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It seems that silence in our society is to be avoided at virtually all times and all places. Unfortunately, this feeling affects the interview. Usually fear of silence is felt most by the inexperienced interviewer. All too often he tends to put forth another question while the respondent is meekly attempting to formulate his own thoughts into a logical reply—all just to keep the air filled with words.

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Stop Interviewing With Leet Code

During interviews, technical skills in the industry are still largely vetted through LeetCode-style questions. These are small algorithmic riddles in the form of “I have an array with positive numbers, find the n^th largest”, or “Print nodes in a binary tree in a zig-zag order”. It is pushed to the point where, hired as an engineering manager, three out of my 4 interviews had leet code puzzles. Whether they’re an effective selection criteria is a divisive question, and since recruiting is unfortunately still not a very data-driven practice, one that is very subjective.

I don’t think it’s an all or nothing situation. You should use questions that provide data per whether the candidate will perform in the job they’re interviewing for. If that job is extremely algorithmic driven, e.g. in academia, or involves OS-level optimization, sure, maybe leetcode exercises are relevant.

For 99.9% of the jobs in today’s market, LeetCode is generally irrelevant to the interview. When I see this kind of exercise discarding some of the best developers I’ve been working with, for jobs I know for sure they’d perform in, it gives me pause to whether they make sense at all.

Planning & Preparation

The lack of adequate planning for an interview is the greatest single fault found in my studies of the interviewing process. 1 All too often, the inexperienced interviewer launches into a discussion only to find midway through that his preparation is incomplete. A moderate amount of preplanning can easily obviate such unfortunate occurrences.

When the objective of the interview is well-known in advance, it is usually a good practice to allow the individual concerned ample time to prepare for the talk before the actual involvement. By indicating, ahead of time and in writing, the points to be covered, the interviewer gives the interviewee an added advantage and reinforces the specific purpose of the session. Too often the expectations of the interviewee may be far different from those of the interviewer. This misunderstanding, if not corrected, can be disastrous.

On the other hand, too much preplanning and detailing for an interview can be equally harmful. The interviewee may then develop conventionally correct answers or platitudes which, of course, reduce the informational content of the interview to virtually zero. In short, he needs a guide, a “steer”—but no more than that.

A written outline of important points to be covered is not necessarily an indication of rigidity; rather, it reflects consideration for all parties concerned. When explained, it generates a feeling of confidence as well as fairness—particularly if two or more people are to be ranked in an evaluation. The outline may even include typical questions in order to solicit comparable responses. Again, however, a warning against excess is needed: too much reliance on a programed questioning approach is often disconcerting to the interviewee and may lead to stereotyped answers. Ideally, of course, each question should be designed for the situation and the respondent.

In presenting information, a speaker allocates blocks of time to various items on his agenda. If no time limit is established, the presentation can continue indefinitely. Even worse, the truly important information may never be told. This process takes place by dint of the normal human trait of retaining the most significant bits of information for the end. Psychiatrists recognize this and are particularly attentive in the last ten minutes of the therapy session. Borrowing from this insight, the interviewer, although not able to set an hourly cycle as does the psychiatrist, should try discreetly to indicate a time scale. This allows the interviewee to plan and to include relevant information which otherwise might be withheld. If the interview is terminated too abruptly, the probability of losing valuable information is very high.

A time limit can be suggested by citing the next appointment or by noting, perhaps, a previously scheduled conference. Actions such as tapping—consciously or not—on one’s watch to indicate time are out of order, of course; so is sitting precipitously on the edge of the chair. Sometimes it may be in the best interest of both parties to set another date for an extended session or to plan on completing only one or two stages of progress at a time.

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