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Interviewing tip

Peter Tran
Bartender

Joined: Jan 02, 2001
Posts: 783
Here's a big tip:
If you're going on a job interview (especially on-site) for a Java position, and you state that you're a JAVA expert on your resume, then make sure you are before you go.
I've been interviewing people for the last couple of days that have stated on their resume that they're JAVA experts. I have no problem if you want to label yourself as JAVA expert/guru. In fact, I hope you are, because my company really needs you and would love to hire you. What I can't stand is when I start asking a couple of fundamental JAVA questions and these job candidates can't even answer them.
Personally, I take the approach of slightly understating my abilities on my resume, and then give them the one-two punch during the interview. It's always better to dazzle people during the interview, then making yourself look bad by putting things on your resume that you have only superficial knowledge of. You're just asking for trouble.
My favorite technique during an interview is to ask the candidate what area of JAVA they feel they know inside-out (i.e. expert topic). Some say Swing, AWT, I/O, JDBC, etc. First, I ask them to briefly discuss about this topic. I then ask them to pretend that I'm a junior developer that was added to the team and this candidate was my assigned mentor. I would then ask this candidate to teach me about this area of expertise. I call this approach, "the-give-them-enough-rope-to-hang-themselves-technique."
For example, if you told me you knew JDBC like the back of your hand. I would then ask you to walk me through the process of using the JDBC classes to retrieve data from a database.
The things I'm looking for are:
1. Was the explanation clear?
2. Does he/she REALLY know JDBC?
3. How well did he/she explain the concept?
If the candidate went to the whiteboard and started sketching out code, I would have probably forced HR to give them an offer on the spot.
More often not, the candidates can't even discuss their topic of expertise. Urgghhh!!! I'm not out to make people feel bad during an interview process. By the time the interview is over, we're both feeling pretty bad. The candidate feels depressed, because he/she knew they blew it. And I feel like a bad guy for bursting his/her initial enthusiasm.
Okay, thanks for letting me vent.
-Peter

[This message has been edited by Peter Tran (edited February 21, 2001).]
Junaid Bhatra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 27, 2000
Posts: 213
Peter,
I personally don't think you should feel bad about anything. If a person indicates on his/her resume that he/she is an expert, then he better be!
When I was looking for a job, I openly stated on my resume and on Monster that I was an expert in java, even though I had zero work experience and I did not have a CS degree either. I had several recruiters & interviewers question that. My only reply to them was: Give me a chance to present myself through an interview.
Sure enough I got about 13 job offers in a month So my point is, do that only if you are confident enough. And it certainly helps to be aggressive in your approach when you are looking for a job.
In almost all my interviews, I had to write lots of code on the white-board, and/or express my design using UML. So my advice to other people is, be prepared for that.
[This message has been edited by Junaid Bhatra (edited February 21, 2001).]
shailesh sonavadekar
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 1874
Junaid , If I have not mistaken , you have got astounding score Of 98% in SCJP. Am i right or wrong ? So , don't you think that must have lured the recruiters.
Since , you have given so many interview & got so many offers , why don't you give your tips in greater details to all the javarachers , who will tremendously benefit from this ?
One more thing . Are u from India ? All these job offers were in India or abroad ? this is becuase of many ( maximum) no. of people visiting this site are from India. ( I may be wrong ).
So , what do you think ?

Your Friendly Bartender
Shailesh
shailesh sonavadekar
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 1874
Peter , Hi this is Shailesh. How are you ? Nice to hear that you are interviewer now.
Regarding the interview tip that you have mentioned , please let me know how many employers take this root of testing the candidates ?
Generally , People go for telephonic interview & many of them are not knowing the fundamentals of OOPS , then how it can be ensured that the hiring policies are correct or wrong ?
What do you think , should be the right policy of testing the candidates ? some times , due to anexiety also , you tend to forget many things at crucial moments. the people really are expert. but it happens. So , shall they be judged bad ?
Just point to ponder
Your Friendly Bartender
Shailesh.
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Peter:
I agree with your comments.
I like using the whiteboard as it makes my explanation that much clearer. And if you (the person being interviewed) has a case of the jitters (it happens), you can see where you may have forgotten something and can correct your mistake without confusing the interviewer.
Regarding OOA&D. I don't mention this on my resume', but it did come up once during a phone interview. The lady just started pounding the heck out of me for definitions and examples. I wasn't prepared - so I fell flat on my face. But used the experience as a warning to myself that I had better get my act together on object-oriented definitions/concepts.
------------
However, I have had Java job interviews - where the managerial type question/answer part went so well that we never got around to the tecnical part.
I don't profess to be an expert in anything but fly-fishing (wish I spend as much time studying computer science as I do fishing ). But, during the technical interview - I know that I am not going to know all the answers.
What I like to do, is run with what I know, and then let the interviewer followup with his knowledge. At the same time I am making mental notes. As soon as I get back home, I start writing the interviewers comments down. Then, I use this information (along with some book research) to enhance my knowledge of the particular area.
Thus, I keep building up my knowledge of what to know/say during the technical interview.
This is another reason why it is so important to go on as many interviews as possible. Not only to increase your chances of getting a job, but to see what types of questions are being asked in your field.
Johnny
(jpcoxey@aol.com)


John Coxey
Evansville, Indiana, USA
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Shailesh:
- Most employers will do an initial phone interview. Usually
it's short and sweet. They tell you about the company and position, and you tell them about yourself and backround/experience.
- About 20% of them will go into a minor type technical interview, just the basics. It is very difficult (for me at least) to go into super detail over the phone. And if the person has English as their second languge, the conversation is that much more difficult.
- I had 1 out of maybe 20 actual phone interviews, where the lady went into detail. She was a major pain in the butt, did not really care about my experience. And she grilled me for about 45 minutes on OOA&D. I was not prepared. Afterwords, I was totally livid/angry.
- I ended up chewing out the recruiter who set up the phone interview - I chewed out his boss - and then I called the recruiter's corporate office and chewed their rear-end (polite term) out. Because I was told this was a Java position and not an OOA&D/UML position.
- The next day, I called this lady and told her that she needed to get her act together and not to waste my time or anyone elses with this recruiting firm.
- It probably did not accomplish anything, but I felt a lot better and that's what's important.
-------
- The goal during the phone interview is to get an in-person on-site interview. Unless the company is doing something totally in left field compared to your goals, I will do whatever it takes to get an on-site interview.
- The on-site interview is where you kick butt. It is also where you interview the company as much as the company is interviewing you.
- It is at the on-site interview where you get the in-depth technical questions. And it's here I get to use the whiteboard.
Johnny
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Peter Tran
Bartender

Joined: Jan 02, 2001
Posts: 783
Junaid - I'm glad it worked out for you. If what shailesh says is correct, then getting a 98% on the SCJP2 exam has a lot to do with you feeling confident about JAVA. The person I interviewed who "fell flat on his face" was also an SCJP2. Of course I didn't ask him what his score was, but I was damn near tempted after he couldn't answer some of my questions. Some of the fundamental questions I use are ones I get from the Programmer Certification Study forum.
Shailesh - I'm not sure how many employers use this technique. I don't think there is a standard the employers use for interviewing candidates, because each interviewer will do things differently. I'm a Senior Developer, so I approach an interview on a very technical level. I usually want to interview a candidate after the manager or director had a chance to talk with them first. I don't want to spend time talking about the company, because I'm hoping the hiring manager or HR has already taken care of this for me. This is the pattern I follow when I interview someone:
5 mins - Introduction
20 mins - Technical discussion.
5 mins - Wrap-up.
I usually hope I can get the Introduction out of the way in less than 5 minutes to give me more time to talk about technical stuff.
When I notice the interviewee is nervous, I even offer to start the technical discussion by going to the whiteboard first.
John - You are absolutely right. I also had the same happen to me once, and I learned the hard way. I put on my resume that I knew SQL (not expert), but this person interviewing me over the phone was hammering me on SQL syntax. "What's a left outer join? What's a right-outer join? What's an inner join?" I knew the principal, but I couldn't give a good technical explanation. Beep! Wrong answer! Next! I really enjoy my job now so I'm not looking to leave, but sometime I just go to interviews to keep my interviewing skills sharp and to find out what other people are looking for in the market.
I'm going to start another topic.
-Peter
Hema Sukumar
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 22, 2000
Posts: 22
That was a very good tip, Peter..
I'm a junior programmer myself with less than one year of experience in java. I'm a SCJP self taught with jdbc, servlets. I love working in java & When I say I know something, I really make sure that I know it before putting it on my resume.
But I had bad experiences in the two interviews I have attended so far, just because I didn't answer well in the questions
in the skill set which the interviewer presumed I knew well.
I have put SQL, PL/SQL in my resume.But that doesn't mean that I'm a hard core SQL programmer. I'm just a java programmer who can write SQL if needed with jdbc.

First I had a 45 mins telephone interview with this 'BIG' company. I was asked all Oracle questions.. Join, Trigger,
cursor etc etc.. for 40 mins. I tried my best to answer & surprisingly I didn't do very bad and I was asked java questions just for 5 mins. When I asked the guy, whether it was SQL intensive position, he told me they were looking for somebody with both java & SQL knowledge & I seemed okay..
Then I went for a personal interview. The first guy asked me lots of questions in Oops concepts & I did well. The second guy
asked me lots of vague analytical questions & few riddles too.
The third guy who interviewed me over the phone came with a bunch of SQL questions & made me write all sorts of statements.
I wrote few, stumbled at few and I also knew that I have lost
the interview then.
Finally I got the feedback from a friend who works there saying, first guy was very impressed, second guy called me little bookish, third guy feels I'm not good at SQL & so not good enough for the position. I really felt cheated because I was not tested on what I know but my performance was based on something what I didn't know & on some stupid riddles. It was an utter waste of time for me & for them because they were not clear about the skill sets required for the position and I was not clear about what was expected out of me.
Next time I'm really really going to make sure that I'm being tested on what know :-). just waiting for the break !!
In the mean time, Can you tell me what is expected out of a junior programmer who doesn't have much of project experience ?
How can I avoid being called 'Bookish' !!
Thanks,
Hema

Peter Tran
Bartender

Joined: Jan 02, 2001
Posts: 783
Hema,

How can I avoid being called 'Bookish' !!

Excellent question, and I'm not sure I have a good answer. I've also heard some of our interviewers refer to a couple of interviewees in the way too. Personally, if it was me, this is what I would do.
1. Remove any references on my resume with regards to classes I've taken even if they have to do with CS or JAVA or anything. When I look at someone's resume and they put a bunch of classes, then a mental red flag goes up in my head - "Not much experience, and needs to list classes to fill up resume."
2. Limit my resume to things I know like the back of my hand. If I say I know Java, I make damn sure I know Java. If there's too much about a language, then I make it even more specific about my area of expertise. For example, I will flat out state that I'm a server-side JAVA programmer. Don't even bother quizzing me about GUI/AWT/JFC, because I will probably fail the questions. Like you said, if the interviewer is out to make me feel like an idiot by blatantly asking me questions that he or she know that I'm weak in, then we're wasting each others time. If the interviewer is good, then he or she will seek out your strong area and find out how well you know those.
3. If you're unemployed and have the time, you can always try this approach. If you really like the company, tell them to let you work for free for a certain time period. Tell them that you're so confident about your ability to contribute to the company, that you're willing to prove yourself to them on your own expenses. After a certain time period (1-2 month), if they don�t like you then you can leave and the company hasn�t lost any expenses on you. However, if they like you, then they�ll give you an offer and most likely pay for the work you�ve already done. If not, you can always put the experience on your resume. One big advice, if you do get an opportunity like this, then work your freaking butts off and do whatever it takes to accomplish any assignment given to you. Even if you're working for free, you'll learn a lot. In the end, the experience will probably be very valuable to your career growth.
Best of luck!
-Peter

[This message has been edited by Peter Tran (edited February 27, 2001).]
Hema Sukumar
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 22, 2000
Posts: 22
Hi Peter,
Thanks for the tips.
I would very much like to try the approach you have mentioned
in point no 3. But some companies are little skeptical with
that when it comes from the candidate who needs a Visa sponsorship.
So I'm helping out with protyping from Lotus notes to Java & Oracle for a friend who is a budding Dotcomer ( Is it a bad word these days ??). I do this from home & can't call it a
real project experience because there is no team, no directions & no Boss !!. But this is what the best thing I could do now.
Right now there is lot of hiring freeze in Bay area. Hope things improve when the market picks up again.
Java Ranch is what will keep me going until then !!
Cheers,
Hema
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Peter:
Regarding your "work for free" statement.
For most employment situations, it is illegal in the USA to work for "free", or "off the clock." Most HR people should know this - especially in this industry. And it benefits both the employer and employee.
There are issues, especially "worker's compensation" that come up. If you are working for free - and you get hurt at employers site - you can sue the heck out of them. But if you are an employee, and are working for $$, there are compensation guidelines which vary state by state.
If someone wants you to work for "free" - they are a ripoff outfit. You will never get paid. Period! End of Discussion!
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
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