Conducting Great Engineering Interviews

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Conducting Great Engineering Interviews Reverse Engineering Interviews to Reduce False Negatives Gayle Laakmann McDowell July 2014

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Gayle Laakmann McDowell <dev> </dev> Author Interview Coach Interview Consulting (CS) (MBA) 1

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The Problem(s) Candidates suck at interviewing. You want to hire good employees, not good candidates. Shortage of great engineers. 2 Be a better interviewer. Be a better recruiter. By counteracting…

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What I Coach Download at: CrackingTheCodingInterview.com 3

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Traditional Dev Questions ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Disclaimer: So. Many. Exceptions. 4

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How can you help candidates be their best? 5 Behavioral Problem Solving

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Behavioral Questions: Mistakes Underplaying individual contributions Using “we” not “I” Not elaborating on actions 6 Don’t assume Probe for details

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Generalist vs. Specialist Generalist (algorithms/problem-solving): Hires smart, adaptable people if done well BUT necessitates “onboarding” Specialists (knowledge & experience): Hires immediately useful people BUT is the knowledge actually difficult to acquire? 7

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Generalist vs. Specialist Hires smart, adaptable people BUT requires “onboarding” + Doing it right 8 Hires immediately useful people BUT is it really specialist knowledge?

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Generalist(ish) Hiring So you’ve gone generalist(ish)… 9

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Algorithm Questions “Problem-Solving Questions” = Solving a problem you have NOT seen before. 10

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Problem-Solving Questions few false positives (only good people pass) but… lots of false negatives (many good people fail) 11

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Why Problem-Solving Questions Work Smart people do good work. Adaptable as company changes So why so many false negatives? 12

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Why Smart People Fail Knowledge gaps Intimidation Arbitrary questions Not knowing how to be good These are [partially] solvable problems. 13

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This matters! Goal: good employees, not good candidates. Do you want to eliminate… Everyone who doesn’t know ___? People who are insecure? People who are bad at interviewing? People at random? 14

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1: Knowledge Gaps (Why?) Not knowing fundamental CS knowledge Especially older people! Obscure CS knowledge being tested Making questions “hard” via knowledge. 15

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2: Intimidation (Why?) Low self-confidence. Scary questions. Candidates misunderstanding interview goals. Interviewers being [unintentionally] rude. 16

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3: Arbitrary Questions (Why?) Well-known questions. Easy questions. “A-Ha” moments & singular hurdles. 17

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4: Not Knowing How To Be Good Didn’t use an example. Tried to rush the process. Didn’t walk through problem. 18

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Design Around This Decide what you value. Ask the right questions. Give candidates tools to prepare. Train your interviewers. 19

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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? 20

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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. 21

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3. Give Candidates Tools to Prepare Tell them: What to expect. How they’ll be evaluated. Struggling is normal. Links to preparation resources. 22

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4. Train Your Interviewers How to design good questions. Be extra nice to candidates. Coach candidates to be great 23

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4b. Coach Candidates To Be Great Encourage the right example. Remind them of details. Don’t let them dive into code. Encourage shifting gears. POSITIVITY & SENSITIVITY A good coach can make a HUGE difference! 24

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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 25

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It shouldn’t come to this… 26