On Interviews…

Unlike Steve Shogren in his post “Interview Humiliation”, I did not have any alarmingly hostile interview situations, but actually had a very smooth and formative interviewing process. I found the whole thing quite exciting. Although preparing for interviews and interviewing is pretty high-stress, I found it a fantastic and exciting opportunity to ask questions and actually get a feel for the companies and the types of jobs you are interviewing for.

As I was unsure at the beginning of this fall what type of job I wanted to find, I ended up interviewing with a wide variety of companies for different types of jobs. This led me to have a pretty colorful interviewing process and I experienced a lot of types of interviews. The theme that most of my interviews focused on, with a few exceptions, was how well I could think, and thus how well I could solve problems. Even the most technical interviews, although they were also focused on some level of technical competence, had a big emphasis on showing how you were working through the problem.

This calmed much of my anxiety, because walking in I knew that I still had a shot, even if I could not recall some detail in the spur of the moment. Most of the behavioral interviews I took part in were very structural. It was not unbelievably difficult to predict what kind of qualities companies where looking for, which made it easier to prepare examples of times you exhibited those qualities or solved a tough problem.

In the end, what surprised me was learning that how to interview was almost a subject in itself. Even though every interviewer asks different questions and they types of interviews were different, there is almost a skillset behind interviewing that grows the more interviews you do. Handling pressure situations, marketing yourself in a way that honestly but effectively shows your strengths, and many other skills come from practicing.

I prepared for interviews with a lot of big-concept thinking; the technical ones additionally with a little practice. However, what technical concepts do I need to know, what makes me the right person for this job, and what types of strengths do I have that make me the candidate to choose? There are the kinds of questions I considered and familiarized myself with.

In the end, interviewing was a little bit like a game, which I had mixed feelings about. Some parts of it were fun, but the structure made them sometimes predictable. As long as you had prepared answers for the types of questions, the interviews would flow smoothly.

I would say my favorite part was walking away with new contacts and new relationships. I experienced a lot of networking, much more than I expected. And overall, most of my interviews included really great conversations about interesting things about the companies and the industry. Being able to hold solid conversations became a big player and people skills came into play more than I expected. Overall, I performed to the best of my abilities and had a great experience.

An interesting concern raised in the reading was whether white boarding was locking programmers without cs major as a background out of the industry. I think this is a concern that definitely deserves some attention, as all people who can do the job should get a fair shot at the opportunity. However, what white boarding does is accentuates problem solvers, which I think is important. Programming is a tool and languages can be learned, but analytical thinkers are a big asset to any company. This idea can also be used to touch on the issue of the interviewing process for “programmers who can actually program.” I think what it comes down to for employers is what kind of job you need your employees to do. If you want people who can crank out code or if you want people who can code but also can be well rounded and work in different areas you are going to look for different attributes in candidates. Either way, the process should be as civil as possible, and both the interviewer and interviewee should walk out of the interview a little more enlightened than when they walked in.