Reverse Engineering Engineering Interviewing: How to Be a Great Interviewer

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Why do some great software developers fail interviews? How do you design more effective algorithm/problem-solving interview questions? Interviewers and recruiters can help reduce false negatives, …

Why do some great software developers fail interviews? How do you design more effective algorithm/problem-solving interview questions? Interviewers and recruiters can help reduce false negatives, ensuring that more good candidates do well.

Gayle Laakmann McDowell is the founder/CEO of CareerCup.com and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview (Amazon.com's best-selling interview book) and Cracking the Product Manager Interview. Gayle is a former Google, Microsoft, and Apple software engineer and served on Google's hiring committee.

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  • 1. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Conducting Great Engineering Interviews Reverse Engineering Interviews to Reduce False Negatives Gayle Laakmann McDowell July 2014
  • 2. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Gayle Laakmann McDowell <dev> </dev> Author Interview Coach Interview Consulting (CS) (MBA) 1
  • 3. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com The Problem(s) 1. Candidates suck at interviewing. 2. You want to hire good employees, not good candidates. 3. Shortage of great engineers. 2 Be a better interviewer. Be a better recruiter. By counteracting…
  • 4. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com What I Coach Download at: CrackingTheCodingInterview.com 3
  • 5. 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. 4
  • 6. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com How can you help candidates be their best? 5 Behavioral Problem Solving
  • 7. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Behavioral Questions: Mistakes • Underplaying individual contributions • Using “we” not “I” • Not elaborating on actions 6 • Don’t assume • Probe for details
  • 8. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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
  • 9. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Generalist vs. Specialist Hires smart, adaptable people BUT requires “onboarding” + Doing it right 8 Hires immediately useful people BUT is it really specialist knowledge?
  • 10. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Generalist(ish) Hiring So you’ve gone generalist(ish)… 9
  • 11. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Algorithm Questions “Problem-Solving Questions” = Solving a problem you have NOT seen before. 10
  • 12. 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) 11
  • 13. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Why Problem-Solving Questions Work • Smart people do good work. • Adaptable as company changes So why so many false negatives? 12
  • 14. 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. 13
  • 15. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 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
  • 16. 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. 15
  • 17. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 2: Intimidation (Why?) • Low self-confidence. • Scary questions. • Candidates misunderstanding interview goals. • Interviewers being [unintentionally] rude. 16
  • 18. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com 3: Arbitrary Questions (Why?) • Well-known questions. • Easy questions. • “A-Ha” moments & singular hurdles. 17
  • 19. 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. 18
  • 20. 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. 19
  • 21. 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? 20
  • 22. 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. 21
  • 23. 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. 22
  • 24. 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 23
  • 25. 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! 24
  • 26. 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 25
  • 27. twitter.com/gayle facebook.com/gayle technologywoman.com Itshouldn’tcometothis… 26