This article was initially printed on .cult by Nadya Primak. .cult is a Berlin-based neighborhood platform for builders. We write about all issues career-related, make unique documentaries, and share heaps of different untold developer tales from all over the world.
The tech business just isn’t identified for having nice interviewing processes. From the infamous whiteboard interviews to algorithm challenges requiring a pc science diploma to even wrap your head round, there are all types of outdated requirements and approaches to interviewing developers that ought to have died out years in the past. Sadly, like most legacy methods we like to hate, these interview processes are prone to crop up in your career now and again. Or in case you’re unfortunate like me, they may pop up a bit extra usually.
To be clear, I’m not scripting this submit to name out any firms specifically or for the aim of naming and shaming. For each firm at which I’ve skilled these points, there are a whole lot of hundreds if not hundreds of thousands extra. One of the frequent methods tech companies follow gatekeeping is by making the interviewing course of so troublesome that it leaves everybody besides (usually) white males with a pc science diploma feeling like they aren’t ok or don’t belong there.
On this submit, you’re going to learn among the most typical ways in which firms could make your interviewing course of a nightmare and hopefully be capable of acknowledge them early on so that you simply don’t waste your time. I’ll share private anecdotes of how they impacted me and the way I moved on previous them and you may too.
1. White board interviews
Like I stated within the introduction, whiteboard interviews are a type of outdated approaches that tech firms nonetheless like to torture us with. The final concept is that you simply go up in entrance of a whiteboard and write pseudo-code mapping out how one can remedy an algorithm.
In case it’s not instantly obvious why this method sucks, let me clarify. Forcing a developer to write down code by hand is inherently unnatural as a result of it takes us out of the zone the place we do our greatest work: in entrance of a pc. It additionally robs us of our most great tool: search engines like google and yahoo. To not point out that it has no bearing on the on a regular basis actuality of the job.
It’s particularly problematic for self-taught builders as a result of the cheaper on-line lessons and sources have a tendency to not concentrate on algorithms however on extra sensible on-the-job abilities, like constructing functions. Even college students who’ve gone to a conventional 4-year establishment and majored in laptop science usually have to follow these algorithms at any time when they go in for interviews as a result of they’re simple to neglect.
I’ve misplaced observe of what number of whiteboard interviews I’ve had however there are a number of which might be significantly sharp in my reminiscence. One was for a small startup the place I used to be interviewing 1:1 and the man interviewing me was very awkward. I knew the algorithm he was asking me to write down was comparatively easy however for no matter purpose, my mind simply couldn’t keep in mind. As a substitute of reducing the interview off early or simply giving me a touch, the interviewer insisted on dragging out the whiteboard portion for a ridiculously very long time. I spent effectively over an hour in his workplace combating it earlier than I lastly received to the answer. Naturally, I didn’t get the job however I used to be so annoyed after the truth that my humiliation needed to be drawn out for therefore lengthy.
The excellent news is that whiteboard interviews are falling increasingly out of style. There’s a variety of criticism of them within the developer neighborhood and I can most likely rely on 1 hand the variety of builders I do know who really like these kind of interviews.
2. Timed technical assessments
In the event you went to highschool in the US, you most likely have a particular place of hatred in your coronary heart for timed exams. The primary time I took the ACT I received a foul rating just because I couldn’t cease trying on the clock and worrying about how a lot time I had left. It didn’t assist that midway by I needed to go to the lavatory, however I used to be too nervous to go away the room due to how a lot time I’d lose.
Just like the whiteboard interviews, timed technical assessments are likely to have algorithm elements to them. A few years in the past I made a decision to strive a type of platforms the place you are taking a coding take a look at to create a developer profile for firms who need to outsource the technical stuff to a 3rd occasion (Employed is one instance).
There have been three totally different challenges I needed to full efficiently to be admitted into the platform. All of them have been algorithm heavy, and I had accomplished comparatively minimal follow. I ended up getting caught on the second problem and never having sufficient time to finish the third. It may be very demoralizing to take a take a look at and really feel like you could have nearly no concept what you’re doing. Chances are high in case you’re self-taught you’ll really feel fairly demoralized because you didn’t research algorithms in faculty.
The added strain of timing additionally doesn’t mirror the fact of most developer jobs. There’s just about by no means a scenario the place you solely have 20 minutes to finish a process, in reality normally coding new options takes days and even weeks.
The excellent news is there are platforms which have popped as much as assist builders put together for these timed technical assessments. Hackerrank might be the preferred one and is a superb software for self-taught and laptop science degree-holding builders to brush up on these abilities.
Not like whiteboard interviews, timed technical assessments aren’t going wherever. They’re handy for hiring managers as a result of all they must do is ship a hyperlink to the developer and the platform administers the take a look at and returns the outcomes. Hiring managers who select to make use of these platforms aren’t essentially lazy, they might simply be working a small firm or have too many different duties to juggle. However it’s nonetheless price being cautious of this sort of interview and know what you’re getting your self into.
3. Telephone screens
Not all cellphone screens are technical. A few of them are informal conversations with the recruiter or somebody from HR. In reality, that is normally what we consider with a cellphone display screen. Nevertheless, typically firms get inventive or need to shorten the interview course of by skipping a technical evaluation and simply conducting a Q&A over the cellphone.
In principle, this might be nice. No technical assessments or take-home initiatives to fret about. Only a fast cellphone name and also you’re accomplished! This was my precise mindset once I first encountered this sort of interview. However my perspective modified shortly after I received the job. I noticed that a few of my coworkers didn’t have the required abilities in any respect and have been in a position to fairly simply dupe the hiring supervisor into considering they have been competent.
The opposite hazard of cellphone screenings is technical jargon. That is once more extra of a problem for self-taught builders, however there’s a lot jargon on this planet of coding that no person’s protected. If I’m requested over the cellphone to outline a technical time period, there’s a good likelihood I do know the idea, simply not by title—however have both forgotten the time period it’s related to or I haven’t encountered it sufficient to attempt to memorize what it means. This has brought about me to fail cellphone screenings prior to now, or be requested to do further take-home assignments.
It’s fairly uncommon that an organization will solely do a cellphone display screen and never give some type of in-person or on-line coding take a look at however you may encounter it in case you’re doing contract work or making use of for an organization that doesn’t have a variety of technical positions. Simply go ahead with warning.
Self-taught builders must be extra conscious and infrequently put together extra for interviews than their laptop science diploma bearing friends. It usually boils right down to the distinction of being much less conversant in the technical jargon and algorithms, that are overemphasized within the interview course of in comparison with the precise day-to-day work of software program builders.
Fortunately among the significantly disagreeable interviewing approaches like whiteboard interviews have gotten fairly unpopular, however it’s nonetheless price getting in ready and figuring out there’s a risk you’ll have some sorting puzzles or phrase salad thrown your approach.
You also needs to know that there are firms who really give sensible coding challenges that mirror a greater atmosphere for programmers as a result of it means they care in regards to the expertise of their candidates (and sure care about their staff extra too). There may be room for enchancment but in addition a variety of discourse round how one can enhance the interview course of within the business, and fortunately some firms are literally listening and making large enhancements.