inessential by Brent Simmons

Interview Loops These Days

As part of my job hunt — about which I have good news, but I don’t want to say until it’s really officially official — I’ve done a few interview “loops” with large companies.

I’m not going to give away anything about who the companies are or the people or teams involved, but I can talk a little about what it’s like to do these in this first dreadful half of 2020. Or at least what it’s like for me.

Everyone’s Home

The first thing is: the loop is over video. These used to be onsites, of course, and now they’re virtual. Get used to seeing people’s couches and bookshelves. The various video systems seemed pretty similar.

Instead of a whiteboard, there’s a shared text editor on a web page. Different companies use different products, but these also seem to be pretty similar. When I was typing in the editor, I didn’t really pay attention to the video, which was fine.

The video apps also had the ability to do screen sharing — so, on a few occasions, I turned on screen sharing and actually built a small app in Xcode.

The questions were otherwise about code, design, and behavior, which is no different from any other year.

The toughest ones for me are about the code — there might be a clever way to go from my simple O(n2) solution to O(n), say, but these are the kind of problems where I have to turn off all sound in the room and go distraction-free to solve. With another person or two there I freeze.

The coding questions where we built something in Xcode were much more fun. Seems like a good way to make people comfortable and let them show how they naturally work.

Each interview lasted around 45 minutes to an hour.

Some of the loops I did in a single day of five to six hours of interviews and a short lunch break. I’ve also done loops split over two days. I think I prefer the two-days approach, since by the last hours on an all-in-one-day loop I was tired.

The Last Time for Me

My hope is that I never go through another one of these again. I prepared as much as I could. I did questions on LeetCode. I bought and read all of Data Structures & Algorithms in Swift — which is a good book, and I recommend it to everybody. I did a course on interview design questions. I did a bunch of other research. It all helped — and it helped especially with confidence.

One of the things to remember, if you’re doing one of these, is that people want you to succeed. They’re hoping they can hire you. Don’t forget that.