More Interviews

Today is a busy week for interviews as well. Yesterday was phone interview number two for an outfit in New York. It was a monstrously difficult technical interview. We’ll see how I did, but I feel like I got way too tripped up and twisted around. I was too nervous, which makes me fall apart at detailed thinking by rote knowledge. Today is another in-person with a new outfit I was considering consulting work for a few weeks ago. Their problem was easily diagnosed over the phone, but I guess they liked what they heard and decided to bring me in for an interview. This job would be a massive pay cut, given what they told me their budget was. It’s five minutes from home, and would be a cake job. But I’m not all that interested in cake jobs, and while I’m willing to accept a cut in pay, going back to what I made in my mid 20s is not my idea of career development.

One thing that’s frustrating me with all the hope and change is how slow companies move along the interview continuum. Back in the day you could submit your resume Monday, have a phone interview by Wednesday, an in-person by Friday, and except an offer the following week. Companies had to act quickly with tech people because if they didn’t, some other company might snatch them up.

18 thoughts on “More Interviews”

  1. It’s actually quite disturbing how slow a lot of companies are moving right now. Most technical fields are still in demand, doubly so if you are still employed.

    One of my coworkers finally got a list of applicants for a position he’s had open for a while. One of the applications was over 6 weeks old, bummer was he was the best candidate. Hadn’t been given a phone interview or anything yet. All we could say was, “Thanks HR, you’re a big help.” I swear they thing they can move like molasses since the economy is still in shambles.

    Normally I don’t do the anonymous thing, but if I drop my name it’s pretty easy to figure out who I work for. It’s a great company but a bit slow at times.

  2. As someone who’s worked in the technology sector for sixteen years, and has been on both the candidate and interviewer side of things: technical interviews like you describe are complete bullshit.

    There is nothing, zero, about the contrived technical trivia questions that interviewers ask that tells them anything useful about either a candidate’s level of technical knowledge, or how well that candidate will actually perform under pressure in a real world situation. This is the case even for “technologist” positions, where a candidate needs to have a broad and deep grasp of a particular technology in order to succeed: it’s an utterly pointless exercise to try to assess their level expertise by requiring them to participate in a half-assed game of “Jeopardy!”

  3. Like Joel Sposky said, a candidate should be smart and get things done.

    I’ve interviewed candidates with PhD in comp sci who couldn’t start a web server. I’ve also talked with “senior” people who clearly have hands on experience, but can’t tell me why or how anything works.

    Honestly there are a lot of candidates out there, and at least with software, employers can afford to be picky.

  4. A bird in hand is worth two in the field. Get a job, if you can. Its much easier to find a job if your working, but I’m sure you know that.

    As far as the slow pace – I’m not in a technical job or anything close to it – but it took them 6 months from my first interview till I was eventually hired. And they reached out to me!!

  5. BC:

    Normally, I’d agree, but the questions were directly relevant to the position, and this company has a habit of pushing candidates to the limits on their knowledge in interviews. They can get away with it because of who they are. In this case, I think I’m likely not to get the job, but I want to see if I have the minerals.

  6. Manhattan is within commuting distance from here. Albany would mean I have to relocate to New York, which isn’t going to happen, given their shitty gun laws.

  7. BC:

    I’ve spent the past several months doing J2EE technical interviews for entry-level to senior level (10+ years) positions. Unlike a lot of places, we have a pretty simple J2EE stack. I expect you to know some basic fundamentals. And despite stated experience and tons of hands on, not a lot have been able to answer basic stuff like “What is the servlet life cycle?”, “Name and describe the JSP scopes?”, “Name two mechanisms I can use to parse XML?”.

    These are not contrived or hard questions. I expect the fundamentals. They are what we use. If you understand them, you can understand any technology built upon them. And if I’m going to pay you high 5 or low 6 figures as a developer, you bloody well better know this stuff. Despite that, maybe 20% actually answer them correctly.

    I can afford to be picky. I feel bad at times but my job is to hire the best candidates I can get. Fortunately, our HR does move within a week or so once we’ve said we like someone.

  8. richard:

    Thank you for the kind words. I don’t have much desire to leave Pennsylvania in the short term. If anything, working in Manhattan might encourage me to relocate to Northampton or Monroe counties. I’d honestly love to get out of the Philadelphia area, and if I could relocate along the 78 or 80 corridor, hop in the car to a New Jersey Transit Park and Ride, and then catch NJT into Manhattan, that would be totally sweet.

  9. Move West, young man. Demand for IT and development talent has never been higher here in Seattle. Any good Web dev with 5+ years experience is making north of $120k right now. If you are a great dev at a place like Google, you are closer to $200k plus a $20-40k starting bonus.

    IT isn’t quite as lucrative but is still a very tight market – I was just talking to a CEO yesterday desperate for IT talent in virtualization, TCP networking, F5 load balancers, Cisco PIX and config management (Puppet or Chef). There are several good biotechs and pharma’s here if you want to stay in that field, but the dot com jobs pay better.

    Good luck, Sebastian.

  10. That’s good to know Ash. I like Seattle a lot, and may be looking for another venue in a few years. For now I’d like to stay here, however, even if it means committing to New York.

  11. I agree with BC: a lot of the “how smart are you?” questions are not particularly meaningful for determining if you are capable. As near as I can tell, Microsoft started this type of interviewing technique (code up while we watch a function to reverse a doubly linked list in place) for new college hires because they typically do not have a lot of experience yet, and it is as meaningful as anything else.

    But with someone with lots of experience, you should be looking at how well this guy works. There are a lot of people out there who can do what needs to be done, but under the pressure of people watching you on a contrived example, do not do well. Which is the more realistic situation? Something like this that has to be done in ten minutes while people are watching? Or what you have done, day in and day out, for the last five years?

    I did a job interview with a company made up of a bunch of ex-Microsofties who were going to get rich with their new startup. They decided after two hours of interviews that I wasn’t good enough to work for them. And guess what? A year later, they were out of business.

    A lot of what makes a good software engineer these days is how quickly you can find information online to solve a complicated problem. I have become increasingly angry about these contrived example interviews.

  12. What amazes me is how many companies here in Boise are advertising the same position, again and again and again, and apparently they are not able to find anyone who is a 100% match. One of these positions I am at least a 90% match for what they want–and I don’t even get a callback. If they were not advertising the same position repeatedly, I would assume that they didn’t call me back because they found a better match. But they are clearly not finding that 100% match–and decide that it is better to wait many months rather than hire someone who could learn that other 10%.

  13. Clayton:
    What you may be encountering is a manager who sees a need for a particular set of talents in his group, but doesn’t actually have a designated slot. If such a person turns up, an interview (possibly off the books) may occurr, but at some point he has to go to upper management and sell you to them to have a position created. I’m told this is sometimes done when it requires an odd/rare collection of skills.
    Another possibility is they want to monitor the market for that skill set.
    Have you tried to determine who the manager for the advertised position is? Getting past the HR dept dweebs and directly targeting him/her normally works best.

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