What Can You Ask For, in a Job Interview

A few of you had reasonable concerns about asking for code snippets in What Your Job Ad Can Do For You. So what can you ask for? Here are some ideas:

  • Pseudo-code that shows how you solved a problem as a developer
  • Description of an automated test framework or pseudo-code that shows the interviewer how you put the framework together
  • Description of a project schedule, explaining the iterative and/or incremental parts
  • Description of a project and what it was that made that project agile (or not)

If you are worried about sharing code or asking for code, it doesn’t have to be real code. And, notice that all of these items can be considered auditions of a sort.

Many years ago (more than 20), I wrote an FFT multiply loop on an embedded processor. If I had to describe that now, I would explain it this way:

  • The inner multiply loop had 7 or 8 steps. I can no longer remember.
  • During the steps, I loaded a different accumulator to perform some other computation, and then created another loop for the next few steps, testing for done for that computation along the way
  • The issues I had to deal with were:
    • What if I finished the other computation first? What happened then?
    • What if I finished the multiply first? What happened then?
    • How did I know the multiply was faster?

I no longer remember the answers to any of these questions, but I do remember asking them. At the time, I didn’t need the real code for that code snippet (or description). But explaining why I felt proud of that code and how I knew and resolved the issues was helpful in my next job interview.

So, yes, be careful about asking for real code or real tests or a real Gantt chart (or any other project artifact). But you can certainly ask for pseudo-code or the thinking behind code (or whatever artifact you want).

Asking for evidence of the thinking behind a real problem the candidate encountered at work is an audition. Asking for something the candidate feels strongly about helps a candidate retrospect.

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