Friday, August 26, 2011

Interviewing @ eBay, Part I - The basics

When someone interviews with eBay, s/he is given an interview schedule with the name and title of all interviewers, the natural expectation (at least mine) is that s/he searches for the name of all those people as part of the pre-interview preparation. I view this as minimum due diligence that a candidate should do 11 years into the 21st century. So I hope whoever interview with me at eBay finds and reads this post (if you do, please let me know)

Now that you found this, I will give you a leg up over other candidates:  in the series of four posts, I tell you what questions I would be asking in my interviews for four positions:
  • -        Software engineer
  • -        Product Managers
  • -        Software Architects
  • -        Engineering Managers (Sr. Managers, Director, Sr. Director and VPs)

Before we start with specific position, let me first cover the common questions and aspects for all interviews.
I look for the following “necessary” – but not sufficient - qualities that make a candidate productive. In a nutshell, person should be smart, know his field, willing to work hard, willing to compromise and get things done and get along with people under a range of circumstances.

Smart: I am not talking about genius, or someone that can solve puzzles in 10 seconds, but some one that is generally sharp, can think on his/her feet and is solve problems. One of the clearest indication of it is whether someone listens to question, asks follow up questions to clarify what is being asked and then clearly and directly answers that question and then stop. No rambling, no answering other questions and no circular, perpendicular or random answers!

Knowledgeable: Candidate must have proficient level of knowledge in his/her domain, this is separate from being smart, each field requires certain level of experience and formal education – I expand on this with specific question in each of the fields above.

Work ethics: Regardless of how smart and knowledgeable one may be, s/he has to be focused and will to work hard. Real engineering tasks are 10-20% about great ideas, and 80% about grunt work, boring details, dealing with plumbing,  debug, re-build, fine tune etc. If you are not willing to do that, you won’t be successful.

Pragmatic: You must be willing to compromise, change course, give up credit, change your familiar and favorite terminology etc. to get things done. All the smarts, knowledge, hard work often is wasted if you cannot get it done and out at the end. I ask what you are willing and what you are not willing to compromise on for a given project and why, what you would do if you feel a wrong decision was made…

Culture fit: The last of the “necessary qualities” is the ability to get along with others under all sorts of circumstances: uncertain and insufficient data, deadline pressures, failures, inter personal and inter group rivalries … under all those conditions, you should be able to maintain your relationships and get along with others. One of the greatest indicators of whether someone can do it by the way, is sense of humor.

Next post: my list of questions for Software Engineering positions.


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