • Mock 2: Strong no hire (Expert: Google User Interaction Designer) - day #1

Delayed Palantir interview by a week.

  • Mock 3: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Microsoft Sr. Product Designer) - day #10
  • Mock 4: Strong hire (Expert: Meta Sr. Product Designer) - day #15
  • Mock 5: Leaning towards hire (Expert: Amazon Design Manager) - day #18

Outcome: Didn't receive offer from Palantir. Received an offer from Google about 2 months later.