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A word on Technical Interviews

theodesp profile image Theofanis Despoudis ・4 min read

Quite recently, I added a comment in my latest article about the usage of one-liners in coding interviews and that spurred other threads like a Lernean hydra.

What's going on there? Is there is something hidden beyond those words really?

Here is my take on Technical Interviews for some opinions and discuss how broken they are really.

Disclaimer : I'm not an interviewer and I haven't interviewed people before so my opinions are biased. I've done quite a few interviews though to form what I say here.

I'm the author of this really awesome library used by 1000000 developers. Hire me now.

Now they shouldn't hire you. Just because you did something like that, it doesn't mean anything. It won't even dent a piece of their hair. You might only get an easier access to a first interview, but after that you are just to be evaluated as a normal candidate.

Think of this in a different way. They have a reputation to hold. How fair is this to be compared with someone who doesn't even have a Github profile? You get the easy ride, but they have to hustle their way through. Nope back to the line mister.

I was in an interview and I was asked to implement a build-in algorithm like String.reverse without using any standard library methods or specific functions. They shouldn't been doing that because we shouldn't re-implement the wheel

Yes we shouldn't re-implement the wheel. But we shouldn't also be surprised to know that we don't really write production code in technical interviews because if we did then there is definitely something wrong there. The interviewer again tries to test the waters by giving you constraints and asking a way to overcome the problem. Again they want to see problem solving skills and how you communicate. They don't really care if you solve it or not but how you get there. Or they are not satisfied with your solution and they want additional coding signals.

At the end, if they are unsure about you, if you do not ask enough questions, or you are cocky and condescending they will pick this up and it will count negatively against you. What's so wrong about asking for more details anyway if you know how to do it? They don't know you nor your skills - in fact no one knows you really until proven otherwise - so keep yourself together and try to tackle it.

I was in an interview and I was asked to implement a function for a specific algorithm. I found that strange and non-professional because the role is for a Javascript Dev.

Yes if they are looking for drones or code monkeys that would be unprofessional. But take a chance to think about it. If they were to hire you only for your Javascript skills then you are lowering your status and you are as good as any other candidate out there who "knows" Javascript. You would be assigned tasks that are leftovers and they would take all the credit. Good for you well done πŸ‘πŸ‘. Also, if the interviewer hires you only for your JS skills and somebody from above asks why you can't do anything else out of your domain then they will question the person who hired you why didn't they check this or that. To cover their own asses, the interviewer will have to ask questions like that outside the domain. They would ask "stupid algorithmic questions" just to probe you have what it takes and test your reaction.

I once, was asked to implement Array.prototype.reduce and I thought was absurd

What was so absurd anyway? They can ask whatever they want. The real question is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to ask questions to get some hints and try to implement it or just lift your hands up. This is an opportunity to at least showcase your problem solving skills which is what's important.

I once, was asked for some obscure feature in a language does that I can look up in 30 seconds and get the answer to

This is a test to check how much you know and how you can explain the details. If you don't know you should be honest and explain your position. Don't be cocky or arrogant, just state the truth. If they want some specific answer you can just ask whether they use this feature in production so you can learn more about it. Or probably the interviewer is more arrogant than you or they want just to check your reaction.

I think the most important part of the interview is how you communicate. You would argue that technical skill is the most dominating factor here but that will only get you to 70% with a passing score of 80%. So if you are not able to communicate no matter how good you are in coding you won't pass the next step.

Rant out...

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

You explain quite well that what the reasons put forward by the candidates shouldn't be taken at face value.

but why is there so much frustration in the first place?

candidates struggle to find good companies
companies struggle even more to find good candidates

do you think that everyone is stupid?
or do you think that the job market is broken?

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theodesp profile image
Theofanis Despoudis Author

I think we should be grateful that there are so many jobs in IT. Have you looked at other sectors lately? It's kill or be killed. So many people are struggling to get by.

Saying that the job market is broken or everyone is stupid is the least of the worlds problems.

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Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I'm not sure what choosing good companies and good salaries over bad ones has to do with being ungrateful

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theodesp profile image
Theofanis Despoudis Author

It is somewhat ungrateful in a sense when some places of the world there is slavery, forced labor,working for 1$ an hour or even worse. And here now we complain why the world is so cruel to us on interviews or we cannot get 5k extra more. We are having a really tough live huh?

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I don't think we have a tough life, I like my life.

I still don't understand why we should either

  • let our souls being crushed by working for bad companies
  • or accept gettiing a bad economic deal
  • and seeing the valuable opinions that we have being valued as much as we are underpaid

I've done those things when I was younger and I don't recommend them even to people who disagree with me

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theodesp profile image
Theofanis Despoudis Author

Of course, If you are not happy with your current role, if you feel miserable or in the wrong place, then You are the only responsible for your life and your career options and no-one else. You can always:

  • Work for your self: So that we won't be having this conversation.
  • Work for somebody else: That means you have to look for a new role (with better conditions). That also means that you will have to go through interviews and be asked some of those questions mentioned above. Not bad considering there are so many options there for IT roles and plenty of choices. You don't like it? Don't get it.
  • Retire: As you are done with this world. Time to read some timeless classics.
  • Some other option not in this list:...
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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Now, this discussion was useful because we started quite differently, and we ended up on a very similar take.

If you feel miserable or in the wrong place, then

  • Voice your concerns in a way that people can understand
  • Exit if you have done the best you can do to explain and they do nothing.

As for me I have decided to follow youur first option and I work for myself!

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theodesp profile image