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Ask HN: Smart job interviews you've experienced?
3 points by eimieimi 1753 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments
I feel some employers don't train the job interviewer and it results in bad interviews. Some just copy interview questions from things they've read and throw coding challenges, which could be a turn-off. They don't think enough about the candidate's psychology and the fact that there's some persuading to do. Would love to hear if you've encountered any smart interviews (styles, methodology) that shows the intelligence of the employer and their passion to hire you, and if you took the job, what was your deciding factor.

I think if your interview style is very Q&A oriented, or if you are burying candidates under coding challenges, you are definitely in need of some interview training. Sadly, a lot of people choose to interview this way for one reason or another.

I really dislike interviews that rely heavily on academic-type questions that delve into language obscurities. I want someone who can solve problems and explain their thought process. I'm not interested in hiring someone because of their memory for trivia. I have Google for that.

As far as coding challenges go, these can be OK, but most of the time they seem to center around weird logic problems that have very little in common with what a software engineer does day-to-day. They also put people on the spot in a stressful situation, and people will perform quite differently in this light than when they are actually working.

The best interviews I've ever attended feel like a conversation. You are sitting down with the candidate, there is a give and take, and you are talking as if the candidate is already a member of your team. You talk about problems you're facing and how you can resolve them. It's much more comfortable for the interviewee and gives you far better insight into how they'll perform on the job.

Thanks Steve, these are wonderful points. I agree about the style and like the way you mention the conversation style interview. In a company I used to work for, we'd make sure to invite the candidate to team lunch too to feel out the group chemistry, and instead of using conference rooms, when we had time, we'd take them to a nearby coffee joint next door to give it a more casual feel. I'd personally prefer a non-Q&A oriented method and feel coding challenges can only uncover so much. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Interviewing is totally broken.

The people you are looking for will never come in for an interview, unless it's a major position like lead engineer or your compensation is off the charts. I am a fairly new programmer and have had numerous job offers without an interview. I would say I get two or three job offers a month, usually from fellow coders I am working with.

If I were hiring, I would skip the coding challenges (unless it's for an entry job and you have 100 applicants).

In the end, what you really want to know is:

Are you humble? How fast do you learn? Would you fit our culture? Why do you want to work here? (or how long)

Unfortunately, it's hard to know you are getting an honest answer. What you really need is a recommendation from other programmers in your office.

Thanks for sharing, that's a really good point. Regardless of the size of the company and the basic screening on skill/team fit/culture, we've been recently talking about sharing some of our work process to see if the candidate is a fit in that aspect too. Other programmer recommendation is definitely key.

You say you're a fairly new programmer, so why do you even believe your own opinion, when there are plenty of people with lots more experience than you that insist on giving a technical interview?

I guess my opinion is based on person experience, but I am totally open to hearing a different point of view.

The point of view I hear, whenever I read old grouchy people insisting on a technical interview, is that if you don't have one, you'll end up hiring somebody that can sound smart when talking in a conversation but can't actually do the job. I've never actually encountered an old developer of respectable ability that is in favor of omitting technical interviews.

You say you want to know how fast a candidate learns. If somebody can't solve trivial programming problems, what does that say about how well they learn?

I had one 4 hour interview with managers, another 4 hour interview with owners, and another 4 hour interview with a psychologist for a position. No programming questions. Everyone asked the same kind of stuff "tell me about yourself, etc etc". A month into the process and still no answer. Thank god I have a job and they haven't fired me for all the time off...

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