Tech interviews and how to cope with them

‘The recruiter will call you back soon’ told me the fourth (and last) interviewer I spoke with after a long day interviewing at the Microsoft campus.

I was pretty psyched about getting an offer and moving to Redmond. I wasn’t desperate (I think) but I definitely was a Microsoft fanboy willing to change his entire world to work there. I had decided to tell the recruiter that although I preferred a position related to developing Word’s ultimate new feature, I was willing to take pretty much any job there.

‘Let’s go straight to the point –  I accept your offer’, I practiced many times with a mirror. You can imagine my disappointment when the recruiter didn’t call me back, didn’t pick up my calls and didn’t reply to my emails.

Though I am not a black belt at interviewing in big tech companies, I have had my share of reality checks:

You had me at ‘hello’. I found that getting an interview with the Tech titans requires a lot more than building a nice resume and submitting it through their careers web page. I don’t think I am overstating when I say that this worked for me once in a hundred times. On the other hand, having someone internally refer me worked more often than not and reaching out to recruiters through LinkedIn also turned out to be a pretty good option. But by far the best way to get these companies’ attention is to be already in the club – once I joined Microsoft, other companies started poaching me.

The lucky streak. Succeeding in interviews requires a (very misbalanced) mix of luck and technical depth. I feel humbled to say that I have worked with a few brilliant minds who shine not only for their technical excellence but also for their outstanding ability to collaborate and their driven execution. Yet, many of them have failed to get an offer at these companies. How is that possible?

Think different. I agree in principle that it is expensive and risky to bring in someone new, so employers want to be very, very sure. In practice, however, these companies seem to have ultra-standardized processes that require applicants to interview a lot and only then, the ones who adapt quickly to the system get the offers. Presumably, this ‘uniform’ hiring bar ends up impacting the tech giants’ ability to attract diverse talent who can boost innovation.

‘Patience is a virtue’, said no one who has ever interviewed in the tech industry. The interviewing teams made an astonishing job on ‘selling’ me the position so I put my future in these companies’ hiring processes only to get disappointed after hearing back months after the interview, if at all.

Forwarding my life by a dozen rejections across multiple tech giants, I now sit on the other side of the table. I am someone who has been part of Microsoft’s and Google’s engineering teams and their hiring troops and someone who still scratches his head every time he is asked how to fix this. My guts tell me that there is plenty of bias to be removed and that no candidate should need to study for months before interviewing.

I’ve been told that tech startups are changing the game by doing more hands-on interviews where the candidate’s aptitudes are assessed as they fix a random bug in GitHub. I wonder if that will be the next turn… or maybe we should just go back to the era of erratic brain teasers with questionable ethics (just kidding!).

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