Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

You want a personalized interview, styled exactly for you ?

I would be a 'no' if i were interviewing me. You obviously can program but this makes you appear to be someone who would be difficult to work with.

...If "Tells me when I'm doing something in a way that could potentially be improved, in a polite, validated way" falls under your definition of "Difficult to work with", then perhaps he wouldn't want to work with you anyway.

However if you want to hire people to just complete tickets as fast as possible, maybe that's a valid reason to reject the candidate.

"Difficult to work with" is perhaps too harsh a statement. But the candidate is asking for a completely custom treatment at the earliest possible stage of the interview process. The candidate is also assuming that the interviewers aren't aware of the caveats mentioned about standard coding screens/HackerRank exercises. The candidate's proposal also doesn't mirror real-world conditions, because I doubt the job consists of adding features to their own codebases. The candidate also doesn't seem to acknowledge that this is not the entire interview but rather just a low-investment screen to decide whether to perform the full interview in the first place. The candidate also glosses over the value of the standard screen, which is that it's uniform across all candidates.

To be clear, I wouldn't rule out someone for this, but I can sympathize with where I believe the above poster is coming from.

I have a lot of problems with this paragraph, the same problems I see again and again on both sides of interviews.

> "Difficult to work with" is perhaps too harsh a statement

That's exactly what the OP meant to say, and verbatim what they would have said in an interview debrief. The interviewee wanted some amount of compromise, and all of a sudden they're "difficult to work with". Now everyone else in the room is framing this potential hire as an asshole. There's no coming back from that. I've seen this happen many times. One term of phrase like that and instantly a qualified candidate is out because someone latched onto a single fault and made wild extrapolations about it.

> just a low-investment screen

You have no idea how much of an investment it is. I've had hacker rank problems that I was expected to spend 3 hours on. That's a pretty big investment just to get my foot in the door. Sometimes (read: often) the juice just isn't worth the squeeze. The employer wants me to give it my best when they're not even willing to come up with their own questions.

> uniform across all candidates

I see this a lot as the panacea of interviewing. Sounds good to have everyone on a level playing field. But if you start out with a crappy process, applying it to everyone equally isn't going to get you good talent. As an interviewee, I'll still be bitter about the bullshit you put me through, even if everyone else had to do it.

> just a low-investment screen

Low-investment on the part of the employer. They still expect me to spend 90 minutes on proving I have seen a REPL before, which is time I, frankly, don't have. I'm happy to answer/talk about things that relate to my job, but working on puzzles that just happen to be solved more easily by programming has exactly nothing to do with it.

> the candidate is asking for a completely custom treatment

What's next? Having to actually look at someone's CV? That's insanity.

Why are you looking for jobs if you are too busy to spend 90 minutes of effort on applying for that job?

Maybe the whole point of the test is not how well you do, but how you react to being asked to do something you feel is beneath you...

> Why are you looking for jobs if you are too busy to spend 90 minutes of effort on applying for that job?

I didn't say I'm too busy to apply, I said I'm too busy to spend 90 minutes on useless tests.

> but how you react to being asked to do something you feel is beneath you...

You know what a great test for that would be? Ask the applicant to wash your car.

> useless tests

These tests aren't useless. Tons of candidates have never seen a REPL before and are totally unable to solve even a trivial coding assignment.

I suppose your company is too clever to waste their time on such useless tests? Who at your firm wastes hours interviewing candidates who have no ability to code?

If someone has never seen a REPL before, it'll take us less than 90 minutes to figure it out, so we don't tend to waste applicants' time with those.

Going through someone's Github (or any other project they feel is worthy of sharing) and asking them questions about why they made the decisions they made has been orders of magnitude more illuminating than asking them to come up with an algorithm for solving the subset sum problem without Googling.

But now your process is heavily biased against folks whose work has primarily been for their current employer, and they don't have any reasonable side projects to walk you through.

How so? It's not like I say "oh, that's too bad then, sorry". It just takes longer to interview those candidates because we don't have that shortcut.

My fear would be that you wouldn't have a rigorous, well-tuned process for those folks, so there could be a lot of noise or randomness in their evaluations. And it could be very hard for you to compare them with the folks with extensive GitHub portfolios and resumes.

Perhaps, but what's the alternative? Don't look at anyone's OSS projects (and lose a LOT of valuable information) because it would put the people who don't have any at a disadvantage?

I think the main thing would be consciously correcting for that: the real value is asking about design decisions — it's my favorite technique — and just making sure that it's fully normalized that not everyone has those out in the open.

It's still easy to spot the liars — e.g. I've interviewed people who worked at the NSA and even they could talk about the skills they used, just not which projects or data — and the process of deciding which things to talk about is a pretty good way to explore their communications style, too.

Yes, that's what I generally tend to do. I present them with a scenario or a problem and have them walk me through how they'd solve it and what their tradeoffs would be.

Well, washing cars turned out to be the point for The Karate Kid... and humility before technique. I agree that few employers will be like Mr.Miyagi though ;

Ah, but Daniel was training, not interviewing :P

It's a kids' movie. But the point was humility before the art. Always in training. Shoot, Mr. m practiced teaching better by tending tiny metaphorical bonsai trees and catching flies with chopsticks, so he was not above being a student in training himself. I'm not saying it is everyone's philosophy or should be- it just cracked me up- the car washing reference- not to say that I disagree that these tests are more a sign of an employer I would not work for. Hey- someone removed the car wash analogy I was responding to! I thought it was funny. I think swe should push back against this kind of treatment when it's worth it to them. It is insulting.

I can only speak for where I currently work. Our phone screens take 45 minutes on average rather than 90. If you don't have 45 minutes for a coding phone screen, then you also don't have 45 minutes for anything else you just mentioned, so I actually find your response fairly disingenuous. In fact, you don't have time to interview with any company in any capacity at all.

We actually take great care in examining resumes and CVs before proceeding with a coding screen. We've had plenty of senior developers fail the most basic questions (think FizzBuzz), which is why we conduct these screens.

> Our phone screens take 45 minutes on average rather than 90

Even phone screens are better than "Here's a HackerRank link because I don't want to spend time talking to you, enjoy the next hour-and-a-half solving riddles".

I don't think I fully appreciated that HackerRank does not involve the direct participation from anyone at the hiring company. I wouldn't be on board with that, and that certainly makes more more sympathetic to the OP.

Yeah, that's what galls me about it. They even give you (the proverbial you) tests so you literally have to spend zero effort, yet you tell the interviewee to spend 90 minutes on it because it costs you nothing. If you want me to spend time on your process, at least spend that time with me. I want to learn about you as much as you want to learn about me, but you don't see me sending you a Google form with 300 questions about your company to fill out.

Yup, this is basically what I meant - but much better articulated. Something I need to get better at

10/10 !

You're asking the same of the candidate, though. You want them to write a unique solution to your silly puzzle tailored to your company. It's a two-way street.

Going on and on about issues you already brought up in the past, while they may be sensible, but for which you don't have the time or resources to fix just yet doesn't do any good either. So a constant complainer would be someone difficult to work with.

In the same spirit you could definitely see it as unreasonable for a candidate to suggest you adapt your screening process because they know better (even if it's said in a polite, validated way).

To your first point, yes exactly. The interview is as much mine as it is the candidates.

Not necessarily hiring to complete tickets as fast as possible, but some who can take a task and complete with minimal issues. I don't want to be stuck in meetings or arguing in PRs etc.

Would you really want someone to take a task and complete with minimal issues if the task does not add value to the organization or is counterproductive?

I don't know about you, but I would not want to hire someone who can take any task and complete with minimal issues. Where I work, one is encouraged to argue about what is not right in the meetings and offer better solutions.

This candidate is doing exactly that: Argue why a certain hiring methodology is not effective and what a better alternative is. Considering that this candidate does not just follow orders but challenges the status quo and the fact that he has volunteering-based projects to show makes this author very likely a good fit for my organization.

Let me explain a little better, and again I am only basing this all off the small amount of data we have.

Let me give an example as I am not the best at articulating. hopefully this helps.

Lets say I hired this engineer as Senior or Team Lead. Now I want the base docker image we use for node bumped a major version. I checked the changelog for the nodes releases and knowing our codebase I think its safe.

I could ask a Junior dev to do it, but I knowing that they are lacking experience this may seem like a "big deal" when really its not.

What I want is the node version updated, validation unit tests pass, regressions tests are good. And it to be released. If there is a failure along the way, address it or sure lets chat about it.

But this Email in response to hackerrank - would make me perceive this to be someone who would respond with a complete change to our CI/CD processes, to our infrastructure, maybe to even using Node - as this sort of task is beneath him.

Sure there would be areas this person might excel at, but some days little tasks just need to get done to keep the ball moving.

> would make me perceive this to be someone who would respond with a complete change to our CI/CD processes, to our infrastructure, maybe to even using Node - as this sort of task is beneath him

Looks like it is a difference in culture that I am used to and the one that you are used to.

At my workplace, it is perfectly acceptable for someone to suggest a complete change to our CI/CD process. In fact, we have changed our complete CI/CD process twice (SVN/build scripts -> Mercurial/Jenkins -> Git/Travis-CI) already with minimal loss in productivity because someone questioned the existing CI/CD process and suggested a well thought plan to switch to a new one.

But I get your point that sometimes it may not be feasible to carry our such a drastic change in process, infrastructure, etc. But suggesting such a change is going to be acceptable and we refusing to accept such a suggestion is also going to be perfectly acceptable and both this person and us working in harmony even after this disagreement is also going to be acceptable.

>But this Email in response to hackerrank - would make me perceive this to be someone who would respond with a complete change to our CI/CD processes, to our infrastructure, maybe to even using Node - as this sort of task is beneath him.

This makes me think that you're a poor judge of character and of a slightly authoritarian mindset.

This email is one of many protesting an industry interview culture that prioritizes badly thought through exercises that bear little relationship to the job being interviewed for.

>What I want is the node version updated

And do you really think that seeing candidates reverse a binary tree without protest will tell you how well they can perform at this kind of role?

This is really taking it to an extreme. Just because you don't fight back against some entry test doesn't mean you won't fight the important things.

> I don't know about you, but I would not want to hire someone who can take any task and complete with minimal issues.

Sorry, I don't want to work with a bunch of pedants. You can have them.

> This is really taking it to an extreme

No more extreme than suggesting that someone who raises thoughtful questions on a broken hiring process must certainly be a bad fit for an organization.

> Sorry, I don't want to work with a bunch of pedants.

Now, this is taking it to an extreme!

If they are assuming they know more than everybody involved and making suggestions to a process they haven't even gone through 20% of, then yes, they are probably a bad fit.

It's extremely hypocritical to criticize someone for the very thing you are doing (assuming the other person doesn't know how to do their job). Couple this with the fact that they are not asking for any advice on their hiring process, it's a pretty rude thing to do.

A little bit of fluff added to the wording doesn't make it suddenly polite.

> I would not want to hire someone who can take any task and complete with minimal issues.

Someone who can't do straightforward tasks without having an issue is incompetent, pedantic, or both.

If your company wants people to just do straightforward tasks without raising pertinent questions, your company sounds like a bad fit for many good engineers I know. For example, I personally, would never work for a company like yours.

I am quite lucky to have worked in companies where the peers and management encourage debates and arguments and do not take it as a sign of incompetence.

I had no idea there were companies that would take perfectly reasonable questions on a broken process as a sign of incompetence. Thank you for enlightening me. I now know to be careful enough to avoid such organizations in future.

Replying to myself as I can't nest further.

I never said raising issues is bad. Where I work, we highly encourage people to bring up issues as they see them.

However, when you bring something up as an issue, it usually helps to suggest a solution (which this original GitHub post fails to do) and we don't generally try to take unsolicited advice from people who aren't even part of the company yet.

The original GitHub post offers pretty reasonable solutions.

His only actionable solution solely applies to himself.

I'm always struck by how many people in this field I encounter who think it's not collaborative work and that it's "OK" to work at a desk with headphones on all day.

Maybe at a consultancy and only if you're far downstream of dealing with clients.

That's not normal, nor should it be.

Interviews are a 2 way street. Candidates have as much right to evaluate the companies that are trying to hire them as the opposite.

Not the OP but, absolutely I want a personalised interview! I want the company I'm working for to care about the people they hire -- not to efficiently fill empty seats. Yes, normally that means I tend to work for startups. I'm happy with that.

It's fair to say that you want to be able to evaluate potential employees cheaply before you invest a full interview. It's also fair for people to offer ways to do that evaluation rather than running through someone's maze. Neither side needs to accept the other's offer, but there's no need for either side to take it badly.

A "no" is quite a good result if the company would otherwise be wasting the candidate's time.

For a homogenous culture of a large corporation, where each dev is a cog in the system, yes, i would agree that this person will not fit.

If i had a start-up, i would definitely give this person a good old try, because i can tell that he/she is capable enough to churn out rather advanced projects with complexity higher than just CRUD. Programmers of this type is what i'd call 10x, and one should never dismiss a 10x!

I'm afraid I have to disagree. They're called 10x engineers because they're 10x as productive, not because you have to take 10x as long to talk them into not using Haskell for a basic CRUD frontend (remember, it's a startup, someone has to do that part - not everything is gonna be sexy to code).

If they're too cool to waste a single second conforming to a basic FizzBuzz test to assert that their resume isn't a lie, they're probably way too cool to do anything but write the most glamorous code in the most visible part of the product - which is the last thing, a startup - with too much work and not enough people, needs.

> using Haskell > too cool to waste a single second

Why are you so quick to extrapolate an entirely new character based on this person not wanting to use HackerRank?

>If they're too cool to waste a single second conforming to a basic FizzBuzz test

I'd be willing to waste 5 minutes tops, unless the employer has put some skin in the game (fizzbuzz is ok - nothing much more than that tho).

There's a 1,000 other employers out there who might be a better a fit. I am not going to do a 1 hour, 30 minute or even 15 minute task if they can't at least even be bothered to pick up the phone to talk to me or glance at my github profile.

Companies that expect completion of a weekend-filling exercise before granting you an interview are universally run by entitled assholes. You're actually doing yourself a favor by screening them out: they'll be bad to work for, you won't get to work with other 10x engineers and the company will likely achieve nothing impressive anyway.

I would be even more hesitant to hire for a startup! can this person grow with the startup? what happens when we have 10, 20, 30+ engineers - how will they work with the team - will they second guess everything? will everything be an argument?

I'm not doubting this persons ability - I'm only responding my opinion of this person based solely on this email.

What kind of startup hesitates to have arguments?

I have never been in a startup that fears arguments. Every startup I have been a part of has lively debates and arguments almost every other day. It's only the large slow moving corporate giants where I see such lack of debate and arguments on what is obviously wrong.

I would go to the extent of saying that a startup that does not encourage arguments in a harmonious fashion would die very soon anyway. Debates and arguments help in weeding out stupid ideas and focus on what that really matters.

This person's email shows that he can have a qualitative argument in a coherent, polite, and non-confrontational fashion - exactly the kind of people you need in startups!

I might agree if the author hadn't clearly listed their (very reasonable) objections to HackerRank near the start of the email.

I wish I had more teammates who could write as effectively.

A meaningful and informed debate is more useful to the company than writing a million lines of code.

You hire people to solve problems, not churn out code. Code is only a tool to solve a problem.

I expect a 10x to be effective, and to know when to pick a fight or not.

In this case, it definitively shows a bent for the innovative and smarts, but shows lack of judgement / wisdom.

For a 10x, merely completing the test is a lot faster and more effective than trying to go change the process from the outside.

Maybe he cares about the industry as a whole? By putting his reasons up publicly, he has triggered a debate about the issue. This seems like a very high cost-benefit ratio to me!

I'm not sharing the view on the difficult the work with part.

For me, this just means, that he is not accepting a solution to the problem, explaining why he thinks it is not a good solution and offering another one, which would work for him. Also, he is not dismissing the hackerrank test, but asking to evaluate his skills on a different way too.

As far as I see, this is probably the best way to argue with somebody, that their chosen solution to the problem is not the ideal based on your knowledge and experience.

This is my first thought as well. It costs a lot of time and money to interview and hire - I do my best to not waste candidates time, and I hope for the same consideration on the other side of the table. Been at two startups and two enterprises and have worked with dozens of great devs who wouldn't respond this way.

If I came across this in the wild, I'd reevaluate the parts of the interview I control to see if maybe I could make it less robotic and I'd probably still bring them in to make sure I'm not missing a good dev, but I would be fighting my bias at least a little. There is a small handful of people I've worked with before that would appreciate this approach and their toxic attitudes would prevent me from wanting to work with them again.

The interview process can suck, but this is not how I'd recommend standing out from the herd.

Depending on who you are, having a personalized interview may make perfect sense. I'd say hiring a senior developer or a team lead should always take it.

Agreed, but without knowing the context I responded on this emails face value.

I would also worry hiring a team lead/senior dev who appears to be combative from the initial screening

I wouldn't be concerned with their being combative. I'd be concerned that, without any attempt to make sure they knew the full context, they assumed ignorance or stupidity on the part of the hirer.

This kind of approach is fine for a junior. I'd even encourage it because there's an attempt to change the parameters of the problem which is something we often have to teach people as they progress.

For a senior position, not so much. I mean, it might be that they're ignorant or stupid, in which case you've probably dodged a bullet when they don't hire you. Or it might be something else entirely.

A more sensible approach, in my view, would be to ask what they were looking for with the HackerRank test in a subsequent face to face. If they say that they don't have a better way to determine developer competency then, sure, suggest that you may be able to help with that when you join.

If it were me interviewing, I'd be particularly interested in suggestions that a) were developed from successful prior hiring practices and/or b) not so bleeding obvious as "look at their Github page".

I would worry about a company who sends lead and senior devs to HackerRank to do junior level programming tests and managers who weren't willing to engage in a conversation.


Filed under sad-but-true. Worse, your ability to code doesn't make you special, and doesn't qualify you as an interesting human being to anyone outside of tech recruiters, and only then if you are able to produce code on demand in front of a whiteboard.

Thankfully, as a human being, you are not your ability to code. More importantly though, then it also means that people who can't code are worth just as much as you as human beings (more, if they've managed to learn social graces). If you don't hold it to be true, then code or GTFO.

Look for places like the Recurse center in NY that can help you find yourself in the context of being able to code, or more traditional non-traditional approaches like backpacking though India, or taking LSD in the Haight in the 60's (anyone got a time machine?).

If you'd like friends (who will be interested in your personality), go find some. Outside of work. Bonus points if you manage to find some that can't code.

Hint: companies are interested in your personality - if you come across as this caustic in a phone screen or in person interview, I'd be surprised if you get invited back. (Or at least they should be; Google's current HR woes are their own creation.)

I was only responding specifically to a candidate responding with this email if I had asked them to do a hackerrank.

While I can understand your leap to soulless masses - that was not my intention.

My comments are mostly sarcastic and polarized, so don't bother that much. Companies are missing out on a ton of creative talent, but they have to play safe and keep their recruitment costs low. I only understand that from a business point of view. Every other perspective suffers.

If that wasn't sarcasm, you should find a better employer ;-)

p.s. Even at the best companies there is some truth in what you say, but it varies a lot.

yep, it was, and yes it's a mix. :)

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact