Interview, a tech test and an admission
My first interview with this company was with the CTO. The Chief Technology Officer. The big guns. The last time I had been in a meeting with someone that high up, I got fired the next day (it was not related to the meeting, but it stays with you!)
While half of me struggled with the typical pre-interview nerves, and the other half panicked about my interviewer’s seniority, the recruiter kept insisting that the CTO was not a big, scary executive type of guy.
The plan was that they would ask me a few questions about my experience. It would be a chat rather than an interview. That meant it would be a more informal back and forth conversation, rather than the standard question and answer format some interviews take. I was ok with that though it was not something I had come across before. But when I’m nervous, I’m chatty, so I hoped that would work in my favour.
It would take place on Microsoft Teams which I was used to working with at my previous company.
And there would also be a tech test. There it was. The scariest two words I could hear. I had been fortunate that I had managed to avoid tech tests in my previous interviews. Though maybe fortunate is not the right word, but I had heard about a range of different tech tests that people had done in the past, I was not sure what end of the scale this one would fall in.
- Would I be building a large project while sharing my screen?
- Would I be allowed to Google?
- What tech stack would I have to use?
Yes, my brain went into overdrive.
The day of the interview came, and I set up my laptop in my niece’s nursery. I logged in and prayed that my spotty wifi signal would hold out for the hour-long call.
(There is a big back story to how this interview could not have happened during worse circumstances but we will leave that.)
Part One: Conversation
The CTO started the meeting, and we did the typical chit chat about how our days had been. I will be honest; I do not remember much of what we discussed in this section or what he asked me.
I remember that we did discuss my CV and how I got into software development. After repeating the story to so many recruiters, I could recite it in my sleep. I told him about how it had all been a lucky accident.
- How I had been fired and the very next day received a cold call inviting me to join the Bootcamp for a three-week taster course.
- How as I was unemployed I would have loved to but I couldn’t afford it – so I ended up getting the course for free.
- How I completed the course and was then offered an interview. An interview with a company which was owned by another company that I used to work for.
- How I spent a good six months of the last year and a half wondering why I was coding… I was not a coder.
- How a guy on a boat had offered me a job.
I did question out loud how crazy I must have sounded to them, but thankfully they told me it sounded enthusiastic. Enthusiastic is positive feedback, right?
Now I will admit while it was fun to tell my story, once they started asking more technical questions, I did start to falter. I had to admit that there were a lot of things I did not know whether I had forgotten them since being taught them at Bootcamp or that I had never learned about them.
However, it was not my first interview where I had said “I don’t know” so I tried not to let it get to me.
Part Two: Tech Test
Everything seemed to be going well, and I had relaxed a bit by talking with them. Then they mentioned the tech test. That’s when I told them I was nervous because this would be the first time I had done one in an interview. They told me not to worry as I would not finish it anyway, and if I did, they could sell the solution for a lot of money.
First, I was asked to choose a language to use to complete the test. That threw me. I had expected I would need to write a solution in the language which the company used.
Honestly 2019 Jade would have died.
They then told me to share my screen and chose whatever IDE I wanted to use. I already had Visual Studio on my laptop, so I opened that and set up a new console app.
Once that was all set up, they sent me the kata which I would be attempting. I had to write the code which would translate numbers to words. For example, if a user typed in 10, it would return “Ten”. It sounded simple enough.
[I do not want to overwhelm you with what I did in one post, so if anyone does want to read about how I worked it out, then let me know in the comments.]
Though I did not finish it, I found it exciting, especially as a tech test. They allowed me to vocalise what I was coding and then tried to signpost me to possible alternatives. At one point, I was saying that I had not used Dictionaries before though I had heard of them and expected a Dictionary would be useful.
Then I had to ask if I could Google how to initialise a Dictionary. Probably does not seem a big deal, but I had heard stories about people being told off for googling in their tech test, so I wanted to be sure (and not sneakily try and google the answer on the screen that I was not sharing). They said that it was always acceptable to Google to help with things like that but not so useful to try and immediately google the answer to the whole thing. I had to agree with that logic.
Finally, they called time on the kata, and we reached the end of the interview. Then I was told I would hear back the next day (wow quick movers!) and the recruiter would arrange another interview if I were successful with the tech lead.
While we were talking, I missed a call from the recruiter asking for an update on the interview. That’s when I realised that our hour-long interview had ended up running over. That felt reassuring because I felt that the conversation had continued the whole way through. So once we ended the call, I text the recruiter an update about how the interview went.
Then it was the next day, and I got a call back from the recruiter. Now, this is the point where things got a bit awkward. On my CV I never mentioned my apprenticeship as I expected to quit if I took a new job. But when the recruiter phoned me the next day, they explained that while the feedback had been that I was not exceptionally qualified for what the job advert was looking for, they loved my attitude and wanted to bring me on in a training capacity—an apprenticeship.
That’s when I had to own up. I explained that I was part of the way through an apprenticeship with my previous company. I did know (from other apprentices enquiring) that I could transfer it to a new company. Honestly, I expected them to cut me loose then and there. I felt so guilty about admitting to it. Instead, they asked me to send the details about the apprenticeship provider and that they would look into it.
Wow, this post is long! I hope if you made it to the end, you’ll come back for the final post of this theme and find out my opinions on Bootcamp vs the workplace tomorrow!
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