Anonymous Interview Feedback
Today's article is going to be a bit different. I recently interviewed with a company and had such a bad experience that I really wanted to talk about it. But, I wanted to let some time pass so that my emotions do not cloud my writing. Fortunately, the company in question gave me the chance to provide some anonymous feedback on the interview process. Unfortunately, they don't quite realize that anonymity is difficult to get right, and that nobody else in the world gets to read and learn from the feedback. So I'm posting it here. I'm not posting it on Glassdoor because I want to own my content, not relinquish it to a third-party or play the name-and-shame game.
Now, if you're clutching your pearls at the thought of me posting feedback about another company's processes, think about this: this is a side of interviewing that people never see and yet are intensely curious about. What's more, this article shows you exactly how honest and respectful I am when providing timely, actionable feedback to others. Just remember that your and my definition of respectful and honest may differ, so judge accordingly.
On a related note, I'm on a – rather painful – mission to find a good company that cares about candidates, treating them as if they were their own employees, and wants to treat interviews like conversations rather than interrogations. If you want to help or you have a need for someone like me, please get in touch with me. And now, without further ado, here is the interview feedback I submitted verbatim to the company.
Interview Experience Survey
Greenhouse lets you provide anonymous feedback about your interviewing experience to
Overall, my interviewing experience was a positive one.
Their interviewing style is interrogative rather than conversation.
- Phone Screen: fine, and the recruitment person and Eng manager were both nice. Eng manager should be comended for being honest, because her words conflicted with the obviously-euphemistic words of others I heard later during the in-person interview. The only thing I'd change is that the phone screen was done over Zoom and they could have used video, but instead they just wanted audio so we were both missing out on a lot of non-verable communication cues.
- Technical Assessment: too long, too boring. It didn't show the breadth of my skill set and there were points where I questioned whether they were solicity for free spec work. I spent most of the time waiting for things to compile. I did appreciate that they asked for feedback on the technical assessment within the assessment itself, but I noted there that the power dynamic exists whereby people won't be too honest about their thoughts because they could be rejected for criticizing.
- In-Person Interview: 3 hours long. Seriously. Second worst in-person interview I've experienced in my career. I'll comment more about this in other questions.
My interview(s) started on time.
The position was clearly explained to me.
I tried to ask about the position and the company, but I was only given vague answers. In particular, when I asked them to sell the position to me (i.e. "Why would this position be a good career choice for me?"), I was given the answer: "We have very high employee happiness as rated by our NPS score".
The people who interviewed me were well prepared and conducted the interviews skillfully.
The interviewers could use some training on how to conduct a less intrusive, more approachable interview. Some things I noticed:
- The in-person interview is 3 hours long. According to the HR rep, that's apparently their standard and they know candidates grown about it yet are unwilling to change.
- The room was hot, stuffy and without any windows (natural light). It was intensely confining for what is already a nervous exercise.
- Basically only the HR person interviewed me, even though two others were in the room. The others barely talked.
- The HR person was eloquent, but robotic in his questions and seemed very amateur in getting to know me. He basically "stuck to the script" and that's it.
- Each of the interviewers had their laptops open and were referencing things on it – presumably my resume – whereas I had a pen and paper. The laptops created a barrier between myself and them and was quite off-putting as a candidate.
- None of the interviewers introduced themselves. I went the entire interview not realizing that one of the people in the room would be on my team, she was only introduced as her name and a job title that was vague and made in a joking manner. I thought that part of the interview would [be] used to bring in my prospective team, but that never happened.
- I never got a sense of how my technical assessment was received because they never mentioned it. Maybe I did poorly, maybe it was awesome? That would be key to knowing how much merit I have in the position, and could be used as a jumping off point for further discussion of my technical ability, but it was never spoken about. Very odd, and I've never seen that before.
The interviewer(s) got an accurate sense of my strengths and weaknesses.
They got a sense of my relationships with people and any disagreements that had come up in over a decade of job experience, but they never focused on technical ability or strengths (e.g. good relationship experiences).
I was treated with courtesy and respect.
This is neutral because while on the surface they seemed nice, the in-person interviewers should a lack of wanting to actually get to know me both as a person and as a candidate for the technical position. They only seemed to want to know about "playground politics" in my career.
Visiting the company office, nobody said anything to me as I sat there except for when the CEO came around. Talking to
Overall, I found the interview process to be challenging.
It was challenging because of the rigid adherence to some sort of HR process, the lack of personality and humanity.
Overall, I have a more positive impression of the company having gone through their recruiting process.
Oh gosh no. I initially thought they had all the good elements of small tech companies in Vancouver, having seen a number of them myself over the years, but as I spoke to them I was getting the impression that they suffered from ego and a "me-too" low self-image mindset. But I pushed on with it because I can deal with that in small doses, and I have helped other companies get past those feelings. But over time I just found that the Core Values and together-ness talk they speak of on their website and on the phone was just skin deep. Issues around empathy, morale and self-identity run very deep in the company and, unfortunately, they are just like the small tech companies in Vancouver or Silicon Valley that people whisper about on social media or in hushed circles. It's too bad because they have a good idea for a product that really helps people, and isn't some vacuous thing that only serves advertising companies.
I actually walked away from the in-person interview in a state of bewilderment – at how bad it was – and a sense of dread. The dread, as I found out later, was because I was scared that they would actually want [me] to work for them and I only wanted to run away from them as fast as possible. Oddly enough, I know another person who interviewed with them and they had similar feelings, so my gut must be a little correct.
Is there anything you wish the company had done differently?
The screening and in-person interviews were conducted in an interrogative style. The in-person interview was the second worst interview I've ever experienced.
In particular, the in-person interview felt intensely invasive, and not once did they talk about themselves in any details. Instead, they seemed to want to pump information out of me in excruciating detail, like what was the first and last name of each of my managers and colleagues, going back 15 years. We didn't converse about how my strengths would be useful in the position, or how my technical skills would help. I would talk about things from the past that helped me learn and use in future jobs, but they just wanted to go back to pumping me for detailed information about people's names and what those people thought of me. The company should be treating interviews as a conversation to get to know the person, not an interrogation.
I don't think people should be fired or anything, but I do think they should try to experience their own interview process first-hand. Let's see if they like technical assessments that take 7 hours to complete, or 3 hours locked in a stuffy, windowless room being interrogated. And do all of this with the looming threat that you could be rejected (or, in their case, fired) for one wrong answer that nobody will tell you is wrong. I think they would start to have more empathy for candidates and improve their chances of finding good people.