Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Interviews

Disclaimer: This story is completely true, sort of. The names and faces of those depicted in this blog post have been changed in order to protect the innocent and incompetent alike. Any similarity to people or places you know is completely coincidental. Furthermore, no animals were hurt in the publishing of this blog post.

Over my career, I have had the opportunity to be on both sides of an interview table. I have searched and applied for jobs as well as sought the assistance of recruiters. I've also been the one looking for employees to add to my team to replace ones that left or to expand the team. With every experience on either side of the table, I've walked away feeling that something wasn't quite right with the process as a whole. These notions bubbled up this past week when a good friend of mine, we'll call him Bob, was telling me about his tales while searching for a job. I figured I'd retell the story here.

Bob is a fairly seasoned programmer with a number of years and languages under his belt. It takes a lot for him to change jobs because he enjoys trying to help companies become better and work close with the friends on his team. He's active in the community and has a thirst for learning anything development related. For a variety of reasons, Bob is at a point where he wants to change jobs and decides to do the interview dance. With in a short time of looking, two interview opportunities presented themselves to him.

The first was with a smaller company that sounded like a breath of fresh air compared to the corporate cubicle land that Bob is attempting to leave. The interview was held at a local coffee shop and with two very knowledgeable members of the company's development team. Having known his work from the community and online, the interviewers focused a lot on Bob as a person and what he's looking for in a company, a team, and a career. There were some discussion on technical topics; however, many stemmed from Bob's questions about the company's processes and infrastructure. Shortly into the interview, Bob found himself to be very comfortable, candid, and casual with the two people he was sharing the conversation with.

Later that same day, Bob had another interview in a different part of town. The interview was with a little bit bigger company that was comparable in size to his current employer. The interview was in a very similar office building as well. The receptionist paged the interviewer for him and then he was escorted into a small, closet of a meeting room where 2 chairs and a table barely fit. Walking through, Bob noticed the high cube walls, the silence in amongst the desks, and the lack of expressions on the faces of the few people he saw. Over the course of the interview, a lot of questions were asked that discussed fundamentals and text book definitions. There were some questions about Bob's past that were not really acknowledged by the interviewer when an answer was given. When everything was said and done, Bob was escorted back to the entrance and ways were parted.

This story provides an interesting look at how 2 different approaches are taken to a common problem; how does a company attract and hire good developers and how do developers identify good companies to work for. Hopefully, I don't have to say which of the two experiences portrayed above attracted Bob more. The interesting thing that came to my mind while Bob told me this story was not only the differences between the companies but how important the interview process is to both the candidate and the companies. Based on the story, which company appeals to you and why? How was your perception created on each company, which you had no prior knowledge of?


  1. I care more about who my work impacts than what work I am doing.

    The first interview process is not only charming because of the location, but because they asked "Bob" to envision what he can do with, and for, the company.

    When I am in an interview that has standard questions leading into standard answers, it says to me that the company does not want me to invest in my work -- they just want an ordinary person doing an ordinary job.

  2. The coffee is nice, but I would rather be interviewed on site so I can feel that air