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You are the perfect interviewee. How would you design an events booking system in five minutes?

updated_tos profile image Null ・1 min read

You are the perfect interviewee. You are presented with a pen and a whiteboard and asked to design an events booking system. What do you do?

I was given this task in an interview this morning. A fart would have been a better answer to the one I gave. I scribbled and waffled on about controllers and models and didn't come anywhere near describing a concrete system.

I could talk through the steps required to create an app in Rails but have no idea where to start as far as designing one on a whiteboard.

What would the perfect interviewee do? Would they talk about the user? Would they sketch out a UML diagram? Should the design mention classes at all or should the interviewee talk about the app at a higher level of abstraction?

What would the perfect interviewee do in five minutes to satisfy their interviewers? (That is, what do I need to learn to be able to communicate my ideas clearly via a whiteboard?)

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@updated_tos

Junior developer experienced in Ruby. Looking for remote work or work in or around Somerset, UK!

Discussion

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I'm by no means a perfect interviewee, but I'd start by clarifying their expectation.

What kind of events?
Who is using it?
What platform is it on?
How are events added?
How are they viewed and interacted with.

From there, I'd sketch out a general CRUD plan and start working in the approach to building.

I'm guessing they are looking for your problem solving skills rather than your coding expertise.

 

In one of our later interview rounds we have a similar question and what I'm generally interested in is less the architecture that someone can come up with in 10 minutes (let's be serious) but more the questions they ask, so pretty much exactly what you described here.

 

Stop thinking about perfection! A perfect opportunity to design and present any kind of schematic isn't five minutes long. The idea is to see what kind of use you can make of those five minutes. It's going to be messy, unless you're well accustomed to improvising architecture; it's going to have holes; but that's all okay, because nobody in their right mind would actually try to implement based on what you come up with in that length of time. It's a performance. The whiteboard is a glorified napkin and for the next five minutes you're really enthusiastic about communicating your vision for events booking. Do it in the way you think you can do it best.

 

I concur with Lisa. It's an incredibly broad question with many different interpretations. The goal, I suspect, is to see how you ask clarifying questions and to reveal a bit how you think through problems. The best thing you can do for yourself in most interviews is to interact with the other participants. Talk through things out loud, ask questions. Don't focus on what's right, focus on giving them as much information about what's going on inside your head as you can.

 

My guess is that they didn't expect you to build a complete system on the white board :D
And giving you a pen tricked your mind into thinking you MUST write something quickly!

They wanted to see how you approach the problem.

The questions you ask about the problem would give them an understanding about whether you can see the different aspects involved with the system.

So next time, think of the Matrix.... "There is no Pen"

 

Thank you all for your advice. Grrr, I'm so cross with myself because I would probably have spent the time asking questions and building a clear picture had I not panicked.

Hindsight hey.