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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Technical Interview Process – 30,000 feet overview

Most of the technical hiring nowadays follows a similar pattern: phone screen(s), onsite test and in person interviews; or a combination of the above.

So, where does it begin? Well, first, your resume needs to cross the eyes of the hiring manager. With the advent of social networks such as facebook, twitter and linkedIn, the whole ballgame has changed. In addition to the plethora of job search websites such as dice and monster, people tap into their social networks to search for new jobs or to even find eligible candidates. Also, recruiting firms nowadays play a critical role as more and more companies find it hard to take out time to screen the candidates. To augment this, the time tested referral program works very well. Statistics prove that an employee can best sell his friend to join his company. There is generally no bias; if the employee loves working at his company, he would love to get his friends in. Also, if the hiring manager gets the resume through a referral, there is a higher percentage chance that the resume will be given more than 30 seconds. YES. Most of the hiring managers spend 15 seconds to a minute to scan a resume. If something catches their eye, they will mark it for a second review or may just even flag it to move to the next step. We will go over the resume making ritual and application processes in a different post in detail (remember to remind me to blog about it. I have a ton of information and guidance to help you guarantee a phone screen).

Now that the hiring manager has selected your resume (perhaps along with 10 other potential candidates), the process goes in the HR realm. An HR generalist would now contact you to setup a phone screen. This is a very important step. Your first step in interacting with the group you would be joining. This generally involves approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour long phone conversation. Be prepared. Make sure you have a good phone. If you will be using a cell phone, make sure it’s changed and that you take the call in an area that has very good reception. And make sure you are in a quiet area; better to have a pen and paper handy. The person taking the phone screen would love you if he does not have to constantly repeat his question. Again, we will go over in detail on various phone screen styles. I generally do around 10 phone screens a week. Yes, we are hiring like crazy in my company.

Now that you have cleared the phone screen, what’s next? Well, many companies nowadays do a 2nd phone screen. This is generally done by a person from a different group. One who does not have a direct vested interest in the group that is hiring. This ensures that the group gets un-biased feedback on the interviewee.

Ok. Now you have really cleared all the phone screens. There are generally 2 things that happen at this point. In either case, you would be required to take out 4 hours to 6 hours from your schedule to go the company’s office. Many startups and midsize companies now do what they call an in-person computer programming test. What this means is that you would go to the company, meet the HR, get a small tour, and then meet a member of the team you are interviewing with. They would give you a simple but non-trivial programming question. You would be given a computer with required tools installed, internet access (in some places) and 2 – 4 hours to solve the problem. The goal of this exercise is simple: If you are applying for a programming position, you bloody well know how to code. You should use this opportunity to the best. Show your skills. Write beautiful code. Think through the problem. Listen, ask questions and understand when the interviewer is explaining the problem to you. As with every other stage, this has the potential to make or break the interview process. Again, we will revisit this section of in person coding problems and how to approach them in a later post.

After you have cleared the in person coding test, or if the company skips the coding test, you come to the core of the interview process: the dreaded (or loved) in person 4 – 6 hour interview. Almost all companies do a variation of this theme. You would be required to block off 4 – 6 hours (or in many cases the entire day) and visit the company offices. Generally, the interview would start by you meeting an HR professional who would go over some basic questions, explain the day to you, get you setup with drinks, show you around the office and finally introduce you to the first interviewer. You day would consist of 4 – 6 one hour (or 50 minutes) interviews with different team members. Sometimes, only person takes the whole hour. Sometimes, 2 or 3 interviewers will group together. Either way, this will be filled with technical questions. And do not forget the “fit” test. As you are solving technical questions, the interviewer will also be evaluating you for “fit” – whether you will fit into the culture of the company. This part of the process will form a bulk of the posts in future. I cannot stress enough on the importance of doing very well here.

The 2nd last step (50% of the companies do this), is to have you meet one last interviewer. This interview is known by a variety of names – AA (As Appropriate), Hiring Manger round, the final interview, etc. The theme is essentially the same. The team found you to be a good match for the position. A senior person now reviews the feedback, talks to you to makes sure that you would indeed be a good fit. This also involves making sure that you understand the role and are interested in doing that for the foreseeable future.

Congratulations! You are now at the last step. Unless you goof up big time, it is generally the most pleasurable interview: the HR interview. Here you talk with HR about the next steps, references verified, and finally the offer letter. Yes, you made it. We will go a bit into this stage towards the later part of this series.

Well, now you have it: the 30,000 feet overview of the whole interview process. Continue reading!


  1. Thankyou for giving this great information Mr.Nikhil..

  2. Hey Nikhil,

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    // Call messagePool
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    public class GenericDac implements Dac{
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  4. Interviews are questions between two people and their answers. But interviews are a way to test the inner potential of any student or weaver. That is why we can never deny the importance of an interview. dissertation writing service