Interview/Screening Questions

Hello Campers!
I’ve recently started applying for jobs , 80 applications and counting! I have had one formal interview and 3 phone interviews/informal chat but no luck yet. That isn’t bothering at the moment because I know it’s a numbers game and just have to keep applying.

What’s bothering me is I sometimes get questions that I struggle to answer or difficult to twist into a positive answer. For example, I get asked whether I have experience in a particular CMS or a framework or a specific tool and my reply has always been “no, I don’t but I’m sure it wouldn’t take me long to adapt to it and get my head round it seeing that I’ve self taught myself and built xyz projects” – is this a reasonable answer?

Also, just ranting here… are we still in the age of ‘give three keywords that highlight your skills’, or “what three words describe you” – I mean anyone can say anything. How much value do these pointless questions hold? *sigh …

Have a lovely day

Yes.

What’s bothering me is I sometimes get questions that I struggle to answer or difficult to twist into a positive answer.

Sometimes it’s more about the attitude.

For example, I get asked whether I have experience in a particular CMS or a framework or a specific tool and my reply has always been “no, I don’t but I’m sure it wouldn’t take me long to adapt to it and get my head round it seeing that I’ve self taught myself and built xyz projects” – is this a reasonable answer?

I would be careful of blindly saying it wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe it’s something very complex and you just sounds arrogant. If you know what it is, maybe talk about something similar that you know. Express eagerness to learn, but I would be careful of overconfidence. I was just reading an article classifying different categories of coders. One was the “Dunning Kreuger Coder”, the one that doesn’t realize how little he knows. At one of my jobs, a newhire was complaining about the backend. He asked about it and I said it was Java. He said, “What? Who ever heard of a server written in Java? I use Node. I should talk to [the boss] and offer to rewrite the backend. I could clean it up in a few weeks.” I had to talk him down explaining that Java was a very common server language and explain that rewriting our backend (20 years old) would be incredibly complex and dangerous. I would expect it to take a team of experienced coders many months to rewrite it and a few more to test it. Needless to say, he’d come off as very cocky and a little dangerous. (That assessment turned out to be pretty accurate.)

Start taking notes. What techs do they ask you about? Keep a list. At least learn what they are for next time. Research the company, see if you can find their tech stack.

And after an interview, they often ask if you have any questions. I liked to say, “I’m still learning this process. Could I ask if there was anything on which you think I could improve? Is there anything you think I should work on to become a stronger candidate?” It shows humility and an eagerness to learn. And sometimes you get really good answers.

I mean anyone can say anything. How much value do these pointless questions hold? *sigh …

Yeah. Sometimes they ask these meaningless question just because they think they are supposed to. But also it’s a chance to see how you react. How creative are your answers? Are you a good sport? I always say that one of the things they are unconsciously checking is if you would be a fun person to work with. Would you be a fun person to sit next to for 40 hours a week. Do you get annoyed with things? Or do you have a playful and adventurous attitude? Next to whom would you rather sit?

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I had a friend tell me how where he worked, at the end of an interview they would ask, “Kirk or Picard? Which was best? Pick one.” Then which every they chose they would have them defend that the other was really the better one. They just wanted to see if they guy was playful and had a sense of humor. They wanted to see if he’d be fun to hang our with. True, may a little too nerdy and “guy club”-ish, but the idea is there.

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This is the kind of tricky answers that can be turned into favour if pondered a bit.

If I have to roleplay as the hiring manager, and I am hiring for a jr position, and I get this kind of answer I immediately think two options:

1 - this person sure is confident
2 - this person have no idea what they are talking about.

For the first option, you need a strong proof to convince me that what you are saying is true, otherwise I will just have to trust you, and not everybody will unfortunately.

For the second option, I can think that you are still too inexperienced to understand how actually complex that topic might be, and thus be too over-confident.


In this situation what I suggest you to do is to bring the conversation on “your ground” and point me towards option 1.
So instead of the above I think a more appropriate answer would be

No I don’t. However I used [tech X] in the past for this project. I know it’s not the same, but they both share <common functionality / goal>. [Expand on your answer]

Some concrete examples.
You are applying for a company that uses Vue, but you have always used React.

No I don’t. However I used React in the past for this project. I know it’s not the same, but they both share a reactive system. I will have to learn the syntax, but I hope to be proficient soon. Moreover the routing system/framework …etc etc [you get the point]

You are applying for a company that uses SQL but you used NoSql.

No I don’t. However I used DynamoDB in the past for this project. I know it’s not the same, but in this project I had to set up a multi-index system to speed up queries. Also I had some brief experience with collection filtering and data aggregation. It will be a challenge but I know I can […etc…etc]

[edit]
As you can see then the goal is to say “no, but I know what I am talking about” to give confidence that you will able to learn it. :smile:


But ultimately for how much it is hard to do interview, just try to be yourself and let your personality shine :sparkles:

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@kevinSmith

You’re absolutely right. If it’s a complex piece of software then it’ll be too silly to say “I can learn it in a few weeks”. I usually emphasise my willingness and determination and support it with my projects and how I learnt a range of tools independently with minimal support etc etc and that I hope I can learn [xyz] tool on the job.

This made me chuckle! No, thank God I’m not one of those ones. I always ask the “why” questions and seek to understand the reasons behind it - because I’m sure veterans in this field know a tonne more than I do.

I did think that too. I try to give one of those keywords a humorous element to it e.g. I code in my van and that’s a skill haha… and get them to giggle along. But that’s because I run out of silly keywords to use :eyes:


@Marmiz

This is so true - and I’m worried that I may be making them think it’s 2 and not 1.

The examples you gave are really helpful. I have tried in some interviews to twist it like the examples you gave only when I know what the software is or how it works e.g. when discussing Vue over React. But on the occasions when I get asked about some unknown tool or framework that has very little to do with what I have been doing I’m blank faced and that’s when the “no, but I’m sure with some guidance I can pick it up” card is played.

Yeah this is what I focus on most of the time when I struggle with a question - play the bubbly, humorous card :crazy_face:

Thank you both for your help - I’m going to be careful that I don’t sound I don’t know what I’m talking about when they bring those questions up.

Wish me luck!

This… my email inbox and linked in is full of 100’s of messages from recruiters, they call you, you need to schedule with them repeat the same conversation you had with the last one… then you have to schedule an interview with the managers who will ask you high level react questions… They dont have you write any code for them, test if you actually know the technologies your expected to work with, or if you are a good problem solver or that you can communicate with the team your expected to work with. You might go through 4-5 interviews complete a take home project that you worked on for 3-4 days. and never hear from them again. very frustrating… very easy to loose faith and give up.

Applying to all of them is becoming a full time job and taking away from time that could be spent studying or practicing the skills.

Yeah this is what I focus on most of the time when I struggle with a question - play the bubbly, humorous card :crazy_face:

you are gonna get the same types of repeated questions. I guess just learn what they want and repeat it back to them? what about this to start: