AdaptiLab Blog

How NOT to conduct a Technical Interview

Posted by Allen Lu on Jun 9, 2020 6:06:00 PM

“I had a terrible interview experience”

As someone who’s interviewed for numerous companies in the past, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad interview experiences. However, one particular experience that I had with a late-stage FinTech startup was significantly worse than all the others.

This startup (which I’ll refer to as “Company A”)  was recruiting at my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, during my final year at the school. I had already received a full-time return offer from Google, where I had interned the summer prior, but I was openly exploring other opportunities. At CMU’s largest fall career fair, I spoke with one of the representatives for Company A and really bought into their company mission and what types of projects engineers worked on. I gave my email address to one of Company A’s recruiters, and a week later I heard back from them asking when I’d be available for an initial technical interview.

It took a bit of time to coordinate the technical interview, but we eventually found a date that worked. The technical interview would involve me calling into a Google Hangout and then coding a solution to a program given in a collaborative text document. While it wasn’t my favorite type of interview structure, I had experience with it so I didn’t mind that much.

When it came time to do the interview, I showed up in the Google Hangout expecting my interviewer to already be on. He hadn’t yet shown up to the Google Hangout, but I figured he might just be coming in from another meeting so I gave it some time. Ten minutes passed and still no one had shown up. At that point, I emailed the recruiter I had been speaking to, asking if there was a miscommunication with the interviewer. After fifteen minutes, I was about ready to leave the Hangout when my interviewer finally arrived.

Without a single greeting or explanation for the lateness, he pasted a link into the Hangout chat and told me to click the link which would take me to the collaborative text document. Once I got to the document, there was already a dynamic programming problem set up. I knew Company A had pretty high technical standards for their engineers, so the difficulty of the problem didn’t surprise me. However, the problem statement itself was rather bare bones, without much explanation for things like expected input arguments or output format.

I tried asking a few questions concerning the input/output format and edge cases, but my interviewer didn’t seem to hear what I was saying. From the video feed, it honestly looked like he was doing other work while conducting the interview. Finally, he noticed that I was talking and just replied, “Do the best you can.” I ended up just coming up with some pseudocode for an algorithm to solve the problem and asked for his feedback after I finished. He took a quick glance at the pseudocode and said, “Seems about right. Good job.” At that point he told me that this was the end of the interview and left the Google Hangout.

After the interview, I tried to basically forget that it even happened. A couple weeks later I heard back from the recruiter that I’d be moving onto the next round of interviewing. Not wanting a repeat of what had happened in the first round, I politely declined the opportunity. Even though I still thought Company A’s mission and projects sounded awesome, I ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth it to go through more interviews like the first one.

This experience was a big reason why I decided to start my company, AdaptiLab. The interview process is already stressful enough for candidates, and adding in an uncooperative or apathetic interviewer just adds to that stress. Our mission is to make the technical interview process as consistent and pain-free as possible for all candidates, as well as prevent companies from losing talented candidates due to a poor interview process.

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