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Impostor syndrome strikes men just as hard as women in technical interviews (interviewing.io)
348 points by leeny 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 322 comments





It doesn't help that job ads are wanting "Top 3% only!" or "Only top 1% Ninja Rockstars need apply!". Kind of reminds me of the market for singers or concert pianists, you absolutely need to be the best, even imperceptibly worse makes you unemployable.

Should those of us who aren't top 5%/didn't go to a top school just find another industry, one where sub-perfect work doesn't actively make other people's jobs harder?


Notice that, when they say they only hire the top 1%, there's a vicious sampling bias at work: even in a worst case where they're being literal they're actually hiring the top 1% of their applicants, not the top 1% of engineers. Think about how many jobs you usually apply for before getting one. Now imagine someone that's less successful than you at getting hired and think about how many times they're interviewing. Now think about the population that the interviewer sees. Now add college students that are just practicing and people that are required to interview for every job on the board to maintain unemployment. Now think about how much time interviewing you spend for every day working and how that might change as a function of quality - staying longer at better places, maybe?

I obviously don't have any statistics, but I think I could imagine a situation where the top 95% of software people constitute the top 1% of the interviewing population. Also one where interviewers are terrible at math, but that's no surprise. Anyway, you're fine, just go for it. That fact that you are self-aware enough to worry about it puts you in good standing all by itself.


I've observed that in pursuing the 1% unicorn candidate, many people step in unicorn shit and hire smart people who are bad employees.

My goal is to not hire the bottom 50% of the workforce in a given discipline. IMO, you're better off building teams that make the average+ person more productive.


>I've observed that in pursuing the 1% unicorn candidate, many people step in unicorn shit and hire smart people who are bad employees.

What's fun is that this isn't just a possibility, its likely! Despite the following being a clearly artificial argument, the general shape of it is true.

Let's say that you can rate employees 1-10 on each of technical skill and employability/soft-skills, and that both are equally sought by the market. Given how attractive your company is to work for and what you pay, its quite often true that you can allocate around 12 total points between the two categories. 13 point candidates have better offers from Google; 11 point candidates fail your interview process.

If you only hire people that strongly pass a strong technical interview, ensuring that their technical skill is at least an 8/10, then your employees will have at most 4/10 soft skills.


Microsoft in the 90s figured out how to work around that. Just silo them and have their manager do the external interfacing for them. This was assuming they really were at least an 8/10 which was required to make the whole thing worthwhile.

That of course works much better when everyone has their own office so the angry outbursts are only heard by the 2-3 closest neighbors.


Or everyone works remotely, so no one hears their outbursts

>If you only hire people that strongly pass a strong technical interview, ensuring that their technical skill is at least an 8/10, then your employees will have at most 4/10 soft skills.

Why most companies find it hard to find good sales engineers.


Yes! I love to build teams with average people that create above average results due to their configuration. It's my secret sauce.

Reminds me of that baseball movie where a manager hired low-value players, that very extremely good at only something.

"Moneyball" is the name of both the movie and the book it was based on.

There is a great article on the fact that everybody hires only the top 1% : https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2005/01/27/news-58/

The fact that people still parrot the top 1% idea after it was pretty thoroughly debunked by Joel almost 15 years ago is...interesting.

When you discover that an intuitive result is wrong, the production of a thorough debunking is but a tiny sliver of the total work needed to change the world's minds away from that wrong result.

We are still making many of the mistakes laid out in The Mythical Man-Month so…

> people that are required to interview for every job on the board to maintain unemployment.

I'm pretty sure you're being hyperbolic, but that sounds hellish. I have GAD and dread interviewing so much that I'd forego unemployment and just work as a Task Rabbit or something.

To preempt the inevitable responses: Yes, I do have a family to support and, yes, I have worked as a Task Rabbit or done manual labor when faced with similar situations in the past.


We hire the top 5% of applicants. This says a lot about our applicant pool. It says very little about our team. No one here is from a top program. Many don't even have CS degrees.

No you don't. I know you don't because you have no idea who the top 5% of applicants are. Not after interviews, not after 6 months on the job, not even 10 years in the job. You can't distill something as complex as humans working in teams that form a part of a larger organisation into a single number like that. That's not how the world works. For example Bob was doing great work but then his wife cheated on him and he is doing less great work. Is Bob in the top 5% or not?

You're completely right of course, we hire people who we believe are the top 5% of the applicant pool. The point remains the same: what a company says about their hiring standards has little or no bearing on what their standards actually are in the context of the entire universe of software engineers (or any other field)

I'm still not quite sure what you think the 5% measures?

This discussion came up in even during that Netflix thread.

These companies aren't looking for top 1% people. They are looking for top 1% people who are in form currently.

The day you get unlucky and slip out of form, they don't want you.


Which means they will miss the real top performers. The savants who are capable of flashes of brilliance that can make whole new industries. These people will most definitely fall outside any measure / quantifiable scale that any company uses for comfort.

They apparently want people are having flashes of brilliance at this moment. They don't want them on their payroll once the flash dies. Then they want the next set of savants in form.

Its basically the equivalent reducing the great people to Kleenex. Once used, they want to throw them. Then buy the next Kleenex box.


How do you measure this? I would wager that, at best, you're hiring the top 5% of applicants based on interview performance. It's likely you know little or nothing about what that says vis a vis job performance, because your interview probably doesn't exercise skills used on the job, except in a very tangential way.

I think he just means that they hire 5% of applicants, by definition they are the top 5% because they are the ones they chose to hire. Unless of course they have a significant number of people going through the entire interview process only to decline the offer.

That's pretty close to the point I was making. They call it the top 5% because 5% of people pass their interview. The company doesn't have any idea whether those people (out of the entire pool) are the best candidates to do the job they were hired to do, because the company probably doesn't measure that. And, they sure don't know that their "top 5%" is representative of the top 5% of all engineers. For starters, how do you measure that?

It's less of a thing to put that childish language in a job posting these days. It'll come around again though. The more insidious thing is the requirements themselves. They're usually broad and often don't fit the role well, especially for roles above entry level. And sometimes I even come across entry level postings that seem too demanding.

I recently had to proof-read a job req for a lead dev role on our team. It was insane and the person it was targeted at 1) wouldn't work for the compensation we were offering 2) would likely be running their own business. When I gave my opinion to my manager he said "If we can get someone who can meet a third of those requirements and doesn't come off as an asshole, we'll give them an offer."

My husband is applying for jobs now and he says the same thing about senior positions he's come across. "This seems like it's a director's role, not a senior!" I tell him to apply anyway because they're just chest-puffing and won't find that ideal candidate before they make a desperation hire.

Those types of whacked out reqs are written by the employees who are exiting the role. They're likely exiting the role because they took on a bunch of extra responsibilities and weren't getting substantial raises or promotions. If you can do half the shit they did, you'll probably be fine. Although you'll eventually end up leaving that role for the same reasons the guy before you did.


This is insightful and reassuring. Thanks for sharing.

There's another similar problem that I'm seeing that I don't think has been pointed out before.

Recently, I've been applying for web developer positions and am coming across applications with these sorts of questions:

- What's the coolest thing you've done both in life and at work?

- What are your dreams?

- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I certainly do have answers for these questions, but I can't tell if they're the ones that employers want to hear. And are these things for other random people to know?

There are things I've done that I think are cool, but that doesn't necessarily mean that most people will think they are cool. Honestly, there really isn't anything about my life that is conventionally cool, even by the standards of the nerdiest nerds. Should my life have been more unique and exciting by this point?

The same can basically be said of my dreams, although I do not aspire for big dreams. I haven't made enough money yet to even think about anything more grandiose than simply living comfortably. Do my dreams need to be more exciting? Should I be shooting the moon? I feel like any honest answer I give to the question will sound disappointing to any startup.

Should I see myself anywhere in particular in 10 years? Beyond making more money and taking on more responsibilities in my career, where should I be in 10 years? My field evolves so rapidly that I can't honestly predict that far ahead, let alone 5 years into the future. But maybe I'm not cut out for what I do if I can't see that far ahead?

I could very well be what's wrong in the picture, but it seems to me like we are culturally intolerant of "normal" people who have a skill and want to make a living. Everyone needs to have dreams, grand aspirations, and a little clairvoyance. I tend to have pretty high confidence, but seeing this kind of language when applying for jobs does stir up that feeling of imposterhood in me.


I've made a point for myself to never ask questions like "what are your dreams" or "where do you see yourself in 10 years" in an interview, ever. For a long time, I've used these as a filter, too. Getting this kind of question in an interview is a big red flag for me and a huge disappointment.

Let me elaborate a little.

My dreams are none of an interviewer's bloody business. I'm here to work not share the things that give me hope in my darkest moments or the aspirations that shaped my adulthood. I find this question very creepy and extremely unprofessional.

I could maybe figure out a "lesser dream" to share, but then what's the point of this question? To find out the most intimate thing that I'd be willing to share?

Where I see myself in ten years is a meaningless question to ask after I've had, what, fifteen minutes of exposure to a company's culture? Maybe I'm the kind of person who sees themselves in management over ten years, but you've got such an amazing working culture that you could convince the most ambitious career builder to stick to engineering instead. Or vice-versa. Or do you really want to hire the kind of people who get an idea in their head, and then do it, even if it takes them ten years and it's really, really, really bad idea?

I've heard all sorts of ways to justify these things. That it's a way to see if a candidate can relate to you and evaluate their empathy -- if anything, this will say more about an interviewer's biases than about anything else. To see if a candidate can communicate about abstract matters -- as if there are not countless questions about ethics, aesthetics and epistemology in our profession that you need to start prying into personal things. That it's a way to see if they're "career-oriented", whatever that means, as if someone who writes amazing code but wouldn't hustle for a promotion is a bad hire.

So far, it hasn't turned out to be a bad idea.


I see these types of questions as the sign of an inexperienced interviewer. Given how many inexperienced interviewers one can see interviewing at tech companies, I would call that a chartreuse flag at best due to lack of signal.

I see these types of questions as the sign of an inexperienced interviewer.

Yup - that's all it is. And you're going to have a certain envelope of negatives (usually far worse than this) in any environment.

So while it does make the flag a bit bless verdant... to call it a "red flag" seems to be a bit of a stretch.


Props to both of you for the lovely synonyms for "greenish" :-)

(And as for the substance: agreed, and a capable interviewee should know how to work around those questions and similarly silly ones, like "what's your greatest weakness?". It's a two-way street. And while it's not a positive datapoint, it's hardly a KO-criterion. (viridescent? aquamarine? turquoise? :) )


"Where do you see yourself in 10 years" is a simple way of asking how you expect your career to advance and what they should expect of you in the future - It's totally reasonable for a company to be interested in an employee's personal growth plans and yes, your long-term commitments to yourself

If you don't have any work-safe dreams, you might want to see a psychiatrist. Again, though, you've misinterpreted the question - They're looking for you to express your spark of passion. It doesn't even have to be for the job. People like people who can talk about something passionately.


They're looking for you to express your spark of passion

That's the charitable reading. The adversarial reading is that they're looking for the emotional buttons to push to maximize your output while minimizing their investment in you.


Why this has to be only "them maximizing your output" and not "giving you opportunity to grow in a direction you want and company can make use of"?

There's so much zero sum game thinking here when it comes to job relations ...


Who works somewhere for 10 years these days?

"what are your dreams" or "where do you see yourself in 10 years"

To me these are two entirely different classes of questions. The first is open ended and meaningless, while the second is directly connected to your career and thus highly relevant for both you and the company. I know where I want to be in 10 years career wise and thus I want to know if this job can help me get there. Equally the company probably knows where it wants to be in 10 years and as such wants to know if you can help it get there.


I ask a variation of this question. It is along the lines of "how would you like your career to progress over the next 3-5 years?". I am it because I don't want to hire someone for whom the organisation doesn't have a career path for. Any answer is fine. I'm not looking for a particular answer just an honest one.

> I don't want to hire someone for whom the organisation doesn't have a career path for

and

> I'm not looking for a particular answer just an honest one.

are contradictory one to another.


How so? I'm having an open conversion. The goal is to align expectations. It makes little difference to me on a personal level what their answer is. I'm representing the company and they are representing themselves so they have way more skin in the game. It's my moral perogative to have this open conversation with them. I don't want to hire them if the lack of career opportunity/progression makes them unhappy but if they still want the job even after it becomes evident that they may have difficulty reaching their goals in this organisation I'll still extend the offer. I'll only ask this question to people I've already decided to try hire.

And what happens if you answer as you have just done (slightly edited for politeness if appropriate)??

Imagining coming up with an answer to something cool that has happened in my life makes me feel anxious. I have lived a pretty happy and fulfilling life up until this point but I can't think of one thing that I've done that would be super cool to talk about. I hope I never have to answer that question.

Not only that but having to come up with an answer on the fly in a super high pressure situation like a job interview. I'm sure I'd fumble it somehow, and then eternally wonder if I didn't get the job because I couldn't answer a question about something cool I've done.

I don't use these questions when interviewing, but I do try to find out what really excites/motivates candidates (assuming they've survived the first ten minutes of technical, where I probably already have a no and I'm just trying to finish politely). For me, interviewing the good candidates is largely about deciding whether or not I really want to work with this person - I've already decided they're technically competent and can do the job, but I actively avoid working with assholes if I can, and I strongly prefer to work with people I think are interesting. And part of that is that they're passionate about something - a hobby, their kids, whatever.

Ugh I hate interviewers like that. Just brings in bias like not wanting to work with black people and other stereotypes (older people/ethnics) etc.

That type of culture is unbearable to those that don’t perfectly fit your monoculture.


Wanting to work with interesting people is somehow correlated with not wanting to work with black people? I'm having trouble making sense of this.

"People I find interesting" is usually synonymous with "people who are like me." Even if it's not intentional, we tend to perfer people like ourselves.

My opinion is uninteresting people are just fine for coworkers, you're interviewing for an employee, not a drinking buddy.


On average I'm spending way more time with my colleagues than my drinking buddies, so I would really like someone that I can get along with.

"Get along with" is not the same as "find interesting."

You raise a good point, but at least in my case, I don't think that's what's happening, and here's why. Bias tends to strike and morph into "no" before it ever hits that "getting to know you" phase. There have been plenty of studies about the effect of things like "black" names or gender on the initial screening.

A big part of the hiring process, at least at big companies, is taking a pile of 100 resumes and reducing it to a pile of 10 resumes, because there's no way you're interviewing 100 candidates. So 90% are eliminated before ever meeting, and bias is huge there.

But the bias starts even before that. The pipeline itself is biased. There are more men than women, more whites than non-whites (proportional to society as a whole). This is a problem that needs to be addressed at the society level, not the interview level, but it affects the interview level, because candidates who are "different" lead to unconscious bias.

For older technical people... well, I'm one of them. I'm 53, which means a lot of my social group is the same age. I freely job-hop and don't struggle to find work. I've never felt that my age was a bias against me. What I do see, and I see this a lot, is people my age who worked at the same company for 10-20 years and then lost their job, for whatever reason (usually reorgs or dying companies). Their skill set has become largely about intra-company specialization rather than broad industry skills. I watched my spouse go through this. She lost her job of 13 years in a buyout, and it took her six months to find something else. She had gotten deep in a narrow business field (international e-commerce analyst), and there just weren't many jobs for her, even in our busy town. We didn't want to move to the Bay area or New York, and while she could do generic business analysis or project management, without industry-specific skills, she's not much better than someone barely past entry level. Eventually she found a job that suited her long-built skills, but it took a while. And this story is common as dirt, it's happened to a lot of my friends.

That's how age bias works. It's not discrimination, it's just being unprepared for the job market after too many years in one place. Keep your skills up to date and switch jobs regularly, and age is just a number.

So when you talk about monoculturing and bias at the interview point... nah, that's not the problem point. The problems of bias prevent the interview from happening in the first place.


But how does not having an exiting hobby make them an asshole?

Why did you correlate those? They're in the same comment, but not dependent or related. I know plenty of assholes with fantastic hobbies.

> What's the coolest thing you've done both in life and at work? - What are your dreams? - Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hey, I ask a lot of these questions in consulting. What I’m looking for is to tell if a) you can communicate a point clearly b) if you can talk generally about your career and are growth oriented.

If you said that field evolves rapidly bit above that would be a good answer. If you span it as a joke “surely writing angular 25, the last web framework ever” even better.

I wouldn’t ask the dreams question, but the coolest question is loaded with coolest, I would say “tell me about a previous project you enjoyed working on” and see if you have had a good project you are passionate about.


I often ask interviewees about a project they worked on that was very successful, and why it was successful - what did they like about it? That's a good way to find those passion points. It's also a good way to find weak candidates without independence or leadership skills, because they can't really talk about their role in a big success - they didn't have much of a role, usually.

A flip-side question is to ask about projects they worked on that failed. Failures rarely appear on resumes, and it can be an uncomfortable topic. But if you can get them going, you can learn a ton about how they handle adversity. Do they make excuses, or find scapegoats? Do they take responsibility? Do they give credit where credit is due for colleagues? Do they recognize the big-picture conditions that affected the situation?


projects they worked on that failed

That's a bad one, considering that everyone is supposed to be upbeat and positive in the face of adversity. You can't place blame on management and the environment that was in no way conducive to success because that's not culturally acceptable.

Are we supposed to prepare an answer for that question now as well because the true answer (unrealistic expectations from upper management and insufficient infrastructure) will make you fail the interview? What you could ask is what will make a team fail, and my answer would be autocratic management.


- Are we supposed to prepare an answer for that question now as well?

Nope. I don't want a prepared answer. I want an honest answer. Hence throwing them a rough, non-technical question that absolutely will not be on the resume, but has been part of the career of any experienced candidate.

"Autocratic management" isn't a good answer, because it's too general. What did autocratic management do? Were the requirements incomplete? The schedule unrealistic? Beaten by the competition? Depended on unproven technology? Sometimes, everyone does everything right, and a project fails anyway. There's still a reason it failed.

But when I hear a candidate talk about failure in the form of "I was a hero, but my idiot co-workers and malicious bosses ruined everything", I hear them finding someone to blame, rather than a problem that didn't get solved correctly. And that tells me a lot about what working with them will be like, when we have our inevitable failures.


How would a life scientist coming from Theranos before it became common knowledge that the company was a sham talk about their experience in a culturally acceptable manner? Developing reproducible blood tests from tiniest samples was never going to work, and upper management was actively malicious at that company. We now know where the blame was (with Holmes and Balwani), but if you started there because their projects sounded exciting and then were looking for a new job because the task was impossible and management was crazy you had a problem, and you can't say that in an interview.

"I worked on an awesome project and just kept my head down and worked like a good employee. Then one day I read the WSJ one day, and what do you know, my boss was getting investigated for fraud! Then the company shut down! I had no idea, because the sub project I was on worked perfectly. I heard people complain about managers, but they were on other teams and I didn't see them very much."

> before it became common knowledge that the company was a sham

I'm not worrying about corner cases here. Theranos is an exception. But someone coming from a startup that died? Yeah, they can talk about it, and I'd like them to talk about how they saw it in an honest way.

Theranos was founded in 2003 and when people first started asking hard questions in 2012 or thereabouts they were marginalized. Holmes was the darling poster woman of Silicon Valley until the WSJ started investigating in October 2015. They were very much alive for over a decade.

Startuplandia has a way of attracting hucksters, unscrupulous businessmen and crazies with a firm disregard for what is physically possible. I notice that Ubeam was founded in 2011 and they are still around!

I once worked for an outfit where one founder was named party to an investor suit (he had awarded himself stock options after a clinical trial came out favourable) and the other was frankly incompetent and afflicted with cluster B personality disorders. It ended as well as one would have predicted. Failing startups because of founder personality and founder competence issues are unfortunately common, they are not corner cases at all, and for the person coming out of one the incidence is 100 %, but discussing such matters in an interview will torpedo your chances. No honesty for you, it's counterproductive for the jobseeker!

Seriously, Dave, if you were interviewing a candidate that had been working on the gluebot that Carreyrou mentioned in Bad Blood, how would he have to spin the story to get an offer out of you?


How to describe that? Simple, describe how management was setting up cage matches between competing development teams. I'm not saying "Don't blame management", not at all. I'm saying "bad management" is an insufficient answer. How did they go wrong? Playing dev teams off one another is a different problem than, say, insisting on using tech that isn't up to the task (a situation I've been in before), or an unwillingness to say no to the customer (a situation I've been in before, too).

Hell, I've talked openly in interviews about the problems with a project that I got fired from, and blamed both management and the customer in no uncertain terms. I fault myself mostly for not walking out on it. I still get job offers when talking about how I got fired by incompetent management of an out-of-control project. But part of that is that my story leads somewhere - it leads to my lessons learned, conditions I will no longer tolerate in a workplace, #1 of which is the bottomless budget.

So I care less about how you screwed up, or who or what you blame, and more about what you learned from the failure. Tell me that, and you win my heart.


I should add, to get back to the idea of how a life scientist at Theranos would explain it... well, did you know you were doing something that couldn't be done? How did you feel about it? What did you do about it? Why did you stay/why did you leave? Did you feel your work was unethical?

Conceptually, Theranos was very exciting. I hope someone actually pulls it off someday. I can understand the attraction for a scientist.


how do you know that "reproducible tests from small samples " would never work? Is there an equivalent of Shannons law that you could prove this.

Venous blood is simply venous blood. But capillary blood from fingertip samples contains variable amounts of interstitial fluid, and cell lysis is another issue there.

There are tests where it doesn't matter - consider the blood glucose - the variability of capillary samples vs venous samples is well understood and the introduced error sufficiently small compared to reference range.

But Theranos also tried electrolyte panels, and there you have a problem because the concentrations of ions in blood plasma are very different from the concentrations of ions inside cells. Both are tightly controlled in the healthy body. Slightly less than 50 % of blood is cellular matter, and even small amounts of lysis are sufficient to distort the numbers to render them clinically meaningless. You inevitably have lysis in capillary samples. Carreyrou talks about that in his book.


This is a really good point about expectations in job interviews. I think a lot of this comes down to "how you say it" and the data points you have to back it up.

For example, "we made several governance mistakes on a project that meant we didn't have enough time to finish the project. On the next project, I made sure to be clearer with estimates and buffer time, so that the team etc. etc." and "Our management doesn't listen" can describe the same situation.

Again, definitely agree you are in the danger zone so its important to be thoughtful.


Why and in which culture is this not acceptable

>they can't really talk about their role in a big success - they didn't have much of a role, usually.

I would wager that at least half of candidates are just good humble team players. Your approach optimises for egotistical braggarts at the expense of normal people.


Egotistical bragging is pretty easy to spot. Good team players are easy to spot, too - they're the ones giving credit to leadership and co-workers even for work they take personal pride in. When I see a candidate's eyes light up talking about the manager who led them through a challenge into success, I know they respect others, and that matters.

It's hard for a lot of people to speak well of themselves, which makes the whole interviewing process difficult much of the time. We're trained to a beat-down that gets called humility, but it's not. Asking about successes is a way past that - it's giving them permission to say something good about themselves.

But to be fair, a lot of what I'm after is inflated claims on a resume, which are common as dirt, because people are much more comfortable deceptively bragging on paper than they are in person.


That raises a question: how can “good humble teammates” answer these types of questions in a way that makes them look good without lying?

Assuming they did good, valuable work, then telling the truth is an excellent way to answer in a way that looks good without lying.

But, then, how do you show "leadership" and "ownership" and all those other wonderful things interviewers are supposedly looking for? And it's not just "good, valuable work" they're looking for. Fixing bugs is "good, valuable work," but I get the feeling interviewers don't want to hear about how many bugs you've fixed.

I often have a hard time putting my accomplishments into context (indeed, even seeing them as "accomplishments," because they're simply what I'm supposed to do).

(Incidentally, I hate the word "ownership" in this context. You don't own anything you can't take with you. Try taking work you did for a company with you when you leave.)


Given that most people quit because of bad managers [1], I assume that a lot of projects fail for the same reason.

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/employees-dont-leave-companie...


Obviously I can't speak for every company but those types of questions are typically used as a filter.

- Anyone who skips those questions are rejected outright. If you're not willing to put in a little time you're not interested enough to be considered. You'd be surprised how many people skip these questions.

- If you've done something crazy cool or interesting it's a plus but if not it isn't a negative.

- Can you communicate something that's a bit abstract?

- Relevant jokes are usually seen as a plus.


Nothing can be a plus but not a negative when people are competing. If two people are going for a job and one of them gets an extra point, that's the same as removing a point from the other person.

> ... those types of questions are typically used as a filter.

Yep, same here.

> Anyone who skips those questions are rejected outright.

Any company using these questions is rejected outright. I'm looking for someone who is willing to give me money for code, not a wife.


That's a one sided view of work and how team dynamics work.

Please don't take this the wrong way but "presenting" in this way at an interview is not helping you.


My worldview might be skewed because I am normally looking for short contracts (6 months or less), not long term employment. I get bored with never-ending projects; I prefer projects with a clear finality. Given that, I am highly unlikely to care much about team dynamics - I want to do a (good) job and get paid for it.

I think those questions come from both naïvete and a desire to increase information asymmetry in the hiring process.

Can you elaborate on the "desire to increase information asymmetry" bit? I mean, I get that the employer always wants to be on the upper hand in that way, but I don't see how questions like this do that.

Try and extract that level of detail about the company's internal dynamics, desires, and plans in an interview and see how far you get.

Well, I find I answer those types of questions at such a vague level of detail anyway that I don’t think anybody’s getting any real information out of my answers.

Eh, they're extracting more than a story from you. In the spirit of this post overall, the question is a great informal trigger for Imposter Syndrome: what you describe, and how you describe it.

I used to have the same thoughts until I did interviews myself. I don’t use these questions but I understand how other interviewers use them to get to know people. They won’t find your stuff cool (or maybe they do) or judge your cool stuff. And if they do you are at the wrong place anyways.

Is that the old "person bad at small talk judges your small talk skills" interview strategy?

Bah. I'm brilliant at small talk, which means that when I'm conversing with someone I don't know, either as interviewer or interviewee (or any other situation), I feel it's my conversational duty to make others feel comfortable and entertained, and help them along if they're uncomfortable with small talk. Good conversationalists are great listeners, because they are trying to draw interest and excitement out of other people.

It's different from being a good talker, which can be entertaining, but isn't really two-way.


I wouldn't use these questions but they're usually coming from interviewers who are trying to have a sense of you as a person/get you out of your shell. (Except the "Where do you see yourself in 10 years" question. That's used to figure out if you want to be management. I have never given a fully honest answer to this question my whole career, and the right answer usually can be found in the job ad.)

Talk about something that you can sound excited/relatable talking about. Friends, family, volunteer work, that all works.


Let's focus on the 'cooolest thing' questions as the others are indeed useless in an interview. The whole point of this question is to see if you are excited about something you did and if this excitement resonates with the interviewer/the company. At this point you're trying to see if you and the job match in any way. If your excitement doesn't match expectations, then eventually you might not end up happy with the job. By all means, don't answer what your think they want to hear, but what you really find cool.

Why do people have to be excited? Some people work for a living and only a living. Things they find exciting may get them fired but they're perfectly good employees all the same.

Saw a similar title, back in Seattle 2013 timeframe. Top 1% of ninja dev guru superstar something or other. The days when ninja was titled on EVERYTHING. So cringey. Had to have a masters in CS. I think it was 5 years of experience or something in a big tech firm only. Lots of conflicting programming languages and tech as well. Pay: $35,000 a year.

It's not hard to find relevant examples these days though. Thankfully, ninja is no longer acceptable.

Makes me imagine they literally are not looking for someone. It's got to be a scam of some sort. I heard these types are posts are put up so firms can bank off of some sort of "lack of experience" in their area tax break or something. Rumor, read on internet. I don't know. Never understood it.


Sounds like a way to do H1B fraud.

That was it!

I think that's what I heard back in the day.

It just sucks that kids these days are judging themselves off these bullshit advertisements. Now they're getting mental issues where they don't have a good self-image in their skill sets.

Jesus...it's like the fashion industry for young girls...


How is that different from the past ?

Not sure if I understand your question. Do you mean the mental issues part?

If so, back then we all just thought the HR posting the job was retarded. If I saw something stupid, the person was stupid. It never hurt me.

Nowadays the whole imposter syndrome is becoming a bigger issue. People are becoming more and more inadequate in their own skin. It’s all just getting offended by stuff seen, no matter how small.

I grew up on, “Do they not like you? Fuck them. Move on.”

Just saying that, I feel like a “back in my day” old man. And I’m only 31.

Now kids are taking the most random things to heart. And it’s sad. Really is. And I don’t have a solution for that other than they’re to just ignore the garbage and plow on. Maybe one day I can figure that out. But as it sits, this over artificial world is poisoning from all directions.

You know that movie Interns with the wow actor going to Google. The two older guys had to convince the kids that their lives haven’t even started yet, even though they thought it was going to end if they don’t get into Google? I use to think that movie was silly. But the tech industry is grooming kids to believe this. These ridiculous job interviews. Ridiculous expectations. Tight crunch times and shit hours. All to think they’re making the world a better place. But let’s face it. There’s no difference between big oil and big tech. They’re the same machine spitting out a different product.

Maybe I’m just the last gen that sees it and shows up to meetings drunk.


Just wondering why people think that being challenged is a terrible thing. Its almost like being mediocre is good and having some mental problem is better than good performance.

Begs the question.. "What is society rewarding ? "


Maybe it's a coping mechanism for unrealistic expectations?

I'm not saying 100%, but playing with that idea. If you grow up your whole life on stories of teens making millions and you're a loser if you don't. What else is there for you?

I grew up that making bank like that was rare. Super rare. You work for it. Some way, some how. Through connections or through ideas. But it's not "normal". Thus, don't think it is. It does seem on social media and the filth, that being stupid rich is normal and you're a loser if you're not.

I can understand that if you grow up seeing that, a majority of your developing life... yea... I'd probably have a mental breakdown too. What else is there? You think, well, your life is over. It's too late to "become rich" or important.

In some respects, the hipster movement is a slightly interesting counter culture to that problem. Looking back to the old ways. I think they take it too far and are dumb about it sometimes. But, at this moment while writing this, I can respect it. What we have now is not normal. It's easy to deal with if you remember a day when no one had cell phones. You ran around outside doing dumbshit. No one cried if you called them an asshole, they just hit you in the mouth and the day was done. Hell, if I had a kid in school now, I'd be scared that they might call someone a boy or girl and end up on the news because of it. That's an irrational fear on my own right. But, yea, I seem to have it.

I don't know. I don't feel like this is well thought out. It's just a weird thing that I understand that there is an inherent problem with people growing up nowadays and mental illness is a bad result of it. Exactly what, I don't know.


The ability of youthful indiscretions being forgotten is a thing of the past. I think that contributes to this issue.

Imagine the entire Internet landing on you instead of just your classmates ?


There's a definite line between "being challenged" and "You suck".

As far as I can tell, society is rewarding burning people out. The tech industry is actually MUCH better than most other industries. Check out assistant managers in most any franchise. We had an article on here(?) yesterday(?) about how everything in sales was "hustle" - even when it didn't need to be. Example after example. It's not new, but that doesn't mean it's not getting worse, and it doesn't mean we can't push back.


Yea, I read that article. That and the suffering fetish or whatever it's also called. It's all whack.

It's funny how being an entrepreneur use to mean freedom from being a cog in a machine. Now it's turned into just being all the cogs in a machine. You ditch one slavery for another.

Who's the guy who talks about a 4 hour work week? I mean, it seemed silly at first. But to be honest, I think he was the closest to getting it all correct.

Work as efficient as possible so you don't have to work too much. Enjoy your life outside of work.

Sounds like a goddamn madman lol. Enjoy life. Only work as much as you need to. Crazy person.

There's a great podcast with Jocko, of him being candid about his own life and burn out/suicide attempt due to his Phd. What essentially started the whole 4-hour thingy.

Tim Ferriss, that guy. Here's a link to that podcast. Worth a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsxydhFqXug

But as a caveat, there's nothing wrong with busting ass when you need to. There was a project I got contracted for on doing a surveillance trailer from scratch. I barely slept for 2 weeks getting parts, learning/welding, wiring and configuring a mobile surveillance system for stadiums. Got paid for the prototype and vacationed for a month, because I could. That last part is the important part. Nothing wrong with hustling or running your self into the ground, sometimes. Just not ALL the time.


Being mediocre is GREAT. I love being average. I'm a much better programmer than the plumber, but a much worse programmer than Skeet or Hejlsberg - and I'm very much fine with that. (On the other hand, I would argue that I could hold my own against DHH so who knows.)

There's other ways to challenge oneself that doesn't involve the workplace or their day job.

You know what's funny, I don't think hobbies are an acceptable thing anymore. Seems like "hobbies" are demonized if they're not "productive".

I even have to combat the random feelings that "I should be working" instead of just taking time off for me.


> I don't think hobbies are an acceptable thing anymore.

That's just corporate America spewing their usual trash talk. Most people you'd meet on the street are totally fine with people having non-productive hobbies. Just as long as you're still able to make a 9-5 job, though.

EDIT: What I'm trying to say is that people care that you have a day job. After that, any decent human being wouldn't care what you do with your free time. That's yours and yours alone.


Oh, no no no. I totally agree with you.

My point was it's demonized and there's like a stigma to it. Like masturbating. I just always feel like whenever I talk to random new people about wood working, it's almost like I'm talking about masturbating to them with they way they act about it. Since it's not money producing. It's not like I give a shit. I had a supremely bad burn out years ago and different hobbies have kept me from ever going back to that burn out mental state.

I think hobbies are a highly underrated form of keeping good, solid mental health.


That is completely American and has been for a few generations.

Fair point. Will be interesting to watch the next couple generations.

Depends on how far you go back - it wasn't that long ago in the grand scheme of things that in most places/industries there was no reliable way to get information about job listings - your best bet was to go to a recruiter or go directly to the front desk and ask about vacancies

Or in the UK you read Computer Weekly and Computing (90% Job adds) and probably the Telegraph on a Thursday when the published the engineering jobs.

I got my first tech job out of the local news paper btw


Based on my experience, people who can acknowledge their issues and accurately compensate for them are more valuable than most of the people who think they're the top 1-3%. Obviously you have people who think they are, and it's actually accurate, but I assume they're doing just fine with their half-mill+ salaries at FANG. The rest of the world needs programmers, too, and a little bit of humility and willingness to keep improving goes a long way.

Maybe just keep that and learn to be a little more obnoxious in the self-assessments you give to others?


Like I always tell my kids, "Let other people tell you that you're awesome, just don't say it first" ;)

Those kind of adverts self-select for people with incorrect estimations of their own ability. Don’t be shocked when the environment turns out to be a cess-pit with no psychological safety.

Obviously those numbers are silly because it's impossible to precisely quantify the relative ratings of knowledge workers. But generally that percentage is very much context dependant. Someone who was top 10% at one role in one organization could easily be bottom 10% in a different role at a different organization.

The trick is these companies arent hiring top 1% talent, they're hiring top 1% interviewing talent.

The appropriate response is to ask for a top-1% salary, of course.

Nowdays a senior role at FAANG will often pay a top 1% salary, and salary growth at these companies shows no signs of stopping.

How senior? Obviously not at the seniority I was just offered by Google (and rejected).

Do the 1% apply to jobs with such descriptions? I’m not in the 1% in my domain and I wouldn’t touch a job with those words or phrases in the description.

I would imagine the real top 1% (if there were a good way to quantify that) never “apply” anywhere.

Yeah, I can't image someone like John Carmack having to apply anywhere.

Exactly. The bottom 10% of engineering talent probably fill the bottom 90% of interviewing talent.

> "Top 3% only!" or "Only top 1% Ninja Rockstars need apply!"

Do people apply to these places? I don't. Ever. Not that I feel bad about myself, but I don't ever ever want to work for a manager who approves this type of job ad.


I worked at one. I didn't apply - I was recruited by the owner (he knew me from a past job), so I didn't go through the interview process, he just asked me if I'd come work for him, quoted a number, and I said, "yeah, sure". It was a struggling startup, but it was making (some) money, and had (some) potential. But man, when I started interviewing people - he'd tell me, "we only take the best of the best", it was a struggle for me not to point out that the best of the best - or even the worst of the best - or even the best of the worst - had much, much better options than a struggling, no-name startup with no outside capital that was renting office space from an office hotel (and cramming people five to a room). I would go through rounds and rounds of interviewing people, determining that they were perfectly acceptable and would fit in well in the environment we had and could get the job done and help us move forward, and he'd reject them because they were "average". I was like, "so are you, you self-important idiot!"

> office hotel

Is that what we're calling co-working spaces these days? I can get on board with that.


Is that what we're calling co-working spaces these days?

It's at least what we where calling them in most of Europe long before the term "co-working space" was invented.


Wouldn't an ad like that attract the biggest egos, not necessarily the best coders, nor people you would ever want to be on a team with?

It would attract young coders who you can convince to work long hours for less pay.

The other day I ran across "programming athlete".

You mean someone who does stuff like TopCoder competitively?

Who has taught people today to lack confidence? I found my first software job out of high school by simply lying about my experience. I believed I was capable of doing the job advertised, so I said that I had ten years of experience (the requirement). I was called back, interviewed, and hired.

What is the big deal here? If you believe you can do it, then who cares what the job description says; just apply. If you don't believe you can do it, apply anyway. There is literally no drawback to applying for a job and there is little draw back to lying about it. When I was finally offered the job, I told the HR person that I had lied on my resume, and he said that he admired by chutzpah.

No one is going to fire you for coming clean after being given a promise of employment. And, if they do decide not to offer the job to you, you still haven't lost anything.


Kids at the top schools feel the same symptoms too. It's an eery environment out there

I feel like a fairly average programmer. I have a few coworkers who are a little better, but when the CEO is talking about the engineering team it is always "world class" and an "amazingly talented team of engineers". I think the "genius programmer" stuff is just part of the tech industry.

There's a recruiter on LinkedIn I saw has taken to put the following into every job post "Only looking for the best of the best. No time wasters please." Reminds me of a dating site.

Where do you see those sort of job postings I haven't seen many of those sort of adds - a tiny hand full less that 5 that I remember.

You must really suffer from imposter syndrome if you can't find a company that is worse than you at software development.

Just because they're bad (or worse) at it and you're better doesn't mean they'll hire you. That probabbly is why they're bad (or worse) at it.

Once you have your first job, the top 80% are rarely ever again actively looking unless they have some sort of extenuating circumstances, so the reality is they're only going to hire the to 1% of the bottom 20%

The top 5, 10, 20 out even 50% rarely hit the open market, inbound recruitment process. They get poached or go where former coworkers are


Am I really that much of an aberration in this industry? I definitely consider myself in the top 50%, and I'm probably in the top 20%. In 16 years I am only on my fourth company, have only been "poached" once (and I was trying to get poached), and can count on two hands the number of former coworkers who are not either retired or still at the companies I left them at.

Of course, I spent the first 14 of those years in Dallas and the first 9.5 of those at a poor choice of company. I spent years having applications ignored. I sometimes wonder if thinking like this had something to do with that.


It makes me thrilled to see that we're finally talking about data around gender issues, regardless of what that data actually says. It seems like we're finally getting over the taboo and we're mature enough to look at facts.

If you liked this post, you might also like this one: http://blog.interviewing.io/we-built-voice-modulation-to-mas...

TL;DR We made women sound like men and men sound like women in technical interviews and found that it didn't move the needle.


This is interesting, but I feel like it isn't as thorough as I would like. Men and women speak differently in ways that can't be masked by voice modulation and I suspect that phrasing, choice of vocabulary, intonation etc. also play a role in how people are perceived. My hypothesis would be that men are more familiar with how men speak, so if a woman also spoke like that, they would see an improvement. I'm not saying my prediction would definitely be correct, but I think it is an obvious one to consider and this post didn't attempt to address it.

One day recently, my oldest commented on his observations that when he picks up food at the deli for us, he and other men say things like "Give me half a pound of potatoes." Women typically say things like "Can I have..." They sound like they are asking permission to eat even though they are a paying customer.

My experience is that other people are weirded out when I talk in an empowered fashion like a man. Some people give me push back over that because sexism is alive and well. So it isn't a slam dunk cure for a woman to learn manly phrasing.

But, yes, I think you are correct that men and women typically phrase things differently, so masking the voice is insufficient.


I'm a dude and usually say "Can I please have..." but I'm from a Commonwealth country and I think there's a tendency for British/Commonwealth people to be less brash than Americans.

Yeah. "Give me ..." without even "please" just sounds rude.

Not necessarily...

"What will ya have?" "Yeah give me a half pound of the turkey that's on special."

Perfectly appropriate conversation. It's a transactional conversation. Pleasantry are nice but the absence of them doesn't mean one is being rude.


Subtle cultural differences, but that would still sound rude to me.

Well the question was asked quite bluntly (I'm not going to call it rude, more err, direct, colloquial?)

Can confirm. I'm Dutch, my GF is British. In Dutch, "Can I have x" is considered polite, but as it turns out it's quite rude in English, it needs a "please" somewhere.

Remarking on possible cultural differences between countries is in no way a rebuttal of the actual point. A rebuttal of the actual point would be "In my country, men and woman both speak the same" not "I see myself as more polite than you because of the cultural norms for my country being different from the cultural norms for your country."

I'm also from a Commonwealth country, and I've never detected a significant difference between the way people buy things at shops or order at restaurants.

Here (Australia) it's just rude people that say "Give me ..." and polite people who say "Can I please have ..." etc. - no clear split between male and female.

That's not to say your point is necessarily wrong, just that at least that particular example is highly region-specific.


A different example that hopefully will not result in some tangent about how rude Americans are or some nonsense:

I was a homemaker and mom for years. My sister had a serious career and delayed having a baby. When I was younger, I was sometimes weirded out by her framing. When I repeated things she said to other people, sometimes people actually remarked that she "spoke like a man" or similar.

I think there are differences in how men and women typically express themselves. Some of this may be rooted in different experiences that aren't per se gender specific -- ie men are more likely to be in charge and being in charge shapes language. Then men being in charge means men are more likely to emulate "boss" language. It becomes masculine by association.

But I think that a difference does exist in the aggregate.


My experience has been that people are weirded when someone talks from a non-natural perspective. I've met many women who talk naturally in a confident and assertive way, and it doesn't feel like they're forcing it, or telling themselves "I'm going to try to sound like an empowered man when I say this." It just seems to fit holistically in the situation. I personally get push back when I try to sound more confident than I actually am on an issue, vs when I actually am very confident on an issue. People seem to be good detectors of subtle cues.

So I guess my point is, are you only noticing it when you are testing for it?


That sentence could probably use some sort of proviso. I don't mean all people, all the time and I certainly am not testing for anything. I'm just living my life and periodically run into push back over things I had no idea would get some kind of reaction when I did them.

I had a corporate job for 5.25 years. My department had around 500 people in it. I routinely sat up front in large meetings, in part because I have terrible eyesight. One day, the highest ranked woman in my department said to the guy who was her only equal in rank "Look at Doreen, sitting up front."

I don't sit up front to signal aggressive type A personality stuff or ambition or whatever, but other people interpret it that way.

I went to GIS Summer School, an 8 week program that covered a normally year long certificate. It's a two thirds male field and most classes were two thirds male. The last week of this program, I realized that I was the only woman who routinely sat up front. Most women sat in the last two rows of class.

I'm routinely interpreted as highly aggressive and pushy for doing things that are totally normal and completely unremarkable when men do them. It's fine if a guy does it. It's normal for men to sit up front. No one accuses them of anything for not hiding themselves away in the back row seats. But it gets a fair amount of attention for me to sit up front, and not in a good way.

This was viewed by the highest ranked woman in my department as noteworthy and she said it in front of a bunch of people loud enough for me and everyone else there to hear. She didn't discuss it with her equal privately nor comment on it to me privately. You could interpret that as a rebuke, like "how dare she do that!"

You could also interpret it as a shocked reaction by a woman who is presumably a great deal more empowered than most people regardless of gender, yet could not imagine doing anything as daring as sitting up front, apparently. She also got very defensive when I said my sons had taken over the housework and cooking. Her husband followed her from another state so she could take the job, but she still did most of the women's work at home. Most of my female colleagues were shocked that my sons took over the housework and cooking at home after I went from homemaker to primary breadwinner.


Can I suggest another possible interpretation?

People tend to remember the times they're mentioned in that manner, but forget/overlook the times it happens to other people.

I can't tell you if those situations were sexist or not, but I can tell you that I'm a man, and I've had a large number of experiences that absolutely match your descriptions.

I've been told the tone of my voice was commandeering in a fairly civil meeting, I've had it remarked on about how many questions I ask, I've gotten plenty of pushback when I ask folks to do things they don't want to do.

Those things are basically a normal part of office politics. Again, I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying that your interaction there sounds fairly unremarkable to me, and likely stuck with you because it was about you.

Just like the offhand remark about being commandeering didn't matter to anyone else, but I sure as hell remembered it.


No one else in GIS school actually remarked upon my choice of seating. I was just struck one day by the fact that most other women sat as far in the back as possible most of the time. One or two women floated around a bit, sometimes up front and sometimes in the back.

It struck me that the female VIP said something in part because it was a "Pink Collar Ghetto" department in a company with an excellent track record for diversity and inclusion. When I got the job, the department head of my department was a woman. She retired shortly after I came on board and was replaced by a man. The two second in command positions were held by one man and one woman. When the woman retired, she was replaced by another woman.

So this was the last place I expected anyone to act like there was something noteworthy about me sitting up front. It was a female majority department with lots of women managers and other women in high ranking positions and you would think this would be one place where no one would think anything at all about a woman sitting in the front. Yet, here was this VIP woman remarking on it in front of everyone.

I gave up my car while working there. My apartment was about a 7 minute drive from work. It was about an hour walk. There were about 2000 people in the building I worked in. I rarely walked for more than 10 minutes before someone offered me a ride.

This resulted in a de facto informal survey where I would make conversation with the person who had picked me up and I would talk about having two special needs sons who had never held paid jobs and blah blah blah and they would express pity for me "Oh, you poor thing, you walked to work and worked all day to support the family and now you have to go home and cook dinner." and I would go "Um, no. I will peel and chop vegetables and go in the bath. When I get out the bath, dinner will be served to me. My oldest son does the cooking and dinner has already been started." And they would dramatically change their tune, from pity to envy.

This was a Fortune 200 company for part of the time I worked there and a Fortune 500 company the entire time I worked there. It was the largest civilian (non military) employer in the city at the time I was there. When I made small talk at eateries and people asked me where I worked, just telling them the name of my employer basically got oohs and aahs. Some of my coworkers had spent years trying to qualify for a job at the company at all.

So this is a sampling of arguably some of the best, brightest and most empowered women in the world who are not outright nobility or wealthy celebrities, who just have a job. And the vast majority of them still did most or all of the "women's work" at home. The fact that I didn't was quite unexpected and often met with shock and sometimes a lot of defensiveness.

I mean, not to dismiss your point. I often find it valuable when guys on HN say "Yeah, they do that to me too." That's often been enormously helpful to me. But, given the larger context, I'm pretty confident that this specific incident -- this remark by this high ranking woman -- was an expression of broader cultural expectations and sexism.


As a guy I almost always say “Can I have ...” because there is no guarantee they can fulfill the request. Phrasing it as a question seems more appropriate somehow.

Maybe "may I have" is more appropriate then. However, this veers into the realm of teachers who respond to "can I go to the toilet?" with "I don't know, can you?".

After the 2016 election there was a bunch of articles exploring the different debates, and one theater group tested the idea of replaying one debate but reversing the genders. Every gesture and sentence copied by two actors. In that singular case the audience reported to not been weirded out by the female actor. It would be interesting if a more scientific study were done where recorded situations such as interviews are replayed with actors that gender reverse the scene while keeping wordings and body language intact, as it seems to conflict with the perception about what reaction people have when men and women use phrases and body language that of the opposite gender.

Thorough enough to make the person on the other side of the phone think they were talking to the intended gender. The point of the experiment is to control for gender, not other factors like style of speech. That would need a separate test.

[flagged]


Is your comment satire?


This is the most interesting finding though:

> women leave interviewing.io roughly 7 times as often as men after they do badly in an interview.

That could indicate a more general difference in men and women that could be effectively targeted to keep more women in tech.


Maybe in a couple years we can talk about statistics suggesting inherent gender differences in academic interest without getting screamed at.

it's almost impossible to prove that something is inherent to a gender vs culturally embedded (education, norms, myths etc.)

It is possible though, there has been scientific research in the matter. One interesting one is that gender differences in academic interest actually increase when people are given equal opportunities, pay, freedom of choice, etc.

equal opportunities? freedom of choice? How can you control for these really abstract concepts that involve thousands of variables. What constitutes freedom of choice when you have the internet and articles that say males should do x and women y? How can you say that something is inherited or environmental? Even with biology, most of the disease imply both factors.

I've seen some of the articles about the Nordic countries and was not conviced at all. They were saying that in Nordic countries women have more choice and they have a lower participation in CS studies. And bang, they thought they proved something...


The Nordic countries are the most egalitarian countries on earth with regards to rights, equal pay, and gender norms. The sex differences in many different academic fields and professions persist and are even more pronounced than countries which are more blatantly sexist. This is the best evidence available, and it suggests that not everything is socially learned. This suggests that some basic tenets of social constructivism are false by its own criteria.

Rather than accepting no evidence, why don't you suggest a better way to test this idea and explain why your test would be better?


Rather than accept poor science I suggest not pretending to do science if you can't do it in a rigurous, scientific way.

There is nothing wrong in saying that we don't know if coffee is good or not for your health. Science is not there yet with its tools to test for this. Instead of presenting studies over studies that contradict each other.

The same with inherited differences between genders. Science is not there yet to tell us anything about it.


The most we could say (by just looking at statistics) is that there is a strong corollary.

Correlations without context are useless, though: http://tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations


Correlation != Causation

That statement should be the beginning of a discussion, not the end of it.

Of course it does, it's not a gender problem, who said it was? How many of you have heard your friends and colleagues tell you, "wow I'm so lucky I got through that interview, there's no way I would pass it if I did it again today."

You shouldn't walk away from a good interview feeling like you nailed it. An interviewer should push you to your limits and the more you know, the more they should push. It doesn't mean you failed, it means you reached the limits they could push you in the time you had.

If you're rejected from the role, most likely you didn't reach the bar they needed you to be at, or you failed at the behavioral parts. Or, the interviewers you had weren't properly calibrated, which isn't to say anything about you other than bad luck.


> An interviewer should push you to your limits and the more you know, the more they should push.

Granted, this is HN, but this viewpoint is very tech-engineer focused. Most jobs aren't like this at all. Chicken-parts processor interviews aren't like this, para-legal interviews aren't like this, firefighter interviews aren't like this, teacher interviews aren't like this, etc. For the vast majority of jobs out there, your certifications, references, and resume are more than enough (especially in right-to-work states in the US).

> If you're rejected from the role, most likely you didn't reach the bar they needed you to be at, or you failed at the behavioral parts. Or, the interviewers you had weren't properly calibrated, which isn't to say anything about you other than bad luck.

Hanlon's Razor states that the mostly likely explanation is not conspiracy, but stupidity. Most of the time, your interviewers are just dumb/inexperienced/busy/assholes.


Chicken-parts processor interviews aren't like this, para-legal interviews aren't like this, firefighter interviews aren't like this, teacher interviews aren't like this, etc.

Nor were tech interviews (usually), until about 10 years ago.


Nor are they many other places. I've never had an interviewing experience like this in Norway, for instance. We don't have a Google, Facebook, Apple or Microsoft, but we are reasonably ambitious when it comes to creating software and automating tedious and labor-intensive work.

> Hanlon's Razor states that the mostly likely explanation is not conspiracy, but stupidity. Most of the time, your interviewers are just dumb/inexperienced/busy/assholes.

What are the odds that everyone in your interview is dumb/inexperienced/busy or an asshole versus the odds that it's just you?


> What are the odds that everyone in your interview is dumb/inexperienced/busy or an asshole versus the odds that it's just you?

In a lot of tech interview loops, all it takes is one idiot or one asshole to torpedo your candidacy.


What are the odds that everyone in your interview is dumb/inexperienced/busy/asshole [and not you]?

The commenter wasn't saying that everyone they talked to was in that category. But rather that one person they talked to who basically tanked the whole interview for them. You know, the one who reported back everyone about what an uninspired dolt you are because you didn't answer that "Tell us about your dreams" question with quite the level of gushing enthusiasm they were expecting.

So what are the odds that you'll run into at least one person in that category, in a random tech interview these days?

When we take into account how toxic and culturally dysfunctional the tech industry in general has become in recent years -- I'm speaking specifically of it is huge vanity problem (from which this "we only hire the best" nonsense stems); combined with its insatiable addiction to bullshit and the cargo-culting of bad practices (and its worship of dumb and/or useless interview questions specifically) --

actually, fairly high.


>What are the odds that everyone in your interview is dumb/inexperienced/busy or an asshole versus the odds that it's just you?

Let's assume that your interviewer is selected at random from the population and that traits are independent from each other. Let's further assume that 50% of people are 'dumb', that 30% of people are inexperienced, that 90% of people are 'busy', and that 50% of people are assholes. Honestly, I think these estimates are kind to most people in corporate America, but we're going from a random sample of the population. You can play around with the odds yourself and see what you get.

Now, my probability math isn't the best these days, but I can give this a go:

The odds that your interviewer is all four of the listed traits is ~7%.

Writing out the matrix for all the probabilities is going to take a while and really isn't formatted well for HN, so I'll skip most of them and just focus on the dumb assholes. So the odds that your interviewer is:

- dumb, inexperienced, and an asshole is ~8%

- dumb, 'busy', and an asshole is ~23%

- dumb and an asshole is ~25%

Now, that's just a single interviewer. You typically get a few rounds of them. Let's say that we have three interviewers to go through. What are the odds that at least one of them is a dumb asshole? Well, again, my probability math isn't the best, but I think that you just add the events together. So, the odds that you have at least one dumb asshole to be interviewed by is ~75%. Again, though, probability math is a head-trip to me and I always have to relearn it when I do it.

Now, you asked what the odds were that the person being interviewed is the one at fault. Again, we have to assume that we are being picked at random from the population. I'll use the numbers as above and assume they are randomly distributed in a person likewise.

The odds that both you are all four things (dumb/inexperienced/busy/asshole) is still just ~7%, and likewise for the rest of the permutations. For the sake of brevity, let's assume that the interviewee is dumb asshole and that the person giving the interview is NOT a dumb asshole. The probability that they are not a dumb asshole is ~75%. The odds that you, the interviewee, are a dumb asshole are ~25%. Again, though, probability math is a head-trip, I think the odds are then just multiplied to give the odds of that particular interaction at ~19%, or just shy of 1/5th of the interviews.

Now, again, you have to go through three of these rounds of interviews, each time going through the independent probability math. Again, my probabilty math isn't the best here, but I think the odds that you are a dumb asshole and that the interviewers are NOT dumb assholes is ~56%. Again, assume random distributions of traits and random sampling of people and that my distributions of traits are accurate.

Hope it helps!

EDIT: Crap! You asked a question I did not answer (sorry): what are the odds that ALL the interviewers have NONE of the four listed traits and you have at least one of the traits. Well, the odds that a random person does NOT have ANY of the listed independent traits is ~2%. That ALL three of these hypothetical interviewers would not have ANY of the listed traits is ~0.000054%. Now, that you have NONE of the traits is ~93%, but lest focus on the dumb assholes again. So the odds that you have at least the dumb trait OR the asshole trait are ~50% ( Thank God I chose both those percentages to be the same!). So, given that you have at least one trait, and that the interviewers have NONE of the traits, what are those odds? They are ~0.000027%. Again, though, my math is not always the best, so please re-check.


A for effort.

> Now, again, you have to go through three of these rounds of interviews, each time going through the independent probability math. Again, my probabilty math isn't the best here, but I think the odds that you are a dumb asshole and that the interviewers are NOT dumb assholes is ~56%.

This is what I meant to ask, but I should've worded it differently.


> Well, again, my probability math isn't the best, but I think that you just add the events together. So, the odds that you have at least one dumb asshole to be interviewed by is ~75%

Why would you undertake a several-paragraphs-long probabilistic analysis if you are aware of your inability to do so?


It shouldn't be so hard to grant that one could harbour doubts about one's ability yet one could go ahead and make an attempt to do something. Also, I'd not read it as "inability" from the wording chosen.

Chicken-parts processor interviews aren't like this, para-legal interviews aren't like this, firefighter interviews aren't like this, teacher interviews aren't like this, etc.

Doing this sort of interviews on programmers probably wouldn't work even if current programmer interviews do suck for both parties and they're mostly embarrassing, too.

I'm guessing here and might be wrong but all these professions have a rather fixed set of limited skills they have to know in order to qualify. Teachers have to teach a certain curriculum: on top of that they can be bad teachers or good teachers but basically what they have to achieve each year for each class is known and predicated. Firefighters have their training and as a baseline it's sufficient to be a good team player and just execute. Firefighters will have to improvise at times, and they will have opportunities to make some really good judgement calls based on their experience alone, but that's sort of extra. You're still a good firefighter if you just stick with doing it by the book.

Now, the same for programmers would be something like "Must know Java and we'll hire you". This didn't end very well in the IT bubble twenty years ago. Knowing Java inside out doesn't make you a good programmer, not even a good Java programmer, there's so much more to that. Would you hire an artist based on "Must know how to paint in oil, watercolor, and draw in charcoal"? That's where the real skills begin, not suffice.

If you're a Java programmer it doesn't mean you can just sit down and program anything for any company: there are hundred domain-specific skills and questions, all sorts of CS theory of which you know one or two fractions based on what you've worked on before, and a very specific mindset that makes a good programmer for a specific role. To some extent you can be a generalist and learn a bit of this and that but especially for heavy specialists it could take years to transition from one specific subdomain to another.

All programmers are cathedral builders but they will all make very different cathedrals and they are continuously requested to make cathedrals that have not been built before. Then there are other jobs where they follow the blueprints and produce a cathedral one after another, meeting the same requirements each time.

I'm not saying programmers are superb to these other professions when it comes to complexity and depth. It's just that a programmer's job can be about anything: the number of problem domains is endless and more so as the world becomes more software than hardware. You can do so much with computers and programming that whatever baseline there exists alone doesn't yet take you anywhere as a programmer.

There's the fizzbuzz level of a baseline, there's the skillset, buzzwords and qualifications baseline, and there are a lot of other baselines that need to be met. That's why you need to figure out a way to interview programmers that takes all this into account.

There's no single interview that could be used to qualify people for being hired as a programmer because the requirements are never fixed.


Many of these people interviewing wouldn't pass their own interviews if the roles were reversed. The bar should be high, but not so high that you leave feeling demoralized.

As an interviewer, I've been in this situation. I hate interviewing other people and felt really guilty about it, but I didn't have control over what I asked. I've also been in situations where I wouldn't be able to answer the questions I'm asking if I hadn't just learned or reviewed them for the sake of interviewing itself. It's so stupid.

I wonder if I would. I joined my current employer "through the back door" so to speak, that is, without the interview or the 5+ years of experience they asked (as an apprentice) and have been taking technical interviews ever since. But am I actually competent enough?

I mean I've been working there for nearly 8 years now and haven't gotten fired yet so it should be alright. But still. [/impostor syndrome]


And given the possibility some interviewers experiencing their own imposter syndrome, around being qualified to assess qualifications, perhaps that could explain some of the questions too.

But the interviewee is just a cog in the machine. Maybe it's unreasonable to require these people too are top notch at their game.

>An interviewer should push you to your limits and the more you know, the more they should push.

Disagree. An interviewer should be trying to find out if you are technically and socially capable of performing the job.


So the interviewer should settle for just good enough and not try to get more for his money ?

Still is capitalism here...


"Getting more for you money" means hiring someone overqualified. That's always been considered a bad idea because of the generally accepted (and quite reasonable) belief that people who are overqualified will go somewhere where they're merely qualified, but paid a lot more.

So, yes, most interviewers are looking for the best fit.


As someone who interviews people I can speak for myself. No I dont look for best fit.

I look for someone who will be able to grow inside the company and fill gaps. Like to see them do smart things they are hired to do without being told what to do.


Your response is precisely why I said "best fit" and not "minimally qualified." Your definition is the best fit for your company.

However, if you're seriously arguing that you'd hire an MBA for the front lines of a minimal proficiency call center "so they can grow into the company," then you're exaggerating.


I wonder if I'm the only person who thinks an interviewer should assess whether the person can do the job, and that an interviewer pushing someone to their limits seems like an inappropriate activity for the employer-employee assessment process.

I feel like there are two different conceptions about what it means to "do a job" that are co-existing within the economy, and a lot work-related offense and disgruntlement occurs because of mismatched expectations.

In one conception, "a job" means that your boss sets out a list of tasks for you to do, and you do them, consistently and reliably. As long as you do what you are told, you will be paid the salary agreed upon. If you do it long enough, you will be promoted. Under this conception, there is no reason for a job interview to do anything other than ascertain whether you are qualified to do the tasks listed in the job description.

In the other conception, "a job" means that you're responsible for looking around the organization, identifying ways to either generate more revenue, make customers happier, or eliminate inefficiencies, and then go do them. Your boss's job is to remove roadblocks and introduce you to coworkers that can help you. The specific tasks you will be working on are unknown at the time of hire, and it is part of your job description to discover them. If you generate value for the organization, you will be promoted. Under this conception, it makes sense for a job interview to push you as far as possible, because if it turns out you're more qualified than the position, the position can be extended so you have more impact and get correspondingly higher compensation.

When people with the first conception apply to jobs with the second conception, they wonder why their employer demands so much of them, why there are no clear guidelines, and why they don't advance while people hired after them shoot right by them and end up becoming managers. When people with the second conception apply to jobs with the first conception, they get bored, step on other peoples' toes, make political enemies, and end up getting kicked out.

Adding to the complication, your boss is many companies is far more likely to hold the second conception of what a job is, because that's how he got promoted. Good managers can adjust their managerial style to make both types of employees productive, but bad managers assume everyone is just like them and complain about how employees are so lazy these days, while those employees complain about how their manager doesn't know what he wants.

Also complicating things, the first type of job is dying out. In many cases, they're being replaced by automation, and the jobs themselves disappear in favor of machines. In other cases, their boss is being replaced by an app, and those jobs become contract positions for Uber or Postmates or DoorDash or Amazon.


Great response. To add more details... the second type of managers respond very poorly to when their workers have no idea what is going on and can’t reach targets/goals. In this case they need more leadership.

The first types of jobs Should have good leadership where the complex parts have already been decided and all that’s left is the implementation.

The issue is what happens when a worker for a type 2 manager is smarter and knows exactly what to do? That employees best course of action in their perspective is to get their boss fired and take their role since they are more capable.

When the type 2 manager gets frustrated due to incompetence that becomes scary since they lash out at their underlings for incompetence.

Type 1 jobs are more relaxing on the psyche as you don’t have to think about


This may have been the best comment I have read on HN. Sounds like the foundation of a blog post.

Thanks, this is awesome, you put into words what I’ve been thinking about many times before but not so clearly!

Better yet, the interviewer should have experience in said job, as to better evaluate a potential candidate.

I'm pretty sure, most of us have come across folks who pretend to know something, you ask them easy, little, but esoteric questions, that prove whether or not they even have knowledge in something.

At least for big firms, this isn't out of the realm of possibility. Small companies... I get it. They have to then base it off experience, references and gut feelings.


> "wow I'm so lucky I got through that interview, there's no way I would pass it if I did it again today."

That's because most people wouldn't pass their interviews if you gave it to them again.

Unfortunately a lot of interviews these days are passed by grinding on LeetCode (that's not to say your experience doesn't get displayed in other forms) and then forgetting about these patterns & problems after.


What makes you imply that those who grind on Leetcode then forget?

I can confidently say that none of my technical interview practice has ever transferred to a useful skill in the job role, but I can confidently say it has helped me land jobs. Not using it definitely makes me forget it.

You don't forget, but you do fall out of practice doing what are essentially competitive programming exercises.

When you're in a situation in front of a whiteboard with 15-45 minutes to craft some algorithm it makes a ton of difference whether or you've been practicing.


Because these skills are use-it-or-lose-it. They will be LRU'd out by the skills you will actually use every day. I guarantee at your next job you will not have to roll your own red-black tree from scratch...

> Of course it does, it's not a gender problem, who said it was?

Many people have said this.


I've always been interviewed by multiple people - I think 12 was the high, and 4 was the low. When I do end up getting the job, I always wonder... which of them said yes and which said no?

12 people! What were they interviewing you for, a role as the code messiah?

This was spread out over three days: one phone screen and two separate days of in-person interviews. It wasn't even for a really amazing job (we're not talking FAANG here). You know - because we're in such high demand?

Truly the code messiah. He rose after three days of interviews.

That does seem unusual. Who does 2 days of onsite interviews for an engineering job?

After all that, they didn't offer me a job - I figured bringing me back for a second round of interviewing must be a formality but nope, they never called back.

The also do bar raiser rounds on top of those 12 rounds.

That's not that unusual. 15 minute recruiter screen -> 1 hour tech screen -> 5 hour onsite (5 parts w/ 2 devs each) can do it.

I've probably exceeded 20 before if you count lunch and meeting VPs/directors toward the end.


I still don't get it tbh. Our interview process is 3-4 1 hour talks at most - introduction / initial interview (phone or face to face) with 1-2 people (manager / HR), technical interview / code review (2 people), then a final chat with the CEO and finally a contract offer / negotiation. People can have a signed contract within a day. And we are actually very demanding of our people.

>> And we are actually very demanding of our people.

That explains it. If the job is hard, people just faffling around don't even bother to apply.

You need 12 adversarial grilling rounds of interviews so that you can hire what you claim to be the best and put them to build JSONs.


That sounds close to a dozen people involved in the process if teams double up on the 1 hour sessions.

What your describing (pushing them the more they know) is adaptive testing. Adaptive testing is great because it allows you test a wider range of skill to a higher accuracy. It's horrible for interviewing because it's very open to bias and you get inconsistent results. Unless you're doing a computerized multiple-choice test given to thousands of people, you probably shouldn't use adaptive testing.

As someone with no credentials or official training, and someone who also works at a big megacorporation as an engineer, imposter syndrome hits me fairly hard, especially during interviews. It's really hard to compete with the people who actually have proof that they know what they're doing, and I'm usually interviewing for a job that has a strict requirement of a "bachelors in CS, Math or Physics, Masters preferred".

I've managed to pull it off somehow, but I rarely go a day where I don't wonder if I really should have as good of a job as I do.


"It's really hard to compete with the people who actually have proof that they know what they're doing"

And yet... as an independent consultant, I'm often brought in to projects worked on by these folks who "have proof that they know what they're doing". If they knew what they were doing, almost by definition, they wouldn't be calling in an outside consultant to fix broken shit.

There are often many reasons - cutting corners due to time or budget, or inheriting something that was bad and not having support to fix it, or not knowing how to fix it. But often if I'm able to talk to these folks... they didn't know what they were doing (and often didn't know they didn't know), so the result was a mess.

The "1% dude" with his CS degree probably has never had to acknowledge to a boss that they made a mistake, or are in over their head, or... haven't had to deal with their own code 5 years later and clean up their own mistakes, let alone others'.


What I also find funny is that hardly anyone interviews or vets consultants and contractors the same way they do employees.

I've been brought in as an "expert" on all sorts of things, with hardly any interviewing. Just show up and be given the keys to the kingdom.

Granted I've almost always been able to deliver, but they mostly took my word for it up front.


I’m guessing that by the time someone needs an “expert” at something and is willing to pay consultant rates, they’re probably incapable of such vetting.

Employers look for these degrees because in their experience this is a somewhat meaningful signal that let them filter applicants.

But having someone at work for real for a few weeks give employers a way meaningful signal than any degrees on a resume. If your employer maintains their relationship with you, you are likely worth more than the degrees you mentioned--dont overthink it!


At some level I logically know this, and obviously if the employer didn't feel I was worth it they wouldn't hire me.

Still, after dropping out, it was hard to avoid constant feelings of inferiority. Even though people obviously didn't mean it this way, I was interpreting every statement as having an implicit suffix of "and you're stupid because you dropped out". It took me years to realize that people really aren't that much of jerks, and a surprising few actually give a crap about you dropping out.

I do think that, for engineering, a year of experience is worth just as much as a year in school if you are willing to spend evenings self-teaching.

My interests tend to be a bit more academic (which don't appear to be willing to overlook a lack of a bachelors), and since there's not a single Math professor in the NYC area that will take me on as a PhD student without a degree (I think I might have emailed literally all of them), I've actually started back in school, so hopefully that'll kill the complex.


What kind of mathematics are you interested in? I do math in academia in the NYC area, feel free to email (profile).

I don't see your email in your profile. Feel free to email me at thomas@gebert.app

I forgot to mention it, I'm interested mostly in theoretical math, and more specifically Type Theory.


I've done 3 interviews in the last couple weeks where candidates couldn't do a simple Python dictionary lookup. These were people with a Masters in CS and have Python as their primary language.

I wouldn't worry about being an Impostor.


Am I missing something, or do you mean they didn't know `myDict['key'] `?

Yes. One candidate remembered to do it that way after some searching, the other never did.

Both started out by looping over the items in the dict and stopping at the correct one. Asking if there was a simpler way to get values out of dict didn't help.

The third candidate really didn't get far enough to get the dict wrong so I counted them as well but they may have known how to do a dict lookup.

Here is the exercise:

Given these dicts:

{"a":[1,2],"b":[3,4],"z":[5]} {"a":[66],"b":[77]}

Write a program in language of your choice that sums the common keys.

a and b are common so result is:

{"a":1+2+66,"b":3+4+77}

so output should be:

{"a":69,"b":84}

This exercise is stupid simple. Note this is in an IDE/Editor, not a whiteboard.


I remember how I didn't believe that Fizzbuzz eliminates some crazy-high percentage of candidates until I started interviewing. I think most of the people I have interviewed are relatively smart people, but a lot of them really haven't had a lot of need to practice their algorithms, so they don't.

I've had people fail the "tell me if these two strings are anagrams" thing, with one person's response being to have 26 counters, one for each letter.


I have done dozens of interviews in my career and have yet to meet anyone who was this bad. What am I doing wrong?

Probably working for a company with sane resume filtering. We outsourced that.

Some of it is that, but I can say from my own experience that the company itself can draw large numbers of this kind of candidates. For various reasons ($) I’ve worked at a company that people view as a sort of safety school; you get a much higher fraction of incompetents at companies like this.

You don’t see them at startups or at companies with solid technical reputations.


Oh, yeah, I could see that. Most of my experience was with a company where my team and a dedicated technical recruiter did all the filtering, and where the engineers could override the recruiter decisions (in either direction).

My favorite is when people put "concurrency" as a feature on their resumes. When I ask them their opinions on actors vs. CSP, without fail, they don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Apparently "concurrency" to a lot of trained people just means "spinning up threads and use a lock occasionally".

I feel your pain. I didn’t finish college and I hold a high level director position at a firm with over 200 employees and 6 offices on the east coast. I’m not an amazing interviewer, but I am extremely creative and resourceful, which has gotten me farther than I would have imagined. The imposter syndrome is strong, but slowly getting better as I see my work changing the company for the better. I’ve made a lot of believers, but more importantly I’m becoming a believer in myself.

The practice interview point strikes me as odd. In large, because I have never done one. Do folks really typically do that many practice interviews?

I don't even know how to study. I sometimes consider it, but have never spent more than an hour prepping for an interview. :(

It worries me, because I know that interviewing is a skill. But are we not setting folks up to over index on that skill such that they have difficulty with actual job performance?

If anyone knows any literature into that general topic, I'd be very interested in perusing it.


Ideally, no professional should have to practice a skill that has such a low correlation with one's actual job duties as a software engineering interview. It's mostly cargo culting, IMO.

I fully agree with this. As an interviewer, though, I have no doubt that someone that has practiced interviews would do a better job with me than someone that hasn't.

So, as is normal in life, I expect it is complicated.


As far as practice interviews:

Companies always take the full time they scheduled for your interview no matter when they've decided you failed. Then a week later they may drop you an email informing you that they've chosen to pass on your candidacy. They then ignore or deny any request for feedback (something about liability).

So, interviewing with most companies may never inform you about why you're getting rejected. Last time I searched for a new position, I did about a dozen interviews, failed each one, still no idea why. That is why I'll consider a practice interview before my next job search.


No. That's not true. Many companies will early exit and we'll give feedback that indicates what broad areas weren't a good fit. We won't say "You should have used a probabilistic data structure here instead of a standard set" but we'll say "We expected a different experience from our whiteboard coding sessions." And then maybe something about the interview process being imperfect but the best that we have available to determine competency. So you'll know that it was whiteboard coding you didn't do well at rather than architecture design or culture fit or anything else.

That's cleared by recruiting, HR, and legal from the SF startup I work at. I did it today.


> "We expected a different experience from our whiteboard coding sessions."

Damn, that made my skin crawl. If I heard that, I'd be thanking my lucky stars that I didn't get hired by such a company.


Oh ouch. That was not the intention but I can be socially awkward at times. Perhaps you can help me understand what I said that was wrong?

Happy to adjust the way I communicate so long as I can express that it was writing out code that didn't work as opposed to architecture and/or technical communication.


For me, it has two problems. The tone has this anodyne corporate PR flavor: whiteboarding isn’t really collaborative (“our”), nor is it an “experience” in the way that, say, hang-gliding is.

It’s also not particularly actionable. Obviously, it implies that you need to brush up on either a) algorithms, b) coding, or c) investigating a problem. However, you could just come out and say that. Some specific feedback on the problems that the applicant “failed” would be incredibly nice but is probably too much work. However, some general suggestions for how to improve would also make this feel more constructive, along with some instructions (if any) on how to reapply. Possibly something like “We felt that your knowledge of data structures was a weakness. Many of our engineers swear by Skiena’s Algorithm Design Manual, or.... If you are still interested in ABC Corp, we would be happy to consider a new application in six months.”


I see. I used to do that but someone told me that telling them about books that were common knowledge just sounded condescending. What I’m trying to express here is also that we just failed to acquire positive signal. We recognize that our process is imperfect (and I say this) so I don’t want to tell them there’s a weakness or anything just a mismatch of expectations.

But point taken and I’ll bias back in that direction. Without any irony, thanks for the feedback ;)


Such feedback, while welcome, in my mind, is so vague as to be unactionable. Unactionable feedback is essentials useless to me as a candidate. If Triplebyte can give good, specific feedback without being afraid of being sued, why can’t employers? As long as the feedback is truthful and only about the technical[0] aspects, there should be no reason others can’t too.

—-

[0]: Granted, there’s always the nebulous “not a culture fit” to deal with, but that’s always going to be a thing.


Because a non-trivial number of people are incapable of accepting feedback (even if only to discard later) and react in anger. That's unpleasant for everyone.

Best to avoid it. That's a safe neutral ground.


Right. It's a tragedy of the commons type situation. Ultimately, everyone would be better off if companies would tell candidates why they were rejected, but nobody does, because it avoids a slightly unpleasant situation for no immediate benefit. Short-termism at its finest.

Early on in my career I actually did give someone some advice post an interview and what to read up on etc. He sent me an email thanking me. Then six months later he thanked me saying he got a job at what is now a famous startup after studying up on the topics I recommended (algos and data structures in general and the basics in particular - he wasn't a CS major).

I was proud of that one but man would it have been sensible of me to have asked him to re-apply at that time. I love working with people with that attitude.

Unfortunately, I had my first unpleasant interaction shortly after that and then have never given pointed feedback ever after. Is that really short-termism? I don't see the short-term/long-term implications. I only see that there's a lack of information and no way to prove that one is trustworthy enough to warrant the interaction.


Yes, it absolutely is short-termism. Denying candidates feedback they can use to improve means its harder for them to improve. Granted, not all will use such information to actually get better, but none will if you don’t give them the information to begin with. I think we can agree that having better candidates is, well, better in the long term, right?

Also, people who will react angrily aren’t going to have a favorable impression of the company anyway. Nor are people who are rejected without a real reason likely to. But, if you give someone a reason and they use it to actually get a job, that can stick with them. You can’t even buy that kind of goodwill. I guarantee you could contact that person you helped about a job opportunity in the future, and they would at least seriously consider it, unlike the tens of recruiter spams they probably get monthly.

As for proving one is trustworthy enough to warrant the interaction,” that’s your fundamental problem right there. Employers have all the power in the employment relationship, so they owe a duty to the weaker side, provided there is no material risk.

It takes probably 10 or 20 minutes to give someone who’s given you at least an entire day of their irreplaceable time a detailed feedback note. The candidate has invested far more time than any individual at the company. A couple of temporarily bruised egos and some hurt feelings is not a material risk. To anyone who reacts angrily, cut them off, block them from contacting you, and move on; you don’t want those people as candidates in the future, anyway. In other words, suck it up, buttercup.


> They then ignore or deny any request for feedback (something about liability).

One of the many unintended consequences of anti-discrimination law


I went through a phase where I interviewed for fun. When there's nothing on the line and you're treating it like a TV gameshow, the innate absurdity of the whole process is laugh-out-loud funny and a generally good time to be had.

I also like interviewing and don't feel like I have much on the line either (tech is my full-time side gig). Did you get any surprises?

How did u do? Sometimes having this attitude helps!

The most interesting takeaway?

I got offers I didn't expect at all and many of the ones I fully expected never materialized. It was random!

The moral of the story? Don't take it personally. It has little to do with you! Once you have enough skill to "roll the dice", you just have to roll until your number comes up.


I've been successfully employed the valley for over a decade (and other tech work before that). I've never done a practice interview, I don't worry about my GitHub. I agree with the cargo culting comment.

Work on your network. Apply for jobs that interest you. Interview. Get job.


Can't agree with you more! Not sure why you're getting downvoted.

Interviews are subjective, and what I've seen recently is the expectation is that you solve Leetcode questions within 10-15 mins with the optimum solution (yes, this was told to me my several recruiters). Sure, so basically you're asking me to memorize as many Leetcode optimum solutions as I can.

No thanks, if you want to hire Leetcode monkeys go ahead and see how that works out. On top of this, when you add concious and unconcious bias what are your chances of being hired?


I'd love to see numbers to show how many this is a good guideline for.

That is, I think this somewhat describes me too. However, I don't know as that I can give the advice of "ignore practicing interviews."


I didn't say NOT to do it, I just think people focus too much on it. And not even the practice interview itself. I think this mindset that everyone has to have an amazing GitHub and be a rockstar 10x engineer and do tons of practice interviews in itself keeps people from applying for newer and better positions, and improving themselves on the job.

That is to say, it's a kind of meta imposter's syndrome. "I'm not even doing the right things to make myself good enough to put myself in a position to get a better job!" Which keeps people from even trying.


So, to those points, I'm pretty sure I agree with you. Curious if this is some sort of survivor bias, though. In particular, how normal are we? If we are the outliers through luck or some other factor, I'd kind of like to know.

> Work on your network.

That's not easy. I work remote, and live in a place where there just isn't a network available. That would leave online and I usually just hang out on HN.


Same here. I've found nearly all of my jobs through my network, but now that I work remotely from a place where it's hard to have a network... I really don't know how I'm going to address the issue in future.

Thoughts welcome!


What about mingling in technical mailing list, such as Python development mailing list, or Solidity gitter chat room, or other tech Slack group?

Interviewing is a skill like any other. Everyone starts off a different points and everyone gets better with practice.

You maybe have good enough interviewing skills naturally and you get all the jobs you've aimed for. Perfect, great!

Most other people are just no good at it. For example: "Do you want this job?" "Maybe, i don't know..."

Practice may not make you perfect, but it's does go a long way.


Instead of literature go read some of the top posts at /r/cscareerquestions . Students are expected to put in tons of hours "grinding" study sessions for interviews. Recently there was a post about a new grad who felt he wasn't doing very well at his job because he spent to much time practicing for interviews

> /r/cscareerquestions

People should really stop using that place as a credible source of information. The very nature of Reddit skews the posts that show up in favor of either over-the-top success or major depression. You never hear about the middle ground (the guy/gal that gets a so-so job in CS but still has time to spend with his/her kids on the weekends).

As for the student thing, this is industry's fault. It's an evolution of "no one got fired for buying IBM". In this case, they're buying the interview techniques of the big players (Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc) since they are perceived as bringing in top performers. So someone at or near entry level is going to have to deal with bullshit HackerRank tests until the industry changes its hiring practices.


> Students are expected to put in tons of hours "grinding" study sessions for interviews.

You should never study for interviews. If the company isn't asking questions relevant to the work or you can't answer those types of questions then it's best to not work there.

General interview skills are different than studying CS problems.


> If the company isn't asking questions relevant to the work or you can't answer those types of questions then it's best to not work there.

Tell that to every company in the Seattle area. They all seem to think that Hackerrank-ing everyone is a good way to hire because the bigger companies do it. It's an evolution of "nobody got fired for buying IBM" but instead they're buying the interview methods that Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are using.


In a perfect world, where my bills got paid and there was food on my table regardless of whether I passed someone’s arbitrary screening questions, I would never study for an interview. It’s stupid and encourages companies to design bad interviews. But that’s not the world we live in.

Are you making a distinction between studying interviewing skills and preparing for specific interviews? I think studying the company you want to work for is a key part of making a good impression.

I was hoping for something a little rigorous on the data provenance. :(

  Do folks really typically do that
  many practice interviews?
I didn't do any practice interviews intentionally but I did get rejected from the first two places I interviewed out of college, so the effect was the same.

If for some reason a person absolutely couldn't risk being rejected by a few places, practising some other way might be a sensible move :)


The point of a "practice interview" is that you can actually get feedback, as opposed to going and doing a "real" interview for practice.

As for not being able to risk rejection, what is there to risk besides time? I've heard of people practicing for 3+ months. In that same time period, one could probably get 10 onsite interviews and a lot more phone screens in. The fundamental problem is the lack of feedback on rejection (although it's possible to get randomly hired while doing this type of "practice").


  As for not being able to risk rejection,
  what is there to risk besides time?
Hypothetically, if you interview at employers in preference order, bungling the first two interviews would mean missing out on your first two preferences.

And if you avoided that by applying to your twentieth-preference company first for practice, some people would feel bad or insincere.


Given how companies treat candidates and employees as disposable these days, nobody should feel bad about giving a little of that treatment back.

> The practice interview point strikes me as odd. In large, because I have never done one. Do folks really typically do that many practice interviews?

I only did practice interviews for my college internships and my first job because my resume was so light and my experience in the industry was nonexistent. When you have so little to talk about, it's smart to come prepared with a handful of questions.

Once you have 5 years or so of experience, other than light prep, practice interviews are not necessary. You know what to expect in interviews and you have tons of work experience to talk about and industry experience to ask pertinent questions to the interviewer.

But that's just my own personal experience. Also, after my 1st job, I've never had to take "technical or IQ tests" either. The interview process was more center around my projects and work experience rather than technical know-how.


Just out of curiosity, what kind of places have you been interviewing? I'm at about 5 years, and I'm still getting mostly the same old "write down the solution to these leetcode problems" type interviews. I would say 75% is leetcode bullshit, maybe 25% more applied type interviews.

Literally anywhere that doesn’t think of itself as a “tech compan.” or the job as a “tech” job.

I’m on the line between neuroscience and machine learning. Interviews for “neuro jobs”, even ones where my major responsibility would be coding, usually involve talking about things I’ve done and how I would tackle new problems. Put a similar position in an org that thinks of itself as “tech” and suddenly I’m traversing graphs and drawing trees.

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