Tech Interview Torture Chamber

February 22, 2016


The Application Page

When considering to submit an application, the candidate must feel like they are about to swab peroxide on an open wound.

Collect the resume

Let them upload their resume, then force them to fill out an unbearably redundant form containing identical information. If you can, parse the resume file, then autofill the parsed text into the wrong form fields - but not before mangling whitespace and character encoding.

Request a cover letter

If the job application was a tuxedo, then the cover letter would surely be a cummerbund. Accompanying the upload button should be an overtly passive-aggressive prompt: "Upload your cover letter here (optional, but so is the measles vaccine)".

Link their professional accounts

Provides no benefit to the candidate whatsoever - but check out those sweet oAuth dialog boxes!

Accept the application

This whole process should have felt like preparing an aged Wagyu steak for a food critic. Clicking "submit" should feel like flinging that steak into a pit of hyenas.

Thank them for applying

The applicant may have lingering hope upon reaching the final confirmation page. Extinguish it. One confirmation message might read, "Thank you for having the audacity to apply! Consider yourself lucky should we acknowledge you exist."

Keep your audience waiting

Don't give them any updates for weeks, if at all. Who will appreciate hearing back from your company more: Joe Shmoe, or Joe Solitary Confinement?

The Phone Screen

This is a perfect opportunity to see how the candidate deals with adversity.

Choose the interviewer

An ideal phone interviewer will have many or most of the following qualities:

Call and greet the applicant

Always start off by asking the candidate, "Is this still a good time?" Alright, that's enough chit chat. Curtly prod them to submit to the interrogation.

Speak your mind

Nothing the candidate says is particularly important. The interviewer should always feel free - nay, compelled - to haphazardly cut the candidate off and blurt out whatever pops into their head.

Present the prompt

Phone screens are for one thing: evaluating the candidate's ability to stay above water with a foot on their head. Go right for the throat with an outrageously difficult dynamic programming question.

The candidate will be nervous about the phone screen time constraints. After reading the prompt, let forth a deafening airhorn blast signalling them to begin.

Work through the problem

The interviewer should remain quiet for minutes at a time, allowing the candidate to silently marinate in anxiety. If the candidate is struggling, ask unhelpful questions and recite segments of the prompt.

Ensure the collaborative code editor you choose has a bright, blinking cursor to remind the candidate how little they are typing.

Wrap things up

When the candidate eventually offers a solution and asks for validation, fan the flames of their inner doubt by being non-committal and hesitant. "Yeah, that's sort of right, I guess that's good enough. Uh oh, looks like we're out of time! Do you have any questions?"

The Take-Home Project

Like an angry and capricious deity, your company must demand a ritual sacrifice from the candidate to be considered worthy.

Selecting the sacrifice

As would a hunter offering their fattest boar, the candidate can honor your company by wasting their valuable time with a banal take-home project. Have them cast five or six hours onto your sacrificial pyre by farting out a CRUDdy Twitter clone skinned with Bootstrap.

Reviewing the submission

You can't be bothered to meaningfully analyze the project, so compensate by skimming, nitpicking, and being arbitrary. "FOUR space indents? I didn't realize it was amateur hour."

The Onsite

It's the big day, and you must make a decision at the end of it. Think of the candidate as a damp rag; aim to wring them dry before the day is up.

Don't cramp your team's style

When your engineers are preparing questions for onsite candidates, make no attempt at oversight. Developing excruciating interview questions is their chance to be creative.

When the candidate is staring down a graph traversal optimization facemelter, they should feel foolish to have ever thought poring over Cracking the Coding Interview would help.

Keep them hydrated

Everyone that interacts with the candidate must offer a beverage or a trip to the bathroom as many times as possible throughout the day. Bladder manipulation is a powerful interrogation tactic.

Pick the right tools for the job

Provide only markers with frayed, mushy tips that go dry after ten seconds. This yields a pleasing rainbow program effect.

Purge the room of erasers. This forces the candidate to erase with their hands, reminding them that mistakes will be smeared all over them.

Never play to their strengths

"I see your background is in artificial intelligence, you've written your own compiler, and you maintain an open source project - how nice. Now implement radix sort using only red-black trees."

Monitor body language

If the candidate is shaking or sweating profusely, it's because they can barely contain their excitement for solving problems while you stare at them.

Break for lunch

You can learn a lot watching things eat. Pluck the candidate from their torture chamber and shove them into an unfamiliar group to eat. One member should bring up an inside joke so the everyone except the candidate is howling with laughter.

Schedule a non-technical session

Take your foot off the gas from the algorithmic flogging to sit down and point out holes in their resume. If the candidate tries to fluff up their experience, the interviewer should swoop in and marginalize it. "How many people used that product? That's it?"

Goad the candidate into being arrogant about their expertise, then act flabbergasted at their responses.

Chat with executive

If possible, the final session should be a meeting with a company executive. You have likely broken the candidate by this point, so the executive should feel free to make preposterous claims about the size of the company's market and future valuation.

Send them on their way

When the candidate finally departs your office, they should feel like a lab monkey being discharged from a research facility that conducts studies involving unsolicited electrocution.

The Offer

You found a candidate that made the cut. Time to lowball the crap out of them.

Call the candidate

The candidate wants to maximize salary, the company wants to minimize salary. Normally, this leads to a drawn-out session of nobody wanting to play their hand first while remaining coy and aloof. To combat this game of salary hot potato, train your recruiters like process servers; teach them to trick that number out of the candidate by any means necessary.

"Balance" equity and salary

"Do you know what liquidation preference is? No? Then you should take mostly equity, it'll be really valuable someday."

Pick an expiration date for the offer

Selecting a new company to work for is a huge decision for the candidate that will significantly impact their life and well-being, potentially for years to come.

"So yeah, we need a decision from you by tomorrow."


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