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Interview Experiences

soniya saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2004
Posts: 300
Originally posted by Mani Ram:

U r making a few incorrect assumptions here.


Then why do you need an interview? All you have to do is to give the same question paper to all the candidates and validate their answers!


Since u say question paper, u may probably be assuming that these are objective type questions or those which can easily answered on a sheet of paper.


The purpose of interview is something different. It is not only to check the ability of the candidate to answer some basic readymade questions!


U r assuming that all readymade questions are basic.

A sheet of readymade questions can comprise of very simple questions or extremely complex questions depending on the position u r hiring for.


I would say it is a bad way to select people. When this works well for people with less experience (say less than 2 years), it is not appropriate for people with higher levels of experience. You need to ask different questions to different people with different experiences having different skill sets.
Asking different sets of questions to different people may make sense for general-purpose recruitment at a consulting company cuz whatever be the skill set of the person, they may have a project to suit that. But lets consider a company focussing on 1 application and all that they care for is that the candidate should be well versed with the technologies that matter to their product. Such kind of companies might tend to go with the more focussed sheet of questions kind of approach. They dont want to end up in a situation when they are hiring for 1 position and 3 different interviewers like 3 different candidates. They are trying to eliminate the guesswork/confusion from the recruitment process.
soniya saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2004
Posts: 300
How do I know he is expecting a StringBuffer solution? What if I gave him the StringBuffer soltion and he was actually expecting solution using char array?
This is a very very famous question and 99% of the people asking this question would be expecting the StringBuffer solution. But what u shud do is present both the solutions. u cud give him the StringBuffer solution and then say that in this particular case there is one more solution which can further improve the performance.


However my argument is that, when I give a different (and better in this case) answer, the interviewer shouldn't be surprised. He should be able to appreciate it instead of scratching his head. If he wanted a StringBuffer solution, he should have tried to get it from me differently (like, "That's good. Do you have some other simple approach without using these arrays and all")

U r not there to test the skill sets of the interviewer. U shud help him out in understanding that u know stuff w/o making him scratch his head.


And even if u feel the interviewer is dumb, u cannot judge a company by a given interviewer
When did I say that?

U said that "Finally he asked me why didn't I use StringBuffer. The way he asked it made it clear that he thinks that using StringBuffer is the best possible way. But I neither made an attempt to rewrite the code nor told him that using a char array is faster than using a StringBuffer."

Here u r taking a risk by not explaining stuff to the interviewer. He might end up rejecting u thou u may be a skilled person. And u wudnt want to lose a position with the company just bcuz the interviewer was bad. So i just feel that u r willing to give up the opportunity and hence concluded that u may be downgrading the company based on the interviewer.
Sonny Gill
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 02, 2002
Posts: 1211

Originally posted by soniya saxena:

The purpose of interview is something different. It is not only to check the ability of the candidate to answer some basic readymade questions!

U r assuming that all readymade questions are basic.

A sheet of readymade questions can comprise of very simple questions or extremely complex questions depending on the position u r hiring for.


So, you are saying that these guys can have sheets of readymade 'complex' questions, and the different interviewers can give consistent scores for the answers they receive to those complex questions ?


The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet. - William Gibson
Consultant @ Xebia. Sonny Gill Tweets
soniya saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2004
Posts: 300
Yes absolutely...the process of generating questions includes having discussed the solutions to these questions so as to ensure consistency in expectations.....the score cud just be binary.

Originally posted by Sonny Gill:


So, you are saying that these guys can have sheets of readymade 'complex' questions, and the different interviewers can give consistent scores for the answers they receive to those complex questions ?
Sonny Gill
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 02, 2002
Posts: 1211

Originally posted by soniya saxena:
Yes absolutely...the process of generating questions includes having discussed the solutions to these questions so as to ensure consistency in expectations.....the score cud just be binary.


This reminds me of a lot of courses run by 'mass production of software engineers' schools where the markers, lacking the ability to judge the answers on their own, are given sort of a marking guide with details on how much marks to award for a particular answer for each question.

Scoring well at places like that is not about really knowing your stuff, it is about knowing what the marker expects you to write. So, often the scores would not reflect a student's true ability or understanding.

I can see the value in this kind of process - to weed out the largest number who is not going to make it. But it is questionable to say the least in many cases.

I personally would love to have a candidate say to me - 'Your solution is kinda ok, but here is a much better way of doing it', or even 'That sucks, why dont you do it this way'. Each to his own, I guess.
Sonny Gill
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 02, 2002
Posts: 1211

Anyway, Mani, let us get back to the fun stuff, any more anecdotes?

Incidently, I found Joel's The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing to be an interesting read.
[ December 17, 2004: Message edited by: Sonny Gill ]
Clint Felix
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 07, 2004
Posts: 32
For a release position

Me: What programming langauge are you most comfortable with?
Candidate: Perl
Me: How do you open a file in perl ?
Can: vi [perl filename]
Me: i meant using Perl?
Can: I use vi normally.
Me: What does "GA" mean ( general availabilty)?
Can: whats that ?
Me: So you have used ANT extensively?
Can: yes, all the time.
Me: Is it necessary for the build file to be called build.xml?
Can: Yes its mandatory.
Me: you have lot of exp on java security?
Can: yes, i love that field.
Me: what doe JCE stand for .
Can: i don't remember
Me: can you name some vendors apart from sun
Can: Sun only ,its proprietary
Me: ok, can you name some algorithms which are used in jce.
Can: Bubble Sort

i can't remember any more .. but it was really an experience.. ahem he had 5 yrs of varied exp !


The truth is out there ...somewhere
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
By the time I saw candidates, they had passed two or more technical interviews, so I did something a little different. My most useful interview question for candidates for UNIX/NT SA jobs was: "If you were Bill Joy/Gates with complete authority, what would you include in the next major release of Solaris/Windows?".

This question not only told me what the candidate knew but what he/she found most interesting. BTW, candidates who had no answer but were hired anyway (I usually signed off if the line manager insisted), seldom did very well on the job even though they were never called upon to design an operating system release. Go figure.


I once had a boss who purely hired for IQ. During the interview, while talking about his school days, my boss mentioned his SAT (College Board) score. The candidate usually did the same. That was the only thing my boss cared about.


Mike Gershman
SCJP 1.4, SCWCD in process
Arjun Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
Some people/companies are obsessed with childhood of candidates.Many companies insist on 'excellent academic record from 10th grade onwards'!.Some want candidates from 'top notch institutes'.One company here hires only on basis of puzzles.They give some 10/15 puzzles.If you able to solve within the time,you are in.Technical knowledge is secondary.


MH
Sania Marsh
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 12, 2004
Posts: 469
how do you rate yourself in Java out of 10


My friend was asked that question on one of the interviews for junior position, he replied "7-8", the interview was over right after that, because they were looking for someone who is "10".
I would never reply "10", because in my opinion, someone at Sun developing Java would have somewhat about 10, how could junior developer be even close to that level? Yet, many college grads would rate theirselves "10", because they got A+ in Java. Does that mean they are better developers than someone who also had A+ in Java, plus 3-5 years development experience, but doesn't think he/she is even at level 8?
I think it is as stupid as asking a woman how beautiful she thinks she is on scale 1-10 when hiring her to work as a model.
Arjun Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
"<Joke>"
Asking this question of rating is foolishness.One must always say 9 out of 10.If you don't answer some questions,they are always from 10% of those ,answers of which you don't know.
"</Joke>"

[ December 20, 2004: Message edited by: Arjun Shastry ]
[ December 20, 2004: Message edited by: Arjun Shastry ]
Warren Dew
blacksmith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    2
Rita Moore:

My friend was asked that question on one of the interviews for junior position, he replied "7-8", the interview was over right after that, because they were looking for someone who is "10".

Did they just trust peoples' answers without verifying them with additional questions?

That could be nice. During salary negotiations, one could just say, "I'm definitely worth $400,000 a year".
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

That's ridiculous, I have never rated mysef higher than 7 or 8. There's so much to learn... If someone says he/she is 10, I'd very skeptical whether he's confident or follishly boastful. I (or anybody else does) can always ask questions that the cadidate cannot answer, but that's not the point - we are there to find out what candidate knows not to flaunt what we know!

Java is vast, anybody who thinks he's 10 is... well, a fool!

- Manish
[ December 20, 2004: Message edited by: Manish Hatwalne ]
Mani Ram
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 11, 2002
Posts: 1140
soniya saxena: Since u say question paper, u may probably be assuming that these are objective type questions or those which can easily answered on a sheet of paper.
No. I'm not assuming that they have to be objective type questions, but yes, I think they can be answered on a sheet of paper.
If multiple interviewers can evaluate the answers to arrive to a same conclusion, then those questions & answers should be something standard. If so, it should be possible that they can be answered in a sheet of paper.

soniya saxena: A sheet of readymade questions can comprise of very simple questions or extremely complex questions depending on the position u r hiring for.
Hmmm..I can't think of any such questions, which can be tailor made to suit people with different experiences & skill sets. Do you have any examples?

soniya saxena: This is a very very famous question and 99% of the people asking this question would be expecting the StringBuffer solution.
Wrong. Many of the interviewers I know, are more satisfied when the candidates give them answers suitable for the given problem rather than the candidates who give them generalized answers they have read somewhere.

soniya saxena: Here u r taking a risk by not explaining stuff to the interviewer. He might end up rejecting u thou u may be a skilled person.
You are right there. But actually I was selected in that interview (but didn't join there, because the salary negotiations didn't go very well )

Rita Moore: I think it is as stupid as asking a woman how beautiful she thinks she is on scale 1-10 when hiring her to work as a model.

I don't know about others, but I ask them to rate themselves. But note that, the rating is neither absolute nor it is relative to other candidates. It is relative to the skill sets of the same candidate.
As I said before, I ask them to rate themselves on various technologies they have listed in their resume. So, I might get a response like this,

Core Java: 8
Servlets & JSP: 8
JDBC: 6
EJB: 4
RMI: 2

What it means is that the particular candidate is more comfortable in Core Java, Servlets & JSP than he or she is with RMI or EJB. So, my concentration will be more on what he or she knows, than on what he or she doesn't know

Arjun Shastry : Asking this question of rating is foolishness.One must always say 9 out of 10.If you don't answer some questions,they are always from 10% of those ,answers of which you don't know
So, typically you will give the following ratings,

Core Java: 9
Servlets & JSP: 9
JDBC: 9
EJB: 9
RMI: 9

But believe me, it is very easy to find the truth when you are over-rating yourself.
Also, by giving such figures, you are putting yourself into a danger, because the interviewer might think that you are very good at RMI and will start asking questions on it, where as your real area of strength is something else (which he / she might totally skip).


Mani
Quaerendo Invenietis
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
I have found that once someone has deep knowledge of one programming technology, they can learn other things quickly. So I would often ask "what area are you best at technically" and ask a few hard questions in that area.

Some candidates answered with the latest hot technology, but that got embarassing when they couldn't answer all the questions and I asked "This is your best area?".

However, asking where you are strong is one thing, asking for ratings is silly. I once hired a consultant who could write good mainframe assembly language (a hard language) code at full touch typing speed. If he is a 10, where are the programmers who are just very good? 5?

If you are rating yourself 1-10 in Java, are you comparing yourself to the best programmer in your shop, to Kathy Sierra, or to James Gosling?

I think this comes from HR people who want all evaluations to be numeric and from interviewers like Dilbert's pointy-haired boss who don't actually know much but must ask some questions.
Sania Marsh
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 12, 2004
Posts: 469
I have another story, it is Java oral final exam, the student who was taking exam failed midterm, but was saying that he got good java job and learned a lot. Exam was covering almost everything in SCJP plus awt, swing, applets
Teacher: So what do you do in you current job?
student: Applets
Teacher: and what those applets do?
Student: show data
Teacher: so what do you use to show data?
Student: swing
Teacher: Ok, what swing components do you know?
Student: Circle
Teacher: Circle is not really a component or container, what do you draw a circle on, and do you use some kind of pull-downs, text fields, tables?
Student: Yes, we use those, we draw circle on the table
Teacher (gave up on swing): What do you know about collections?
Student: Garbage Collection?
Teacher: Have you ever heard of ArrayList?
Student: Yes, I used it
Teacher: Can arrayList grow?
Student: No, once it is created it's size can't be changed
Teacher: You have completed all your homeworks and you had to use Swing and Collections in oreder to complete it, how come you don't know these concepts?
Student: No, I know them. It was just too long ago, I completed all homeworks on time.
Teacher: I'm going to give you a program to write, you can use book, if you complete it in 3 hours, I will give you C- (lowest possible grade in grad school)
Student: What can I do to get A-?
Ankur Jain
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 44
how do you rate yourself in Java out of 10
when I cleared java univ. exam : 8
when I cleared SCJP : 5
After 2-3 minor projects : 4
Now : 3
MOTS - The more you learn , less u know,
less u no , more eager you are,
more eager you are , more you learn.


Ankur<br />SCJP,SCBCD
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
how do you rate yourself in Java out of 10
when I cleared java univ. exam : 8
when I cleared SCJP : 5
After 2-3 minor projects : 4
Now : 3
MOTS - The more you learn , less u know,
less u no , more eager you are,
more eager you are , more you learn.

It seems to me that you have learned a great deal since you left college.
Ronald Aguilar
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 14, 2004
Posts: 21
In my last interview yesterday, I was asked to rate myself. Ofcourse I would rate myself between 7 and 9 out of 10 depending on the technology. It is kind of lame question because rating is very subjective and not objective. An entry level could rate himself 10 because he wants to impress the intervier. Rating is a question should not even ask.


Ron
soniya saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2004
Posts: 300
Rating sucks
soniya saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2004
Posts: 300
10 for interviewer 1 could mean a confident candidate.

10 for interviewer 2 could mean an over-confident moron.
Arjun Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
Ideally company should conduct written test(s).Assuming one is applying for the post of Programmer:Following tests should be conducted
1)General programming skills where one is asked to write pseudo code.Also test will include basic OS/Software engg/testing knowledge.
2)programming test which will include your favourate language's basic/medium/advanced features.
3)Test which will ask candidate to describe any project work in details of his/her choice.
All these tests should be of subjective in nature.Test should contain minimal multiple choice questions.
In the past,I have appeared for these kind of tests.They are really impartial.Enough time should be given to candidates.One complete day should be given for these activities.
[ December 21, 2004: Message edited by: Arjun Shastry ]
Joshua Halim
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 15, 2004
Posts: 12
This discussion about rating self is quite intriguing. I have never asked this question, but if I am, I will tell the interviewer that it probably will not be much benefit for him to tell him how I rate my own skill without any standard. Instead, I will ask him what criterias according to him will make someone a 1, a 5, or a 10. Then, I can tell him where I think I stand on his (own) rating system. If he still leave it as an open question, I will at least tell him the reasoning why I rate myself a 5, a 7, or a 9 (don't think will ever say I am a 10). E.g. I will iterate specific topics or areas of the technology and which one I know well, how long have I spent time working on those areas, etc.

Asking a candidate to rate himself (w/out much standard/guidelines) seems to me like asking a developer to develop an app/feature without much detail. An inexperienced one will simply jump into creating one, assuming he knows what needs to be done. An experienced one will ask back (and keep asking) until the client (in this case the interviewer) give him a concrete target to work on. If not (like in many cases), he will at least states some assumptions on the solution, doing his best to show that his solution is correct (whether the requirement is correct or not, it is the client's failure to make it clear to the developer).
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

Originally posted by Arjun Shastry:
Ideally company should conduct written test(s).Assuming one is applying for the post of Programmer:Following tests should be conducted
1)General programming skills where one is asked to write pseudo code.Also test will include basic OS/Software engg/testing knowledge.
2)programming test which will include your favourate language's basic/medium/advanced features.
3)Test which will ask candidate to describe any project work in details of his/her choice.
All these tests should be of subjective in nature.Test should contain minimal multiple choice questions.
In the past,I have appeared for these kind of tests.They are really impartial.Enough time should be given to candidates.One complete day should be given for these activities.

[ December 21, 2004: Message edited by: Arjun Shastry ]



I wholehertedly agree with Arjun!!! Verbatim!!!

Two companies having good selection process here (for experienced candidates) are - Iopsis and Mithi. Not big companies really, but their strength is not their size, but their attitude and vision!

- Manish
Warren Dew
blacksmith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    2
In my opinion, the purpose of asking for a self rating is not to find out how good the candidate is, but to find out how realistic he is about his abilities. In the real world, this is exceptionally important because it's possible for the wrong person to do damage much faster than for the right person to fix it. A totally incompetent programmer who realizes that he's incompetent is won't do any good, but at least he won't do much damage; in contrast, a mediocre programmer who is thinks he's the best programmer on the planet can destroy a project rapidly.

The other reason to ask for a self rating is to avoid wasting a lot of time asking technical questions that are either 'way too easy or 'way too hard for the candidate.

By the way, Rita, I loved your interview description.
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
 
subject: Interview Experiences