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Discussion on: Let's face it, we have a broken technical interview process in our industry

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0ctavia profile image
Octa

I wish it didn't matter but I'll preface this comment with the fact I'm a woman, just in case. I don't mind whiteboard, in fact I prefer them over take home assignments. Live coding I've never done so I don't have an opinion.

Of course I don't enjoy stress but HR has to see if you have the skill needed to fit in the team and the mentality. How you handle the stress of a whiteboard (or an oral examination) that's also a good skill to assess. It's not true that you won't ever code with someone looking over your shoulder, pair coding for example has someone literally next to you, watching you code. You need a certain level of stress resilience, especially if you'll have sprints and releases to make. If you have to explain to a senior what you did you need to be able to explain your logic as you go along, or code along. Not having Google or your IDE means that you rely on your logic and reasoning capacity, which is a hard skill, without the crutches of your IDE.
I see it a bit like an IQ versus a math test. You can use memory when it comes to math evaluations, so IQ test try to filter this out when measuring the logical-mathematical type of intelligence.
Combine hard skills with a solid soft skill set, such as being able to explain while you reason, humour if you get stuck, finding workarounds such as writing something in pseudocode and saying you'll google the syntax later, all those are good pointers of how you'll be when faced with hardship and less than optimal conditions.

Personally I've had brain-blanks on interviews where I had no idea what to do anymore. When that happened, after trying to fumble through it at first, I came clear to the recruiter about what was happening and explained the situation, had a discussion about impostor syndrome, expectations etc. It gave me feedback on how to better prepare, even if it was a disagreeable experience, it was a "good" one in the sense that it helped ace my future interviews.

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190245 profile image
Dave

Based on my "personality test" - you sound like someone I'd hire.

But I'm curious, why do you prefer whiteboard to take home? Maybe I just do the take home test differently to everyone else... but maybe I don't see the problem with it.

I'll preface (or is this post now?). In my take home test, the requirements are deliberately vague, and the only way to do it wrong, is to not turn it in. When talking to candidates about it, I'm careful not to critique it, I'm more interested in WHY choices were made and what else is in your head, rather than WHAT you did.

Finally, I get the gender thing, but please don't feel like you have to. I'll admit my bias - I'm more likely to hire women than men, for the same reason I'm more likely to hire a Russian than a Brit, or (shock horror) a Black guy over a White guy. All else being equal, I'll swing in the direction of what we don't have in the office to try to minimise the echo chamber effect.

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0ctavia profile image
Octa

I often find instructions confusing - knowing what is expected of me is important (I might have ASD though so that could be it). With a whiteboard you can easily turn around and ask, and if they are stiff-lipped I just say something "oh right so this is about how I make my decisions, gotcha", then go on - at least I've been able to announce what it is I'll be doing and why I might cut corners here and there. It's also often much shorter. A whiteboard is a short burst of energy which is closer to how I function.
The take-homes I made were often several hour long assignments, and timed (countdown the moment you open it), so I couldn't decide how I worked on it or when, I wasn't sure what kind of solution they were looking for. If it's too short of a question it's basically leetcode / algorithm grinding and you could have done that during the interview irl, if it's a big codebase that you need to dig through, it can take a lot of time just understanding what they want.

Must say I'm not sure about the last part of your comment or whether I'll ruin my hypothetical job chances with you, but I'd like to get in because I was the best, not because I was a woman. I know it often says "all else being equal" but no two candidates are ever carbon copies of one another. At some point gender or race becomes a notch in the plus or minus column, along with their other points. I wish that didn't happen.

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deepu105 profile image
Deepu K Sasidharan Author

Thanks for the response. I guess you are mistaking general stress with performance anxiety. If you are a good developer you are not gonna feel stressed when pair programming coz you know that you are working with your peer, a fellow human with flaws like you, who might make mistakes like you. Its not the same when an interviewer is looking over your shoulder and you know that your mistakes might cost you the job, so you start getting anxious ending up making even more mistakes. So I'm talking about people who will perform well during peer programming but cannot do anything during a live coding (I fit into that category and dare I say, I'm a pretty good developer according to my peers) so no I don't agree that evaluation of stress is necessary in anyway. Also lets be realistic you won't face situations that induce performance anxiety in your day today work and if you do then I would consider that a toxic work environment and I would run far away from there.

I'm not trying to discredit your experiences. They are of course valid for you but doesn't mean you should expect them to be valid for everyone and the process shouldn't be unfair to others who cannot cope with these practices. A fair process should cater to the lowest denominator.

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0ctavia profile image
Octa

I think there's a major difference in how we view the issue. The issue is performing poorly under performance anxiety. You seem to say that interviews shouldn't put you in situations where you experience performance anxiety. I say you should find ways to deal with performance anxiety.

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deepu105 profile image
Deepu K Sasidharan Author

Well you are entitled to your opinion but I don't agree. My point is there is no need to put someone through that in an interview as it doesn't measure anything that is required for you to be a developer. Having even extreme performance anxiety doesn't affect your development quality in real world jobs so what is the need to do it. If you just accept the status quo and move on nothing will change and I for one would like to see change and want to attack it at the root

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0ctavia profile image
Octa • Edited

Being able to successfully manage your emotions (whether that's anger, anxiety, feeling down) I think is a very important soft skill - in your job and private life. If you realise you struggle with performance anxiety, it's a good idea to look at why that is and where that comes from. It might liberate you in other areas, or make it clearer for you in which environments you thrive or not.

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deepu105 profile image
Deepu K Sasidharan Author

Of course if you can work on thats fine but doesn't mean others get to incite that. Same for other emotions, you can try to control them but wouldn't you prefer that no one makes you angry or sad especially at work. Also unlike anger, anxiety is not easy to control and often requires medications with powerful side effects or phychotherapy

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190245 profile image
Dave

You suggested I read the other posts, so I am doing.

A fair process should cater to the lowest denominator.

Fundamentally, this is an absolutely horrendous way for any company to behave, in an interview situation or otherwise.

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deepu105 profile image
Deepu K Sasidharan Author

I don't agree. I have worked with such companies and it works pretty well. We never hired anyone who wasn't qualified for the job. When I say lowest denominator I'm not saying dumping down the process, I'm talking about making it fair for people with less social skills and anxiety as others who have social skills and no anxiety shouldn't have a problem anyway

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190245 profile image
Dave

On that subject, we'll agree to disagree.

Two of my children are on the autistic spectrum, and while it's not everyone's choice, our choice has been to raise them in the way that we expect them to put in the appropriate effort required to be successful in society. Unfortunately for them, that means probably putting in more effort than the average person, just to get a level playing field. I've reminded them a few times that if they use their condition as an excuse for anything, they really won't like the way I handle whatever situation it is, but if they put too much effort in and pander to the whims of others, they'll wish they made an excuse and didn't bother trying at all.

One, for example, simply could not hold a pen/pencil. Should I have let him never learn handwriting, maybe skipping straight to a keyboard? Or should I have put the work in with him, enrolled him in extra (specialist) classes, and bought a 3D printer to custom make a few grips that he could hold to use pens/pencils?

This is the point I was trying to make before in our discussion - in my opinion - there must be some middle ground that's achievable. I don't know what it is, and I don't know how to completely eliminate things like performance anxiety from the interview, I don't know if I'll ever know. But that won't stop me trying to figure it out.

Lets say in some hypothetical situation, a candidate (or their recruiter) tells me that they have severe anxiety issues. I think (and like to hope) that my response there would be "ok, tell me what you need, to minimise that issue." Somewhere in the ensuing discussion, there would be a point that either they'd agree to the flexibility that I was willing to put in, or I'd thank them for their time & wish them luck. As a starting point, I'd probably lay out the kind of things we'd be talking about, and tell them that I would be putting code up on the screen and they'd have to talk me through a couple of minor bug fixes etc. I'd probably advise that they spoke to a medical professional (eg., their regular doctor), and suggest that if they wanted, they'd be welcome to bring someone into the Skype call to help relax their nerves etc.

Finally, as some of the other commentors have mentioned, I think probably the article could be worded better. Yes, some interviews are horrendous (a friend is about to do a paired programming exercise with someone for stage 3 of 7 at a company). Sometimes take home tests demand too much time etc. But much like mental health issues are incredibly specific to the person, the interview process is incredibly specific to the hiring manager or company, and they exist on a spectrum.

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deepu105 profile image
Deepu K Sasidharan Author

Well its ok that we don't agree on everything. I'm glad we agree on somethings and I'm even more glad the post generated this conversations.