Years ago, after my bachelor of computer and systems engineering, I competed in a few technical interviews. In the most memorable interview, I was asked to create a complete website. This was before the days of Squarespace and WordPress. The site had to be hand coded, and frankly, it took forever. I learned in this interview that employers have high expectations of computer programmers.
Perhaps they have good reason to give extensive interviews. It’s been said that a great coder can produce ten times as much code as a bad coder. And, it’s hard to get rid of a full time employee after they’re hired. Plus, unlike many other jobs, you really can give a developer a skills test. There are few other jobs where the interview process can give such clear and accurate feedback. On top of everything else, developers aren’t cheap. A company wants to be sure they know what they’re getting in advance.
A job seeker recently shared their coding interview experience with me, in hopes that it might help other developers. They had an initial interview at a company that was looking for experience with a particular programming language. Quickly, the candidate shared that they have not used this programming language in a number of years. They were assured that it would be no problem. The fundamentals were much more important.
During the second round of interviews, the same candidate was asked to complete a test. The test was using a technology that they weren’t familiar with. They were able to do research on their own, but it wasn’t enough. As you can imagine, the candidate walked away feeling unhappy with the experience.
Similar to the “build a website” homework that I had, this homework was meant to push the candidate’s limits. As frustrating as the experience can be, companies use these techniques to vet out potential employees. And, in some cases, the company does this to their own detriment. They can easily burn through candidates and come up with no one to hire.
As a candidate, one takeaway is this. Interviewing is a two way street. I often compare it to dating. Since when do we go on a first date and hope the person will marry us, before we’ve even ordered drinks? Interviewing is no different. Prepare and do your best. But, take the time to pay attention to how the hiring manager treats you. Look for a mutual match. If you don’t find a good fit, keep moving on. Just like with dating, if you stay with someone who’s a bad fit, you may miss out on the right opportunity.