Java developers: Perceptions of Investment Banking interview processes

77% of Software Developers will turn down a job offer if they didn't enjoy the interview process

I recently asked a proportion of Investment Banking Java Developers for their opinions on the various interview methods utilised by employers. 

Could your interview process deter interviewees from accepting an offer?

In the software development market, there are numerous interview methods to test technical ability. Besides influencing candidates’ performances in the interview, different methods also affect candidates’ perceptions of the organisation or team they’re interviewing for. Employers should be conscious of how their interview practice is perceived by candidates, as this has an impact on their hiring success. 

In this survey, 408 Java Developers currently working within Investment Banks were asked to rate different interview methods and share insights into their experience.

An overwhelming 77% of developers who took the survey said that they had turned down a job offer based on a bad interview experience. 

The following chart shows how the participants rated various interview methods:

table

Additionally, this is how developers stated their preference for the different interview process structures:

different interview process structures

What does this tell us?

One of the trends which the above suggests is that developers seem to strongly dislike methods which are dissimilar to “real-world” programming conditions - i.e. writing code on paper, or HackerRank-type challenges. Arguably, both of these methods do not do a very good job of replicating an authentic coding environment in which an interviewee could freely showcase his/her ability, nor do they reflect the way in which they would be working if they succeed in the interview. Instead, they deliberately put the interviewee “on edge” and work to add pressure. Considering that an interview in itself is already a stressful situation, it is worth considering if this is in fact the most appropriate approach to test one's skills? 

For example, one of the survey participants expressed a feeling that his interviewer was “deliberately trying to trap [him]”. Another shared how his interviewer “obviously enjoyed seeing [him] squirm with difficult questions”. Assuming that the goal of the interviewer is to discover the interviewee’s actual capabilities, an aggressive/pressured approach appears to be rather counter-productive. In fact, in reality a person may be perfectly able to solve problems in very complex domains, but may simply not respond well to a particular (timed) HackerRank challenge, or when asked to write code on paper.

The most preferred interview method is...

On the other hand, the most favoured interview method (by far) proved to be the in-depth, free-form technical discussion. This form of interviewing differs from the methods discussed previously in that:

  1. It’s less constrained by time pressure;
  2. The “free form” nature of the conversation allows the interviewee to express more;
  3. The fact that a two-way, fluid conversation is happening in real-time allows both parties to clarify their points of view, in order to reach better mutual understanding.

However, for this type of conversation to be effective, it requires an interviewer who is both competent and engaging. A large number of candidates in the survey expressed frustrations with interviewers who are inexperienced. For example, “graduates asking you graduate level questions about theoretical programming principles which you only learn at university and have no bearing on real life”. An even bigger frustration amongst survey participants was last-minute interviewer replacements.

One developer remarked - “if an interviewer is not available due to some last-minute issues, it is better to reschedule the whole interview than to provide an inadequate ‘replacement’. The interviewee gets a strong ‘what am I doing here?’ feeling and it all does not work.” 

Interviewing is a two-way process in which it is also the interviewer’s responsibility to impress as a representative of the organisation and to adequately present the job opening. It is therefore understandable that candidates want to be interviewed by someone who is competent and prepared.  

You want to accurately gauge the interviewee’s ability

It’s worth noting that the survey does not suggest that organisations ought to do away with all interview methods apart from free-form technical discussions. Of course, adopting a variety of interview techniques arguably provides the most holistic picture of a candidate’s ability. However, it is important for an interviewer to be mindful about the approach which is chosen, in order to ensure that the interview is not only effective, but that the interviewee leaves the meeting with a positive impression. 

Augustas Pavilionis's picture
Senior Consultant
apavilionis@morganmckinley.com

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