Interview Highlights for Third Coop

I was applying and interviewing for 4-month coop positions starting in September for the past several weeks and after a dozen interviews, I came to “discover” a curious phenomenon: the interview process often reversed my view of the company. If I wanted to join a company before the interview, then I would no longer be as interested in joining the company after the interview, and vice versa. There were outliers but I think this phenomenon accounted for 70% of my interviews.

I’m not sure why an interview would change my perspective about a company but there are some theories:

  • I didn’t do well on some interviews and as a result, I subconsciously knew the employer wouldn’t provide me an offer, which affected my answers to subsequent questions. In turn, the interviewer might behave differently too. To test this theory, we also need to compare my post-interview mood with whether it’s associated with an offer or no offer
  • Marketing creates an outer picture different from a company’s internal state
  • Some interviewers view students as cogs in a machine and hire them without the intention of mentoring or training them because it is cheaper to pay students than full-time employees. As a result, they consider the student being interviewed more as a tool than a person. When that student is me, I no longer want to be part of the company

The main lesson I learned from this round of interviews is: always be open-minded about a company and let go of any biases.

 Here are the highlights from this round of interviews:

The Good

Interviewer: Have you been to Calgary before?
Me: I once flew over it to get to Vancouver.

[I forgot the exact dialogue but it was similar to this] Interviewer: The third party might raise the prices in the future but for now, they claim they won’t.
Me: [with a side look] They claim…
Interviewer: That’s what they say. They might in the future. Some want to, some don’t. People see it in different ways
Me: That’s like politics!
Interviewer: Exactly!

 Interviewer: Our salary is $XX.X and we also offer –
Me: [surprised and excited] $XX.X!!! Oh sorry, I was really surprised because my previous salaries were $YY.Y
Interviewer: [smiling] Yes, and we also offer other compensations

 Me: Do you know how much the salary is?
Interviewer: Oh, we didn’t tell you that already? Let me check, then. [turns on phone to check] Me: [while interviewer is checking] I’ll be happy with $40 an hour
Interviewer: $40?!
Me: Okay, I’ll settle with $35 then
—– NOTE: the salary was less than $35

 Interviewer: Do you speak French?
Me: Oui, je peux parler un petit peu de francais (yes, I can speak a bit of French)
Interviewer: Great, then let’s do the rest of the interview in French
[1 question later] Interviewer: [in French] This will be our last question in French. We can speak in English afterwards.
—– NOTE: I didn’t get the offer

 An interviewer forgot to call me! We rescheduled for another time and right before the rescheduled interview, my phone shut down and I missed the call! Luckily, I called back and was provided an offer. The overall experience was kind of funny!

The Bad

  • An interviewer paged the next student while I was still in the room.
  • One interviewer sighed several times as I was trying to solve a technical problem. At the end of the interview, he said the recruiter will email me shortly. I waited for a week and didn’t receive an email from the recruiter.
  • I had an interview scheduled at 1:45 and I waited to be paged until 1:55. I asked the coop desk if the interviewers were running late or if the paging system broke again (it had been intermittently breaking throughout the past several weeks). The coop desk told me that the pagers were working fine, the interviewers were running late, and that I wait. After I met the interviewers, they told me they had paged me at 1:45 but realized the pager must have broken because they received no response!
  • After I asked the interviewers about the salary, one of them appeared to search or shuffle his papers and told me he didn’t have an answer but they would tell me if I emailed them later. Later that day, I learned I was rejected from their company.

The Ugly

This was the most disrespectful interview I ever had. The interviewer didn’t bother making eye contact or even greeting me as I shook his hand and greeted him. Without explanation, he didn’t have my resume with him, winced every time I mentioned .NET or C#, scribbled illegible and half-faded code on a whiteboard that didn’t have an eraser nor any room for me to write the code he asked me to write. Even after I explicitly told him a couple times I didn’t know how to solve a question, he continued to ask me the same question and its variations.

 He played on his phone during the interview, criticized me for writing code he had told me to write, cut me off in the middle of my sentences by asking me questions whose answers I was saying before he cut me off. In one scenario, immediately after I told the interviewer that I would optimize my code after finishing writing a brute-force algorithm, he criticized my code for not being optimized! Afterwards, he said my code was incorrect because it didn’t satisfy a requirement which he didn’t tell me about, which means that my code was wrong because it didn’t do something it wasn’t supposed to do! I think he tested me with an impossible question of writing a copy constructor in C with parameters and syntax that didn’t match a copy constructor’s. Near the end of the interview, he told me he had wanted to test me on polymorphism and design questions, implying I didn’t know about them but what’s interesting is that most of his questions were about concurrency, which most programmers would agree is a notch more challenging than polymorphism.

 When it was finally my turn to ask questions, he gave passive aggressive answers. I then asked him what coops would learn at his company. He said coop would learn how to program. Then he said “I’m not looking for programmers or even developers, but for engineers,” from which I deduced the following :

  • The interviewer isn’t looking for programmers but claim that a coop would learn programming.
  • He’s not looking for developers even though the position was called “Software Developer”.
  • He’s looking for engineers but didn’t ask me questions related to engineering or architecture.

 Finally, I shook his hand and thanked him for interviewing me. He just looked at me and said nothing. Overall, I rate this interview -1/10 and won’t be applying to this company in the future. Maybe the interviewer was having a bad day but I don’t think this was an excuse for his extremely disrespectful behaviour. This experience reiterated my belief that those with more power ought to continue treating others with dignity and respect. In the future, if I undergo a similar experience, I would thank the interviewer for his/her time and terminate the interview. I don’t want to work with disrespectful people.

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