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Discussion on: What’s with thinking out loud in technical interviews?

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khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

We do pair programming assessments and white board conversations. Not white board problem solving.

So with a pair programming assessment, you want the developer candidate to engage to get support. Communicating offers opportunities for the interview to not only gauge the candidates ability to communicate and how they problem solve, it allows the interviewer to assist, guide, and help. It allows them a mechanism to start a conversation to see how the developer will fit into the larger culture.

With white board conversations, we ask a few simple questions. What would your colleagues says you good at. What would they say your bad at. Then we try and help them with something they are bad at, if possible using something they are good at.

For example someone might say they are great at React. But they don’t really do architecture.

We would help them in a session talk though how to setup the architecture for a react app that is a stats dashboard. It’s less about right or wrong solutions and more about how they learn, how open they are to feedback, and can they talk about things critically.

I have had candidate thank me for this approach, and tell me they learned something. My goal is to make sure they enjoy what they do, but that they can function within the organization in a way that makes them and everyone else they work with better.

While this is hard for introverts, it’s not impossible. Most introverts understand it’s part of the job to work with others.

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rvprasad profile image
Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath Author

I agree it is about communication. But, I believe "thinking out loud (verbalizing thoughts)" is not necessary for communication. Instead, a conversation with pauses to select, edit, and arrange thoughts before verbalizing them might work well; in fact, this would lead to better communication.

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khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

Don’t disagree. I think it’s the easier way to get people to talk. There is value in it, but it’s better do some other structure that sparks dialog with the same or greater benefit.

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rvprasad profile image
Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath Author

Out of curiosity, assuming you mean "other structure/mode than conversation", what would be such structure/mode that provide same or greater benefit?

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khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

I believe my first comment is a fine example.

Talk out load your thought pattern is different than a conversation. In the two cases I gave, we promote conversation, not someone just describing what we are watching.

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rvprasad profile image
Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath Author

Ah, I suppose pair programming would work; I haven't tried it cos' I don't test for coding during in-person interviews. As for whiteboard coding/problem solving, I suppose it would work as long as it is a conversation/dialogue as opposed to a monologue with interruptions by the interviewer :)

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khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

Yep, that is exactly the idea. For me that is a practical assessment. Someone talking unnaturally over doing a algorithm does not does not represent how the person will be as a developer or what it will be like to work with them.