Some Problems with Tech Screenings

After an initial screening call, maybe two (or three, because interviewees aren't supposed to have lives), there’s normally the tech screen. Which can take...a variety of forms.

The Mindboggling People:

  • Almost always, it's a stranger giving the screening. Not the person I've talked to before, someone whose name I don't even always know before answering the phone.
  • A conference call with only one person talking to me (that I could hear). The looming presence of an unknown number of others.
  • An endless stream of people who aren’t on the team I’d be working with, don’t code in the languages I know, and awkwardly ask me questions they found online.
  • Being told 'yes, I would Google this, too' and then getting yelled at when I jokingly asked 'Well, okay, then can I Google it?'

Gross Misuse of Tech:

  • Lots and lots of repls. So many repls. Sometimes neither of us know how to use them. Sometimes we do, but neither of us know why they’re not working.
  • A guy from a major tech company who really, really wanted me to support the use of “!important” in css and me trying very hard to give examples of how to avoid using it.
  • For a junior frontend web developer role: Big O. When I stated I was only familiar with the basics, we spent the entire call with the guy teaching me the intricacies of it. No other questions.
  • A Javascript repl that allowed importing Underscore and Moment, but not jQuery.
  • An actual whiteboard. Not a repl, not a google doc--MSPaint online. For live code. While we were on a phone call.

Some of my ideas, based on experience, of how people can fix their tech screenings:

  • Stop trying to find people outside of your team to give another opinion, if they don't work on similar projects.
  • Talk problems out at a higher level, don't make the person do more than pseudocode. Chances are if they can come up with what a solution would be, they'd know enough to get the code to work in a real life situation.
  • Understand that a phone call with a complete stranger and a computer screen are not conducive to a comfortable environment, even if the person is sitting at home.
  • If there's going to be live coding, make it pair programming. And warn the person in advance.
  • And stop pretending it's 'just like real life!' if the person can't even check StackOverflow.