Interviewer: Can you write 42 in binary?
[I write it in binary] Interviewer: Do you know what’s the significance of this number?
Me (joking): It’s the meaning of life
Interviewer: You’re right!
Me: Wait what? Oh, oh was that actually the answer?!
Interviewer: Do you know about bitmasks?
Me (without realizing the pun): A bit
Interviewer: Nice one
Me (slightly confused look until realized I made an unintentional pun): Oh, wow!
Interviewer: Do you need sponsorship?
Me: I’m a Canadian citizen
Interviewer: Okay, J1 (proceeds to note J1 sponsorship needed)
Me (hesitates a bit, then jokes): (disclaimer: I was sure this wouldn’t offend the interviewer and the timing was right) I probably won’t be affected by any Executive Orders.
- Mispronounced interviewer’s name in a phone interview……oooops. It wasn’t until a couple days later when I called the company to ask to speak to my interviewer did I learn of my mistake.
- Mis-assumed interviewer’s gender in a phone interview…….fudge! Triple oooooops! I did try to LinkedIn my interviewer to look for a picture but couldn’t find one and so decided to take a chance. I later told her that I had tried to determine her gender ahead of time but made the wrong guess, and we both had a good laugh. Lesson learned: if unsure of gender ahead of time, it’s safer to start the interview with “Hi, is this firstName?” than to assume “Hi, is this Mr./Ms. lastName?”
In both cases, I’m thankful that both interviewers were pretty understanding and both gave me offers. This also shows that they’re confident people. Anyways, I will avoid these ooops in future interviews.
Big Thank You!
Much to my delightful surprise, one interviewer actually downloaded and ran one of my Github projects and said it looked pretty nice! ~~Thank you!!! You’re the first one!
- This term, I found myself to be more mature during interviews. Perhaps this also explained why there were fewer unusual exchanges with interviewers as compared to previous terms’ interviews.
- In preparing for interviews, I focused on algorithms and ran out of time to prepare for soft questions. I also wasn’t expecting any soft questions. This was a mistake. On the first “Tell me about yourself”, I was so taken aback that I literally paused for a couple seconds before mustering a half-baked introduction. Lesson learned!
- I became much more selective when evaluating jobs. Unlike in previous terms when I would be happy with almost any job, I now expect jobs to have interesting technologies. In addition, I expect the interviews to contain non-trivial technical questions; any that didn’t raised red flags about the technical requirements of the position.
- When I’m interviewing for a position I really want, I automatically become more energetic, speaking more enthusiastically, asking more questions, wanting to learn more about the position and the interviewer. When interviewing for a position I wasn’t as interested in or the interviewers seem uninterested in me, I would automatically forget which questions to ask, provide less details, and overall show less enthusiasm.
- Even after having had 50+ interviews since first year, I still feel nervous going into each one. Sometimes, out of nervousness, I even speak in a raspy whispery voice.
- If during the tech portion of an interview and the interviewer takes a look at their phone, then you’re taking too much time and likely won’t be their first choice. Trust me, I have had experience with this one before!
- It’s okay to apply to positions that appear to be beyond your current experience or contain unfamiliar technologies. Good interviewers will also be aware of this and will adjust their questions accordingly.
Recommendations for Bad Interviews
Most of my interviews were either neutral or positive but there were a couple disrespectful ones. Please know that I’m not trying to badmouth the interviewers but simply am trying to express my thoughts and feelings. Where appropriate, I tried to place a humorous spin on some of the disrespectful interviews.
- Escape.Everything was going well and as we finished chatting about my experiences, the interviewer asked if I had any questions. There was still plenty of time and I had a bunch of questions to ask. However, after answering the first one and much to my shock, the interviewer ended the interview. He said another interviewer will schedule a second round. It never happened. My recommendation: if you don’t want to hire someone, don’t mislead them saying there will be a non-existent second round. Also, if we’re not behind schedule, allow the interviewee to finish asking their questions instead of just ending it. It’s common curtesy and a couple extra minutes answering questions doesn’t hurt.
- Next! An interviewer who didn’t bother asking if I had any questions after I did poorly on a technical problem. Sure, I get it, you don’t think I’m qualified but to deny me even a single question is lowwwww. If I were the interviewer, I would still let the interviewee ask questions regardless of their performance because it’s still respectful to do so.
- Unprepared & Blaming. I have high confidence the interviewer didn’t even read my resume and cover letter, and that’s not because he didn’t have paper copies. Even though both my cover letter and resume mentioned that I had worked at 3 companies already, the interviewer still thought I was in first year and after I corrected him, he blamed me for not including this information in my job application….O..o….. I was surprised that although the job description listed several new technologies, not a single technical-related problem was mentioned throughout the interview. Lenny’s advice: please come prepared. Students put a lot of time into their job applications and to hide behind your own unpreparedness by blaming them for non-existent mistakes is…sad.
- Unprepared & Not Attentive. Please read the interviewee’s resume. If my resume says I’ve already used Node.js before and lists half a dozen Github projects, including a Node.js app, then do rest assured that I know what Node.js and Pull Requests are. After the interviewer said that the position was for developing RESTful APIs, I responded that I had developed one as a hobby project, hoping that we could then discuss about REST. Instead I was met with a frown and short period of silence, which I found to be sort of strange. Given that my resume listed that I built a programming language for fun, it also didn’t seem appropriate to be asked the easier of two technical questions: “find the next palindrome” vs “find the LCA in a tree”. Advice: be respectful to at least read interviewees’ resumes, because otherwise, it’s pretty much a waste of time for both interviewee and interviewer.
- Hostile/Insecure/Incompetent/Unprofessional. Okay, this one felt personal and I reported this to my co-op office. One interviewer was a recent grad from Waterloo whom I suspected never had coop before, acted insecurely and seemed to be trying to impress her boss. It wasn’t just their technical incompetence (insisting that my recursive expression evaluator must be wrong simply because it uses recursion instead of a stack despite the fact that my professors, books, and industry professionals recognize my solution), it was also their passive-aggressive behaviour (literally sliding down their chair with a frown on their face, scoffing at me under their breath “doesn’t know multithreading” just loud enough for me to hear [For the record, I have used multithreading before], aggressively interrupting me with more questions as I’m in the middle of explaining the previous questions, having either negative or no reactions towards almost all of my answers, and answering my questions with head supported in palm and face turned towards the window). Yepp, this one felt personal. I can definitely understand why their parent company (a multi-billion dollar corporation) is selling off this division. With employees like these, who needs competitors? Both of my co-op advisers agreed that their actions were entirely inappropriate. If I were their bosses, I would make sure to replace them with respectful interviewers because it’s incredibly damaging to have passive-aggressive, insecure, and technically incompetent people interviewing prospective employees. Advice: don’t be jerks…
- Yawning. This one was kind of funny because yawning is a reflex that we can’t really control. Hey, at least the interviewer tried to suppress it the second time. Otherwise, the interview went pretty well and I received an offer. Advice: please also try to suppress the first yawn ;P.
Overall, this was an interesting round of interviews. It was good to chat about technology, survey the job market, practice algorithms again, and become more familiar about my own technical skills and projects. You meet all kinds of people during interviews; some are nice; some are funny; some are mean; some are chill; and some have been in this industry since the ‘90s! I appreciated the opportunity to speak with and lean from experienced developers.