Adventures in Interviewing

The majority of my posts are technical in nature, as no doubt anyone who has been reading articles here at Sanders Technology over time will attest to.  However, I’m now leaning more towards writing the odd article about “meta” topics which relate to the IT industry, or strategic concepts which align with technology in general.


Today, I’m going to write about an experience a friend of mine (John) had in interviewing with a large technology company, let’s call it “Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net”.  John has nearly 20 years experience in the IT industry, and almost 10 years in consulting.  He applied for an architect position within the consulting arm of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net locally in Australia.

It’s worth noting that my friend has previously worked with the same arm of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net for almost three years in the past, and is familiar with the internal workings of the local business, and the type of work they court, and what kind of expectations are involved in filling a role inside this large corporation.

The Interview Process

The application (via a recruiter) was initially met with an eager response.  The role(s) had been advertised for almost six months, which means suitable candidates had obviously not been found.  A phone interview time was set and then brought forward, which pleased both interviewer and John.  The initial interview seemed to go fairly well, quite collegial but with some serious grounded questions from both sides.  The call ended on positives.

As a result of the first encounter, an additional two interviews were scheduled, one being technical and one in person on site at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net’s local offices.  Unfortunately, John met with an illness that week and had to postpone the on-site interview for fear of spreading the bug.

Undeterred, John decided to field the telephone based technical interview, which appeared to go well enough.  The technical interview provided a good overview of the technical requirements of the Architecture role, and established John’s suitability in no uncertain terms.  The Architect conducting the interview mentioned that he had had to travel interstate to work on projects in John’s location and was quite tired of doing so.  This lead John to feel that Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net might consider candidates as a priority in light of shrinking interest in travelling for work.

The in-person interview took place on the afternoon of the Friday that same week.  Our hero, John, suited up and then waited over 15 minutes for the interviewer.  The interview started in a relaxed fashion, then diverged into a weird place as he was asked to solve a college-level maths problem.  Unfortunately, the point of this diversion wasn’t really explained and feedback at the time suggested it was a test of consulting skills rather than about solving the problem.  A whiteboard was utilized, and John’s brain locked in a form of writer’s block.

Attempting to be undeterred, our hero attempted to salvage the situation by speaking to examples where he’d lead engagements successfully as well as a seemingly impossible bug which he’d solved that day for a client.  The interview came to an end and John felt underwhelmed by the interview, and unable to decide how it had gone.

The Aftermath

From the last interview, nothing happened.  No feedback was received from the last interview and the HR people at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net did not seem able to provide any expectations on when a decision would be reached.  Classic Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net behaviour.

It took a week and a half before any response would be received.  The outcome was not positive.  The result was short and brief – John had not made it.  The token feedback was ‘concerns about client management skills’ and that was it.

All said, several days worth of interview preparation, plus over three hours of interviews and that is all the feedback amounted to?

Did I mention that John was an ideal candidate for the role?  The result was nothing short of devastating.  The complete and utter lack of decent feedback, whilst not unexpected, is a poor effort on behalf of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net and really those involved in the process.


Whilst this wasn’t a feel good article, and the outcome is sadly quite poor, there are some important and valuable takeaways from this whole endeavour worth noting:

  • As an applicant, the company you interview with owes you nothing but an outcome (answer),
  • Don’t expect the company to put as much effort into the interview process as you do in preparing for it,
  • Take feedback at face value.  If it doesn’t align, it’s probably a poor excuse,
  • Be as flexible as possible, but take into consideration dates/times where you can perform at your best,
  • Always have relevant and intelligent questions to ask,
  • Avoid tangents or going too far off topic (although good Architects tend to ramble on),
  • Don’t take it personally if you don’t get offered the role, no matter how good a fit you feel you are

Under normal situations I wouldn’t write about topics like this, but I’m beginning to feel that technology alone isn’t enough.  The environment you work in is AS CRITICAL to what you do and how you go about executing, so be very selective about whom you work for and how they treat people.

It’s a reflection of a bigger picture in the long run.

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