A Few Stories of Tech Interviews

Government

First pass: Online application with resume
Second pass: Visited their office on-site to sit at a computer and take a coding test
Third pass: In-person interview. Went to it in a nice suit, and was met with a line of men in suits also waiting to interview outside the room-- probably 7 or 8 of them. I didn't go to a school meant for programming-- it was more of a liberal arts college. I could just tell all these guys did not have my education-- they were taught the expected computer science curriculum, and had probably done this test dozens of times over at their schools as practice.
When it was my turn, I entered a conference room with about 8 people, one woman. I sat at the conference table, and they laughed and told me to stand near the whiteboard. I was very confused. They then told me, right away, to start solving algorithms. I had not really encountered these kinds of problems before. I didn't have much time to practice, what with school and working as many hours as I could get at my retail job to support my family.
I probably failed most of the questions, partially due to the nervousness of having a room of people stare me down as I wrote on the whiteboard, partially due to the fact that the problems they gave me are literally never used in practice and yet are considered standard interview questions.
I left the interview shaking in anxiety and had a good cry afterward. I had some serious thoughts about not ever doing a tech interview again-- as I was sure I wouldn't want to keep doing this, either in the interview or on the job when I had to work with these mean people-- and asked my current manager about possibilities for full time fashion retail employment.

Outcome: rejected via e-mail
My opinion: Terrible interview.

Advertising

First pass: Resume/cover letter via e-mail
Second pass: Manager asked me to send him my three favorite code samples. Sent him some school projects written in C++, Haskell, and Java.
Third pass: In person interview. I knew this was a creative shop, so wore a nice fashionable blouse and pants. We had a conversation about coding, the samples I sent, work, and creativity. That was it. Just a conversation. I was introduced to the team-- they all seemed really nice. Had a conversation with the team to make sure we'd get along. I could tell they really valued communication and interpersonal skills.
I left the interview feeling really happy, even if I didn't get the job everyone was so nice and made me feel welcome.

Outcome: job offer
My opinion: Great interview!

Engine

First pass: Online application with resume
Second pass: 10-question coding test I got a few hours to complete and e-mail back, pretty simple, still pretty sure I didn't do great
Third pass: Three Skype calls with different team members. Not intense at all, mostly talking about my work in a casual way and getting to know the team
Fourth pass: In person interview that lasted several days. I wore nice dresses and jeans with a suit jacket and nice blouse. They arranged a tour of the city for me to help me feel welcome. Met with probably about a dozen team members in 1:1 interviews. Most of them had no coding, and were just conversations. Some of them had loose coding on a scrap of paper, sketching out ideas, no pressure if I got it wrong.
I left feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time this took, but the people were overall very nice and the experience was great.

Outcome: job offer
My opinion: Took a lot of time, but overall great!

Engine

First pass: E-mail with resume/cover letter
Second pass: Meet with the manager over Skype, casual conversation with some talk about the work I'd done
Third pass: Meet with three team members over Skype, same kind of conversation.
I left feeling very happy. The team seemed kind, unpretentious, creative, and welcoming.

Outcome: job offer
My opinion: Great interview!

Engine

First pass: E-mail with resume/cover letter
Second pass: In person interview. Lasted several days. First day I met with the team. I actually attended a meditation session as part of this, because this is just what they do at work. I also helped them debug code purely by accident-- there was an emergency they needed to handle right as I arrived. Went out to lunch with the team. It was such a casual, friendly conversation that really made me feel welcome and I got to meet and really get to know the whole team.
Second day they apologized in advance for. I went down to another office and was whiteboard interviewed by people I wouldn't be working with, just to meet the corporate checkbox of "tech interview." I was nervous and struggled, but the previous day had made me feel so confident and happy that I managed and even did quite well.
I left feeling quite anxious from that whiteboard session, but overall very happy.

Outcome: job offer
My opinion: Great interview other than the second day, which was very unnecessary and stressful.

Compiler

First pass: E-mail with resume/cover letter
Second pass: Skype with manager, casual tech conversation.
Third pass: Meeting with two team members, in a sort of remote coding app. Just jumped in right away and started coding their sample questions without much knowledge of who I was talking to. Once again, the questions were problems they probably practiced in school and therefore consider basic but that I'd never run into on the job. On top of that, I didn't know these people, and I could hear them scoffing at the slightest misstep. One guy was actually quite rude-- so rude that halfway into the interview, I got really upset and found it hard to code at all. (I remember my boyfriend walking into the room, looking at me, and wondering what on earth kind of call I was on.) He probably thought I was a complete idiot. The manager called my references who gave me glowing recommendations.
I gave feedback to someone I knew that worked there, and they are working to change their practices.

Outcome: rejected
My opinion: Glad he called references and started with a pleasant casual conversation, but the rest of it was appallingly bad.

Engine

First pass: E-mail with resume/cover letter
Second pass: In person interview. Everyone was clearly very stressed and distracted, and my interviewers clearly did not want to be there. I was shuffled into a room with two engine coders. I can't describe just how rude one guy was as they stared me down and I whiteboarded answers for them-- scoffing at my answers, clearly annoyed, his coworker told him to stop at one point. This made me so upset I could barely think or code, but I managed to get through all their problems.
After that interview, the manager met with me and told me the interview would not continue, almost apologetically. He told me maybe a position would open up in the future, but I couldn't ever imagine wanting to work with that team. He kindly showed me some of their demos and then walked me out.

Outcome: rejected
My opinion: Terrible.


For all my good interviews, I've passed those companies many candidates. For all my bad interviews, I've cautioned people against working there.

In my experience as a programmer, especially as a senior coder, companies should be much more concerned about the impression they leave on candidates than how well they are testing them.

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