Life is currently too hectic – with all three of us falling sick in turns. We still haven’t recovered – baby and I are still sick. Hubby and I have been taking turns to look after the kid. I am just waiting for this horrible winter to get over. Spring, please come fast!
Amidst all this madness, I took my first interview of a candidate. I was excited to conduct an interview as I have never done that before. I wanted to know what it would be like to be on the other side of the process.
My manager wanted me to conduct a coding interview and focus only on the programming. This was exciting as coding is what I love the most about this job. Difficult part was preparing the questions. I should know the answers for these questions myself and I should know the answers very well as I need to cross-question him, guide him if he is lost or give him some clues etc. It was not an easy process. I looked for some tips online and I came across an awesome interview question. One person suggested that we ask a programmer what project did he/she do as a hobby. A real programmer would have definitely done some projects apart from what he/she does at work. I loved this question as I have done projects just for fun many times. But since I was supposed to ask programming questions, I discarded this question.
I did get some good questions, thanks to Google searches. But I wanted to twist the questions so that he would have to apply some brains. I prepared 10 questions, as suggested by hubby. I spent a lot of time coding these myself. At the end of the day, I was in a happy mood as I did something I loved – coding and lots of it! I was excited. I had a 45 minutes slot for interviewing. I fired my first question at him – a program which must use multiple threads. He came up with the perfect solution and I was impressed. Next I gave him a linked list program and he was gone. He had a hard time figuring out what and how to do. It was a simple question which I would have definitely solved if asked in an interview. He probably never wrote a program using linked lists in the recent times. Also since he had graduated long time back, he must have been rusty. I gave him several hints and eventually even the solution. But he was not able to code. For me, linked lists is like the holy grail of data structures. If you cannot handle pointers, you are definitely not a good programmer.
Anyway, I stopped him midway as I just had 10 minutes of the interview left. I gave him a third program on string manipulation. He came up with a solution for a completely different problem. It was unrelated to what I asked. I had to clarify again what I wanted. This time he wrote a highly inefficient program. I then started asking him if he knew anything about big-oh notation or time complexity. He was clueless. I asked him if it was going to take a lot of time. Blank look. Then I gave him the solution which he was able to code. And time was up. He was strong in basics, even though a bit rusty.
I did learn a lot thanks to this experience. One important point was to clarify the problem before coding. Give some examples and get all the clarification you need from the interviewer before you start to code. Another thing I observed is how writing a cleaner code would impress the person who is interviewing. This person wrote every statement without semicolons and he was in a pseudocode mode. One more point to observe was that he lacked confidence. Even though his solutions were correct, he himself kept saying they are wrong. One thing that did impress me was how he explained his ideas with clarity. I need to keep these points in mind when I give an interview myself.
When someone who is looking for a job or internship approaches me, my first question to them would be -“What kind of job are you looking for?”. Most people say -“I don’t mind anything. Any kind of job in your company is okay.”. That’s when I discard their resume because this person wants to just work for money and is not passionate about his/her job. Most people like me know exactly what kind of job they want. Same goes for people who come asking me if my University provides good job opportunities as the first question, instead of asking me how good the professors are etc.
Have you ever taken an interview? If so, what did you learn from that experience?