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AA Interview Notes James Hamilton JamesRH 2006-09-17.

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1 AA Interview Notes James Hamilton JamesRH 2006-09-17

2 2 Agenda Setting up the loop Managing the loop The Interview Learning from the loop

3 3 Setting up the Loop Make sure right folks on loop: –Will we have the info we need at the end of the day? –Experience of folks on the loop One or, at the very most, two inexperienced interviewers –Make changes if needed Don't just "accept" the loop If two groups involved, are there enough from both teams? –2 slots, one of which is lunch won't cut it Read the resume, does it match the job? –Are there others it matches more closely

4 4 Managing the Loop: Feedback If no feedback within an hour, complain to loop Publicly whack those that send in crappy feedback: –"Nice guy"... "really enjoyed talking to him –Make sure feedback has content -- don't accept 5 or 10 lines –If dev interview, insist on seeing code for all but lunch interview Test interview requirements not much different –Read all feedback and learn who needs private advice Must take a position: –Tentative hire is just wrong... call it publicly –Insist on taking a position... must start with "hire" or "no hire" –If uncertain, no hire Calibrate interviews to individual being hired: –Insist on deep knowledge from senior folks –Expect core skills and potential from university hires –Correct quickly if questions are not at right level

5 5 Managing the Loop: Adapt If failing as dev, for example, consider other roles –Some of our best PMs & Testers were once Devs –We paid to get candidate in so invest in finding potential –If candidate failing, jump in early Call leaders of other roles & recruiting to redirect loop It's your job to adapt the loop if it's not working Under no circumstances send home w/o 3 interviews –If borderline, continue the loop –Leave candidate with a good experience As AA try to see anyone who is borderline –Do the AA unless clearly not a hire –Youll learn about both candidate & the interviewers

6 6 The Interview: Approach Be casual and friendly and help the candidate relax. –The more relaxed they are, the more successful you'll be –You need details fast with only an hour Best predictor of future performance is past results (outside the stock market ) –Weak at school, poor results in past jobs, not hitting the top of anything, yet suddenly a superstar is very rare Core attributes shine through Not everyone will excel in school but they better excel somewhere –If a "hard worker", find real examples –If an "excellent problem solver", get examples. –No examples almost assures its simply not true Dont waste time –Start and finish on time –Dont waste much time on project or other introductory stuff –A hard interview followed by a job offer is motivational –Good candidates enjoy being challenged –You need the full hour to get deep insight into candidate

7 7 The Interview: Core Attributes Recruiting encourages us to look for a broad set of core attributes My focused set is a smaller subset: –Motivation, tools of the trade, & raw IQ Recent style is each interviewer to focus on a core attribute or two –Im not against this but dont personally chose to do it Raw IQ: from design questions & interactions during interview Tools of the trade: I'll survey standard computer science education to make sure a candidate knows common algorithms, has appropriate education or equivalent work experience. –Be particularly careful of candidates that have a masters in computer science but an undergraduate in something like English lit. Motivation : Discussions of past project, how they tackle problems, how they have worked through tough problems –Do they give up, did they hit the top, did they actually ship or switch projects early, etc., etc. –Track record of success: not all candidates succeed everywhere but, with motivation, they should excel in many areas

8 8 The Interview: Digging Deeper Education: I typically do pass through education –checking for basics & quality Experience: I typically do a pass through 2 or 3 of their major projects –Im looking for two things: Is it an accurate description of their past or someone they worked with? Im looking for interesting problems for later design questions –I'll chose an example from a past project and ask them for details Assure myself first that they actually did the work –Then debate a few design decisions to see how they deal with technical conflict Must be able to push back when on wrong track and step back when not –Change a design parameter and ask for a solution What if it won't fit into memory, I need multi-user concurrent access, I want to reduce response time by a factor of 10, etc., etc. Keep firing questions & design mods and see how they adapt Coding: Ask a coding question where they don't already know the answer –You really can only afford 20 min on coding so it can't be too hard –As quickly as possible, syntactically correct, and correct algorithm –If dev/test ask coding questions in all interviews prior to AA If any doubt, ask in AA as well

9 9 The Interview: Different Job Types SDE/T: –I'll ask a simpler coding question or expect somewhat less but still want to see code. –I substitute design questions with testing questions. –Test a software component with which they are familiar, like a compiler symbol table, and instruct them to give me as many tests as possible as quickly as possible If you don't get on the order of 15 or 20 pretty quickly, worry but keep trying. If no more, they dont make the bar PM: –I'll typically not ask a coding question, will still ask the same design question, and I'll go looking for customer focus in and around design questions. –Many questions on how to chose features, when to push a feature, challenge with schedule/feature trade- offs, challenge with late bugs and whether or not to fix. Basically, scenarios from various parts of the dev cycle to see how they react. –Ask questions from their past to understand how they will work with other groups in conflict. Could they evangelize a feature with other groups, work with other groups, reduce conflict, etc. –Present design sketches and ask them to criticize –Expect them to argue a point carefully, accurately, forcefully but not painfully. –Must be technical AND customer focused –How to influence a dev team without direct leadership position? Architect: –Beware of someone who wants to be an architect for the titles sake Its not a role, its a broader, more senior version of one of our existing job types –Candidate must have been in the trenches" & actually shipped successful production software Cant succeed without credibility and it wont come if they havent been there –Ask for their principles of development and evidence of them being applied with success in past –Ask deep questions in their area of expertise and expect to get credible, articulate answers. You should learn something from them –How do they deal with conflict? How do they influence the team?

10 10 Learning from the Loop Introduce new interviewers by putting them on loops with good interviewers –They'll read the feedback and compare with their own –Don't introduce more than one new interviewer at a time Go chat with new folks about what you learned and what they learned –helps them calibrate and learn to look deep Those that aren't giving good feedback need to be reminded of their responsibilities There are some folks that just never develop into good interviewers –don't put them on loops Work with the HR team on who you actually want on loops –I like to get involved in who is on the loop, sometimes tuned to candidate and sometimes to the work load we're currently under –At bare min, make sure that the loop is appropriate and pass on changes to HR Rarely, but occasionally, I'll send a "here's what we could do better" note to the loop or "it was a great loop and here's why" Very rarely, when it's a borderline case, I won't make a hire/no-hire call that evening –We need quick answers so I only rarely delay when it appears the data is incomplete –Once I held a meeting the next day since the feedback ranged from "I would rather quit than work with this guy" to "we absolutely have to have him" Keep an eye on how your hires do and learn from the result

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