I like interviews, but I didn’t always enjoy them. I used to become overly stressed out about the idea that I had to display my thought process in regards to the programming problems and intricate puzzles that are often repeated in the interview process. The thought that I am being examined in scrupulous detail for programming minutiae would kick up my anxiety.
But recently, a different view of interviews has helped me get through much more smoothly, more enjoyably even. What if instead of constantly being examined I could also examine? What if the interview process were a two-way street, a conversation? That’s how I’ve approached interviews recently. After all, I am a potential co-worker to those interviewing me. Instead of seeing interview problems as a solo challenge, I could see them as a collaborative effort with some (very little) input from the team. The real purpose of those questions is to see how you would function in the workplace; when tackling a hard problem would you shut down and stare at a blank whiteboard? Or would you proactively speak with other programmers about possible alternate approaches to a problem? Some of the questions you’re going to be asked in the interview are incredibly difficult to answer alone, your potential employer wants to know that you can reach out to others when it’s necessary.
This approach to interviews has made them feel much more organic. Instead of being an examination, it’s a conversation; interviews are no longer just about a company seeing if I could fit into an open position, it’s seeing if that company can fit into my career as well. It’s a two-way street. Interviews are your opportunity to see if the company’s culture matches what you’re looking for. Like Rorschach in The Watchmen, you’re not locked up in an interview with the company, they’re locked up in there with you. Okay, I wouldn’t go so far as to actually try to convince you that interviews are like Rorschach’s prison scene since that’s just a one-way street in the opposite direction, but you get my point.
I hope that if you also get anxious at the thought of being thoroughly examined in regards to your wits you will be able to take the same approach. Interviews are your window into the company’s ideology. Considering that interviews are often only a few days of interaction with an employer before signing a contract be sure to understand who you’re signing with.