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.

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

  1. 1. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Interviewing A-Players Reverse Engineering Interview Coaching to Create Great Candidates Gayle Laakmann McDowell June 2014
  2. 2. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Gayle Laakmann McDowell <dev> </dev> Author Interview Coach Interview Consulting (CS) (MBA) 1
  3. 3. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com What I Coach Download at: CrackingTheCodingInterview.com 2
  4. 4. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Traditional Dev Questions Startups “Elite” Other Behavioral/Experience Knowledge-Based System Design/Architecture Algorithms/Problem-Solving ✔ ? ✔ ? ✔ ? ? Disclaimer: So. Many. Exceptions. 3
  5. 5. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com How can you help candidates be their best? 4 Behavioral Problem Solving
  6. 6. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Behavioral Questions: Mistakes • Underplaying individual contributions • Using “we” not “I” • Not elaborating on actions 5 • Don’t assume • Probe for details
  7. 7. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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
  8. 8. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Algorithm Questions “Problem-Solving Questions” = Solving a problem you have NOT seen before. 7
  9. 9. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Problem-Solving Questions few false positives (only good people pass) but… lots of false negatives (many good people fail) 8
  10. 10. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Why Problem-Solving Questions Work • Smart people do good work. • Hires adaptable people So why so many false negatives? 9
  11. 11. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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
  12. 12. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Why Help Candidates Be Great? • 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? 11
  13. 13. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 1: Knowledge-Gaps (Why?) • Not knowing fundamental CS knowledge – Especially older people! • Obscure CS knowledge being tested – Making questions “hard” via knowledge. 12
  14. 14. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 2: Intimidation (Why?) • Low self-confidence. • Scary questions. • Candidates misunderstanding interview goals. • Interviewers being [unintentionally] rude. 13
  15. 15. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 3: Arbitrary Questions (Why?) • Well-known questions. • Easy questions. • “A-Ha” moments & singular hurdles. 14
  16. 16. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 4: Not Knowing How To Be Good • Didn’t use an example. • Tried to rush the process. • Didn’t walk through problem. 15
  17. 17. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Design Around This 1. Decide what you value. 2. Ask the right questions. 3. Give candidates tools to prepare. 4. Train your interviewers. 16
  18. 18. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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
  19. 19. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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
  20. 20. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 3. Give Candidates Tools to Prepare • Tell them: – What to expect. – How they’ll be evaluated. – Struggling is normal. • Links to preparation resources. 19
  21. 21. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 4. Train Your Interviewers • How to design good questions. • Be extra nice to candidates. • Coach candidates to be great 20
  22. 22. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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! 21
  23. 23. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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
  24. 24. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Itshouldn’tcometothis… 23

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