2.2.1 Common interview formats

  1. Resume screen. If you apply by yourself, your resume is likely screened by a recruiter first then passed onto the relevant hiring manager. If you’re referred, it might go to the hiring manager directly. For companies inundated with resumes, passing recruiter screening is very difficult.
  2. Phone screen. The phone screen serves two purposes:

    • to gauge your interest and expectations
    • sell you on the company. Most companies will try to convince you how great the company is regardless of whether they’ll make an offer.

      During the phone screen, if the interviewer is an engineer, they might ask technical non-coding questions too.

      Typically, there’s only one phone screen. However, in some cases, you might have two phone screens, either because the team isn’t convinced by your performance on the first, you’re being considered for another team, or it’s standard for that company to have two phone screens.

  3. Coding challenge. Coding challenges are often given to new graduates and interns. Some teams have their challenge before their phone screen, but most have it after. “Challenge before screen” means they don’t want to talk to you before they know you can code. A challenge typically consists of 1-3 questions that you have between 30 mins and 3 hours to solve. You can prepare for it by practicing on sites like HackerRank or Leetcode. This step might be skipped for candidates with high-quality code online.

  4. Offsite technical interviews. Done remotely, these interviews might require coding. You should ask recruiters before each interview for its scope. If there’s coding involved, ask what platform will be used so you can familiarize yourself with it beforehand. With the rise of remote work, more and more traditional onsite technical interviews are becoming offsite.
  5. Presentation. This is often required for research scientist roles to evaluate your insights and for developer advocate roles for your communication skills. For research scientists, you have to present your own work, but for other roles, it may be about any technical topic. Some interviewers like this format as it allows them to not only see candidates in action but also learn something new. Make sure you discuss with your recruiter about acceptable topics so that you don’t violate Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with your current or previous employers.
  6. Onsite interviews. The last and most intimidating aspect of the hiring process can consist of anywhere between 4 and 8 (yes, 8) technical/whiteboard interviews which might include a lunch interview and/or social hangout with some team members. Your lunch host might or might not submit an evaluation. Traditionally, this is done onsite. However, with the rise of remote work, more and more teams are experimenting with remote onsites via conference calls.

    Before your onsite, companies should send you an interview schedule that looks like this. If they don’t, you can ask to get a sense of what your day will be like, and get the names of your interviewers.

10.00 - 11.30 Joan Rivers Software Engineer Coding question
11.30 - 12.15 Stephen Chow Research Scientist ML theory
12.15 - 13.30 Ali Wong Engineering Manager Lunch with the team
13.30 - 15.00 Kumail Nanjiani Research Engineer ML implementation
15.00 - 15.30 Dave Chappelle VP of Engineering Behavioral questions

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