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Ask HN: College vs. Industry candidates – do you interview them differently?
9 points by 13of40 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 4 comments
I'm going to do some college campus interviews soon, and it's been about ten years, so I was wondering what distinctions people make in their interview techniques when talking to potential college hires vs. people with industry experience. (Extra credit: What's your favorite college hire interview question, either given or received?)



With college students I assume they are going to be nervous so plan on working around it. i.e. giving them more time, telling them to calm down and relax. reassuring them they are ok, etc

College students experience is often limited by what was given them by their professors. As such I do not expect a good answer for 'How do you refine requirements'.

From college students I look for raw skill that I can shape, not skills already shaped.

For an experienced developer I am worried they are set in their ways. 'Well I have always programmed in Cobol ... and you know there is a Cobol.Net' Sorry I do not care, I need you to use what we are using. College students do not have that problem, they expect to learn new stuff.

For both I always ask general IT type topics that I think they should already know. If I can I look at the college students courses they took and their grades. Choose one I am familiar with and ask an advanced question: Oh I see you have taken Programming Languages. Was that the study of different programming languages or did you build a compiler? Follow up if different languages - what languages did you cover? Which was your favorite and why? So what is the difference between functional programming and .... Or follow up with Build a Compiler (usually a simple one) - so explain the major components, how did you address the issue of grammer was it BNF or CDL etc, please explain that.


I've conducted many interviews hiring for a growing tech company pulling from a large pool of new hires (4 major universities) as well as a metro with software pedigree.

With younger developers (or fresh grads) its about their propensity to learn rather than anything they've learned to do before, chances of a fresh grad having previously worked on something that would move the needle in 3 months are slim.

Reviewing their profile: prior internships and/or limited work experience offer are openers for how they might operate in a workplace, how they crack open problems and how well they handle the 'I don't know how to do this scenarios' (of which there will be many).

I refuse to whiteboard, so for the technical aspect, probe the keywords mentioned in order to ascertain what they were really accountable for and what is simply fluff, paying close attention to how they articulate their work and its impact at the company.

The rewards of a well-mentored junior developer are tremendous, though very time consuming at the onset, so make sure whomever you pick is a good fit that you'll be happy to work with.


> I refuse to whiteboard

Why is that? How you communicate is really very important. If the discussion warrants it, I offer the whiteboard to people if it helps them explain something or if I'm having trouble following. Is there a downside to this, or do you mean it as short-hand for some other interview practice?


I think they are probably referring to "whiteboarding" in the sense of asking somebody to implement a heap sort algorithm on a whiteboard using psuedocode or something along those lines.




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