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The Life and Times of a Dev Yes, we're really that weird

I went on a job interview the other day, and it really went horribly.  I know I've interviewed far better than that, and I've been trying to determine what caused me to interview so badly.  Based on the interview I gave, I would have rated myself as a mid level developer with little or not leadership experience, which is far from where I'm at.  To give you an example, I incorrectly answered the question, "By default, does c# pass variables by ref or by val."  Yeah, I know, DUH!!!!  I've ASKED that question in 15 or 20 interviews myself, and even with a 50/50 chance I blew it!  (in my defense, when I answered, I was thinking about how objects, which are allocated on the heap, not the stack, can behave as though they were passed by reference, and blurted out the byref statement because of it, but it's still a stupid mistake).

I've tried to figure out why I performed so poorly and I've boiled it down to a few things:

  1. Stress.  My wife's 12 seat 1985 van died a horrible death, and we had to go into debt to replace it, which we don't like.  After that, my vehicle died and we ended up with a $730 repair bill on it and now it's not running well.  I haven't had projects at work, and since I'm paid hourly, my billed hours has been down, so income is down, plus the holidays put me out for a few days of pay.  I've been sick.  My kids have been sick.  I haven't been sleeping well.  My wife's thyroid is gone, she's six months pregnant, and her thyroxine dosage was low, which means she feels really poor, which makes me worry.  The expesive table we ordered was missing the mounting boards so there was the stress associated with that.  Taekwondo was canceled for the holidays, so I had no stress relief.  My oldest is making hydrogen gas through electrolosis for his sceince project . . .
  2. The interview location was poor.  The interviewer chose a restaurant that I wasn't familiar with and it turned out to be a fast food location, so the location was noisy, and having the food brought was distracting.  Lunch meetings are fine, but they shouldn't be a location for a tech interview.
  3. The interviewer was 10 minutes late, his partner was at least 15, so I was left standing in a fast food joint looking like a stalker.
  4. The interviewer reminded me of someone I knew (and despised) in a previous life, so it was hard not to associate them.
  5. Having given a lot of interviews, the interview wasn't done well to really find out what I knew (few follow up questions), but that's a common problem with interviewing.
  6. The job was a risky position to start with, so my feel going into the interview was a little negative.

Looking at all of those, I still should have been able to cope with items 2 through 6, since that stuff happens.  I think that with the stress that is a result of everything in 1, it through me off.  I've since had other interviews that have gone far better.

So my question is, how do I, as an interviewer, get around people that are having major amounts of stress going on outside of the interview process?  How many people have I classified incorrectly because they were having an off day?

One mechanism is key--don't make your judgements based off of a single question.  Even if they give you the wrong answer, you have to probe deeper so that you can find out if it was just a brain freeze, or if they really didn't know the answer.

Another thing that has to happen in a good interview is to ask a variety of questions, unless you're looking for something specific.  If you're just trying to get a feel for the overal depth and skill of the developer, you need at least an hour of in depth tech questions to find it out (some companies take an entire day or more for interviews).

Ultimately, I know they didn't get a good impression of my skill set and as someone who does a lot of interviewing, I hope I learned from it too.

Posted on Friday, January 5, 2007 11:41 AM Work | Back to top


Comments on this post: Interviewing

# re: Interviewing
Requesting Gravatar...
Ugh...dude...they totally sounded a bit unprofessional themselves! Every time I've had some interview at a restaurant, or not at the office site of the company, its resulted in less than stellar things.

One place I worked at, I interviewed at a restaurant, but at least they had a seperate room to do it in. These guys had you meet at a fast food place, and THEY were late? Interviewers need to remember that theyr'e being "interviewed" as well from the candidates side of things.

The other place that I ended up having an impromptu meeting with some VP's at a coffee shop at, they told me their plan to overthrow the CEO and have an outside investing group take over. I lasted there three months before leaving.

Sorry it didn't go well, but like you mentioned about it being "risky", it sounds like not doing well might have been a blessing in disguise.

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Jan 05, 2007 12:21 PM

# re: Interviewing
Requesting Gravatar...
Ugh...dude...they totally sounded a bit unprofessional themselves! Every time I've had some interview at a restaurant, or not at the office site of the company, its resulted in less than stellar things.

One place I worked at, I interviewed at a restaurant, but at least they had a seperate room to do it in. These guys had you meet at a fast food place, and THEY were late? Interviewers need to remember that theyr'e being "interviewed" as well from the candidates side of things.

The other place that I ended up having an impromptu meeting with some VP's at a coffee shop at, they told me their plan to overthrow the CEO and have an outside investing group take over. I lasted there three months before leaving.

Sorry it didn't go well, but like you mentioned about it being "risky", it sounds like not doing well might have been a blessing in disguise.

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Jan 05, 2007 12:21 PM

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