The purpose of the interview

Should We Even Have To Interview?

There has been more and more talk in recent years about how software developers are not part of a “union” within their workplaces, or in other avenues of work.

When we think of trade skills like carpentry, plumbing, electricians, these folks go through some amount of training, work a certain number of hours, and receive a “license” to perform specific duties. This makes them immediately hireable by any employer who needs those skills.

In the tech industry, we don’t really have an equivalent. We do have “certifications” from training events, some of which are quite rigorous. I know of a lot of folks in hiring groups that pay little to no attention to any of these kinds of certifications unless the skill involved is DIRECTLY relevant to them.

There are some folks working in the tech industry who feel very strongly that the mere presence of a GitHub account with code should suffice when determining if you’re a suitable candidate for a job posting. For me, as a hiring manager, this is not nearly enough information. Skill is only one piece (granted, a large one) of the overall pie chart of what you bring to my organization as a candidate.

As the employer, interviews are my way to test your individual levels of technical skill, communication, culture fit, empathy, integrity, humility, and other factors. Let’s dive into the non-technical areas (also known as “soft” skills) a bit more, as the rest of this document will focus more on your technical abilities and communication skills, because they can mean the difference of whether a team wants to work with you.

The Ultimate Goal of an Interview

Are you the same person I’ve been talking to on the phone? I haven’t caught anyone on this (yet).

Are you the same person who wrote the code for my take-home assignment? I have caught someone on this back in 2011, and wrote up a quick story on it on and it’s received well over one million views.

Can you successfully write code in front of one or more members of the team? We’re not going to be sitting over your shoulder, but we do want to see you write some amount of code in front of us so we know you can actually write code and not just copy/paste things from Stack Overflow.

How well do you communicate, and illustrate your soft-skills?

If I’ve invited you on-site for an interview, there’s a very good chance I already think you can do the job, and I probably already want to hire you. You have about 15 seconds to make your first impression and the rest of the time together to convince me to still give you the job. Think of it in terms of starting the school year with an “A” grade and you can only lose points as you go through the school year.

It’s vital that you understand this: if you’ve been invited to an on-site interview, the company already believes in you. They believe you can do it. They’ve already reserved company time and resources, they’ve already booked meeting rooms and other employees to meet with you. The last thing they’re hoping for is that you’ll fail. They want to see you succeed. I hope that this equates to them finding ways to lower your stress level and making concessions, but don’t think that means they’re going to give you easy questions.