Monthly Archives: March 2013

Interviewing your interviewer

| Software Developer: best job in America

By and large, it’s true. Every year job ratings are published and positions in the software industry are at the top. As software engineers, we became desensitized to issues that professionals in other industries have: high stress, immoral behavior, risk to life, etc.

We tend to live in a tech bubble and take for granted the following attributes of a job that other workers can only dream about:

  • interesting and challenging work
  • ability to learn and grow every day
  • smart colleagues
  • fast-growing industry and stable employment
  • great pay and benefits
  • flexible work hours

Us software engineers are spoiled due to a competition for talent, tech industry growth and opportunity to build the Next Big Thing. But how do you choose a proper team and the right opportunity?

First, you need to get a critical mass of interviews. When you have 5-6 teams or companies that would like to interview you, and you think you can work for them, that’s a good start.

Second, you need to prepare for the Technical Interview, including coding on whiteboard and the ability to create solid designs in a matter of minutes.

There are plenty of books that cover the first and second steps above. However, very rarely do you see another aspect of interviewing that’s just as important as the first two. Ready?

Third, you need to prepare to Interview your Interviewer.

Wait, aren’t you supposed to be answering all their questions and make a solid impression of the next Alan Turing or at least John Carmack? Yes, but in the 5-10 minutes that you have to ask questions you need to excel at getting insider information.

You need to come to the interview prepared with knowledge of the company/team. Personal connections, Linked and Glassdoor will help.

During the interview, when you are finally allowed to ask questions, you need to cut through new-hire brochure BS and, like a cold-blooded KGB agent, get all the information there is about position, team and company. You need to ask right questions and observe the behavior of the interviewer.

Good Signs:

  • interviewers look genuinely happy and you feel good vibe
  • interviewers are laughing
  • interviewer are asking smart questions and focus on the right things
  • interviewers are not afraid to answer your questions
  • interviewers are not afraid to say “I don’t know”
  • hiring manager is answering your questions without any fear or doubt and is generally confident

Red Flags:

  • hiring manager is not answering your questions and instead talks about something not related
  • hiring manager constantly interrupts you
  • you get the impression that interviewer is arrogant, and it is orders of magnitude worse if you feel that several interviewers were arrogant
  • hiring manager/interviewer is not enthusiastic about the project
  • team members don’t show excitement about the work

Very rarely have I seen teams with arrogant and/or incompatible people delivering great results. They maybe 2nd, 3rd but they will never be Number 1. Over time, personality conflicts will prevail. According to Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman, and author of the famous book “The Founder’s Dilemmas”, 65% of start-ups fail due to people factor and interpersonal relationships.

One last piece of advice If you are interviewing for a small company: make sure you interview all team members, especially if it’s a young company. Otherwise you may find yourself disagreeing with a co-founder who “was sick” on the day of your interview.

Good luck with interviews!