IT Contractor Technical Interviews – Three views on Them

IT Contractor Technical Interviews
IT Contractor Technical Interviews

IT Contractor Technical Interviews

Readers gave these responses about IT Contractor technical interviews.

These are in reply to our article ‘Technical Interviews – Why they are so Unfair’.

Technical Interviews Terriblle in Practice – Paul Knapp

Technical interviews are great in theory, but almost always terrible in practise because of the incompetence of those doing them.

They think it’s clever to ask really obscure questions.

They’ve asked me to verbally spurt out lines of code including semi-colons and all.

I’ve been employed after technical interviews to discover the person asking the difficult questions knew much less than me.

It’s easy to look smart when you’re in control of the discussion.

Helped a Colleague

I’ve also helped a colleague by teaching them something new, then discovered they asked a candidate a question about what I’ve just taught them later that day!

Does that mean they wouldn’t have employed themselves 24 hours earlier?

The trick is to ask really broad, easy questions which anyone who claims to have the skillset should know.

This should catch out the blaggers and not discourage the good candidates. e.g. if a programmer doesn’t know what a For/Next loop is there’s something wrong.

I Like Technical Interviews – Chris Boote

Technical Interviews are fine by me.

I’ve never yet had a technical test that I couldn’t breeze through – and I am NOT fresh out of college!

I’ve been in IT for nearly 20 years, using my speciality area for almost 10.

I have written technical tests as well (usually after I’ve run rings around an interviewer technically, and they want a better way of weeding out bluffers).

The way to answer technical tests or interviews correctly is say, up front, “Look, we have syntax checkers in any environment we use. Let THEM find the colons, semicolons and tabs that I miss. I write the logic, the syntax checker checks the spelling”.

Give Direct Answers in Techncial Interviews

Then for each question, give as direct an answer as you can, but make sure you show that you understand what the questioner is talking about (giving multiple methods to do something is a good way to show this).

If you don’t understand the question or know the answer, SAY SO!

Bluffing will seldom work because either the interviewer knows what they’re on about, and so will spot your bluff, or they don’t, so will rely on their ‘written model answers’ and your bluff answer is unlikely to be there.

Think of technical interviews as a way to flex your mental muscles, as a challenge to your ingenuity, and as a way to (discreetly) show off a bit, and you’ll start to look forwards to, and actually ENJOY, them! (like I do)


Imperfect IT Contractor Technical Interviews – Digital Man

Interviews are inevitably imperfect. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the best candidate for the job is selected on only 1 in 5 occasions.

Technical interviews for IT Contractors are often as described in the article, but some technical interviews are good.

It all depends on how skilled the interviewers are. They can also be somewhat hit-and-miss re: whether you get the job or not.

I’ve had interviews where I’ve correctly answered fewer than half the questions and got the job.

I had one where I correctly answered 23 out of 25 and failed to land the job.

Flaw in Technical Recruitment

One big flaw in the technical recruitment process is the widespread lack of attempts at determining whether candidates can write readable, maintainable code or to test generic programming competence.

As someone who’s done more than their fair share of maintenance programming it seems that the majority of programmers are unable to write readable code.

Lack of Specific Knowledge

Lack of specific knowledge is not as important as recruiters seems to think.

Attitude, willingness to learn and to do things properly are far more important.

Nevertheless, we have to face reality as it is. The fact is that we are going to face tests such as are described in this article.

The best thing to do is to try and find out in advance (if possible) what area the technical test is focused on.

For example, if it’s going to be a generic C++ test, then whip out a C++ text book and go back to basics. You may not use, say, operator overloading very much in your day-to-day work.

If not, go back and relearn it.

IT Contractor Technical Interviews can work for you or against you. Make sure you are prepared.

Successful Interviews come form preparation.