Can 'Interview vs Audition' Approach Works for Software Engineers?
May 13, 2018
3 minute read

This article from Ryan Holiday has been making rounds lately:

Here’s The Technique That Ambitious People Use To Get What They Want – RyanHoliday.net

Summary:

There are two types of football coaches, either they sit down and expects a barrage of questions from management or the one doing most of the asking. The first type is the typical interview while the second type conducts an audition. Ramit Sethi has an excellent video explaining the approach here: The Briefcase Technique - YouTube

Software Engineering Context

After all the brouhaha about the broken tech interview, the practice is still going strong. The problem stems from the lack of credibility of resumes. Just ask any seasoned interviewer at big tech companies, they will tell you impressive sounding resumes are dimes a dozen. Once those people got in and asked to solve a simple problem, a significant portion of them couldn’t produce the great code expected. That is the single thing a software engineer will do the most: write code. So it makes sense to see them write code.

The software interview process is not unlike actor audition. Actors still have to come in to act out parts of the script as if it is in front of a real camera and audience.

Now can someone audition as software engineer? the answer is partly.

Many companies have started the audition approach where engineers could submit their resume to one company (e.g. Hired or Triplebyte) and get matched with a lot of companies wanting to interview them. This process makes the first step of the job hunt - getting the interview - to be straightforward. They don’t have to submit resume to one thousand companies and hope one call back.

On the on-site interview, the traditional process still works best. The interviewee should expect the typical coding, architecture, logic and algorithm questions. The briefcase technique mentioned above would work here because company codebases and plans are typically closed, meaning the candidate won’t be able to research them beforehand to make suggestions and assertions. Also, companies wouldn’t like it when a candidate who knows nothing of their codebase says that they need to rewrite their whole stack with Javascript.

However, at every interview, there’s always that Q&A time in the end. The prepared candidate can shine here. Research the company and prepare a bunch of questions. Show interest in the niche.

I can tell you that this doesn’t work in software as well as another field because even though the candidate asks outstanding questions, they will still flunk the interview if they couldn’t solve the coding problems well. The Q&A is just icing on the cake.


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