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Describe the Best Interview You've Been In

kaydacode profile image Kim Arnett  ・2 min read

My favorite interview was one where I was able to bring my own laptop to do a code exercise that was mostly communicated ahead of time. They also allowed me to use any tools that would be accessible to me in the real world: other developers in the room, Google, Stackoverflow, etc.

I also LOVE a clear picture of what my day is going to look like- a schedule with who I'll be speaking with and what type of questions I'll be asked. For example: at 8am you'll meet with Bob Bobbs, Software Manager, to discuss previous experience. At noon you'll have lunch with the team. At 3 pm you'll meet with Linda Lindz, architect, for whiteboard interview. Ok, ok, the type of questions I'll be asked is a dream - but a girl can hope.

But the reason I enjoyed this was because 1) coding on someone else's laptop is actually pretty challenging. Consider opposite scroll directions, different keyboard shortcuts and IDE colors. This can all throw you off your game. 2) I have anxiety.. which makes interviewing especially stressful. Understanding the schedule and what to expect throughout the day helps me prepare and cope mentally for the day ahead. The best way I can describe it is instead of my mind racing "You're going to fail for a solid 6 or 8 hours" it will sound more like "Well, the morning is going to be rough, but you've got the 11-3 portion down".. and with that thought I can actually breathe.

What has your favorite interview been? Why?

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

My favorite ones were the ones that felt more like a conversation than a test.

One comes to mind where the interviewer was so at-ease he put me at ease immediately. It sounded more like a conversation between a junior developer and a more experienced one mentoring ("You don't like CSS, don't we all (chuckle), you should totally look up Flexbox Zombies when you get home (while scribbling it on a post-it and giving it to me)").

Of the more technical ones my favorite was one where instead of the interviewer asking me questions, we screen-shared and pair programmed together. She was typing, and I was talking, she would write a test, and I provided the code to have that test pass. It was totally chill; I was mostly talking pseudo-code so no issue with freezing up on syntax under stress. It was overall a very enjoyable experience.

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Ben Halpern

My favorite interview was one where I was able to bring my own laptop to do a code exercise that was mostly communicated ahead of time. They also allowed me to use any tools that would be accessible to me in the real world: other developers in the room, Google, Stackoverflow, etc.

This is pretty close to my favorite interview. I really felt like I got to shine. There was pressure but no big rush especially.

In thinking about this, I'll contrast it with one of the worst interviews I was a part of: It was a two part interview:

  • The part where someone asked trivia questions about how HTTP works off a piece of paper.
  • The part where an engineer from the team who is clearly reluctant about hiring someone and basically saying "I like to keep my headphones on and do my own thing, that cool with you?"

After not getting much right in the random HTTP trivia portion, I never heard back from them, which was good.


Back to the good one. We've recently tweaked our interview process to be a bit more like that one that you're describing.

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mortoray profile image
edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

I had an interview once, Google I think, where I was asked how I could send an email if I didn't have an email program. I think they assumed people would fail that question, and weren't excited that I used netcat and manually typed the SMTP protocol... :)

I dislike trivia questions in interviews. I dislike tricky algorithm questions (common stuff like stacks, binary search, should be okay, but nothing novel). When I give interviews now I let people make up functions if they want. Sure, just assuem you have a shuffle function, or just type the arguments in any order and I'll assume it's correct.

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

I had an interviewer on a tech interview ask me why manhole covers were round... 🙄

quora.com/What-is-the-most-useless...

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ben profile image
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eljayadobe profile image
Eljay-Adobe

I liked this answer the best for that question...

sellsbrothers.com/12395

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agm1984 profile image
Adam Mackintosh

I actually learned that before at water and sewer technical school, LOL. It's so the lid can't fall down the hole :)

A good opportunity to start talking about system physics and foresight.

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

Lol yeah, I happened to know that answer.

You can see the Quora answer I linked to for the whole story :)

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Antonin Januska

I like the contrast. I'll throw my worst interview in. The dev that actually did the skills assessment was great and he's working on huge things now having left that company (I was supposed to be his replacement). So the weird things that happened were non-technical:

  1. during offer process, company decided they wanted to hire me for a lesser role than I wanted.
  2. during offer process, their salary "ceiling" was completely different from their posting/what they told recruiters (and by different, I mean $40K!). It was lower than their "minimum" bracket for the lesser role they offered.
  3. a part of the interview process was a discussion with a former CTO who was non-technical and had no position at the company anymore. He was related to the CEO.
  4. During our brief discussion, he tried to be as intimidating as possible for some reason. Lots of talking about how he's still involved behind the scenes.
  5. Part of the interview required on-site PAID programming for "market rate" for a day. After I declined the offer, they were reluctant to pay, and ended up paying me half of what my starting rate was when I had less than 1 year of experience. This was for a senior/lead role.
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Yechiel Kalmenson

...We've recently tweaked our interview process to be a bit more like that one that you're describing.

But are you hiring? 😉

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Ben Halpern

We are actually not at the moment, but things change quickly. The next time we hire I think we'll do so fairly publicly.

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Yechiel Kalmenson

I'll be looking out...

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Frank Carr

My favorites are the ones where I got the job. Given my "advanced" age, this happens less often than it used to happen.

That aside, my favorite type of interviews are discussions. Let me describe my most recent project(s) in detail, drawing them out on the board. Ask me about the design decisions that were involved, such as why this particular design pattern was used, what were the advantages/disadvantages of doing it that way and what kind of testing was done. Even ask lower level stuff like , "How did you use LINQ in this C# application?", "Did you use/write the stored procedures for this application?" or "What HTTP verbs did you implement in your web service?" Ask me about stuff in my project that might be applicable to what you need to have done.

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Antonin Januska

I had an interview a few years back and it's still stuck in my mind. It was an interview where I learned something. Even if the job didn't work out (and it didn't), I ended up wiser afterward.

I did a live coding session using one of those apps where people can collaborate and I was asked to implement a couple of cool features using promises.

I think the feature is called multiplexing but essentially, I had to come up with a small function/library that allowed a multitude of callers to ask for the same URL/resource and instead of firing off a bunch of requests to the same URL. I believe my solution was to create an object like this:

let pendingPromises = {
  'posts/all': {
    promise, //actual promise that I used to ask for the data from server
    awaiting: [], // array of callers that asked for `posts/all` before it returns
  }
};

The other features had to do with sharing a single URL but ask for separate resources. Eg. you'd ask for posts/all but at the same time, you also ask for users/all and let's say posts/1. The challenge was to combine the several URLs in a single tick, and then ask the server for all those resources. I didn't create a full implementation for this one but basically, I combined the above feature to gather all URLs and their callers and then did something like this:

fetch(`/api/multiplex`, {
  body: JSON.stringify({
    resources: Object.keys(pendingPromises)
  })
})

And explained that I'd use the server's router to figure out which resources to fetch, do a Promise.all on them, and return an object like so:

{
  'posts/all': { data: [] },
  'users/all': { data: [] },
  'posts/1': { data: [] },
}

I still think about that interview and how much it taught me!

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Roman Mikhailov

This wasn't my best interview, but it felt like one. dev.to/rommik/it-is-possible-to-co...

If I had to interview somebody, I would do it this way:

1) Clear expectations about the skill, experience, and salary range. Why waste someone's time if they don't match. I hate when companies are not transparent and not able to tell what they expect from a candidate. You can spot them by a very long list of requirements, no salary range or low salary with a requirement of 20+ years.

2) An outline of the interview. You will meet with Person A, B, C. They will cover your skills, experience, and they will give you a test. It will take 3 hours. I commit to the schedule as much as possible. I've been to interviews that dragged out for 5-6 hours, instead of allocated one hour. This is simply disrespectful to a candidate in my opinion.

3) If it is a multi-day interview, the decisions are made each day. Don't make a candidate go through the whole process to reject them at the end because they expect 5k more than you can afford and they've been clear about it from day one.

4) Give honest feedback. If somebody comes to my interview and they don't match what I look for, I owe that person the reason behind my decision. It's not just polite, it's a professional toward my peer.

I politely demand the above points when I got for interviews too, and I judge companies based on how they do interviews too.

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edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

I believe there are legal reasons why a lot of companies don't give honest feedback. Employment laws are laced with a myriad of do's and dont's, making it risky to give any kind of feedback. It's not worth the risk of discrimination lawsuit, or harassment, to provide a candidate with valuable feedback.

Though I've heard some companies filter their feedback through HR, legally sanitizing them. I've never met somebody personally that's gotten that though, so it may just be rumours...

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Frank Carr

Yep. HR has those approved phrases ready to use for older candidates like me, like "while your skills are good, you just aren't a good fit for our company's team dynamics". I understand they have the same or similar phrases ready to use for other protected candidates.

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Ben Sinclair

The best interview I've been in was probably one where it was a casual conversation. It was only supposed to be about 20 minutes but turned into about 2 hours of technical and non-technical talk, where both I and the CTO were very relaxed.

That's from a personal point of view.

I've never had a good technical interview, though. Either they're pointless box-checking exercises or they're handled so incompetently I wouldn't want to work with such a team anyway.

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Sohail Nasir

The best interview I had was with the company I am at now. It was a one on one chat with the guy who would become my boss and he was honest about the company, answered all my questions. Didn't sugarcoat anything, told it how it was and made sure that I was well informed.

I was then introduced to 2 senior developers and we did a paired programming task, allowed to use Google and use them as help, they were acommadaiting, it allowed me to see the company culture first-hand.

Got feedback from my agent as soon as I left the building, I got the job.

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edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

I like the ones that include airfare, a hotel, and cover expenses for the weekend. :)

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Sam Williams

My favorite interview was for the job I'm currently in.

The interview started with me sitting with 3 of the staff and they introduced me to the products the run. As they were explaining the third of the products, I couldn't help but grin. They were describing a chat bot that did "where is my order" and "order returns" for large retailers.

They asked me why I was grinning and I explained that I'd just built a chatbot that did all of that for a fictional retail website. They were very interested and asked to see it afterwards.

They gave me a technical test which was a printed page of code. All I had to do was talk my way through it and explain what each bit did. It included some SQL query code and they asked me whether I thought it was an effective query. I have almost no experience writing raw SQL so I didn't know, but I would use a library like sequelize to create the query. They said that's often a smart decision.

I managed to find a few improvements in the code and explained what I'd have done differently and why. It was a more like a code review of their code than a high pressure test of my coding skills.

Finally I showed them my chatbot and they were really interested. Tom, who I now work on the chatbots with, asked about the way I had it set up and if he could see the code. We ended up talking through my code for a good 30 minutes. I explained API.ai and how it all worked and they seemed really impressed.

They gave me a tour of the building, including the gym on the ground floor, and the founder drove me back to the bus station. In the car, he let me know that I'd be hearing from them soon with an offer.

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Ethan

Sounds wonderful! 😍

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Dan Benge

The best interview I ever had involved just two white board questions:

  1. Draw your dream house. Illustrate it as much as possible with annotations and explanations.

  2. Draw three baskets. On the first basket, draw the word apples. On the second basket, draw the word oranges, on the third basket, draw the word mixed. Each sign lies about what is in the basket. For example, there are no apples in the apples basket. How would you figure out the fruit of each basket. You are allowed to reach into ONE basket.

That was it, followed by some conversation. 2 was super easy on retrospect, but I worked it out on the white board anyways. I think 1 was just to show the interviewer how much detail you use when explaining concepts.

I ended up getting the job. :)

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Sumant H Natkar

Don’t remember any good interview I have had so far sadly 😞

Worst was they wanted an asp.net MVC person and interviewer asked me everything except MVC.

The recruiter actually told me I was poor in oops so was rejected.

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E. Choroba

For my current position, I was invited for a 4-hour interview that consisted of 4 different sessions: coding, architecture, processes, and general Q/A with the manager. I liked the processes part the most: two people from the Security department prepared a role playing game for me based on an actual incident they had had few weeks before. I played the Engineer on Duty and I had to explain my decisions, with them interrupting me unexpectedly at times with "It's 2:30 PM, another machine becomes unreachable" etc. I had to ask a lot of questions (and I learned a lot about my future work that way) to be able to find a solution, and the questions were probably more important to them than the final solution (which was, accidentally, the same as the one they had made).

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Kim Arnett  Author

Wow, that sounds super fun, yet intense. It's really interesting how some thought on the interviewer's side has such a positive effect in the interview, and this seems really neat compared to the standard "google {technology} interview questions"

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Arden de Raaij

I can honestly say that I haven't had a bad interview experience yet. I must also say that I probably haven't applied for more than 15 vacancies in my life, so I'm not sure how much my experience counts
😅

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Alexey Golub

My favorite ones were the ones where the recruiter/tech interviewer looked like they were really glad to meet me rather than simply fill an open position and move on with life. I guess I have low standards.