Niall’s virtual diary archives – Saturday 7th April 2012

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Saturday 7th April 2012: 9.32pm. Been doing a LOT of interviewing with various North American companies as myself and Megan limber up to emigrating this H1B visa cycle. Seeing as it's the first time I've engaged with an interviewing process in a decade, it's been a very interesting experience, especially to see how Silicon Valley startups compare to the big multinationals.

I won't name names, however one widely admired and very successful household name Fortune 20 multinational has consistently stunned me with the astonishing mediocrity of the people who have interviewed me, and I've gone through a fair few interviews with them now. I mean, people who don't understand basic stuff like RVO optimisation in C++, and then get very arsey and unpleasant with you after you correct them. In one interview, the guy got so annoyed with me calling him on his basic mistakes he got really obnoxious and started trying aggressively to trip me up with irrelevant questions which had nothing to do with the role e.g. logistics theory, management theory, he even tried training theory. Unfortunately for him, I'd studied ERP during my BIS Masters so I shot him down on his logistics arguments, shot him down with his incorrect ideas about programmer productivity using Brookes' Mythical Man Month, shot him down over his own multinational's strategy which he was dreadfully uninformed about (thanks The Economist!), and shot him down on education thanks to my PGCert with the Institute of Education. Okay, I was real lucky he was obnoxious on exactly what I've studied, as there's plenty he would have had me on. At the end of the interview, from the sound of it, he flung the phone at the table or wall or something and slammed the door.

Now he was the worst experience, but then I admit I fought back hardest against him after a sequence of people just like him and they all had rejected me for apparently not having enough technical knowledge, so this time I wasn't going to let them off their incompetence and get rejected unfairly yet again. I don't mind so much being judged as crap by worthy people like say those on ISO committees, but that multinational appears to have a real attitude problem with talent internally. I must admit I have NO idea how they function at all when everyone apparently has a chip on their shoulder and gets obnoxious at the slightest criticism.

Contrast that to another multinational, also a household name, that I've been interviewing with, one which has had a lot of bad fortune recently and has been losing staff: the experience couldn't be more different. In that multinational, interviewers regularly say they don't know or aren't sure (good). Interviewers take being corrected well and ask for more information or reading material or how did I know about X (even better)? They even appear to be serious as you can hear them scribbling things down and asking you to spell book titles. This particular company likes throwing non-technical curve balls in long interviews, and I must admit that their interviewing process so far has been extremely tough with me being asked to comment upon everything from monetary economics, through comparing C++ versus Java, through organisational behaviour and culture in hypothetical (and I guess probably not that hypothetical) situations, through being asked to explain random lines in my github written years ago (this is a very good approach), and plenty more beyond. This multinational likes three hour long phone interviews consisting of several stages, each comprising up to four people all throwing random questions at you. Real tough. But so far, very fair. And the most competent engineer is always the one who knows what they don't know, and that multinational appears to have them in spades. Here's the snag: how the hell did a company full of the right sort of people make such a series of terrible mistakes leading to their present misfortune?

So that's the two multinationals I'm interviewing with right now. I might make a later post about some of the startups I'm also interviewing with, though I'll have to be very generic as so they don't know who they are :) They're a real mixed bag, with some so bad that I literally emailed back to say I was withdrawing my application after my first experience, others have been so perfect they have been quite sublime :)

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