On-site interview at Conduit

We’re excited! Here’s some information that might be helpful.

Brandon Wang
May 1, 2017 · 6 min read

Thank you for taking the time to interview with us. We’re trying our hardest to assemble the dream team at Conduit, and I’m excited to move forward with you to the on-site interview — congratulations!

By now, I’ve done over 500 interviews and I’m only going to do more. I’ve learned a lot about how to be a more helpful interviewer and, as someone interviewing with us, you’ll benefit from that. Your time is really valuable and we don’t want to waste it.

Setting you up for success

If we ask you to meet us in-person, it means we think we might want to work with you. We’re looking for all the signs to help us go from a maybe to a yes. That’s not always easy, so help us help you — we want to set you up for success.

We’ve realized a great way to do this is to detail expectations and goals up front in a write-up like this. As employees who once searched for jobs too, we wish more companies did this. So here goes — and good luck!

What are we looking for?

At a high level, a lot of things matter to us, but these things matter most:

To establish a culture understanding

We used to talk about “culture fit” a lot. It’s probably more productive to talk about “culture understanding”, in which you and Conduit come to a mutual conclusion about the way you’ll work on our team.

Of course, there are the musts — we need to get along with you. You have to work well both on a team and on your own. You have to be trustworthy. And you have to like us and like solving problems with us.

But we’re also interested in discovering the ways in which you work and whether that jives with the Conduit mentality. The Conduit team is a community, and different people work differently. We build happier companies — and happier communities — when we take those differences into account.

To see your big and little picture thinking

In my opinion, well-rounded employees are the best choice for small startups that by nature must be agile. You need to demonstrate that you can see the big picture while diving in deep — to dig into the trenches but also to question whether it makes sense to be digging in the first place.

That also means you need to be proudly feedback-driven: to be able to give feedback without being rude or caustic, to be able to take feedback without being defensive or undermined, and to hold strong opinions that you aren’t afraid to change.

Have both computer science and computer engineering skills

Some people have one or the other. We need both:

  • Computer science skills: Understand the underlying concepts of developing good software by having a rock-solid understanding of data structures, algorithms, timing, distributed systems, etc.
  • Computer engineering skills: Have battle-tested engineering skills, with familiarity of what modern developers use. Know the right frameworks, packages, and services off the top of your head.

Have passion and interest

By the way, show passion: for the day-to-day of what we’re building, but for the greater picture. Get excited with us when we hit milestones. Gush about our work to others. Enjoy team lunches on the company. Come to work with a smile.

This isn’t directly related, but I argue that in your career search you should want companies to look for these things because they build better — and more successful — organizations. You want companies to pick out good hires and filter out the BS of bad ones. You’ll like your team more, plain and simple.

If you’re not the best fit, there’s also little benefit to exaggeration or bluffing. Clarify misleading points in your background but, if you’re not qualified, tell us — we will appreciate the honesty. We know everybody isn’t good at everything.

Plus, startups must be nimble by nature. If we hire a bad fit, we will be forced to let them go. That wastes everyone’s time, dignity, and resources.

What should you expect at the interview?

Our on-site interview is part technical interview and part conversation.

At Conduit, don’t expect full-day technical interviews. We conduct screenings in a series of shorter meetings and phone calls. The first on-site interview is usually about 1 hr to 90 min.

Warm up

  • If you have a previous project that demonstrates substantive technical challenges, share it with us. Usually we pull up a project on GitHub and chat about its goals, uses, and implementation.
  • One or two simple programming questions. You’ll implement it, either on a whiteboard or on your computer, and then we’ll talk about different strengths and weaknesses.
  • One or two design thinking questions. These may or may not be technical but, given a loosely defined goal, you should come up with a technical plan of attack. We’ll iterate on the goal and see how you respond on the spot.

Main exercise

  • We may continue with a series of smaller questions, or focus our time on a single larger project. In either case, you’ll talk about structure and then implement a solution.

Q and A time

  • Although you’re free to ask questions at any time, this is a reserved time for you to discuss the company, our team, etc. It’s also an opportunity to discuss the interview and how it went. Please don’t ask a question for the sake of asking a question — but know we’re happy to chat!
  • We’ll let you know within a few days whether we want to continue the conversation. If so, we might want to chat on the phone or bring you in again.

Computer or whiteboard?
Some people prefer to work in their favorite IDE, while others like to whiteboard. You’re free to choose which (let us know what you prefer); regardless of which, expect to defend your solutions via discussion.

If you’re coding on a computer, feel free to use Google or online resources. If you’re coding on a whiteboard, just get your point across and we’ll be fine.

We prefer Python and JavaScript, but you can use any language if coding on a computer. (For front-end positions, you should plan to write JavaScript.) For white-boarding, we have found that a Python-like pseudo-syntax tends to work best.

Location and getting here

Conduit is located at the beautiful Alley space in Harvard Square, about a 7 min walk from the T stop, at 10 Ware St. Just walk down Mass Ave and then Harvard Street — here are directions.

When you arrive, come right in and sign in at the front desk. We’ll meet you in the lobby — help yourself to coffee, tea, or water.

(If no one comes to meet you after a few minutes, the notification system might be wonky — just send us an email.)

What you should bring

We hate crowding around a tiny laptop screen:

  • Bring a laptop configured with your favorite coding setup — i.e., an IDE or editor you’re comfortable in, and the ability to execute code you write. Please also bring a laptop charger, just in case.
  • For React, you can use create-react-app to get the basics going. For JavaScript, a simple Node environment may work well. For Python, set up a Python 3.x environment in which you can instantly run code.
  • Bring the ability to plug your laptop into HDMI. We will have a mDP-HDMI adapter you can borrow, but bring other types of adapters yourself.

What you should not bring

Please do not over-prepare; please do not wear a suit; please do not bring lunch (snacks are okay, but we want to talk to you!). Give yourself some buffer time after the interview in case things run over time or we want to extend our time together.

Thank you!

See you soon! We’re really excited and we hope you are too.
— Brandon


Conduit's product, engineering, and insights blog /…

Brandon Wang

Written by

Cofounder/CTO @withLadder / On leave, Stat/CS @Harvard / Formerly @ConduitHQ @IQSS @StratoDem @PBJ_Journalism @TeachForAmerica @PhillipsExeter



Conduit's product, engineering, and insights blog / https://conduit.app

Brandon Wang

Written by

Cofounder/CTO @withLadder / On leave, Stat/CS @Harvard / Formerly @ConduitHQ @IQSS @StratoDem @PBJ_Journalism @TeachForAmerica @PhillipsExeter



Conduit's product, engineering, and insights blog / https://conduit.app

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