Interviewing Great Developers: Reverse Engineering Interview Coaching to Create Great Candidates

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Every engineering department says it wants to hire the very best, but few actually do. Most coding interviews focus on programming language knowledge and trivia. But companies that hire the very best ask questions that go much deeper. In this session, you will discover what hiring managers at “elite” companies look for when hiring developers, architects and program managers. Discover why, in some cases, it’s far more important that engineers exhibit “soft skills” like communication, structured thinking and creativity than exhibit proficiency in a specific language. Gayle, author of three books on interviewing (for devs and PMs), will “reverse engineer” her coaching and advice to hopeful candidates, to help recruiters screen and select the ever-elusive A-players, gurus, rock stars, and ninjas.

Text of Interviewing Great Developers: Reverse Engineering Interview Coaching to Create Great Candidates

  • Interviewing A-Players Reverse Engineering Interview Coaching to Create Great Candidates Gayle Laakmann McDowell June 2014
  • Gayle Laakmann McDowell Author Interview Coach Interview Consulting (CS) (MBA) 1
  • What I Coach Download at: 2
  • Traditional Dev Questions Startups Elite Other Behavioral/Experience Knowledge-Based System Design/Architecture Algorithms/Problem-Solving ? ? ? ? Disclaimer: So. Many. Exceptions. 3
  • How can you help candidates be their best? 4 Behavioral Problem Solving
  • Behavioral Questions: Mistakes Underplaying individual contributions Using we not I Not elaborating on actions 5 Dont assume Probe for details
  • Generalist vs. Specialist Generalist (algorithms/problem-solving): Reasonable test of intelligence if done well Hires highly adaptable people BUT necessitates that you will train people Specialists (knowledge & experience): Tests that someone can hit the ground running BUT is the knowledge actually difficult to acquire? 6
  • Algorithm Questions Problem-Solving Questions = Solving a problem you have NOT seen before. 7
  • Problem-Solving Questions few false positives (only good people pass) but lots of false negatives (many good people fail) 8
  • Why Problem-Solving Questions Work Smart people do good work. Hires adaptable people So why so many false negatives? 9
  • Why Smart People Fail 1. Knowledge gaps 2. Intimidation 3. Arbitrary questions 4. Not knowing how to be good These are [partially] solvable problems. 10
  • Why Help Candidates Be Great? Goal: good employees, not good candidates. Do you want to eliminate Everyone who doesnt know ___? People who are insecure? People who are bad at interviewing? People at random? 11
  • 1: Knowledge-Gaps (Why?) Not knowing fundamental CS knowledge Especially older people! Obscure CS knowledge being tested Making questions hard via knowledge. 12
  • 2: Intimidation (Why?) Low self-confidence. Scary questions. Candidates misunderstanding interview goals. Interviewers being [unintentionally] rude. 13
  • 3: Arbitrary Questions (Why?) Well-known questions. Easy questions. A-Ha moments & singular hurdles. 14
  • 4: Not Knowing How To Be Good Didnt use an example. Tried to rush the process. Didnt walk through problem. 15
  • Design Around This 1. Decide what you value. 2. Ask the right questions. 3. Give candidates tools to prepare. 4. Train your interviewers. 16
  • 1. Decide What You Value Is problem-solving skills a top priority? What sorts of specialist skills do you need? Are fundamentals of CS sufficient? 17
  • 2. Ask the Right Questions Right topics: Avoid scary topics. Require only basic CS knowledge. Right difficulty: Medium & hard problems. Avoid common problems. Logical path with multiple insights. 18
  • 3. Give Candidates Tools to Prepare Tell them: What to expect. How theyll be evaluated. Struggling is normal. Links to preparation resources. 19
  • 4. Train Your Interviewers How to design good questions. Be extra nice to candidates. Coach candidates to be great 20
  • 4b. Coach Candidates To Be Great Encourage the right example. Remind them of details. Dont let them dive into code. Encourage shifting gears. POSITIVITY & SENSITIVITY A good coach can make a HUGE difference! 21
  • Need The Right Infrastructure Interview training List of good & bad questions -- and why Standard resource sheets for candidates Feedback from candidates Assigned roles Continuous evaluation & shadowing 22
  • Itshouldntcometothis 23