Published in


Interviewing At TrialSpark

At TrialSpark, every employee works towards the company mission of bringing treatments to patients faster and more efficiently. Hiring great people is critical to achieving our mission, and we believe we will only be as great as the teams we are able to build.

When we interview engineers for roles at TrialSpark, we look for many signals. We want someone who has the potential to help the team and the company achieve our mission, and we want someone who can grow and push our team to be better. We want strong engineers who can work across a range of business problems, who want to understand the product they are building, and who care deeply about delivering an excellent experience to their users.

In general, every one of our engineering interviews consists of two sections: one behavioral and one technical. Depending on the specific interview session, the allocation of time to each section may differ.

What we look for in Behavioral Questions

We start every interview with a discussion framed around open-ended questions. During this time your interviewers want to hear about what makes you a great person to work with. We’ll ask questions about what you accomplished in your previous roles that reflect our company and team values, and what makes you a great addition to the team.

TrialSpark’s company values are important guiding principles for making day to day decisions across the organization. These are some questions to help frame information that your interviewers want to hear from you about how you work with regards to the company values.

  • Think in first principles: How familiar are you with the “why’s” behind your work and its impact on your organization?
  • Be a scientist: What hypotheses have you made and how did you arrive at them? What were your assumptions, and what were you trying to solve? When did you revisit decisions you made in the past?
  • Deliver care: How do you support your teammates? How do you balance helping others with getting your own work done? What cultural elements are important to you at a company? What concrete actions have you taken to encourage these things where you work?
  • Champion the mission: How do you align your work with your organization’s mission and goals? Why are you interested in clinical trials or working in the healthcare system?

In addition to our company values, our engineering team also looks for some characteristics that can help an individual be successful in their day to day work. Below are some of these characteristics and some questions to help you think about what experiences and skill sets you can highlight to your interviewer.

  • Clear communication: How do you provide feedback to others? How do you incorporate nuanced information into the technical decisions that you make? How do you communicate project updates to your stakeholders?
  • Execution Mindset: How do you balance providing immediate value to our stakeholders and our users with doing a refactor that improves engineering team happiness and provides long term value?
  • Growth mindset: How have you reflected on your growth so far? What are areas that you want to focus on moving forward? How do you encourage those around you to grow?

What we look for in the Technical Problem

Many of our Engineering interviews also include a technical or problem solving section. Many companies give coding exercises that evaluate candidates’ solutions for elegance and completeness. At TrialSpark we prioritize a different set of key behaviors:

  • Ability to write readable code. Regardless of the language or style of pseudocode you choose to use during your interview, the interviewer should be able to follow the logic you present. This is an expectation for anyone committing code to our repository. If you are writing code that is difficult to understand and follow, you are creating more work for your peers in the future who have to spend extra time and effort parsing it.
  • Ability to communicate your thought process clearly. In a collaborative environment such as ours, engineers rarely work in silos: we pair program, comment on each other’s design documents, and enforce peer review of code. We are interested in how effectively you can convey your understanding of a problem and the potential solutions, as well as how you incorporate others into your thought process. We find that we get the best signal when a candidate can think out loud, but please let your interviewer know if you prefer to convey your thoughts via pseudocode or in another written form.
  • Ability to justify technical decisions. While this is closely related to how you communicate your thought process, it additionally requires showcasing your breadth of technical knowledge. Why did you pick a particular data structure in your solution? What are the trade-offs you are making in your design by choosing one option over another? If you don’t explain these things up front, expect your interviewer to ask! Trial and error is okay, but if you are planning on trying something out, state your assumptions and what results you are looking for during the process.
  • Receptiveness to feedback. Showing how you incorporate feedback into your work is an important signal for your potential to learn and grow. If the interviewer nudges you towards a particular solution because they think you might be getting stuck, how do you respond or push back? Do you ask for help when you are stuck? Some folks unfortunately believe that asking questions is a sign of weakness, but we believe that it is both a sign of curiosity as well as a sign of a growth mindset — both things we want from our teammates!
  • Ability to completely and correctly solve problems. We believe that value is created when a business requirement is fully solved and users have what they need to succeed. Accordingly, at TrialSpark we evaluate one another based on the ultimate impact of our efforts, and that goes for interviews too! Please work with your interviewer to produce a complete and correct solution before you optimize it.

What we are not looking for

Things we do not look for during our interviews:

  1. We are not trying to stump you with trick questions.

We don’t believe in “gotcha” moments or in favoring candidates who just happen to know the “right” algorithm to the problem at hand. We are curious about your problem solving skills, how you respond to new information, and that you can make reasonable decisions. We will do our best to give you the opportunities to put your best foot forward. Take these opportunities to give us more information about your skills, past successes (and failures!) so that we can understand your potential and how you might bring that to our team. Better yet, offer this information proactively!

2. Finishing all pieces of a multi-part problem

Most of our interviews include optional modular components — for example: additional questions, prompts, or unit tests. Our goal is to provide candidates as many opportunities as possible to demonstrate the qualities we are looking for. We never expect a candidate to get to the end of a problem, and we will set this expectation up front as a reminder that you do not need to finish all of its parts. We are not testing your speed or your ability to work under pressure. However, we do need to see that you are making reasonable progress throughout the time given to you and that you are making the right decisions that would lead to a clear and complete solution if given more time.

3. Big O runtime and space complexity

Unfortunately some in the tech industry have developed the habit of asking candidates questions about textbook algorithm implementations and space and runtime complexity. While we do care about the performance of our code at TrialSpark, we aren’t going to ask you specifically for runtime or space complexity in Big O. We will ask you what parts of your code you would improve before shipping, and we might even ask you to improve your code if we have time. If you find it easier to express your thoughts with Big O, that’s great. But if you don’t know the runtime of Dijkstra’s algorithm, that’s fine — we use The Internet for that too!

Come Interview at TrialSpark!

We hope this gives readers insight into what we generally look for in our interview process. We are always open to feedback, so drop a comment below! Interested in working at TrialSpark? Browse our open positions here.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store