A candidate we passed on reached out and asked for more specific feedback about why we passed. I happened to have some time over the holidays and agreed to provide him with some additional information personally and to meet up for coffee.
> It's not you: The first thing I told him was that 80% of whether you get hired at a company is nothing you can do anything about. It depends on the company, your skills, their needs gap, the timing, the manager, so if you're batting .200, that's pretty good.
The second thing was that there were some really basic stuff to make sure you're doing every time you interview that you CAN control to narrow that gap further:
> Dress: wear dark jeans, nice shoes, a button down dress shirt. This outfit is almost never "too fancy" or "too casual". If the company requires more fancy than that, might want to question if you're a good fit (unless you like wearing a suit shudder)
> Give Specific Examples: Always try to start your answer with a summary, then give a specific example then abstract it into a generalized theory. Don't start with the generalized theory and never give specifics
> Know your stuff: If you list something on your resume, especially in a recent job, make sure you can not only explain it but that you have an opinion about it and that you've considered other opinions.
Edit: the outfit above applies mainly to men, I'm less versed in what the equivalent would be for women. If someone wants to add that, I am sure it would be helpful.
Filling out 7000 fields on taleo is comical.
It's why I use the hated recruiters now. I get to skip the BS of applying online. (At the employer's expense too!)
I miss the old days, you submitted your resume, then they called you for an interview. You interviewed and either got hired or didn't (they'd typically call and say if you didn't).
Why we need 80 layers of BS between the job seekers and employers is beyond me. I've also never seen a competent HR person in my 20+ years of working in IT. If you can't tell by their resume, HR isn't going to give you anything more so skip that stupid step as well.
I've been unemployed for ~4 months now (by choice) and it's been the best time of my life. Yeah, I'm burning through my savings, but I can focus on projects that make me happy, I can focus on honing skills I actually care about, and I don't have to partake in endless meetings that serve no purpose whatsoever.
What I realized as I entered my 30s is that some people are okay with that. Some people are okay with endless streams of bullshit and office politics, with building sub-par products, and with anxiety-inducing whiteboard interviews. All they want is a paycheck and all is well. Last year, I discovered that I'm not one of those people. I tried hard to fit in that mold and just be happy -- but what makes me happy is fundamentally at odds with being a model "company man."
Why the job search sucks is that there's a lot more people in the former camp than in the latter. It's the same reason why most people don't start companies, don't try to write novels, and don't compose orchestras -- a fundamental lack of creativity. Unless one of my projects really takes off, I'll inadvertently have to get another "real job" soon, and even though I loathe the process, I'm happy that this time away from work really helped me reflect and figure out who I truly am.
> At least I know not to waste my time waiting on you.
So don't. If they don't meet your communication expectations, then it isn't a good match anyway. So don't wait. Move along.
> These tests and whiteboarding are not indicative of your skill level
No, they indicate your ability to work and talk through problems. I'm not sure where this idea that whiteboarding is about skill level came from. You can cram/study algorithms. But you can't fake the thinking process, or how you approach a problem. You can't fake your communication style. And that is what doing it in a stressful situation shows - how do you really think and communicate under pressure?
> Maaaaan, go fuck yourself.
Hmm. OK, you are being honest about your feelings, but... does anyone ever get a better result in their job search after ranting about it online? Does an employer ever call you and say, "Well, we were on the fence, but after seeing you F-bomb other companies, we decided we liked you!" I'd save these rants for AFTER you get a job.
The level of pure bullshit that is part of the hiring process these days is mind-boggling. An recent example:
I interviewed for company X, where I spent an entire day with more than a dozen engineers, answering the same types of questions over and over again: "Here's our platform, how would you fix it". At every turn, I would speak about X,Y,Z issues that would need to be solved and how this or that technology might be applicable in a broad case. Diligently, in every session, the interviewers were taking copious amounts of notes about what I was saying... NOT how I was doing on the interview, but rather, the content of what I was saying. "How do you spell Corfu?" (as an example).
At the end, they told me they really liked me, and would have an offer for me in the next day or two... Two days passed and they called with "We're sorry, but you're just not technical enough for us".
I basically gave them a free day of consulting.
I'm not sure HOW to fix the problem, but it is definitely getting worse.
You don't have experience 99% of employers want, and your response is to stubbornly write it off as a fad? Maybe that's got something to do with it? If you have zero experience, how do you know it's gross?
FTA: "These tests and whiteboarding are not indicative of your skill level, they are approximations of what you can do with what is likely to be limited information and ambiguous scope."
If I'm going to make you get up at a white board (and I might) it isn't going to be to write code on it. We don't hand designers white board markers and say "draw monkey draw" - because it isn't their medium and neither is it ours.
If I am going to get you up at the white board it is going to be to show me a diagram (probably database) or how you think something "should flow" (boxes and arrows) to see if you can COMMUNICATE a concept. If you can't do that then we have issues -- because at some point your going to have to do that very thing to convey an idea to a colleague and if you can't we have a PROBLEM. There isn't really a "right" answer to this setup, but there are plenty of wrong ones - ones that show you either lack basic knowledge or communication skills needed to do the job.
React is just a library for mapping state to ui elements, right? I've been using react and all of my css lives in separate .css files. Is that not typical?
Maybe they are just venting frustration but maybe blowing off what employers want is indicative of other issues or a bad attitude.
The reference point for gaining employment is that dude who wrote Homebrew and got rejected by Google for being unable to "invert a binary tree on a whiteboard" 
Unfortunately with this and many other articles I've read on HN over the years, the common theme is that decent/good programmers are not making it past HR.
Everyone that wants to work in tech should instead navigate through the meetup/social space and build up a decent network for this kind of thing.
Anecdotally, at 1 interview I went for, I knew the hiring manager and our "interview" was a 15 minute casual chat. That's it.
Employers should be required, by law, to compensate interviewees for their time at a rate equivalent to the job for which they are interviewing.
(Macdonald’s, Goldman Sachs, line cook, VP legal, same law, everyone, everywhere)
It was nice to randomly find your name here (: Good luck with the interviews, I totally agree with your points. Your blog improved a lot since I last checked it! (The NX framework guy)
If you can imagine each interview as a good way to learn about the people at the company, and also about the company's processes, then you can triage as you wish.
As an example you could ask openly about the company's hiring processes, rankings, followups, and the like. If you receive answers that satisfy your preferences, that's great; otherwise, you can move on to prepare for the next company.
I hate not getting feedback and the time it takes now to interview. On the other side of the desk, I have regretted not putting up the same code challenge and whiteboard sessions with people I interviewed and hired.
When looking through job postings I watch out for this type of statement: “Only short-listed candidates will be contacted.” which means that I can’t expect any reply if I am not selected for an interview. Dear recruiters, this is not OK, ever!
I put a day or two into a job application. (Which may be excessive, but it leads to a high conversion rate). Preparation includes researching the company, their products and projects, their history and my possible contribution – and tailoring my application package to their needs. If the company can’t be bothered to write me a short email “Nope, sorry. HR.” then that company is not worth my time.
In effect, “Only short-listed candidates will be contacted” tells me: “1) We are too lazy or incompetent to set up a mass email reply. 2) We don’t care about candidates enough to save them the time and stress of unnecessary follow-ups.” By extension, I will assume that company does not care about its employees either and has effectively disqualified itself from my becoming a part of their team.
He makes a lot of good points, many which I have experienced and resolved to never do.
All my applicants know within a few days of whether they are getting an interview.
All my first round interviewees know the next day if they are getting a second round interview.
All my second round interviewees know the next day if they are hired.
As you see above, there is only two rounds. There isn't any white boarding, because I find it a waste. For web developers, I ask a very simple one page site to make.
I try hard to make sure the applicants at least know where they stand pretty quick. Because I've been on the other side of that.
This is an area were AI could really help improve discovery. I see more and more job sites leverage personalized feed technology similar to the Facebook and YouTube. One could argue its perhaps more useful for job sites :) Also check out this blogpost: https://getstream.io/blog/personalized-job-feeds-machine-lea...
Isn't this one of those asymmetry things where the hiring company has no incentive to make the process pleasant? They hold all the power/keys etc.
Before people jump in with "what about negative Glassdoor reviews" or "negative reputation", I'm saying that all things taken into account, the equation is still in favor of the company.
I don't know.
Job search sucks for many reasons and for the most part it's the hiring companies to blame for. However, this is a given situation which will not change any time soon. Instead of ranting, candidates should put some time in researching what the companies they're applying to are looking for and act accordingly - e.g. personalize their resume to match job descriptions, anticipate interview questions and do mock interviews. Some resources that can help in the process:
 https://www.glassdor.com (to find out interview questions asked by companies)
 https://www.jobscan.co (to optimize your resume against job descriptions)
 https://www.pramp.com (a peer-to-peer mock interviewing platform for software engineers)
The job search sucks for this guy because he's a front end developer that isn't keeping up with front end developer trends. Which is the thing people pay front end developers to do.
I think the answer to age bias (that author referred to) is remote work. No one gives a shit how old you are if all you need is code, slack, email, and zoom/webex.
Or so is my experience.
OP here, I just realized the year slug was 2017 and it's clearly 2018. Updated link is here: https://thewebb.blog/thoughts/2018/why-the-job-search-sucks
Thanks for the insightful responses!
One thing about feedback: Too much feedback helps candidates game the system. This ultimately leads to bad hires, who end up getting fired. It hurts the process overall.
When interviewing with a good interviewer, he (or she) knows that whiteboard sessions / tests / projects are just hypothetical situations. If I throw an unfamiliar API in front of you, and you ask certain wrong questions, I know you're not going to work out. If you "get it" and can move forward, I know you're going to be able to learn all the weirdo stuff that you need to learn in order to do the job.
But, something I learned when I was in a similar situation: Companies that demand a LOT of upfront, grueling time in the interview process should be avoided. Once a call drags out beyond 45 minutes, or the coding test is just too time consuming, it's time to walk away.
Regarding whiteboarding, if the candidate argues with me about why we're using a particular API, I pretty much reject the candidate. (No, we can't use the new threading API, I want to see how you can learn this API. No, we can't use an ORM, I want to make sure that you understand how to use a database.)
> Writing CSS in JS? GROSS.
Similarly jsx is writing HTML in JS. The whole evolution of web was to separate, modularize, componentize the concepts (DOMs, CSS, JS, HTML5 APIs, templates etc.), what on fucking earth happened?
Hey, just wanna stop by to say hi! I was in the same situation, the company I working for ran out of cash for no reason and I got no paycheck since November too :(
> Coding/design tests
Left tech years ago, but assumed that many/some of those tests and sample projects were employer attempts to procure free labor w/o any of the burdens (liability) of internships and employment.
> Rounds of interviews
Perhaps its helpful to look at the whole process from a different vantage point. Saw an article on CNBC a few days ago about the importance of, essentially, seeming desperate and wholly committed to whatever position it is one is applying/interviewing for. Seem too smart... too ambitious... have options for doing something else if this doesn't work out... etc? Don't expect to get hired. I can actually attest to that.
Anyway, the implication is that if you are still available and willing to go through rounds of interviews, you probably aren't 'all that desirable' in the first place. Yes, there is some irony there. But I know this having spoken w/ a # of HR people.
-- Dear Paul, Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha NO.--
Yeah, that would be, at a minimum, courteous, but... Workers are for the most part, commodities. As such, feedback isn't merited. Could say more here, but won't.
> How to deal
Obviously, each person's situation is different, but my experience tells me the best solution is to position oneself for independence (as much as is possible in a society). While in my last job, I pretty much decided that I'd focus on (hopefully) not needing another job. And while I didn't get everything right, I think that mindset and planning was instrumental in me pretty much being able to walk away from a job market that is pretty stacked against the typical applicant.
I know tech is supposedly immune to such stacking, but... Last year I listened to an applicant's conversation with a recruiter. The applicant was getting robbed, so much so that a guy, who I think was/is homeless, told the applicant as much. I mean are people really going through all this work to get paid $25/hr... in California???
But, why does job search sucks?
I feel like I need to hear the other side of the story to get the full picture.
The tone of this whole post tells the actual story.
I just try not to take everything too personal. Companies rely on their process like gospel, when in reality it only emits a very noisy signal. It's a no until it's a yes, etc. It sucks, I agree. Our industry generally sucks, so it comes as no surprise.