Sometime in my career, I was interviewing at a company while having no significant reason to leave my (at that time) current employer. I used a programming language I was fluent in and was no longer a fresh graduate.
I thought the interview went well (phone screen on browser-based editor). Wrote tests, debugged unexpected behaviors, applied duck typing a la Ruby.
Several days later, I received an email from the recruiter saying that my specific skillset wasn’t strong enough for their current need.
Reading the reason sounded odd to me, so I followed up for feedback to which the recruiter agreed. We scheduled a phone call for the next day.
On the phone call, they said (paraphrased):
We thought you performed well in the interview – you gave simple approach to designing the objects, wrote tests, followed through debugging successfully, and showed good understanding in the language. However, it seemed that you had to go back-and-forth on understanding the prompt and wrote too many unnecessary methods.
I can come up with justification why I did what I did, though I don’t think I would ever use such metric to measure someone’s fit (or worse, turn them away). There is no fair judgement that I can infer from someone’s code style or how many questions were asked.
This is perhaps the 2020 version of Google’s brain teasers interview questions which establishes the same goal: gatekeeping. Not necessarily about commenting on code style, but rather using bogus reasons to imply that somoene is not strong enough.
With that being said, I personally would give the benefit of doubt to the interviewer in this case. I find it more convincing to think that the above scenario is a symptom of bigger problems.
Some possibilities which may fit:
- they look up to senior engineers who turn away people using such reasons, hence thinking these behaviors are included in the packet of things they should aspire to be
- they had a bad experience being turned away with such feedback and now they associate it with improvement
- they thrive in such environment, such that when you’re part of a system, you’re incentivized to consider that system is fair
I would like to emphasize that they in the list above is an interviewer as persona, not referring to any company or any individual.
What this incident has taught me is that asking for feedback is important to get a full picture, because sometimes you’d realize that you probably don’t want to work there anyway.
Remember that when employer interviews candidate, the candidate is also taking notes of the employer.