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Ask HN: What should an ideal developer interview process look like?
261 points by rvivek 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 278 comments
We have always complained about the developer interview process being broken. According to you, what does an ideal process look like?





My most enjoyable interview was for an internship in college. I had a take home coding challenge where I had to write some simple code to fetch information from an API using whatever language I liked. I was given a week to do it, but it only took me an hour or so to meet all of their explicit requirements. I liked that there was no time pressure in that regard.

After the week was up I went into the onsite and in the "technical" portion of my interview two engineers went over the code I had written for the assignment and asked me about design choices I had made and what I would do if constraint X was added or feature Y. It was all very open ended and much more of a true discussion than an interview which I really appreciated.

I think this kind of format is ideal for interviews. The assignment requirements were simple enough that you could fulfill them easily and in your most comfortable language without any time pressure, but you could also go above and beyond and show that you really knew your stuff. For example, in the instructions they didn't explicitly ask for error handling on the input, but both of the engineers I interviewed with really liked that I had included it. You weren't penalized if you did just the bare minimum because you had the opportunity extend and build on the assignment during the onsite. I felt enabled to showcase my knowledge and justify my design decisions and that that effort was rewarded.


This is exactly how we do it at my company. The first interview is mainly for the candidate to get to know the company, products, tech. If we think there is a fit, we send them home with a coding task, choose 1 of 5, not expecting more than 100 lines of code, or more than a couple of hours (though all candidates have submitted more and spent more time). There is no time expectation, but they usually finish in a week or less.

They then come back for a code review, walk the team through their code and explain it. This tells us a lot about their ability, but also their communication style and clarity, how they approach problem solving in general and even in which problem they chose.

I chose this approach because 'coding under duress' during an interview does not offer a valid sample of what the candidate can do. Taking the time they need and working in a comfortable environment will give a much more realistic result. Coupling the take-home with an in-person code review weeds out those who may just Google up or borrow code from elsewhere.


With this approach you'll miss good senior people; I have dependants and very little free time outside work. Last time I was looking for a job I skipped everyone who wanted me to do prep/homework. If the other interviews hadn't worked out I'd have gone back to them, but I didn't need to.

If the project only takes an hour for a junior it shouldn't be a problem. I would be worried that their senior position problems might not be as quick to solve (which is similar to the real world), but then this interview technique might just be best for junior positions and they do something different for senior positions given the different in skill sets and what problems they are expected to solve.

this comment misses the point and is why we don't give take-home work to senior developer candidates. they are in high demand and will not spend their free time on homework, when many other companies will gladly hire them without making them jump through hoops.

I've seen companies hire truly awful senior developers who ended up costing the company quite a lot after they were fired and the entire search had to begin again 3 months later. If the position is in high demand, you still need to gate it to make sure you get a decent chance at a good hire.

Also, I highly suspect companies who are having trouble hiring senior devs are having issues stemming from not paying enough for their given situation.


You’re making it sound like any alternative to a take home project will increase hiring risks.

Companies like Square and Stripe have project-centered rounds during their onsite that allows them to assess these skills without giving a take home.


Furthermore, just because you can bang out something in an hour or two doesn't mean that you will spend only an hour or two when you know you'll be competing against people who put a lot of effort into the task.

In my case, I do a lot of writing these days and, if someone were to ask me to write a thousand word analysis on some topic I was familiar with, I certainly could knock that off in a few hours. But, assuming I agreed to do it at all as part of the interview process--I'd be far more inclined to just give them a bunch of links to my work--I'm going to put the effort in to come up with a tight, polished product.


Given that job searching is often a numbers game, a one-hour homework assignment is a lot of work when multiplied over dozens (or 100+) applications.

That's why it shouldn't be the first step of the interview process, but it's totally fine as the last step. When the hiring party thinks: "we want this candidate if they're as good as they seem to be", then it's a good time to have a look at their code.

Is it really normal for a developer to need to apply to that many positions to find a decent match? I've only ever done a dozen or so at once, and each one I spend a decent amount of time researching the company for tailoring a cover page (if they accept them) or for the interview. I find those making the hiring decisions are quite impressed by candidates who have done their homework (and more than once I've made the hiring manager a bit worried about how I found so much information just through google searches; they don't realize how much their employees let leak through Linked In resumes and such).

As a senior developer I have no problem with take-home work. Obviously I won't do it for just any job or project; I'm picky and I'm looking for something special. If I find something that seems to meet my criteria, I'm not going to dismiss it just because they give me take-home work. In fact, I like them because they give me insight into the sort of problems I may have to solve there, and it lets me show what I can do.

I'm not going to jump through stupid hoops, but I love jumping through interesting hoops.


I only see two possibilities:

1. Require developers to code on demand during an interview (personally, I have a hard time with this; the pressure of an interview is not a normal working situation).

2. Allow someone to do it on their own time, under no time pressure. (I advocate paying them for their time at a fair market rate).

Do you see another way of a senior developer demonstrating their abilities without hitting either of the two above?


Ask the candidate to thoroughly review code during the interview and offer insight. See if they can spot undefined behavior, if they can improve an already-good solution, and ask what their approach would be to refactor it. If they are truly senior programmers, their actual job will be reviewing more than they write anyway, and you’re not hiring them for their ability to crank out a quicksort implementation.

For the junior folks, sure: have them burn through homework.


And yet 5 interviews per company still occurs commonly

> With this approach you'll miss good senior people

Aren't you already spending many hours researching a job as the part of the process? Aren't you already taking a full day off work for the interviews? Why is that time all fine to spend, but not fine to spend a couple of hours on doing an assignment?


Not really. I've never needed to research a job beyond a bit of Linkedin/glassdoor stalking and reading of corporate guff.

I've never had a full day interview for a company I'd actually want to work for (based on what I've learned while grinding through the interviews) so I'm beginning to take requests for those (along with requests for advance coding exercises) as a recruiting smell.


Interesting. Would you mind sharing in which country you work (or if America, which state), what your field of interest is, and how long you've been in the business?

My team has full-day interviews and I'm curious to see who has been self-selecting out of this.


Wow. I live in Sweden, and I have the same expectations: I would not really want to spend much time on an interview process, and I have never, ever heard of day-long interviews either!

We have had a perpetual shortage of developers though, it sounds much harder to land a job in the US.


To clarify, full day means 4 sessions of an hour each bridged by lunch (1 hr). The hope is to give the candidate sufficient information about the team while the team gathers info about the candidate.

That sounds pretty typical. In practice, it's not unusual to do one or more of the interviews by video because of travel schedules but four "in person" interviews is probably the norm.

Yeah, that’s how I understood it, but there’s often opposition on HN to that process.

I guess if you're hiring junior people to stick in a standardized box, it's mostly just a numbers game. Way back when I got a job offer out of school strictly based on my resume (took another job).

But even when the interview process was mostly a formality because I knew many of the people and they knew my work, I still had some on-site interviews.

I'm pretty sure on-site interviews are the norm for the vast majority of professional jobs. Including, or perhaps especially, for the most senior positions.


Netherland here. Interviews take an hour. I don't think I've ever had a full-day interview, though I may have had two interviews in a row. Not sure if they were two half-hour or two full-hour interviews. I have had an on-site assessment of some sort many years ago. Didn't like it much.

I'd much rather do a take-home test than spend a full day getting grilled in interviews.


>My team has full-day interviews and I'm curious to see who has been self-selecting out of this.

Anyone with any level of self-confidence, worth and respect.


To offer a counter-point, I have a level of self-confidence, worth and respect, I wouldn't join a company without a full day of interviewing with them to get an understanding for the company.

I don't know if people are getting hung up on the term "full day" but I'm not sure I've ever heard of people being hired for senior (or even not so senior) professional roles without having multiple in-person interviews.

I suppose there are distributed companies that just do things over video link these days (and I've interviewed people over a video link when necessitated by travel schedules or people being in different locations). But some number of in-person interviews over the course of 4 or 5 hours is absolutely standard in my experience.


"Full day" absolutely matters though, especially if you want to attract passive candidates.

If I'm unemployed, then full day is fine. If I'm really keen to get out of my current job, or really keen to work for you, then I might do it. But if I'm just exploring opportunities, or I have other options in progress, then I'm not taking a day off just to interview.

With any interview when it might be really obvious 10 minutes in that it's not going to work. If I've scheduled that during my lunch break, or for an hour before/after work, then that's a small cost.

If I take a day off work to interview, then that's costing me in the order of $1000. If I don't know whether I want to work for you, then why would I do it? And I definitely can't do that for 5-10 different roles that I might apply for.

A full day is also quite hard work. Interviews are stressful. Dealing with people you don't know, trying to make sure you don't do/say something stupid, it gets exhausting.

I generally expect 4-6 hours worth of interviews before an offer, but the typical process stretches those over a few weeks, which allows the candidate to fit them into available blocks of free time, and gives the candidate oppotunities to think about how things went, what questions to ask, whether this seems like the right fit, and pull out at any point.


I'm a freelancer, so that's a bit different, but I admit I'm surprised at how brief and superficial the intake to hire me usually is.

For permanent jobs, it's usually an hour long interview followed by a programming assessment; either take-home and then presenting to their developers, or codility. But for freelance work, none of that. Just a talk and they hire me. But of course if I turn out to be useless, a freelancer is easy to fire.

(I don't like video interviews much.)


Video interviews are definitely less good than in-person from my perspective. But between the fact that the teams asking me to interview candidates are pretty distributed and have people who travel a lot as I do, it's pretty hard to get all the "right" people into an office on the same day.

As for hiring freelancers, I'm not involved in hiring programmers but we use external people for various other things. We've try to use people we have experience with but it's mostly not a big deal. If we don't like the work they do, maybe we're out a few bucks but we just don't hire them again.


I'm the UK, 15-20 years experience, depending how you count it, and my skill-set is diverse :)

Thank you. I've definitely seen a greater resistance to the full day interview process when hiring in London. I never did learn to hire properly for London. I think there's a cultural difference between there and the Bay.

Same and I would point-blank refuse any full day interviews (unless they were going to pay my going contract rate, I suppose.)

imagine trying to convince a sernior candidate to do your assignment, and imagine all the other offers she or he has who aren't asking that much of their free time. it's not about how much time it would take, it's about the other choices they have.

That's only at a later stage when you get an interview - with a company that looks good.

Coding tests are just an early stage filter for experienced people - so those companies get dropped early on.


I have the exact opposite opinion: a coding test is for a candidate you already want to hire and introduce to your development team, to have a look at their coding style.

You don't want to get your developers together for any random loser who'd never want in your team anyway. So the coding is a late stage filter.

At least for me it's always been.


But if experienced candidates go "meh" life's to short you might have missed a better candidate.

And Martin any professional should adapt to the systems in place - and I wouldn't use terms like "random luser" might have some blowback.


If life's too short to continue with the final stages of an interview process, I don't know what to say. The whole idea, if you do it right, at least, is that you only give this test to developers that you already know you want. That means that for those developers, this is not one of dozens of tests they need to do, it's the one test; or one of a few, if they're that lucky.

And if they're not interested in putting any time or effort into a new job, it seems to me they're probably not that interested in that new job in the first place.

But it seems weird to me that so many people here consider a whole day of interviews to be totally acceptable, while some actual coding is not. Compared to some of the interview horror stories I often read here, this seems vastly preferable. I actually get to show what I can do in a realistic setting, and I get to explain why I do what I do. I get to meet the other developers and talk to them.

And with the best programming tests, I actually get to learn something new. For the best one, I had to learn React (which I had no experience in), build a game board on which you can put obstacles, and write an algorithm to find the shortest part through the resulting maze. (I ended up rejecting that job because it was too far away and not enough pay, but I'm still really happy I did that coding challenge.)


Depends for many people there is not a shortage of jobs to apply for, so coding a path through a maze which is just regurgitation rote memorised algos is a filter for us.

I do agree about a daylong set of interviews with 4 or 5 people that's also a filter id use.


I guess it's also an issue of what you want. Are you fine with just any job, or do you want something specific, or something challenging? Do you want to be the smartest person in the room or do you want competent co-workers?

In my experience, these sort of tests do often seem to be used by the more interesting, more competent kind of companies. The first company where I encountered this (14 years ago), had only highly competent developers, many of them committers to various open source projects. About the recent one where I wrote a customised version of A* (because of the presence of wormholes, which made it not remotely rote for me or for most people, I'd expect), I of course don't know how it would have turned out had I taken the job, but if they select for this kind of thinking, I see that as a very positive signal about the kind of work they do and the kind of people they hire.

At companies that didn't have this kind of test, the quality of their developers was a lot more hit-and-miss.

At least for permanent employees; I've never encountered this for freelancers.


Really? do CERN, JPL NASA the various "interesting TLAs" do this for non New grads.

I certainly didn't get asked coding Questions when I went to BHRA (ranked 1 or 2 in its field) research organisation.

I was told in my first week "oh there is a book on Fortran in the library" teach yourself it


Yes, really. This is exactly my experience. I don't know whether CERN, JPL or NASA do this; they are not part of my experience.

But it's very likely different for research institutes. I'm talking about companies.


That's where you go for challenging jobs and unfortunately shit pay.

Might be location specific but out of 300+ candidates for 15 positions mid to senior level over 8 years in London recruited using this technique I've only ever had one person turn it down. We ask for fairly simpler requirements and for people to limit themselves to 4-6 hours over the course of a week with a focus on comments and recording their thoughts in a readme to suggest how they'd scale things if it was a real project. We don't really bother with many technical questions outside of the project anymore. It really is the single most important thing to get a glimpse into a persons ability to deliver, let them code at their own time in a setting they are comfortable with and then do a peer review with them on location and discuss the implementation and potential enhancements. The rest after that is generally just team fit and culture alignment checks.

I don't turn them down - bridge burning is for pyromaniacs - I just make non-committal noises and don't usually get back to them.

I should clarify that I was thinking more of outfits that respond to my enquiry with "Hi $candidate, please do this generic exercise after which we'll deign to look at your CV". Bonus points awarded/deducted if the requested exercise is for something already available on my github profile.

And 4-6 hours is typically my free time (not free computer time, total free time) for a week.


Think of it as a small (hopefully) fun mini project in your own pace versus a scheduled phone/onsite screening. Of course it requires the task to be small and open enough.

So, if this is a deal breaker, what is your ideal interview scenario?

Wait, what is the difference between taking the time for an interview (no matter if via phone or in-person) and one for a gate-filter task?

In theory there shouldn’t be any, assuming it’s limited to an hour, both in description and in reality.

In practice there’s a pervasive phenomenon called asymmetry of effort. The hiring manager may crib a task set either from a perfunctory google search or their own body part. The sum total of time spent on their part is often five minutes, including coming up with the problem and their review of your code.

This follows no industry standard, and I can count multiple experiences where they were too inept to “grade” the homework assignment, thinking it didn’t work when it did, or that the problem set was impossible.

The reason senior engineers in particular turn down homeworks is because they’ve been burned by them before, and the average hiring engineer tends to know less than they do (but as the hiring manager, can’t assess it, mistaking competence for arrogance or ineptitude).

When a company is not willing to invest the same amount of time to interview as they ask of the candidate, it’s a strong signal of how serious they are as a quality employer.

When job hunting as a senior, hearing about take homes (esp. early stage ones) is the young person’s dating equivalent of considering a relationship with someone divorced twice and a felony. You just get conditioned to pass up kissing frogs.


Seems like you have a problem with the implementation of the idea, not the idea itself.

At my current employer, our recruiting manager has a preliminary talk with the candidate and if there seems to be mutual interest in continuing in the process, she sends a simple task. The task was defined by the technical team, it should be short (no more than an hour) and it has nothing to do with our work.

Once she receives the submitted task, we ask everyone in the tech team to make a review. We do have a "gold standard implementation", but we know that no one will get it and we don't care. We had cases of candidates that misunderstood the task and we had no issue with giving them a second chance or simply asking what was unclear and what would they do differently had they had got the intended requirements.

We just want to filter the obvious "no hires" from the ones with potential. The recruiting manager communicates this even before the task is submitted to them. I am yet to hear any story of any candidate that was interested in the position but walked away due to the way that the process is conducted.


> I am yet to hear any story of any candidate that was interested in the position but walked away due to the way that the process is conducted.

Thank you for making my point. Why would you ever hear about it?

This is the "British Rails" fallacy in action. (A long time ago, the British Rail organization had heard complaints that residents of a local community weren't satisfied with the once-daily train service it received. Its response was there was no need for a second train, because at the times considered, no one was standing on the platform waiting to board it).

Nice coconut earmuffs.


> Thank you for making my point. Why would you ever hear about it?

Seems like the one that does not want to listen is you.

The take home task is only communicated during the preliminary interview with the recruiter (i.e, it is not something that is required to start the application process) and we do get feedback from candidates that have withdrawn their application. And while we had cases of people that withdrawn for various reasons (company size/culture, process adopted, being too "startupy" for a German company, or even simply getting a better offer somewhere else) the take-home task is yet to be mentioned as an issue.

In the end, your reasons for being against take-home tasks are not really against the idea of take-home tasks, just some of the implementations you've been through. Your "point" does not stand.


Or when they ask a seriously difficult np hard problem (probably looking for an algorithmic solution to their real world problem) and never reply whatsoever when you send them a solution for a slightly simplified version.

I am big defender of take home tasks as part of the interview process, but if someone asks me some incredibly hard problem to be solved or anything that seems like could be part of their actual work, I would ask compensation for the time. Take home tasks are not supposed to be real work...

So what interview process tasks are acceptable to you in order to gauge your ability?

Resume review, Phone screen (30 min), on-site (less than 2 hours), probationary period.

Everything else is simply busy work for all parties because it doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know, plus it scares away quality candidates.


Seconding this. Read the candidate's actual resume, spend 30 minutes trying to suss out any deception on it, then a couple of hours trying to gauge compatibility, and also sell the candidate on working for you.

You don't even really need a probationary period in an "at will" state.

At some point, you either trust the credentials from universities and certification bodies, and take what the resume says at face value, or you have to try to reinvent some wheels, and re-discover that eliminating the phonies and mimics is a very difficult problem that even the experts can't solve entirely.

I don't know what the conversion factor is between running a fruitless job search filled with cargo-culted bozo tasks, and just randomly picking the first vaguely suitable candidate off the stack and letting them run for a few months, but I suspect that filling the position quickly and painlessly is probably worth about one month of having a 0%ile employee, or six months of a 20%ile, or keeping a 40%ile employee until they retire. This rests on the presumption that some work done right now is worth more than the same amount done some time in the future, and that higher %ile-ranked candidates will be less tolerant of any stupid hiring games.


Hmm, interesting. I don't know if it's legal for me to run different interview tracks for immigrant and domestic workers. If I'm hiring away an H-1B from somewhere else, probationary isn't going to work. They will not join since their residency depends on employment. But it appears that some domestic engineers prefer the shorter test series with a bigger opportunity to prove themselves.

Does anyone know if having different tracks is legal?


This is what I am wondering. The process at my company is a personal interview, coding challenge, then technical interview.

So essentially about 4 hours of time. What makes this different from a company that wants 4 interviews from different managers, which likely takes up more time plus all of it being fixed time slots, versus having one hour of work that you can work on at your own pace?


An interview is a two-way process. I typically find out a lot about the company and the people I'll be working with. Even a 30 minutes phone call is as much for me to be able to filter them out.

I get where you're coming from, and am in a similar position. On the other hand, I've used a coding test to drop a company before (completed the test and refused to submit it, told them the test gave me enough information to know I didn't want to work there). It gives you a hint as to what they think is important technically.

Senior people will be able to do the two hour coding homework in way less than two hours. If someone can't manage this as part of an interview process, it might be a sign of their time management abilities.

Senior does not mean you type faster.

It means you don't do unnecessary work, you avoid pitfalls and traps you have seen before, you don't over-engineer but you keep it as simple as possible. It also means that you push back against non-constructive requests from business and management and focus your time and effort on what matters.

I also avoid anyone who wants me to do a coding exercise for a few hours over the weekend.

If you want pay me for that time, and make it not a dig and fill hole exercise - find a OSS project that needs some contributions. Decide that you and your team will do thsoe via your ongoing interview process that hires people before the need arises, so you can all take your time selecting and onboarding people.

Value your own time, or no one will


Contributions to a new OSS project that show significant programming ability are very time-intensive. Do you know anyone who has successfully implemented this scheme?

I could set up one of our OSS projects with first-contribution issues and help walk someone through but I suspect most people would rather not spend the time. If it takes 4 hours with back-and-forth in the PR (simply because I may be asleep when you commit and you when I comment) that's a big request of any person.


>you don't over-engineer but you keep it as simple as possible

It should also mean you don't under engineer, but that is extremely hard to test for because that involves knowing the business and your customers and having a reasonable estimate of where future needs will be. I'm not sure how you would test for lack of under engineering, especially since any interview task would be a perfect case where you practically can't under engineer since it is guaranteed throw away work. Maybe asking during code review for how you would've done the solution different if you knew that in the next quarter you would likely have to implement either feature A and B or C and D (but you didn't know which yet).


A slightly extended thought

The main antagonism here is that the hiring company wants to minimise its effort in getting great devs, and the devs want to minimise their effort in getting great jobs.

The first point to note is that constant marketing is the first, best solution to this. I would definitely put more effort into joining a well-marketed company (StackOverflow?) than J.Random Inc. So both me and J.Random Inc had better put some effort into standing out from the crowd.

OSS is one seemingly good way to do this - and having a reasonable Github account is something I would say should get you through most interview filters (ie if you are looking for a Python dev, and they have commits to say a flask extension or bits of salt-stack, then you can blip over the Fizzbuzz and whiteboards.)

But marketing is simply a way to get past other people's filters. "Networking" is good, whatever that might mean, and being a good citizen works. but these are as always, long term, constant application efforts. And of course, costly.

Secondly get over the "we only hire the best of the best of the best". If that's true then like the SEALs you clearly have a six month training programme that takes the best and shapes them into effective teams, fully paid while they learn - yes? And the training staff for this programme are pulled off current fee-paying projects to keep up the standards yes? Otherwise your best-of-the-best is so much auto-trumpet blowing. So please leave that at home. Focus on process not heroes.

The interview by takehome project is a big problem.

Yes it clearly weeds out candidates - mostly by making the ones with options elsewhere go elsewhere. (Even Google, with its firehose of applicants, seemed to realise this was a dumb idea and instead used the MIT graduate program as a filter instead).

My main issue with interviews-by-homework is it is usually a hole-dig-and-fill session as the problem has been done by dozens of people before (often you can find their solutions on github). My time is then valued at less than zero. As a filter before we get to interview, it really is just an artifical hurdle. All you are saying is that "we have soooo much choice we can make you dance before talking to you" - if it works for you great. Your marketing is working (see above)

IMO a better approach is to find different existing properties that you can filter to get applicants to the interview.

Sometimes these are "Alpha Male" filters like 1st class honours at MIT. Other people on HN stand by different filters - I seem to remember someone saying one of their best hires had taught themselves coding whilst getting off drugs in a Glasgow slum. How you filter for that is harder than the MIT problem but I bet its a less tapped seam than MIT.

Overall, a good interview process is probably focusing on the wrong end of the problem. If you have a new open position and then you start looking its too late. Be a good OSS citizen, be involved in the community of developers (OSS and elsewhere), find ways to reach out to unusual developers, or people not marketing themselves, and keep the process going constantly, with suitable investment. The general Big Co idea of "you cannot put out job ads before you have a signed off budget and position" tends to make this a problem. A solution would be to take the expected Agency percentages for each new hire (between 5-20%) and put it into a centralised "developer evangelist" team that just gets people through the door.

This way when you need to open a new position, you will have four people in mind you already want to hire, and you can just go to Starbucks for an interview.


An extra point - senior means FU money. Often people have degree of authority and sway with others in authority - often by right of tenure, organisational position and friendships.

But coming fresh and new into a company, it's hard to just have your opinion or taste taken seriously - especially where that opinion will be unpopular (ie your code base needs rewriting from scratch)

So FU money is needed to avoid the tendency "just to go along with it for a bit"

Hire rich people is hardly a great line, but it will have benefits.

Hiring desperate people with no other options does not sound like you are winning of course


My experience is quite opposite. I used to be much faster 5+ years ago. I would just jump to a conclusion, execute, and see what happens.

I rarely start anything these days without thinking about the problem thoroughly. It results in longer development times, but better designed, and more robust software, or so I hope.


This is the difference between building a solution that works today and building a solution that works tomorrow. A good interviewer would prefer the latter, but would recognise that it takes longer.

They can, but why would they? They're probably busy, possibly with family. These aren't graduates desperate for a job, if they're the ideal employee you're looking for they'll have a comfortable fallback in continuing what they're doing and plenty of other companies that don't want them to do homework.

What if 9 great companies give just 2 hours of homework and 1 gives none?


If you believe that coding challenges lead to a more accurate assessment of the candidates, then it would make sense.

My best experience so far was being hired to do real, paid work remotely and then invited to discuss the solution and further plans.

I don't do challenges any more, life is too short to waste solving problems that don't exist for someone else without getting paid.


While I appreciate that it can be a waste of time, the way I tended to look at this was that if the coding test / task was minimal, it was an acceptable trade-off for both company and candidate. Like, that task should take an hour or so.

The problem it's trying to solve is just the surprising number of bad candidates that apply. We're talking about people with decent CVs, a bit of work experience at different companies, some open-source work etc., and who had a good chat on the phone – sometimes they just completely mess it up when faced with a task like "combine these JSON files to make output that looks like this sample". Things like code that literally doesn't work, or code that uses totally inappropriate tools. We want to avoid wasting both their time and our time by bringing them onsite for an interview that isn't going to go anywhere.

The risk with being "hired to do real, paid work remotely" is that it relies on finding people who are in a position to do that, and this ends up excluding a bunch of good candidates. Not everybody is in an employment situation that will allow them to do external work, and it disincentives people with families or other commitments.

The process of applying for a position shouldn't be over-burdening on a candidate. I agree that it's unfair to expect lots of stupid work, multiple-day interview processes and so on. But I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that a candidate who wants to work with a company can afford to spend a few hours in total as part of that process.


> My best experience so far was being hired to do real, paid work remotely and then invited to discuss the solution and further plans.

That excludes anyone with a no moonlighting agreement in their current contract, though.


All the coding challenges I ask of my candidates have been real-world problems I had to solve in the past where I though, "huh, this would probably be a good interview question". I also pay candidates for their time, except for the initial screening test.

Second that. I was hired via this model. Have also used this approach to hire and this has paid off more than any other approach.

A simple 100 line code can be curated and taught by a friend/relative in a very elaborate way. This approach can negate that issue in someway.


I would love to be interviewed like this. Even though the candidate does end up spending time doing work outside of work, they'd end up doing that anyway if prepping for an algorithms interview. At least with an assignment you can be finished instead of doing endless leetcode prep. Plus it gives you a chance to practice relevant software engineering skills in a different environment.

until you have to endure the fifth rejection and realize you have to multiply this effort for every interviews. Whereas you can prep for an algorithms interview once, and any additional prep is incremental and focused by prior interviews.

That's great to hear – my previous company did something pretty similar to this, except the onsite "technical" portion involved actually pairing with one of the team for an hour to add one of those features, then discussing that process with a second engineer to describe what we'd done together and why.

I generally think this works well for a few reasons:

1. The take-home task lets us see if candidates meet a minimum standard of competency and generally follows good practice – do they test the solution, document it, write clear… of course, I think it's important that the size of this task is limited to avoid wasting candidates' time.

2. The on-site interview helps to make sure the candidate is able to discuss the work they're doing, collaborate with other technical staff, and communicate technical ideas well.

It feels like the overall goal of an interview process is to ensure that the candidate is at the skill level they have communicated, and that they can work with others.


The coding challenge sounds a lot like what my company does (including the time contraints and how long it really takes to code it), but the interview is definitely different. Our coding "challenge" isn't a challenge at all, it's just a test of basic developer competency, including following the spec and making things work. There isn't a lot of room to ask about why things were done a certain way.

You've got me thinking that maybe I need something a little more complicated that will give room for those questions.


This is great. I wish more companies did something like this.

This sounds exactly like one of the best interviews I had when I was searching for my first dev job, and I've tried to emulate it whenever I've been involved in hiring new people.

A good template is:

- Simple yet relevant take home coding test with a relaxed timeframe

- Technical portion of the interview where the candidate is asked to add a simple feature to their existing tech test.

- This is followed by a more general interview.

None of these sections should take more than 1-2 hours.


Many people here will disagree with what I'm about to say, but if you're going to give a coding challenge...

I like hackerrank/codility style coding challenges.

gasp

They're timed. They're run against a standardized test suite. And they have support for many languages.

It's really unfortunate the number of companies that give custom take home coding challenges that run the gamut. The problems with which are manifold:

- Inconsistent technology and language choices by candidates

- Time spent varies wildly and is easily underestimated by companies - and 4-5 hours for an unpaid coding challenge in an early round with a company is a significant investment

- Good candidates will de-prioritize your company against others that move faster

I know that I only answered a small subset of the question, but it's very difficult to lump all developers together and come up with a single, wholistic, and ideal interview process. From the nature of the role (IC/Lead/Manager) to the technologies/specialty to the company's mission, the process will need to be customized to some degree.

However, do not think that your custom coding challenge will somehow be the perfect key to assessing developers.


When we were looking for a developer for our team, we created a set of small coding challenges testing the candidate's knowledge of the most relevant aspects of the language. We wrote automated tests for these challenges, and the main bulk of our interview was having the candidate solve them.

The advantages to that approach, as I see it, are:

- the developer is tested for knowledge that is most relevant for their current job (as opposed to writing general-purpose algorithms)

- the developer is showing their familiarity with a testing environment

- writing working code in a code editor seems to me more practical than writing (pseudo)code on paper or on a whiteboard

There are, of course, disadvantages to this approach as well. The developer may have hard time working on an unfamiliar machine and not in their favorite code editor (though what we had was quite standard). This might be a tad stressful (although I don't know how this compares with solving a general coding problem on a whiteboard, or with a task asking you to think not just of a way to solve a problem, but of a performant way too). And it made us focus on the candidate's coding skills too much (which some hiring managers might find objectionable).


The advantage of using something like codility, or making it a take-home thing, is that they can do it in their own time, free from the stressful environment of an interview.

I hate doing take home projects.

* It's way too easy to set a project that takes too long. I was given one the other day that would have taken about two to three full days. That simply doesn't happen if you do the test sitting in front of them - the time spent (and potentially wasted) is always capped because the test setter doesn't want to waste too much of their own time.

* Take home projects inevitably have issues ("bugs", if you will). You can't just "resolve" those problems if the person who set it isn't sitting in front of you.

* Take home projects take employer skin out of the game. It's way too easy to give out twenty tests and ignore ten of them. I was actually half way through a homework test the other day when I was told that surprise they had an open offer and the candidate had just taken the job. I doubt they'd have wasted their own time testing me IRL knowing what they knew.

From the employer's perspective:

* In the last case I also realized after googling that the answers were online and I could just have copied someone else's.

* You lose a valuable source of feedback which allows you to iteratively improve the test if you're not watching the candidate while they do the test. I suspect this is partly why the take home tests I've been given are generally of a lower quality than the in person.

* It's valuable to talk through the solution with the candidate while they do it (describing trade offs they made, pitfalls they're cognizant may crop up, potential downsides to their approach).


  > It's way too easy to set a project that takes too long. 
They do often take longer than they claim. That's true.

  > Take home projects inevitably have issues ("bugs", if you will). You can't just "resolve" those problems if the person who set it isn't sitting in front of you.
In my experience, you're usually assigned someone you can call or mail with questions. Asking questions is good. Though I usually figure it out on my own.

  > Take home projects take employer skin out of the game. It's way too easy to give out twenty tests and ignore ten of them
Only if they do it wrong. The right way is to give this assignment only to candidates you will definitely want to hire, unless they produce terrible code. The candidate doesn't mail in their code, but presents it to a group of developers who ask questions about it.

This gives the employer skin in the game: they're not going to keep their developers off their work for dozens of candidates who are probably not going to make it; they only bring them out to assess a very likely hire.

I guess some employers use these coding assignments badly. You're totally right to avoid those.

  > I could just have copied someone else's.
But could you have been able to explain the choices of that someone else?

  > You lose a valuable source of feedback which allows you to iteratively improve the test if you're not watching the candidate while they do the test.
Maybe, but to many people, coding on the spot is more stressful than it is at home. Although I've also done some really enjoyable pair programming on what was probably my only long interview day (which had an interview, pair programming, and a game to get to know each other).

  > It's valuable to talk through the solution with the candidate while they do it
But it's also valuable to talk through the solution after they've done it. That's when they have made those trade-offs.

The disadvantage of that is that the interviewer no longer knows if the candidate actually solved the problem or if he got his CS roommate to solve it for him.

Isn't that one of the reasons to ask follow-up questions like "why did you decide to use data structure X here instead of Y"? If the candidate didn't write the code, their lack of coherent answers should make that obvious pretty quickly.

Exactly. That's why you let them show their code to the other devs who get to ask questions.

I don't believe someone who can't code can explain someone else's code in a convincing way.


You will favor those that used exactly same tools/frameworks/testing, but generally smarter person might get a disadvantage. Ie give me Intellij Idea and I would be a tad slower since I use Eclipse primarily. This difference would be mitigated 2 days after hiring, but would be visible during interview. One tiny issue with the env can maybe block their effort measurably.

I get the advantages, I guess everybody does, but there are disadvantages too.


I recently did some codility tests, and they were totally fine.

I'm also fine with take-home challenges, though. But you're absolutely right that they're often vastly underestimated, and you shouldn't give someone a take-home assignment when there's only a small change they'll get hired. It should only be done once you're sure you want to hire this candidate if they're as good as they seem to be. A take-home assignment is too big to sift the chaff from the wheat in a large group of candidates. But once you're sure you'll hire them if they do well on it, a take-home test is totally fine.

Though such a take-home programming assignment should also involve presenting the result to a group of developers to explain their choices. If you're not willing to commit to that, you can't expect them to commit to putting in the time to do the assignment.


Timing a code challenge is a bit like chess boxing. Increased cortisol levels diminish or shut down the reasoning function of the brain, so expecting someone to code fast under the threat to lose a potential employnentbopportunity is not exactly productive.

Yeah, those challenges are explicitly timeboxed, and I know there is a relatively objective grading criteria (which is often as simple as “passes enough of the hidden test cases”).

I refuse to do other types of take home challenges, but am fine with these.


The hidden test cases can be super frustrating, especially when you're passing 7/10 and the timer keeps ticking down. It's impossible to debug besides just staring at the code and guessing what else they might be looking for. Then to ultimately have the company immediately go, "Sorry you didn't check enough green boxes. You've failed. Goodbye."

Although sometimes this is true, most of the time you can't pass all the test because you have written a messed up code that you yourself can't understand. Learning to write the simplest code that works first time one of the most critical skills in programming and in real life also there are no test cases written for you.

Respectful of my time. Think of dating - if after 3 dates, you still are not sure if you like somebody, maybe it is better to call it quits. I had companies call me in for more than 4 interviews, distributed over several days. Not respectful.

Coding: I actually like coding tests in interviews. Then I know my potential future colleagues will also have had a coding test. The company cares at least a little that my colleagues can code.

Just don't take the coding test too seriously. Don't expect me to write correct syntax on a whiteboard, for example. It should be more about having the right ideas, or even be able to discuss possible approaches if a solution isn't obvious immediately.

Also, make it a little challenging - no computing of Fibonacci numbers or FizzBuzz.

I liked one where I was asked to implement Quicksort (not that original, but OK), but they also gave me a definition of Quicksort along with it. That seemed fair.


> Just don't take the coding test too seriously. Don't expect me to write correct syntax on a whiteboard, for example. It should be more about having the right ideas, or even be able to discuss possible approaches if a solution isn't obvious immediately.

This is important. I'm nervous. I don't know you people. And modern IDEs/Editors fill in most of the boilerplate for functions/classes, etc as well as help me recall library function names.

Be respectful of my time and don't expect me to practice whiteboard coding for a month just to interview with you.


I’m fully convinced that 70-80% of my energy and brain function during an interview is spent on listening, formulating responses, breathing and in general trying to interact in a social situation with people I don’t know. That leaves very little to solve problems that I’m not prepared to speak about, usually a riddle or coding puzzle that has no bearing on my day to day.

As developers we are a bit introverted so being in a room with 2-3 people knowing that after this there will be another 2-3 people for round 2, is very difficult. As an interviewer I’ve watched candidates open up talking about what they know and why they enjoy being a developer and completely fall apart (sweat, shake, refuse to get out of their chair) when you hand them a dry erase marker and show them the white board.


Check out my open source code. Call some of my references. Verify my past employment and make me an offer.

It’s really that simple.

If 3+ professionals are willing to vouch for me and I have 20 verified years working at major tech companies, do you really think I’m a guy faking I know how to code?


As a hiring manager: your coding skills are just one of many things I look at when I decide whether I'll make an offer or not. I need to think how you'll interact with the team, whether our company culture is something that you'll enjoy or not, whether my team will become a better team when you join us. Maybe you're defensive about your code and do not like having it reviewed? In that case I feel you won't fit well a culture with a heavy emphasis on code review. Maybe you enjoy pair programming and working in a place where it's not a common practice won't let you do your best?

I wish it was as simple as checking your code and references, but I think it is not.


Let's see the questions you listed:

- how you'll interact with the team

- whether our company culture is something that you'll enjoy

- whether my team will become a better team when you join us

- maybe you're defensive about your code and do not like having it reviewed

- maybe you enjoy pair programming

As a hiring manager, how do you find answers to these questions?


These were just example questions, for example pair programming might be irrelevant, if it's not a significant part of team culture. I admit some questions here are tricky. It's hard to predict how candidate will interact with the whole team: maybe they're very respectful to me, but they will look down on junior developers?

Here are a few things I do that help me better predict whether candidate will fit the team:

- ask candidate to do coding task at home and later discuss the solution during face-to-face interview. While discussing the solution and suggesting improvements I can see how candidate reacts to feedback, whether they can explain why they came up wit this particular implementation, what do they say when I suggest an idea for refactoring etc.

- I like having another team member with me during interview. That person is an observer and they help me review candidate's performance (e.g. it happened that I had an impression that candidate did quite well, but my observer told me that I was often helping candidate with their task, which I had not noticed)

- lunch with candidate might be helpful. I take 2 team members with me and 4 of us grab some food out of the office. This helps candidate meet potential teammates and talk in a more relaxing atmosphere, so both sides can see how they feel about each other.

- one more thing I do is during initial phone call when I tell candidate about company, at first I give a very brief introduction, then before I say more, I ask whether candidate has any questions. This gives me a lot of insight: some candidates ask advanced questions, some ask very basic ("so what does your company do?" happened a few times!), some focus on product, some ask whether they'll be able to learn a particular skill. Some candidates don't have any questions, which is usually a red flag. These questions themselves are not enough to decide that candidate won't fit, but they're helpful.

- I ask candidates what they would like in their new job to be different than in the previous one. One candidate tells me they want to focus on one particular JS framework. If in my company we chose libraries and languages on per-project basis, she might not like it. Counter example: candidate that wants to learn multiple new frameworks might not feel well in a place that is conservative when it comes to introducing new libraries


I’ve found people are very adaptable especially when starting a new job.

And if people do well with pair programming, let them do it!


My point is when a new person joins the team, the team changes. It might become better, but it also might become worse. A brilliant programmer who treats others with disrespect might have overall negative impact on the whole team. An average programmer who helps the team bond, solves conflicts and keeps morale high, can have overall positive impact.

I think there should be more emphasis placed on the non-techincal abilities of a candidate then is the current trend.

We love to think that getting a job should be based on pure meritocracy, but being able to do the job is one small piece of the puzzle.

It's the personality, cultural fit, and general interpersonal skills that really make or break a good team. If you have a team of the 5 best programmers in the world but they can't handle basic human interaction, nothing will get done.


Welcome to the world of a software consultant.

No BS interviews, people actually believe you when you say you can code.

The best fulltime jobs I had had interviews in the same way. Quick meeting to ensure that I am not a psychopath and to talk about salary. That's it. No fizzbuzz, no inverting trees. When can you start and let's get coding.


- Clear timelines on the interviewing process. Some companies show no respect for your time. Telling me to pop by the office to "chat" at a specific time and then telling me your agenda for a 4 round technical interview on the spot is not going to inspire any sort of trust.

- Ask me questions that actually apply to the job. If I'm building an iPhone app, please don't ask me to run through a gauntlet of white-boarding/coding challenges that don't apply to the job. Have me walk through something I've built or talk about how I would build a theoretical iPhone app. Most of us aren't building software for self driving cars so please quit acting like we are.

- If I'm writing code or solving problems, give me an ideal scenario to do my best. Let me use my own computer (not one that you just handed me setup to your preferences.) Potentially let me do it at home (where I am comfortable and not in an unfamiliar place.)

- Gauge confidence on the technical stack

- Don't say we'll be in touch shortly and then ghost. You can say goodbye to someone without false promises. I'm likely to tell fellow developers about how the process went.

- Have people with decent social skills interview

- If I ask questions like, "What should I be prepared for?" please give me a basic agenda or guidance. It'll go much better for both of us.


I find the move to take home tests extremely unfair. Anyone with dependents will typically need to block out most of a day of a weekend, or risk doing it in intervals through their week.

Got a decent CV? Good luck trying to juggle applying for more than 2 interesting opportunities at once.

We mostly hire full stack web devs. IMO It's impossible to really test the abilities of each candidate across the changing landscape of front end, back end, DB & devops tech within an interview process that doesn't use a vast amount of time for everyone.

Instead, we don't whiteboard or code at all in our process at the moment, and try and get it all done in a face to face hour or two by:

* Taking their experience at face value. Examples: If they have been coding for a couple of years, don't waste everyone's time with fizzbuzz. Assume they will be able to adapt to our source control system, if they have been using a different one.

* Insisting on real world examples when asking competency questions.

* Asking generic questions about code, such as "What is clean code?", "what should you take into account for password security for a web app?", and looking for their ability to communicate as much as their actual answer.

* Looking for areas of strength and weakness to compare across candidates, rather than trying to catch them out.

* Scoring highly for enthusiasm, flexibility and a willingness to learn over pure technical knowledge.

I appreciate this approach wouldn't work for all organisations but we've done really well out of it.


I’m never dropping the Fizzbuzz style problem. It has absolutely blown me away the number of people who market themselves as senior people who can’t perform the most simple or basic coding tasks.

No fancy algorithms. No obscure data structures. Just simple loops and conditionals in any language.

It has been the most effective (and most depressing tool) I’ve seen in eliminating the myriad of fakers and unqualified people.


I think it’s more that people get really nervous in interviews. And they’re trying to use the social part of their brain and the coding part at the same time. It’s not normal.

In the dozens of interviews I have conducted so far, I have run into exactly one person who fit this description.

During my last job hunt, I literally told one company I wouldn't do their take-home test. They literally told me it takes days to do, which if you're going to do greenfield code is extremely easy to do. They came back to asking people questions "People memorise that", "people can learn that", etc which is super weird since a take-home test I can literally have a dude from China do and they would be none the wiser.

But the main thing for me was the arrogance of the company/CTO, was pretty much a no-name e-commerce company that was expecting someone to do days worth of work for a job. I've not even heard the like FANG or anyone expecting that during their interview and they are actually places some people really want to work at. Which made me worry about the quality of developers they had if they all had such trouble in the job market that they had to spend days on a tech test to find a job.

Weird thing was, I said I was willing to be tech tested in their office over a period of hours I just wasn't willing to do a take-home tech test, apparently that was too hard for them to figure out and they just did the good ole no contact rejection.


Ironically if you can get a dude from China to do your take home test and do it well, companies should be jumping over each other to hire you.

It would show great management skills and you could save them a ton of money outsourcing.


An interview is designed to answer three questions.

1) can you write software?

2) can we tolerate writing software with you?

3) can you tolerate writing our software?


This is a great brief summary. Currently, most interviews put very heavy emphasis on 1, slightly touch 2 and often forget 3 altogether.

I think the idea about skipping 3 is that the applicant is choosing to apply to a particular company. That's implicitly saying that they're willing to work on that company's code. I don't know how valid this is nowadays with the common practice of throwing applications at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Well 3 is the job of the applicant to figure out. That's about having the right questions on your end.

I have a slightly related question. Imagine that you were being head hunted by a company and that they've decided that they definitely want to hire you, even before the interview. Let's say they can afford to pay you whatever you consider a "reasonable" salary (not high, but not low either).

How would you like the interview to go so that you can decide if you want to work there?

Interestingly, I would like to see a variety of people that I might potentially work with. I'd like to pair program with them. I mean, really pair program -- with each pair writing some code. I'd like to write some code and see how they react to it. I'd like to see them write some code to see how they approach it. I'd like to work though some simple conflicts to see how they react.

I'd like to see some code (and I'm willing to sign an NDA). I'd like to work through it with some of the people who work on it and ask questions. I'd like to see how firmly they hold on to the existing code and how open they are to new ideas.

I'd like to talk to a few people in management. I'd like to see a few plans (again under NDA). I'd like to see what kinds of statistics they collect and how they think those statistics help them.

Finally, I'd like to talk to management about how they do reviews and see some statistics about attrition rate, typical pay raises per year, how many stocks actually vest before people leave (yeah, yeah, NDA).

That would be awesome.


I'd want to see the kitchen, or wherever people prepare / consume beverages and food.

Funny you bring up kitchens, because I always bring up the _stage_ concept from my time cooking, where you actually go in to work a real shift to see how, as I call it, the “dance” goes.

My favorite interview process is where I’ve done a screen interview or two and then do real work to see the process as it exists. Everything else is advertisement and I’ve grown to distrust the evangelizing people do about how they work.


The ideal process is having one that actually exists.

Most startups basically try to wing this without any definition of how they want the interview process to work. IMHO this is about 50% of the problem. On the flip side, large companies appear to be overburdened by process (anecdote example - I've heard from several people that getting into Google takes 6 months on average, along with the notorious b-tree whiteboard process).

That being said, I think Aline Lerner[0] and Triplebyte[1] have some good ideas on the topic:

[0] - http://blog.interviewing.io/

[1] - https://triplebyte.com/blog

I don't think implementing either one of their services is a silver bullet, but are likely n% better than what most companies are doing.


>that getting into Google takes 6 months on average

I can only speak to my relatively recent experience, but it was <5 weeks from application to offer for me. No idea if that's typical.


That's longer than some TLA's with DV Clearance (allegedly) :-)

One thing that I took away from my flight instructor is that she had me say aloud everything I was thinking and doing. If I said, for example, "those trees might cause a downdraft on the approach", then, if I did not handle it well, at least she knew the issue was with my execution and not in recognizing the possibility.

I don't often interview developers, but when I do, I try to get into a situation where the candidate leads us through solving a programming problem, and the issues that come up. The most satisfactory case was where the candidate and I jointly investigated an issue that neither of us had the answer to.

Unfortunately, this is not an approach that many people have much experience with, and it seems unfair to penalize people who find it disconcerting, but when it works, I think it is most satisfactory approach for all concerned. It is not easy to automate either the practicing for or execution of this style of interview, which may or may not be a disadvantage.


I notice a lot of these answers focus on the technical or coding challenge. As a hiring manager, that's critical, but technical competency only accounts for about a third of the qualities my team is evaluating in a candidate.

I've given this question a lot of thought over the last couple years as I've lead teams that have needed to get organized and expand quickly. Here's my summary taken from a Google Slides presentation I put together titled "Hiring in a Time of Cargo Culturalism".

It starts with Principles and Guidelines:

- Hiring cycles will be structured and as short as possible.

- When we start a hiring cycle, we will finish it by hiring the most qualified applicant who accepts our offer.

- Every applicant will receive a response within 48 hours and be updated on the status of their application at each step asap.

- The hiring process will be as transparent as possible.

- Objective and fair-minded measures will displace biased and bigoted ones.

- Every applicant will appreciate their experience, even the rejected ones.

- The process will be agile and adapt over time to improve and meet the specific needs of the organization.

- Onboarding will begin with hiring.

Then an outline of my team's current Methodology:

- A thoughtful and literate job posting will accurately describe the job and foreshadow the company culture.

- Simple challenges and honeypots will filter serious candidates from the applicant bots.

- At the end of every step, we will inform the applicant what comes next. Courteous templated responses will be promptly delivered.

- Two interviews. No more than three. The coding challenge will represent a genuine work sample. It will be no more than one or two hours.

- Candidates will be evaluated using a simple quantitative assessment of core competencies (see Ch. 21 of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow).

- Final decision will be a collective decision of the hiring team.

- After hiring cycle is complete, hiring team will hold a retrospective.

I've hired over a dozen developers this year. They haven't all been homeruns but no strikeouts either. A few singles or walks. A lot of solid doubles. And that's mostly what my company needs.


Your answer shows you are experienced . How do you test for inter prrsonal skills?

In the final interview, the candidate meets with 3 to 4 of us on the team and we talk for about an hour. Our team comes in with a set of prepared questions which address past work experience, company culture, team practices and relationships. We make sure it's the same group of interviewers for a given position and we don't robotically stick to the script but try to cover the same ground with each candidate so we're making fair comparative evaluations.

Also, I suspect our job description and pre-interview process (requesting a cover letter, asking a couple short-answer questions in a personal message as soon as we receive an application) succeed in filtering out candidates who aren't thinking about a job as a social inter-personal commitment.


After many years of winging it, I developed what I think is a pretty robust interview process, inspired by Pivotal's RPI. If the candidate makes it through a quick 15-30m remote screening, I call them in to the office for pairing session.

* The session takes place at a pairing station - two keyboards/mice, two monitors (mirrored).

* We work through a fake problem that is relevant to real-world problems that we actually work on. No brain teasers, no complex algorithms. Basic software engineering using some of the tools the company uses.

* The problem is exactly the same for every candidate. This is essential; you need to be able to compare apples to apples. You can't use "real work" because real work is different every week.

* The stuff I look for is pretty mundane - can they name things sensibly? Do I have to push them or do they naturally drive out behavior with tests?

It takes 1-2 hours. It's partly a way of evaluating candidates, and partly a way of communicating "this is how we develop software at this organization". Some folks really respond well to it. Some don't. That's ok.

At the end of the pairing session. I know 100% if I want to extend an offer. I've gotten some really great hires out of this. My bad hires ended up bad for reasons unrelated to technical ability (like, their life was a trainwreck).


Part of the value of a real pair programming session is brainstorming and discovering together. That part can't happen in a known problem for the interviewer. How does that part play in on the interview? I like how you use a reproducible problem for comparison, a lot of advocates ignore that.

When I do this, I'm pretty upfront that it's not going to be "real" pair programming, but you can come up with a pretty close approximation. As you do it more, with the same problem, you start to understand what questions to use to keep things from stalling, and when to make suggestions. It's not easy, but none of interviewing is easy, really. It's another skill you have to learn.

Counterintuitively I think the problem with hiring is actually a problem with firing. Hear me out.

Everyone is so focused on finding this mythical perfect candidate, instead of giving people a chance. Which is really another way of saying "We're afraid to fire people."

Culturally, we should hire and fire more freely.

I once got a call from a company that said I was an absolute perfect fit for what they were doing-- would I consider a 6-month contract-to-hire? I had been in my job 10 years and told them no. They were so flabbergasted they called back and asked if I wouldn't consider it, that the CTH was simply to see if I was a "culture fit." I told them in plain language that if I was such a perfect candidate, they could hire me straight out. That I'd been in a job 10 years, was obviously happy, why would I jump ship so they could dangle employment as a carrot in front of me?

I can't tell you how many jobs I've not gotten because I didn't get some gotchya question-- or in some cases understood more than the person interviewing me.

The abusive hours need to end, as does the concept of "culture fit" which is just a proxy for age, race, religion, binger drinker status, etc.

We need to stop judging people and trying to feel better about ourselves by dismissing people who can't answer questions we just googled ourselves. Almost every company I've ever talked to claims they only hire the best candidates. That simply, cannot be true.

How is anyone supposed to grow if you can only get a job you're an expert in? And when what you're supposed to be an expert in changes every two years?

The answer is, culturally, you're not.


So instead of giving you a 6 month trial run followed by employment they should give you a permanently temporary gig? Because a job where they hire and fire freely sounds a lot like how companies treat contractors.

That's already the way almost all jobs are. Being "hired" isn't a protection for your job. It just means you're getting automatic tax withholding.

I was a formal full-time employee at NCC Group until just a month ago, when they fired me with no warning, no explanation, and no severance.


In US perhaps, elsewhere a job signifies significantly greater income stability.

You can't fire people for no reason in the UK and probably the rest of Europe as well or you'll end up being taken to court for unfair dismissal. Roles can be made redundant, but it's a lengthy process.

I think, it depends on your agreement / contract.

At my company employment is also at will so they can terminate, but they try very hard not to. In practice contractors are let go much more frequently than employees, and when employees are let go they tend to get a soft landing. But maybe my job is the exception.

I was, of course, using the story to illustrate the absurdity of the overall situation.

I don't want to leave a secure job for an insecure situation because they're difficult to find. They won't consider a direct hire for a "perfect candidate" -- proving my fears.

My point which perhaps I should have been made more clearly is that they're asking me to leave a direct hire situation for a temp job. They're asking me for a commitment they're unwilling to make themselves.

Power asymmetries suck.


I see, thank you for explaining. It just seemed odd that you yourself sought a secure situation but in you also said "Culturally, we should hire and fire more freely" which to me sounded like we shouldn't have these secure situations at all.

Nah, you're right. It was unclear.

Culturally, we should sue people less frequently. Until that happens, you won't find companies being more willing to fire people, and therefore won't be willing to give them a chance unless they look really good.

> we should sue people less frequently. Until that happens, you won't find companies being more willing to fire people

No, you could also find this if the legal system stopped encouraging meritless suits.

Suing would be less frequent then, but as an effect, not a cause.


My favorite coding interview ever is still from many years ago when I interviewed at Pivotal labs.

It was an in person pair programming session, with the interviewer driving.

Most importantly, it was collaborative, whereas many interviews often feel adversarial.

It also tested how you communicate, since you weren't the one typing.

However, it still tested your coding skills, but because the interviewer was "on your side" with respect to the desired output code, it wasn't a dealbreaker or stressful situation if you forgot the signature of an important method or function.

But it also touched on actual coding skills, while not requiring you


After getting burned a few times too many, wasting days of work building entire applications (at worst) or even simply a few hours (at best), I won't be doing anything longer than a 20-30 minute fizzbuzz take home exercise. I will also never waste a day of leave on a company, unless it's the opportunity of a lifetime and I feel I have an almost guaranteed job offer if I jump through that hoop.

My ideal interview proccess thus is:

1) Talk to me for 30 minutes (not your HR, an engineer that is trained for this task). Fizzbuzz me if you have to, but preferably at this point in my career, don't. 2) One or two onsites that last a maximum of 2 hours and are early or late in the day, so that I don't have to waste a day of leave. Don't fizzbuzz me or ask me edge cases on your language of choice in this. Don't come with a checkbox of things you want to hear. Have a discussion with me and actually pay attention to the things I have to say that aren't strictly part of the answer to your question.


What’s your rate?

Are you trying to find out how that sort of attitude correlates with pay?

I make what Glassdoor tells me is an average salary for my area and seniority, but I believe I could do better if I could muster up the courage to interview heavily and change jobs.


In my current role I had what I consider the best interview I have had to date. I had a brief non technical video interview with the software director. Then I was assigned a programming task, essentially to create a site focused on a specific task using a given set of technologies. Once done, I sent the interviewer the url to the site and a link to the code on git. The next day I had a code review and video interview with the original director and several Sr. engineers to review my code and answer relatively technical questions on my design decisions and code.

I thought this was perfect, they did not waste much time on the original interview, essentially just determined I was not insane and would be an ok fit for the team. Then via the assignment they were able to see me build something from start to deployment including database development and server deployment. One of the required technologies was a javascript framework I had never used before, they knew that but I spent 8 hours (I really wanted the job) reading a book on it before starting the project and they appreciated it. I had a couple of options on server side stack and they were able to observe and question my decisions. In the code review they were able to see how I handled criticism and reacted to stress.

Whole process from scheduling the first interview to the job offer took 4 days. No white boarding, no obscure technical jargon. They met me (virtually), learned if I could code to their standards and made a decision. In my mind it was great. Via the same process they interviewed someone else I recommend and very professionally and politely turned them down, someone who in my mind was a pretty solid engineer but he just lacked the specific skill set they wanted. While creating the requested application, he knew he was not going to get the offer, which is great as you as a developer are then able to determine for yourself if you are a good fit for the role. No mess no fuss.


I've considered this approach, but I worry that it consumes too much of the candidate's time. That it ends up favoring people who have the time and the financial freedom to do a full day of unpaid work.

I have been interviewing recently and started turning down any coding assignment that will take more than a couple of hours. To get a reasonable number of offers to enable you to negotiate requires going through the interview process for several companies since some percentage of them will turn you down. After a phone screen I don’t have enough information about the role to be able to potentially waste 10-20 hours on a toy problem.

A few companies gave a simple api project or a timed hacker rank and those feel reasonable. An entire web app with database, rest api, front end and CI pipeline following production code best practices does not.


Negotiating a salary is a situation I have never been in as I have always told them up front before interviewing how much I want to get paid after finding out the salary range. Whenever a recruiter calls, I ask the salary first and tell them where I want to be on that range before even sending a recent resume. Not that negotiating for more if I have several offers would not be great, just not something I have experienced. I interview, they already know my number as I have already asked the hiring salary range and told them what I want. If I pass the interview they offer me my original request and we move forward. I could see how if one was interviewing with multiple companies and had multiple offers how one could seek to play them against one another for a potentially higher amount. Just hasn't happened to me.

First you have to find out the salary range, and a horribly large number of companies are secretive about this.

That’s the easy part - don’t apply blindly.

I’ve always gone through local recruiters that have relationships with the hiring manager. They know the salary range, the interview process, and where other candidates fail because they get feedback from both the candidate and the hiring manager.


> To get a reasonable number of offers to enable you to negotiate

You only need 1 offer to negotiate.


While technically correct, I think most people agree that it is better to field several offers simultaneously so you can choose the best culture fit for yourself as well as being able to provide a concrete example of someone offering you a higher salary to most easily justify your counter-offer.

This is a valid criticism; however, they did not specify I had to turn it in the next day, I could have kept it over the weekend and not taken a day off of work. Several people kept it over a weekend with no penalty. I also could have worked on it at night after work. I definitely preferred this option as opposed to having to take a full day off for an in person interview and another for the follow up. I only took an hour off for the first interview as it was at 5 and I just ran home and threw on a suit jacket and a couple hours for the final interview as it was close to the same time.

If I had already worked in the js stack they asked me to use the entire project build would have been 5 or 6 hours and that's only because I really wanted to impress, I could have knocked it out once my kids went to sleep.

But as in everything it depends on the person and their life circumstances, we all have different things going on.


How is that any different from taking a whole day to do a normal onsite interview? Doesn’t that also favor those with the ability to take a day to jump through hoops?

"Normal" for who? It's normal for fresh graduates interviewing at the biggest tech companies, but that's not normal anywhere else in the world or for other jobs.

Normal for anyone interviewing as a software engineer in the Bay Area.

At my company we pay the candidate at a typical freelance rate.

There is an entire class of developers you really want to hire, that don't want to spend that amount of time unless you are one of 10 companies on their list.

As the person being hired: the process should help me reject workplaces that I would not enjoy, succeed, or grow at. I should get accepted into any place that satisfies the above criteria.

As someone doing the hiring: the process should help order applicants by the value they will provide to the company, accounting for future growth and current abilities.

In both cases it should do so as quickly as possible, to avoid wasting my time. Sadly, neither of these are really realistic, but starting from these first principles, you can see a few simple things that can improve the process: Early rejection in both directions, settings expectations, and that the interview is a two-way street and while some interview strategies may work in one direction, they will alienate the other side so quickly they are ineffective on the whole.

I have some ideas regarding the rest, but nothing that hasn't been mentioned elsewhere.


I would give them opportunities to show their skills at real-world tasks:

- Version control. Given a terminal (or Explorer with TortoiseSomething) and an existing project, make some simple changes and commit.

- Testing. Given a simple piece of code, its tests and either a bug report or feature request, explain at least in high level terms how to move forward.

- Code review. Give constructive feedback on how to improve any aspect of a diff.

These tasks indicate an understanding of code and facility with communication beyond the very basics, and you'll never finish learning them, so I believe they are appropriate for any non-entry level position. They are also sufficiently open ended that the candidate has to prioritize getting at least something done on all of them.

After that, unless they are completely hopeless I'd arrange coffee or lunch (on company money of course) with at least part of the team they'd be working with, so they can tell if they are at all compatible.

Needless to say, give the candidate plenty of options for a suitable time, let them know exactly how long it'll take, coordinate the time with the team, show up on time with a computer—which the admin team has wiped and you've just had to copy a few files onto—and find somewhere quiet and comfortable for them to work.


> Version control. Given a terminal (or Explorer with TortoiseSomething) and an existing project, make some simple changes and commit.

Does this really tell you anything about a candidate? If you sat me down in front of a terminal and said "here's a git shell, make a change and commit it" I'd fail the test immediately. I've used perforce for the last 9 years, and the terms are not the same, and the commands are _not_ discoverable. So you're eliminating anyone who doesn't know git basics (which can be taught in 5 minutes, or with a GUI of their choice), or you're giving a test for some criteria that you won't judge people on, so it's a waste of time.

> - Code review. Give constructive feedback on how to improve any aspect of a diff.

I like this idea actually. Have the person I'm interviewing review a piece of code (maybe a diff? I'm not sure about different diff formats, maybe it just needs to be some text files, or maybe they just have full internet access and the ability to download their own tools), and judge based on that.


I also balked at it, but for the opposite reason. Everyone should be able to sit down to a terminal, make a change to a repository, and commit it.

I mean even if you don't know the command (or they are using a different version control system then you are used to) you can always check the help or man page. It's still a trivial task.


> Everyone should be able to sit down to a terminal, make a change to a repository, and commit it

Disagree - You're testing can someone use the basics of git in a terminal.

> you can always check the help or man page.

Assuming you know how to do that, and what you're looking at. Say I'm sat down in front of a terminal, and I'm told "here's a terminal, make a change and commit it"

I type in "git", and I get: "usage: git" - If you're used to using shell tools, then sure you can make sense of it, If you're not, then you're done.

You said "commit" and the description for that in the "git" command is: > grow, mark and tweak your common history > commit Record changes to the repository

Right, I don't know what that means, but lets try this `git commit`

> fatal: not a git repository (or any of the parent directories): .git

Ok, No idea here. I somehow figure out that git init will give me a .git folder. Now that I've got that out of the way, I try git commit , I get:

> nothing added to commit but untracked files present

Ok, how do I track files? "git help" doesn't mention tracking files. I'll try "git commit hello.txt", which gives me:

> error: pathspec 'Hello.txt' did not match any file(s) known to git

I give up at this point really.

(by the way, I got this far by doing this walkthrough this morning, and googling "how to use git" - which told me the answer in 3 seconds).

Not knowhing how to use a terminal vcs, or knowing the commands to perform even the basics doesn't mean you can't use version control, it just means you can't use a terminal for git. Is my 9 years of C++ and perforce experience because I didn't know that commit was analogous to submit, or because I've used a graphical interface for all that time?


> I type in "git", and I get: "usage: git" - If you're used to using shell tools, then sure you can make sense of it, If you're not, then you're done.

That's part of the test, to see if they're familiar with the command line and if they know how to open the man page. It's trying to weed out the people that can only work in the confines of an IDE and gui tools. That said I wouldn't expect anyone to know git from the man page, I would however expect anyone for a senior role to be familiar with what is a de-facto industry standard.

And source control in general is a great topic for interviews on both sides. Many devs (and companies) don't know what a branch is or what you'd use one for. Many companies make it hard/impossible to create feature branches, either by policy or crazy mono-repo stuff. Even their choice of SCM says a great deal about them, I'd avoid anyone that uses clear case or TFS.


> That's part of the test, to see if they're familiar with the command line and if they know how to open the man page.

That doesn't tell you anything about how good a programmer they are. I don't need to use a command line or man pages for 99.999% of my work, so I'm not going to waste time learning to use more tools.

> It's trying to weed out the people that can only work in the confines of an IDE and gui tools

Ah, so anyone who uses a terminal is superior to someone who uses an IDE or a GUI?

> I would however expect anyone for a senior role to be familiar with what is a de-facto industry standard.

In _your_ industry. As I've mentioned before, I use Perforce (which is standard in my industry).

> And source control in general is a great topic for interviews on both sides

Agreed, but asking somone to rattle off `git init git add . git commit -m"I can remember three lines"` doesn't tell you anything about how much they know about source control. Talk to them about branching/workflows to find out how much they know about source control, or let them use the tools they're comfortable with, but plonking someone in front of a terminal to rattle off some commands is the equivalent of looking for a "culture fit"


> That doesn't tell you anything about how good a programmer they are. I don't need to use a command line or man pages for 99.999% of my work, so I'm not going to waste time learning to use more tools.

I don't want to offend but you sound like exactly the type of developer I try to filter out. IME there is a large correlation between at least rudimentary command line proficiency and being a good developer. Aside from that I want someone to know about the world outside of the IDE and what options are available, because a unix like environment offers far more power than an IDE.

I expect developers should be able to automate common tasks, work with build tools, grep through logs, remote into servers, debug on servers without an IDE installed and a million other things that are very common.

Maybe this doesn't apply to your specific industry but it does to everyone I've worked in to varying degrees. Not memorizing git I could forgive if you could explain branching workflows, but living life in the IDE I wouldn't.


I've encountered people who didn't know the concept of a man page exists, or that -h / -? / --help is a semi-standard construct.

Yet they carried mid/senior-level titles.

You should absolutely test for the things that you think are annoyingly trivial if this person is to be a close peer or a direct report, because your level of disappointment will be so much greater after that person becomes an employee.

I define "annoyingly trivial" as the things that you feel everyone should know "at this stage", and you would be annoyed at having a conversation about said topic for more than 5 minutes.

My personal opinion is Git definitely falls into that category.


> I've encountered people who didn't know the concept of a man page exists, or that -h / -? / --help is a semi-standard construct.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've relied on man pages for descriptions. Using git as the example, compare https://man.cx/git-commit(1) to https://www.atlassian.com/git/tutorials/saving-changes for someone who has never used version control. One of them talks about saving, with examples. The other talks about storing an index in a log.

> My personal opinion is Git definitely falls into that category.

There are plenty of developers with working knowledges of branching/merging workflows, version control, using visual tools, or non-git tools.


The intricate of GIT commands are not obvious in the man page. I'd be more interested in a talk about how often to commit, branch, merge, review, ect. If you got that right, the VSC is just a tool you learn if you don't know it.

I specified "TortoiseSomething" rather than "TortoiseGit" because I specifically did not expect the developer to be familiar with all VCSes. This needs to be agreed upon in advance - it shouldn't be hard to create an environment for whichever VCS the candidate is familiar with.

Reminds me of this xkcd about tar https://www.xkcd.com/1168/

Or even better, this one about git: https://xkcd.com/1597/

It's good to use version control, but I wouldn't rate it too high in judging developer competence.


Is the candidate pool really so poor that you actually need to test that are they able to perform these basic tasks?

Yes. It really is. A couple weeks ago I interviewed a self-described C# expert who claimed to know everything about C# but couldn't even begin to describe the difference between methods and fields and properties, and did not seem aware that methods have return types. I'm not sure he had ever written a line of real code in C#, or any other language for that matter. This was a recent CS grad from a reasonable quality engineering school, so I'm not sure how he even got through college.

And for the record, I try to interview people on their strengths, giving them the opportunity to show off what they know about the area where their greatest interest or experience lies. A shocking percentage of people (>50%) nevertheless fail to demonstrate even basic knowledge of syntax or language features in the language of their own choice. This is without even considering actual workplace skills like git, PR review, tickets, etc. as discussed above.


Yes. It is awful out there from a hiring manager's perspective

I think the most useful interviews are ones with three parts:

1) Casual talk. Does this person have basic communication skills and are they someone you want to deal with regularly for a long time?

2) Give them an actual coding project to do. Pay them for it. Pretend it's just like real work (it should be).

3) Review their code with them. (both to make sure they are the ones who wrote it and to explore their thinking process)


#1 is how I go into every interview that I’m on the non-candidate side. I try to find key words (testing, some technology/framework, CI/CD) and then follow up with a deeper dive and discussion. If communication isn’t coming easily I have a list of probing questions about the tech stack we are using.

I’ve been doing my tech stack long enough that I can smell bullshit and for me I need to know that you can be a good communicator (tech stack is teachable).


I really like the idea of #2. I've never actually seen this done before but it seems like micro-internships (1 month) would be invaluable. Bring the candidate onboard for 1 month and start paying them their real salary. At the end of 1 month it should be clear whether they are a good fit for your team or not.

What you're proposing is basically the same as a notice period (at least in the UK), and neglects that it's still high risk for the candidate. To be able to come in and work for a month they have to leave their existing job. I'd have to be pretty damn sure I'd have no difficulty passing my probation in order to risk being out of work.

It's high risk for currently employed candidates, yes. I hadn't considered that mainly because my company's main source of candidates is unemployed college graduates.

The interviewer should ask the candidate, in the candidate's own words, to walk through solving a problem proposed by the interviewer. No whiteboard. Just a simple conversation. The candidate must be provided the opportunity to organize their thoughts with notes on paper and have a short pause of time to think through an answer.

Problem solving is a fairly universal thought experience not limited to writing code. The goal is to ascertain whether the candidate can break down the complexity of a problem into simple steps, organize their thoughts into a clear flow, communicate clearly, and finally recommend a valid solution.

You don't need to test whether the candidate can actually write code, because this is built into the nature of the exercise as qualified by the feasibility of the proposed solution. This exercise also implicitly tests confidence, creativity, experience, and approach style.

Most importantly though, it separates the competent from the incompetent. No amount of framework foolishness and dependency baggage will communicate a solution for you.


I've interviewed many folks over the years who talk the talk and just simply ace problem solving, but they can't write a unit test in their preferred language.

I strongly second this approach. I would also check some code but only as a tie breaker. I've seen people writing such messy code with useless random variable names, inconsistent style, etc. That can be fixed. Attitude at problem solving is harder to teach.

Most interviews have asymmetric costs. There’s a potential payoff for both parties, but costs are higher for the interviewee (time off, prep, work done).

I recommend trying to make the cost/benefit more symmetric. One way of doing this, is offering compensation for real work. Essentially, hire interviewees to do a small amount of useful (a day?) and evaluate them based on that.

This isn’t going to work for all interviewees, but where possible it feels like a better way of doing things to me.


Not going to happen - I think the supply of software developers has started to outweigh the demand, so there's no way that companies are going to offer compensation to interviewees. If anything, the difficulty bar is just going to continue to go up. If there were a shortage there wouldn't be so many of these silly hoops to jump through.

It's not really worth it to interview nowadays. Practicing leetcode for months, flying, doing all day onsites, when all the company has to do is interview you for a few hours.

We've been issuing take-homes lately, and we ask that candidates spend no more than 3 hours on them. Well, it turns out almost no one spends only 4 hours on them... The most recent candidate we interviewed spent about 3 days on theirs judging from the commit logs. It was a fully fleshed out application with unit tests and everything. After all that they still have to pass the all day on-site, lol. Anyway I spend all of 2 minutes looking at each submission

I really wish there were a better signal.


>Not going to happen - I think the supply of software developers has started to outweigh the demand, so there's no way that companies are going to offer compensation to interviewees.

I was thinking the opposite - that no employed engineer is going to bother with a multi-day paid contract for a new position, so the only engineers you will attract are those without a job and no pending interviews.


Your company might be inadvertently attracting poor candidates. I imagine a lot of good candidates (like myself) would just pass on a 4 hours of homework for a random programming job. And good candidates almost certainly won’t spend 3 days on it.

Remember Joel Splosky’s classic observation: all the good programmers already have good jobs. The ones on the job market who apply to jobs are usually the bad ones.


It's more like, given a good job market and low barriers to entry, the percentage of candidates who are not qualified will greatly outnumber the good candidates. Good programmers might be looking for work for any number of legitimate reasons, even in a hot market. Doubly so if you are offering a premium on compensation or otherwise trying to make yourself more attractive to applicants (which four hours of take home is the opposite of). The signal to noise ratio is just lower the less attractive you make applying to your company.

I would argue this in reverse. The costs are all on that side of the table. I love interviewing. Love it. I am honestly not being sarcastic.

I am more than happy to take the time off just for the opportunity. If it doesn't go well or the position is not a good fit then I go back to my current job.


I like asking candidates to give me a code review on a pull request. Because of IP concerns, I normally do this with an OSS project I’m involved with.

Sure, they don’t know the codebase, but they won’t know the codebase that they’ll be working on in a month if hired either. I want to see how they think about creating software and whether they notice potential defects or tricky areas.


How long do you expect them to spend on this?

Hello,

My apologies in advance that this may not be the response you were looking forward to on forum question.

But I discovered an older post online on the Hacker News site some time ago for a Remote Junior Programmer/Assistant at Luma. I noticed you were looking to make your first hire and find someone that has some knowledge in technologies such as Python and Linux.

Well, I had completely forgot about viewing it and so I was checking out Hacker News job board today and saw it was for a remote Part/Full-time opening available at the Luma in the NYC area.

Well I'm someone who enjoys coding and learning with Python as far as learning purposes/hobbies go. Plus, I'm someone who has been going the self taught route trying to break into the IT field/Python Development world. I also have interests in some of the things mentioned in the post such as finance/trading and business.

But, more than anything.. I'd looking to further learn and grow in my skills as far as Python development goes. I don't have much experience with Django Web development but feel I can learn and pick up on it as well as with any other technology requirements quickly.

After quickly reading your post on Hacker News I was encouraged and interested to reach out and contact you for more info.

So with that said, here I am..and I wanted to inquire to find out if this opening is available? Or has it been filled? Also would you allow for training of junior developers to get up to speed? I had to ask because but I wasn't sure if you meant junior or for more seasoned developers.

Also, you have a contact number to learn more about this position or information on the things you require in regards to the nature of the job to increase one's chances to be a part of your startup team? Any help in this matter will be greatly appreciated. Thank you

Feel free to contact me at: pydeveloper22@gmail.com

--K


The interview should not focus on assessing basic competence, it should look at relevant experience and understanding of the business in question as well as communication and teamwork style.

Of course in order to get there would require a working certification system. Requiring candidates to write fizzbuzz in person over and over is a waste of your time and theirs, but it exists because nobody's managed to crack a "fizzbuzz certified" system that employers actually trust for this. The fraud pressure is quite high and nobody wants to pay for it if there is a possibility that someone might benefit - 1000 candidates applying to 100 employers results in a huge amount of waste, but requiring the candidates to pay for certification cuts out a lot of good candidates, and paying on their behalf and allowing someone else to use that result is seen as unacceptable.


You're right. We ask fizzbuzz simply because it eliminates a shockingly high percentage of applicants. We then ask more challenging and open ended questions to evaluate actual competence if they get that question. Fizzbuzz is there as a shibboleth of sorts. But I don't see it as a waste of time even for qualified candidates. For many qualified applicants, getting them to relax and speak naturally is the greatest challenge. Starting with a softball question helps eliminate some of the natural interview anxiety and lets us see how they really communicate. Then once in a while, it highlights the really arrogant pricks who think it's beneath them, which is another category of candidate we want to filter out.

It's amazing how many junior developers fall flat on that, and I've even had candidates claiming several years of experience to unable to make a for loop with an if statement. And I honestly don't think we lose any good candidates to it.

I don't ask FizzBuzz because many expect it, but I ask equivalently simple questions. I have the following criteria for an interview code question

1. Have an obvious KISS implementation. 2. Ability to modify requirement so the KISS no longer works.

I expect 2. to enable us to gauge their thinking. I don't expect a working solution to it, but they should be able to identify why it does not work anymore and outline ideas to solve it. This part is a conversation where we can lead them if they are not good at controlling the conversation.


It's even worse than it first sounds, because the good candidates get hired, but the candidates that get screened out by the fizzbuzz tests don't exit the scene - they move to the next company along to try again. So although the people in question are a minority as a proportion of the population, the amount of fraud you need to filter out in practice is high, and the people you most want to filter are continuously practicing getting past initial quick filtering steps.

I don't see certifications solving much, other than sheer volume of applications. There are plenty of frauds and not-quite-competent people who hold licenses or certifications in other industries. Further, the type of fraud people are most worried about in this industry are the most likely incompetents to actually get whatever credential is out there; the ones who fail to even do that are the ones who are obvious in a half-hour phone screen.

In the end, I'm always trying to have a "discussion about code" with the candidate. I ask questions that really are easy, but require a certain amount of listening. This way I understand how the candidate behaves in more abstract discussions.

Some examples are things like:

- Walking the candidate through an outdated API (that the candidate isn't familiar with, but should be able to understand given the nature of the job)

- Walk the candidate through code that converts a database query into objects without an ORM. (Candidates who can't do this are incompetent. Really.)

- Discuss commonly-known details of exceptions / error handling in the language that the job is for

- Discuss commonly-known details of memory management in the language that the job is for

- Discuss API choice tradeoffs in an API that the candidate should be familiar with. (I like to pick serialization APIs built into the library in the language we will use.)

Also:

- I try to emphasize how I would do with my interview at the candidate's level of experience

- I have 2nd chances, and will usually stay on the phone for the scheduled interview out of respect. (There are still certain points where I will cut an interview short.)

- Make a decision to hire quickly.

Usually works well.

Signs to reject someone:

Figuring out how to use the teleconference software is an unofficial part of my interview. (Most of my interviews are conducted via teleconference because I'm on a global team.) There are candidates who take 15 minutes to figure out that they can type their phone number into the teleconference web site and it will call them back.

Candidates who want to answer a different question, or keep asking, "why can't I use XYZ" technique usually aren't hired. Again, the purpose is to have a discussion about code and demonstrate understanding of the discussion. I don't want to hire someone who can't adapt when the correct solution to the problem is some tool / design pattern / API / ect that isn't the candidates first choice.


I have had good success with an assignment based interview process. I have written about it in length here - https://abhyrama.com/2018/11/17/startup-hiring/.

Interviewing is an adversarial process, as such, there can be no ideal way to conduct it. It's like asking for the best way to have a divorce. Any imposed solution means at least one person is leaving something on the table, and so it won't be ideal.

I disagree. A good interview is not adversarial. I tend to have really pleasant conversations during interviews. An adversarial attitude from the prospective employer would probably be a deal breaker for me.

Why is it adversarial? I figure it's about the candidate trying to find a position that is suitable for him or her, and the employer is trying to find the correct person to fullfill a specific role.

If the role does not fit the candidate, certainly it's advantageous to both that the candidate does not get hired.


> Why is it adversarial? I figure it's about the candidate trying to find a position that is suitable for him or her, and the employer is trying to find the correct person to fulfill a specific role.

that's ideal, but in practice i think employers and candidates are conditioned (perhaps by prior less professional employment? or the market as a whole?) to think that it is the candidate's job to trick their way into the company, and the employer's job to guard against the unqualified sneaking in.


It's not. Or at least it should not be. The negotiating (for money/benefits) ... sure (maybe?). But not the actual interview. You want to find people you want to work with. This isn't about raiding a village for slaves.

The best interview process I've read about is the one detailed here: http://www.nomachetejuggling.com/2011/05/27/a-different-kind...

And sadly I haven't once seen it in action. I really wish I could go through such process, or implementing it in whatever company I work at (or create).


I've set tests more or less like this in the past and I took one just the other day.

It's actually kind of interesting doing this from the hiring side because it became evident that there are a lot of relative "bargains" out there - excellent developers who do poorly in whiteboarding and chatty interviews so have lowered salary expectations but who are nonetheless very good at their actual job.


The best one I had was where we had more of a discussion about things rather than go into a question and answer session. It was an enjoyable experience to talk to people who are working in a similar field and had seen similar things.

On the other hand, I dislike interviews where interviewers come up with a question-answer sequence. So, if you misspoke even a single word they outright reject you. And mostly, I find this in places like TCS, Wipro, Infosys etc.


When I was at Bytemark, we decided it was important that you knew up-front exactly what the demands on your time would be, what challenges there would be, and we don't deviate from that:

http://careers.bytemark.co.uk/full-process

It's also anonymous until the 3rd stage, so you (by and large) interview remotely and without anyone knowing your name / gender.

(this dates from 2015)


I wanted to add my 2c that in the mix with whatever else you have, I love a take home.

It’s actually building something in my element, IDE, docs, just like real life. You get a chance to show you care with the details.

A whiteboard interview is not like RL as your entire career is on the line so shouldn’t be the main KPI, your brain is not working as usual. I don’t even hate presenting to groups or anything, although I do hate presenting unprepared.


A process that I've seen have some success (years ago):

Start with a very, very simple initial phone screen or take-home test, intended to basically verify whether the candidate can write any code, at all. Max 1 hour, weeds out more people than you'd think.

For the first in-house interview, ask the candidate to code up a problem that is representative of your company's work and requires coding a significant amount, ideally 100+ LOC. The problem should not require any major leaps of intuition, dynamic programming, or recursion – all of these are areas where people do way worse when they're nervous, and this is an engineering interview not special forces training. Let them bring their own laptop, give them the prompt, and have them code, although they can ask the interviewer questions at any time. When they're done, go over the question in detail with the expectation that their code compiles and runs, discuss extensions, etc. Max 1 hour. This interview should answer the binary question "can this person promptly produce meaningful working code and discuss it intelligently?"

For the next in-house interview, do a deep dive into a technical project that the candidate worked on that they're proud of. They describe it and you ask questions. Keep asking questions, especially getting at the "why" behind different decisions, for as long as you can – you're trying to get to the borders of their knowledge and intelligence. Look for mastery of the area, thoughtful decisions, and communication skills. Max 1 hour. This interview should answer the question "is this person a thoughtful, effective, smart contributor on a project?" A good answer should make you think "damn, that's really smart, I wonder if I would have thought of that?" at least once.

End with a final behavioral interview, intended to sell the candidate. This is also a last gut check on whether they're insane, dangerous to themselves or others, extremely arrogant, etc. Also use this time to ask the candidate questions about what really matters to them to improve your closing rate. 30 minutes, and can be combined with the step above.

I've liked this system, YMMV. It's a relatively efficient process, doesn't have weird tricks, and based upon a longterm analysis of candidate outcomes was quite effective (this included an analysis of candidates whom we rejected and who rejected us).


Are you saying max 1hr to understand a problem and write 100 loc? Seems unreasonable unless you are working in languages with a bad signal to noise ratio.

What kinda stuff does your company make, anyway?

I've often thought about this, and based on my own experiences this is the process I would like:

1. Test language-specific knowledge - it's not a bad thing to not know all the small quirks or details of a language since they're generally not too useful, but when someone does know them it tends to be a good sign that they really enjoy coding and learning. And of course there is a certain minimum amount of knowledge that should be required - listing Java as "proficient" on your resume while not knowing the difference between abstract classes and interfaces might indicate a problem.

2. Design question - just a simple toy problem like "how would you design the book management system for a library?". It's easy to use such a problem to probe into some different aspects of programming like concurrency and databases, just to see how much the person knows.

3. A not-crazy-hard algorithms questions - people often say algo questions are irrelevant to actual work, and I agree with that. But I think algorithms are really a core part of the CS curriculum at every school, so getting completely stuck on a medium-difficulty algorithm question should raise some flags.

4. Resume-specific things - it's always nice for an interviewer to show that they've actually read your resume, and it can be a good way to convey some strengths that aren't otherwise evident.

I guess my philosophy is to interview in a way that can test the depth of a candidate's knowledge while not being obnoxiously tedious or memorization-focused. i.e. someone who has written a lot of production code should do better in an interview than someone who's just memorized every problem in Cracking the Coding Interview. So, ideally with the screening round clearing the first part (language-specific knowledge), and then 2 or 3 subsequent interviews that cover design and algos.


For #3, it’s not really a red flag. I am guessing you are a fairly recent grad?

Most people who learn algos & DS never have to implement them on the job, and often haven’t actually written their own since their CS classes. If the question is any deeper than “what are some good and bad choices of algorithms for this problem”, you’re selecting more for who has just graduated or has been grinding leetcode and doesn’t have performance anxiety than you are for competence, expertise, and productivity.

I know folks who got rejected from the leetcode companies and went on to build major products from scratch. The 0.5% of work that requires them to have to implement something like this manually, they’ll just grab their CLRS book and refresh their memory long enough to solve the problem and probably forget it again a week later.

I also know folks at these companies who started fresh out of college, passed that style of interview, worked there for 7-10 years, moved up to senior or higher in the engineering track, and openly admit that they would be a deer in the headlights if they got any of the interview questions. Without going back to study and practice those, they know wouldn’t pass an interview for a junior dev, let alone one for their current job (where they are currently considered high performers).

The big problem is that this style of interview filters for people who pass this style of interview, and then those new hires are asked to interview others, so they interviewed in the style that they were given and passed.


Yeah, I'm currently a grad student so there's definitely some bias haha.

The kind of question I had in mind would be along the lines of "say you have a tree, how could you find the nearest common ancestor of two nodes in that tree?". I actually got this question during an interview recently, and I felt it was of a suitable difficulty where I could figure out a solution without any specific knowledge other than what a tree is (which most developers should know).

I'm sure I'm still young and naive, but my line of thinking is that a question like that is good for having a person show their thought process when figuring out a problem they haven't seen before. Design questions are a bit different because they tend to just require a rehash of a codebase you've worked with before.


A more realistic question is this. Italy is mandating XML business to business invoices starting from 2019-01-01. You're given the spec and a database schema. The question is "which fields are we missing and how should we ask customers for those information?" Extra bonus if you know GDPR and suggest which fields are sensible information, not that I'm expecting that somebody out of school can make that assessment.

Algorithms, who cares. Maybe as a tie breaker.


In the 20+ years since I left university with a CS degree, not once have I directly used any of the algorithmic stuff I learnt commercially. (Obviously I've used sort routines in libraries.)

Language quirks are the worst thing to ask in an interview. Please don't do it, it's barely a step above memorization.

I think it depends how you do it. When I interview, part of what I do is try to find quirks that they know about, but not count the ones they don’t know about against them.

I think you can quickly get a sense of depth, potential, curiosity, and passion if you can get them talking about quirks and their opinions on those quirks.

For example, if someone says that they once attached a debugger to the JVM to confirm a pathological issue arising from benign looking Java code and found that the JIT compiler falls apart when a certain construct is used, I’m probably going to hire that person, even if we have no Java code in the company - assuming I can also confirm that they are productive and don’t just waste time going down deep rabbit holes.


How has that been working out for you? I used to think the same and I'd ask a "programming passion question" right before a simple coding question, and then I'd run into these amazing bullshitters who could talk shop but couldn't write fizzbuzz. But they'd come up with a bunch of excuses as they were writing the code as to why ("oh my company uses this other framework so I forgot how to write a for loop"). So sadly I stopped paying attention to that part. I only ask it to make the candidate comfortable before we dive into code.

Nobody who can go into that level of detail doesn’t know what a for loop is.

It seems you're doubting my story. Maybe you think my threshold for "that level of detail" isn't sufficient, or whatever candidate sourcing we use doesn't filter these people out.

I think it's ok to flip the script and ask what a candidates favorite language quirk is or if they have a story relating to a language quirk.

In my experience curious developers who like to dive deep light up and love discussing that kind of stuff.

Testing random trivia is dumb.


That’s not true. If you have ten years experience with Python, but don’t know about, say, @property decorators or how variable scoping works, that raises some red flags.

On the other hand if a candidate has been coding a language for a long time and doesn’t know the quirks that could be a red flag

The only thing I'd caution (particularly about #1) is that being able to parrot facts — even ones you know cold — on-demand in a high-intensity interview setting can be very different from using those same facts day-to-day. If someone can't describe the difference between abstract classes and interfaces, how confident are you it's because they don't understand it and not just because they're horrible at being put on the spot in an interview-style environment?

Hell, I can barely "hello world" in languages I've been actively and productively writing for months or even years, without context (i.e. existing code) to draw on and/or tool assistance. I've got a better than 50% offer rate on interviews in an over 15 year long career but in one of the ones I flubbed I blanked on the syntax for invoking methods on an object in the language I knew best, at the time, and wrote some other (more common) invocation syntax instead, which can't have helped. Ask me JS scoping trivia and I guarantee I'll screw it up, despite having written JS and TS as my main language(s) for 3ish years now. Look, I stick to a subset of that language precisely so that I can ignore that shit. We can just skip the interview and go straight to the rejection if you're gonna do that. Doubly so if you don't tell me you're gonna do that so I can drill on it before hand.

Coworker and manager feedback, and my compensation over the years, say I'm pretty damn good at adding value despite this. I've been considered the "smart one" and the go-to guy for hard or weird problems. But I will struggle to produce something that will even come close to compiling on your whiteboard, in a language I wrote 300 useful lines of yesterday, unless I spend a couple days basically flash-card drilling for your test. Go figure.


Not being able to describe the difference between abstract classes and interfaces is a huge red flag for anyone working in OO Software Development. You can't be serious?

Only dipshits working on shitty OO projects care about the difference between an abstract class and an interface. Let me guess - you also think algorithmic complexity analysis is overrated.

They're functionally different tools and knowing when to use each is important. I actually studied theoretical CS so of course I think complexity analysis is important. Your completely tangential tirade is noted though (Y)

Don’t wait for the candidate to show up and then start a conversation about an algorithm (or technology or mathematics) that they may not be familiar with haven’t used in some time. Offer of some topics for discussion before the interview (e.g. Quadtrees, tries, infinity) that they can study, or read a white paper about and have some increasingly in-depth questions, applications and conversations about one or more of these topics.

No one is ever expected to solve an unfamiliar problem in a 60 minute meeting. Generally a story/feature with technological unknowns are pointed for several days and are in the developers current wheel house, yet we expect a candidate to use most of their energy and facilities in a social situation with people they’re unfamiliar with and solve whatever random algorithm, riddle or puzzle that you Googled the answer to before the interview.


Speed and no trivia / bullshit interview question. Interviews should be assessing me on the skills I’ll need to get the job done, not recanting some data structure or algorithm to solve a problem that’s unlike anything I’ll ever actually deal with.

Ask me about my past projects and decisions I made and mistakes I made and what I’d do differently. Sit down with me and actually code with me and get a feel for what that’s like. Ask me to how I’d design some actually realistic system, and drill into the details of each.

I shouldn’t have to train to pass an interview. Prepare, yes. Practice a bunch of problems unrelated to the job at hand, no thank you.


Describe what the job entails, ask me if I believe I can do it, and then hire me if I agree. Fire me later if I was wrong.

Yeah, that is not going to work. It's prohibitively expensive to hire and then fire a candidate. You have to convince me you're fit for the job. Either through referrals, or something equivalent - and no, I'm not a trying to show how smart I am by having you recite a RB-tree implementation with a correct remove. That wouldn't show me anything about how you can do the job, just that you studies RB trees...

That "hire fast, fire faster" mentality doesn't work in all countries, industries and legislations.

The OP was asking about the ideal process. This should be a starting point and any other demands that practicality and regulation cause an employer to want should be compensated. Can't hire me right away? OK, then just pay me my eventual salary while you interview me. If they can't afford this, then they can't afford to hire, probably because the complexity of their business is too high, and they should be broken up or nationalized.

1) A test that tries to mimic what the developer would be doing in the actual job as closely as possible. This is what most interviewers fail at - they seek out stupid proxies like whiteboarding rather than simply trying to mimic real life.

2) > 45 min < 3 hours long pairing test or test otherwise done in the presence of the interviewer.

3) Minimal setting up development environments, frameworks or test environments. No boilerplate should be required during the test.

4) The test is improved iteratively. Catch bugs during each interview process and fix them in subsequent interviews.


> Exercises that try to mimic what the developer would be doing in the actual job as closely as possible. This one is critical.

(the following is just inspired by your bullet)

The job of a developer consists of problem solving something they have never encountered before (under some pressure), communicating to other developers, and demonstrating knowledge in various combinations and amounts over time. Startup developers are the hardest spots to fill and most delicate, so I tend to always think as if I'm hiring for a startup.

Talking through a few whiteboard problems and talking about tools they have used (why and how) are sufficient. 30-45 minutes. I don't subscribe to adding more elements (environments, tools, test frameworks, etc). 3 people, 1 from the destination team, 1 from another team (if possible) and the immediate manager.

Startups to multinational corporations, I'm still convinced this is the best way over the last 20 years.

Interviews with higher management is just a redundant filter and another reason for the management to justify their existence. It's a job smell that every company has and is obviously prejudicial in every regard (trying to tease personal details or redundant workflow experience and opinions). It's a bad practice.


>Talking through a few whiteboard problems and talking about tools they have used (why and how) are sufficient.

I've done interviews with a whiteboarding "tell me about stuff you've worked on" component followed by a test.

It thought it gave a weak signal about the skills of the candidate. I canned it eventually because the test gave a very strong signal and it wasn't telling me anything the test didn't.

>Interviews with higher management is just a redundant filter and another reason for the management to justify their existence.

I agree. I had suspicions in a previous company that this upper management "team fit" interview was adding a race/nationality filter that ended up with good candidates getting dropped.


> https://medium.com/@alexgolec/google-interview-questions-dec...

I'm really frustrated when these kind of problems are presented as "whiteboard" problems. It's not constructive and discouraging to potential employees. When something as simple as "implement X without using Y" or "fix this program with pseudocode" are practically useful experiments and more indicative of what developers are doing to be doing ALONE every day. If there's inefficiency, code reviews and planning and integration all reveal that and you can pull in specialized resources if you really need it.


I can tell you was a non-ideal interview process looks like from the "coding challenge" POV. I had one company pose a "dev challenge" of taking a multi-million row public sample data set and the goal was to generate a report from it. This was for an operations job "but everyone has to take the dev challenge".

Part of the problem I had with this was that I didn't feel like it was even a dev challenge. I've hand coded reports before and that has always led to a world of pain. I also felt like it was a data sciences challenge, not a dev challenge, and my data science is really rusty.

I spent most of the 1-4 hours they said most people complete it in, just thinking about the problem. "If I had to solve this problem in my company, first thing I'd do is look at Crystal Reports. The last thing I'd do is open a file and type "import sqlalchemy"."

I set up a repo that did all the operations stuff (remember, it was a Ops job I was applying for), and put together deployment parts to set up a test system and load the data into the database, configure everything, etc...

A few weeks later I finally got the parts all to work and was able to solve the problem in an 80x25 screen worth of SQL. I suspect I was the only applicant that solved it in SQL.


For front-end positions, if I were interviewing myself, a 1 hour interview, as follows:

1. "Imagine you are building a simple Gmail clone (search header, sidebar, action navbar, main content area). Walk me through how you would approach and implement this." (20 minutes: What architecture choices do I make? What tradeoffs am I comfortable making with this? Do I ask questions about the audience? How do I handle state management? How do I approach tooling for this? How do I approach testing for this? Lots of specific questions along the way..)

2. "Tell me about an interesting article you read recently on a tech topic? Which resources do you use to stay current in the front-end space?" (10 minutes; Am I committed to learning and staying abreast on an ever-changing landscape. Can I impress me with quality resources I'm in tune to? Also, can I effectively convey ideas at a high level; can I critique it and walk around the topic from various vantage points.)

3. "Could you pull up your github and walk me through your last few public commits." (15 minutes: Gives me a chance to see my code, talk about the process of writing it? Are there tests? etc)

4. "Would you mind code reviewing this [FizzBuzz-like] code and tests? Then, what would your next iteration on it be?" (15 minutes; Am I a good team player? Can I communicate effectively? Can I spot areas for improvement?)

5. "Finally, could you provide me with a list of past/current co-workers" (0 minutes; With this I will be able to assess what my peers thought of me? Work ethic? Pleasure to work with? Ego? Best qualities? Shortcoming?)

I suppose if the first question is switched, this could be used for any position.


After the initial phone screening for a full stack engineer, we send a take home questionnaire that doesn't require any coding - but rather presents a set of questions that span across different domains (development process, databases, product, infrastructure).

The candidate selects 3 questions to answer from the set of questions. We expect them to take ~15 minutes to answer each question using the English language.


Our Android dev task: write a login/signup dialog. Shows that you have layout skills, networking skills, general Java skills, etc. Candidates either bomb it or nail it, no mis-hires yet after about two years. You get a real good sense of experience level, confidence, and "I like clean code" attitude.

Interesting approach, away from all the CTCI bs. are you guys hiring?

Speed.

Obviously not a complete answer, but I think it's a component that isn't being mentioned here. Disclaiming that I don't have much experience (still in university).

One of my internships went from "applying -> interviewing -> accepting" in under 24 hours. Impressed the hell out of me. It was really the reason why I ended up accepting their job. 24 hours is obviously abnormally fast, but a week or two doesn't need to be.

One of my friends ended up rejecting an offer both from Google and Apple because the interview process took too long with no responses. They got a good offer in the mean time, and after waiting over a month for a response they decided they had to go with it. (They followed through with the rest of the Google/Apple interview process anyways for the experience... which was basically just host matching and getting an offer).


That can only work if you have a large number of available positions (typically, low-paid interns). In other cases, you have one position and try to hire the best candidate for it. Interviewing enough candidates takes some time, if only because not everybody is available at the same time.

It should be clear about what they're looking for, should be collaborative (I want to see if I can work with them), it should be respectful (ending it early for not a good fit is not a good reason), they should allow for you to talk to your strengths and not let it be a we are pushing you to failure.
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