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Thoughts on interviewing software engineers pt 2

When chatting with people, sometimes it is immediately obvious that that person is not someone that you want to work with. They may rub you the wrong way, not understand your social abilities, or just not connect on a personal level. I’ve found that when this happens to me, I have a major detraction from the company that is interviewing me. Even in the face of these problems, it is important that you keep your cool and do your best to sell yourself. Regardless of whether or not the company gives you an offer or if you accept or decline that offer, you never know if you may run into people from that company again (or someone from their network).

It also does not to justice to yourself or the company if the interviews that you have are too narrowly focused. If all the tech questions are focused only on say, algorithms or CS fundamentals, then the more seasoned you are in the field, the greater difficulty you will have competing with college grads that just took an exam on that same material 3-4 months ago. This is even more concerning if a company continually harps on a specific technology or platform (such as NoSQL, REST, Spring, etc). It is important that you sell yourself as a candidate that is moldable as well as capable to pick things up quickly. Say for example, your background is in databases, performance scaling, or software design and architecture….then you need to relay your abilities in that area(s) to the company you are chatting with even if they do not probe those skills directly in their interviews.

If you have been in the industry for a while, you might also find that your prior positions may actually hurt your marketability with other firms. If you code daily in shell scripts, someone looking for a Java developer may discount you when you are being evaluated even in the face of a solid interview. To help combat this, it is important to try to open source as much of your other work as possible to give a clear picture to companies about the work that you are capable of. A strong portfolio that highlights your abilities can carry a lot of weight if it is impressive.

Thoughts on interviewing software engineers

I was thinking earlier today about my past experiences as well as those that have been relayed to me from other colleagues in or entering the industry…

In my opinion, many companies when interviewing top candidates ask technical questions that do not effectively asses both the candidate as well as the company. As I have posted before on my blog, interviewing is a two-way street…..many companies forget this when vetting candidates. In an ideal world, companies would tailor the content of an interview to the candidate they are sitting down with. In my past experience, here are a few things that throw up red flags to me:

  • Questions that have answers that are designed to trick you
  • Questions that probe CS fundamentals (If you are looking for a job worthy of your skills, a company that is asking you these types of questions obviously has a bar lower than you want to work with)
  • Questions that come verbatim from classic textbook problems
  • Interviewers that walk in with a sheet of paper titled “Interview Questions”

I have never seen this, but in an ideal world, an interviewer would ask me a question that neither (s)he nor I knew the answer to. If both the interviewer and I need to work together to solve the problem, not only will the interviewer find out how I think and work on problems, but also at the same time I can judge for myself how the people at XYZ company think as well. You can also then judge the people that you would potentially be working with. A full time job is basically the same as moving into an apartment with a room mate. You need to be sure that the fit is right for you as much as the company needs to be sure the fit is right for them. If the questions they ask do not also help understand both sides of the equation, they do not do either the company or the candidate justice.

Let me know what you think….

new service: get your IP address

Earlier this weekend I introduced a new open service!

It is pretty simple….it just echos back your IP address. Use it from a browser, use it with curl, use it however you wish. I might introduce a throttle/limit on it in the future, but for now go wild!

$ curl
72.XXX.100.XXX #censored