Saturday, May 08, 2010

A few interviews

I interviewed more than 500 people when I was at Photon. The below stayed in mind. At the end I am providing one of my own stupidity.

The Microsoft Connection

1. I generally interviewed people on the Microsoft stack. I have noticed that only Microsoft stack developers provide the following answer:

Q: Have you worked with .NET 2.0?
A: I downloaded the Beta.

I don't know why downloading a particular software is a great skill, but I regularly get that answer, and only from developers in MS technologies. The only explanation I have is that they think it shows their initiative. It does not. It only shows their ability to click on a link.

2. It is my practice to ask developers in MS techs what they thought of open source technologies. The reason I ask that is to find out if they are too opinionated (more on this later). Usually they say they have not worked with them. But here was the classic (this interview took place in 2008):
Q: What do you think of open source technologies?
A; Two things. First, I don't think they will work out. Developers spread across the world working together to create software that is free - that is just stupid.
Secondly, I don't know anything about open source technologies.

I thought the second answer should be the only one given.

3. I was interviewing a particularly angry candidate. He said he worked with Microsoft on developing a framework. Since he was inexperienced, I was impressed. I kept digging until it turned out what really happened was:
2005 - Microsoft consulting had developed a framework for a shipping client in Norway.
2008 - Candidate had worked in Chennai for a company whose client was same shipping client in Norway. There he had used the framework.
Therefore, by candidate's logic, he had worked with Microsoft on developing a framework.

The Opinionated Candidate

There seems to be an impression among developers and architects out there that the more extremely frustrated and opinionated you seem, the more likely that you will be hired.
I saw this repeatedly:

Me: Have you worked with Microsoft ASP.NET Ajax?
(Candidate sighs. Throws up his hands. Shakes his head.)
Candidate: I don't know why Microsoft does this every time, you know, why it is just Microsoft...I have tried repeatedly explaining to them...why? (sighs again)
Me: (confused) You have not answered my question...How about Sharepoint? Have you used sharepoint?
(Candidate starts moaning)

This opinion virus has spread so much that you never get a straight answer to anything from senior people.

Slightly Above

We interviewed a candidate who had driven all the way from Pondicherry. French guy, he was extremely concerned about his golf appointment than the interview. Three of us sat down to interview him and the following exchange took place:
Q: So are you interested in mentoring developers? Building a team?
A: Sure, I can do that. But I am slightly above that level. That kind of work would be slightly below me.
Q: Oh, ok. How about design, architecture. Do you write technical specs?
A: Slightly above that level, I am afraid.
Q: Managing a vertical?
A: Still above.

It went on like that till he had to leave for golf. Till the end we could not find anything at his level - we were always slightly below and he was above.

My Interview 13 years back

I was interviewing for a C++ developer position. The interview was in Taj Coromandel, Chennai. I went in supremely determined to appear confident and gung-ho.
The first question in the interview was how I would rate myself in a scale of 1 to 10 on C++.
My answer? 11. It seemed like a very intelligent thing to say.
The next question was if I knew what virtual destructors were for in C++.
I closed my eyes and thought for a long time. Nothing popped up.
They asked me four different questions on C++ - medium level, and I had no clue. I was utterly unprepared.
At the end of the interview they told me to come back when I really reached 11 on the C++ scale.


Sangeetha said...

Appreciate your honesty Ram and you haven't buried the 13 year truth!

Kunal said...

Interesting read Ram. Just one question, are you trying to say that job seekers would do anything to answer a question instead of saying a simple "no"?

Ramiah Ariya said...

Kunal, I am not making general comments, really. Just a couple of funny episodes. Most of us are desperate when we attend interviews, and it does not surprise me we do not want to give a straight answer.

Kunal said...

Then I have a lot to share, more from a personal experience! :)