re: What is your biggest 'red flag' when interviewing? VIEW POST


I had a really weird interview, which is something considering that I've only interviewed three times in the past 10 years.

First they asked what I would do if multiple people all gave me tasks and said they were urgent. My answer was that unless it was obvious which was the most urgent I would look to my manager to determine which had the highest priority.

They weren't clear about what answer they were looking for, but that wasn't it. Apparently they either wanted me to do all the tasks simultaneously or just decide autonomously which was most important. The first is impossible. The second means that anybody and everybody is my manager, and if I do what one person says I might be accountable for not doing what the other person says instead.

In a sane environment I'm working on a prioritized backlog of tasks and anyone who wants something else just needs to ask my manager if they need to divert me.

In a less sane environment I suppose I could work with any other system. FIFO, sort based on job title or the person's last name, draw from a hat, whatever. And perhaps 75% of the time the priority might be obvious anyway. Just tell me your system. (This is my internal dialogue, not what I said to them.)

This is the part where they would normally explain what they expected. It's as if they didn't know themselves, or they just wanted me to say that I would somehow prioritize everything in the right order. That's a big red flag. They're describing chaos. If you apply Conway's Law, what does their software look like?

I asked about their unit tests. They said that they were working toward adding more unit tests. Translation: We don't write unit tests. That's a huge red flag. Unless they're interviewing me to teach them how to write unit tests (they weren't) then there's a mismatch.

The weirdest part was when one of them said, more than once, that theirs was a smaller team, there weren't that many developers, and that meant there would be nowhere to hide. WTHeck? That's a disturbing thing to say. Why would I want to hide?

Then he asked if that made me just want to run out the door. I said no, but my face is expressive, and I'm sure that by that point my expression was shock and horror. You've told me that your team is in chaos and that working there will make me want to run or hide.

They didn't offer me the job, which scared me a little because I hadn't interviewed in a decade. But the next two places I interviewed did. That was two years ago, and my experience since them has confirmed that nothing about that place was normal.

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