Vivek Haldar

Interviews (and whiteboard coding)

Interviewing is a touchy topic. You are being judged! You might have a couple of decades of experience, and your freckle-faced questioner might be asking you to implement some variant of sorting on the whiteboard. It would be entirely human for some part of you to think this whole exercise is beneath you.

But please don’t do that. That is the one thing that will instantly poison your chances. If you think the question is trivial, prove it by banging out a clean, correct solution, quickly and without fuss. Show them how easy it was for you. Then you might get asked more challenging and open-ended questions.

Think about it from the point of view of both the company and the interviewer. For the company, the cost of incorrectly hiring a moron is much, much higher than incorrectly passing on a genius. And please believe me when I tell you that that simple question you thought was beneath you stumps a good fraction of candidates.

These two factors combined mean that interviews have largely become negative filters, i.e. they try to filter out people below a limit, rather than trying to gauge how bright you shine. But good interviewers will almost certainly kick the gears up if you make easy work out their initial questions.

I realise it is far from perfect, but given the constraints, it’s probably the best we have.

By far the best “interview” is to have the candidate on-site for a while and have them work with a team. In other words, an internship. That’s why a lot of time and effort goes into internship programs. Killing it during your internship greatly increases your chances of getting a full time offer.