Beyond the borders of sanity

My experience with job interviews

Over the past few months I've had the chance to go to a handful of job interviews. Some of those were really good, others not so good. Overall I've been trying to analyze the questions and techniques used to interrogate test the applicants. Note that I'm talking about programmer/software developer job interviews, so it might slightly differ from any other job role.

So there are many books and articles discussing Job interviews, why am I doing this again? Well somebody needs to act like a smartass and re-invent the wheel, right? Also, none of the analysed information in this article is guaranteed to be accurate. Use at your own risk. You have been warned.

Interview questions: you're doing it wrong

Bad question image

I always hated those HR style questions that are kind of tricky to answer. Questions like:

"how do you think you will Benefit our organization"


"what qualities do you possess that make you right for this job".

In my opinion, these questions tend to be non-technical  and I find the most difficult to answer anyway. Fortunately, I never got asked such questions.

A few of the job interviews I've been to asked me about my expected salary right at the beginning of the interview. I find this kind of materialistic and does not serve the presumed goal of hiring someone who is searching for a career, not a job.

One of the worst part of that was negotiating the salary. It went like : "but you have no prior experience, you only deserve a salary of <insert plumber salary here>". And so, we went from an interview for identifying qualified candidates, to a chinese bazaar.

Amazing interviews

Good interview

Okay so I really enjoyed two of these job interviews, probably because they're the ones

that went really well. But I also enjoyed them because the nature of the questions were technical, and IMHO were testing the candidates performance and skill, rather than scratching the surface of his hypocritical marketing and communication abilities.  I'm Going to highlight some of the questions that were asked and why I think they are good questions (and why they were asked)

Interview 1 - JavaScript programmer

Q - whats your favourite programming language ?

I guess it's more like a conversation starter. My Answer was lucky. I said JavaScript. He thought I was kidding. Until I explained how JavaScript is structured And how I like the somewhat eccentric features of JavaScript that make it powerful.

Q - what's the difference between JavaScript and Php

Okay that question seems kind of silly, but I guess it kind of filters out the absolute noobs from the ones who know the absolute minimal about web development. A simple and concise answer is enough :

"JS is usually used as a client side language while Php is used for server side scripting .

Q - you want to send data to the server and receive a response back, how do you do that?

Important. I later came to know that this was basically what I had to do during the job,

"you either do it with a form, or you could use Ajax."

Q - do you think jQuery really simplifies the way we write JavaScript ?

The job specification mentioned that candidates "should also know jquery" , so that question makes sense.

"yes it does, and that explains their motto , write less, do more"

Q - what's sand developers ?

Yaaaay. It's my blog. (now moved to

Interview 2 - software developer (general)

This interview was a little different. The job title did not specify a specific language. Which is kind of harder to test because you're looking for a programmer who can learn quickly and has a passion for programming in general. The questions were rather inclined towards team programming and best practices and I thought they were very reasonable.

Q - Tell me about yourself .

I guess that's a good start. Trying to create a more comfortable

Environment. Also observing how the candidate introduces himself and whatnot. I guess it's important to try and be impressive In your introduction.

"my name is Mohammed Habib. Im 19 years old. I have a B.Sc. in computer science. I love open source and programming and in currently working on having my own company.

Q - so you've worked on all these

projects (listed on my cv). Which one did you enjoy the most .

I didn't really know why the interviewer was asking such a question. But the next question clarified things. I just pointed out some of the projects from my resumé

Q - so you were team manager in this project. How did you manage it ?

Aha! This question could have been about any project, but asking about the projects that I enjoyed ensures that I remember details about it. So I just talked about how I divided tasks and had daily follow-ups with the team. A follow up question was:

 -how did you manage when two people were editing the same file

to which I answered: "we made sure this didn't happen because we were basically writing a class. So we divided the tasks into functions and operated independently"

Q - what do you know about version control ?

I guess the focus in the interview was on teamwork programming skills. Many programmers can write great software, but they face difficulties working in teams. So I mentioned some of the version control programs I know of such as git and SVN.

Q - Did you ever receive user feedback about a software that you've written for improvement?

And this is also rather interesting. Many programmers write software for themselves to use it, ignoring usability for regular end users. So your response in this case reveals weather or not you put yourself in the user's shoes while writing software, and weather you will to improve based on user demands. I told her about feedback I got about YTRP, the Firefox extension I wrote earlier this year.

So yeah i guess that's it for now. Have you been to programmer / developer interviews yourself? Why don't you share you experience below!

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