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One Company's Week-Long Interview Process 362

jfruh writes "What's the longest tech interview you've had to sit through — two hours? Eight? Ruby on Rails devs who want to work for Hashrocket need to travel to Florida and do pair-programming on real projects for a week before they can be hired. The upside is that you'll be put up in a beachfront condo for the week with your significant other; the downside is that you'll be doing real work for a week for little or no pay and no guarantee of a job slot."
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One Company's Week-Long Interview Process

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  • by spinozaq ( 409589 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:55PM (#41289355)

    Is that you're programming in Ruby on Rails...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:56PM (#41289367)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:56PM (#41289369)

    Where do I send my significant other's resume? I can use a vacation.

    • by flibbidyfloo ( 451053 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:29PM (#41289905)

      Can I just send my significant other? I need a vacation.

      • The idea here is that you go with your significant other, and while s/he's toiling away at this stupid company and working for free all day, you're sitting in the nice beachfront condo they put you up in, relaxing and enjoying the beach, and maybe even getting some nice meals and drinks on the company's dime. Heck, while he's busy programming (assuming it's a he), you can find a short-term boyfriend and have him over at the condo during the day....

    • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @06:08PM (#41293785)

      Just apply and hope for an interview. You don't need to actually do any work. At the end of the week just say "I was goofing off the whole time like it was a real job", then go home well rested.

  • This is too much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:59PM (#41289395)

    The longest for me is 5 hours but this is ridiculous. The only people that would be able to apply are people who are unemployed. As someone who has interviewed people for programming jobs, it really doesn't take more than 2 hours to figure out if someone is a good fit.

    • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:04PM (#41289489)
      Seriously. I've been at companies that do all day interviews and those are pointless. Group after group of people come in and ask the people almost identical questions. If it takes you more than an hour or two to determine someone's skill and personality then you are probably doing it wrong. If someone asked me to spend a week working before they would even consider me I'd laugh and tell them to have a great day. If some company I never heard of asked me to book 5+ hours for an interview, I'd tell them no thanks as well, unless I was absolutely desperate. I have better things to do with my time.
    • Re:This is too much (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:06PM (#41289513)

      The only people that would be able to apply are people who are unemployed.

      "I can't believe I wasted 10% of my annual vacation days on this stinking interview" Been there done that.

      • by csubi ( 950112 )

        50 days paid annual leave? Florida is not France...

        • by rwv ( 1636355 )
          If you got 2 weeks... a single day off for an interview would be 10%.
          • Re:This is too much (Score:4, Interesting)

            by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:50PM (#41292075)

            If you got 2 weeks... a single day off for an interview would be 10%.

            Exactly. WRT to AC dropping "five whole hours" on an interview... I interviewed at a rather dilbertian F50 megacorp and it was about 8 hours aka 10% of my annual vacation. Ugh. Never should have wasted my time. They did take me out to lunch at a family dining establishment (Applebees level), which was nice of them.

            Then again I usually take the whole day off for an interview even when its only about 5 minutes. I remember getting bait and switched about 20 years ago at a Major Cellphone Network Provider where I applied to be a RF cellsite engineer or whatever the exact terminology and somehow got shuffled around into call center monkey at about 1/4 my pay at the time. Basically HR worded the want ad to make me think they wanted someone to design, maybe project manage cell tower site installation/upgrades, which was more or less beneath my ability at the time, but what they actually wanted was a call center monkey to stick pins into a cork board map when angry customers were transferred to my extension complaining of dropped calls and then theoretically I'd "do something" with areas having lots of pins on the map, well, actually I'd just take calls but maybe I could work my way up to hand generating TPS reports or whatever. It was a call center job but the "engineering" dept job title meant unpaid overtime for them, what a great deal! Two hours of drive time round trip for 5 minutes of WTF, see ya.

            Another WTF am I here for, was I had just completed a COBOL class at school (ahh, the 90s) and I had some experience setting up SDLC mainframe links over frame relay, I knew how to pull and terminate fiber, I had more or less worked as a network admin at a financial mainframe operation, etc. So there's an ad in the paper for what looks kinda like a sysprog or maybe devprog or maybe like an onsite local IBM CE except employed by the client. I get there and it turns out they have outsourced the computer operator positions but they need a local monkey to take care of physical paper handling at the line printers and would I like to work there for about $7/hr? WTF are you kidding me? bye bye.

            I've learned over the years that before you go onsite if the nice HR lady can't explain the job duties that means there is no point in showing up for the interview.

            "Worlds most F'd up interviews" would make an entertaining /. discussion.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      The only people that would be able to apply are people who are unemployed.

      Uh, good?

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:56PM (#41290363)

        Not if you want the best candidates it is not. Often those types already have jobs.

        • by Hatta ( 162192 )

          If you want what is best for society as a whole, everyone needs a job. Unemployed people should get priority in hiring unless you can demonstrate that you cannot find qualified people who are between jobs.

          • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            I agree with the former, I disagree with the latter.

            By hiring an employed person, that frees up another position the unemployed person can fill.

            Most likely one that is valuable.

            I see no reason to give priority to possibly worse candidates.

    • Whether or not it is, this feels like a scam. What an insulting, manipulative way to take advantage of people looking for a job.
  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:59PM (#41289405) Journal

    I've been through (and passed) a 2-day assessment centre before, when applying for my first "proper" job. That included exercises designed to simulate the work I'd be doing on appointment - but there's always going to be a degree of artificiality around exercises like that.

    It's hugely important to get recruitment right, as a wrong call can have consequences that last months or years. We've all seen cases of the alleged saviour of the universe who gets recruited, only to turn out to be a mediocre employee who trundles along just above the point at which it's worth getting rid of him. Set against that, a week long scrutiny process like this has some merits.

    The obvious downside is that by definition, it's pretty much limiting the pool of applicants to those not already in employment. People already working full time will likely struggle to vanish for a full week, particularly if they have family committments that place demands on their vacation time.

  • Probably illegal. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:01PM (#41289427) Homepage Journal

    Violation of labor laws. This is illegal. They have people doing full time work for less than minimum wage. The fact that they call it an "interview" is hardly a reasonable distinction. I hope the idiots involved suck a nice 6 or 7 digit fine for this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They probably just call it an "internship."

      Captcha: Pretend.

    • Re:Probably illegal. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:05PM (#41289499)

      This happens in restaurants every day. Cooks work a few shifts for free prior to being hired. The French term is stagiare. The difference is cooks work for free to get minimum wage jobs.

    • Re:Probably illegal. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:10PM (#41289579)

      1 week beachfront condo rental is compensation. As long as that is over minimum wage (~$300/wk at $7.35/hr), then it's probably legal.

      • Especially if its 1080 comped (food cable ect) so you don't have any expenses during that week. Still its slimy for them to do it this way.

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Do they get script to spend at the company store too?

        If this is how they treat you during the interview expect to be treated even worse once you get hired.

  • I've done simular... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:01PM (#41289429)
    only to be told that I finished the project during the interview process and my services would no longer be needed. They then had the audacity to contact me months later to see if I wanted another go at working for them. Free labor is free labor, dont fall for it unless you REALLY need to.
    • Scheherazade figured this out N-thousand years ago. The key is to never finish. Start the next project before the current one is completed. Always keep several projects in a state of "working incompleteness". See also, the BOFH.
    • Well obviously you would build a back door into the project that you can use to shut it down remotely if they don't hire you, right?

      • This! They want to be slimy, be slimy right back. Although they might be paying your expenses (food, etc) for the week. Depends on the details...
        • Putting someone up and buying them food doesn't also pay their mortgage, etc, so it sounds like a pretty crappy deal to me. I could totally see the desire to watch someone work and see how they do, but that's what contractors are for. You hire them, work them for a week or two, and if you don't like them, you make a phone call and they magically disappear. If you do like them, then you eventually hire them.

          This just sounds shady to me.

  • Not that bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:02PM (#41289451)

    If you think about it. If you are currently at a job, you can get vacation pay, for that week, you get to see if the company is really a good fir for you. Also the company sees if you are a good fit for it.

    Now if the company just doesn't hire people. Then there is a problem. Because they just found a way to get free labor. However I don't see that the case because it is really hard to do a lot of real work the first week.

    • Yeah just what I want to use my vacation pay for. Screw that.

    • I can imagine a case where I would do this if the work was obviously contrived as a test. I'd have to be pretty desperate (Just to consider working on Ruby would require me to be very desperate, as long is it didn't involve mySQL it would still be better then starving.)

      If they wanted me to do real coding on their real projects I would just take the weeks free rent/airfare/zero cost vacation and not do a lick of work. I wouldn't consider the interview done until the hiring manager threw a tantrum.

    • Re:Not that bad. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:43PM (#41290133) Homepage

      So I go into my boss' office and say "So I need a week off next week to go down to Florida and do the world's most insane interview. Do you mind?" I mean, it's not like this is the sort of thing you can plan for months in advance and come up with a reasonable reason that you need the week off. If I ask my boss for a week off next month without any details, he might go for it without questions, but next week? He'll want to know who died. This is ignoring the fact that I like to use my vacation time for... ya know... vacation?

    • This would be a good deal for someone collecting unemployment who wants to polish up their Ruby on Rails skills.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:04PM (#41289475)
    I know somebody who did this, about 4 years ago.

    The ironic thing -- or funny, I suppose, depending on your point of view -- is that Hashrocket did not hire him. He's one of the best programmers I know (I know a lot), and he was also quite familiar with their development process. He taught it in college.

    I think it's a pretty good bet that Hashrocket made a mistake in his case. He went on to work for other prestigious companies.
    • Not that I agree with this B.S., as it is probably illegal, but maybe his knowledge wasn't the problem. Maybe it was personality or culture fit?
      • It's possible, but you don't know this guy. I don't see that being a problem unless they have pretty weird personalities or culture.
        • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @02:05PM (#41290501)

          Quite possible. xaoslaad didn't say that your friend had a fucked-up personality, just that it might not be a fit. If the company is full of assholes, and he's not an asshole, then he wouldn't be a good fit. There's a lot of companies like that. As the old saying goes, "birds of a feather flock together", and you frequently see this dynamic in workplaces. You go to one company and everyone's really friendly and great, and you go to another company and everyone has serious personality problems or is an asshole. The assholes don't stick around company #1 because they get fired, not hired in the first place, or don't like that their behavior isn't well-tolerated when they get called out on it. The decent people don't stick around company #2 because they don't like being around assholes and look for a new job ASAP, or they don't get hired because "they're not a team player".

    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      I think Hashrocket invited him so he could solve a particularly nasty problem for them for free.

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      How do you know that they wanted to hire him in the first place? They probably just wanted some free workforce.

  • This does seem to be one of he best ways to vet potential employees out there. The best way to see whether someone is a good fit for your company is to see what they can do; see how they can work, rather than ask them questions that don't really have anything to do with what the company is doing.

    I'm guessing that most companies aren't going to want to spend the time and money to vet employees this thoroughly, though. But for a small company, it can be well worth it.

    • by Karlt1 ( 231423 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:10PM (#41289583)

      Unless the company pays way above market rates, why would I go through this? I can understand if you're fresh out of college trying to prove yourself, but otherwise, I would skip it.

      It's not like it's a prestigious company.

    • Of COURSE this process is good for the company. They get an entire week of work for the cost of a beachfront condo they probably usually let executives use for free.

      For the applicant, it's a really lousy deal, especially if they are not currently unemployed.

      • by s73v3r ( 963317 )

        37signals does something similar, just without the beachfront condo part. However, I believe they pay you as a contractor while they audition you.

    • I think I am going to start looking for jobs by telling them to send me a week's pay upfront, so I can really get a feel for working for them.
  • 6 Grueling Hours. (Score:4, Informative)

    by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:05PM (#41289491) Journal

    It wasn't enough that the position I was interviewing for was for someone who got promoted out of it. And I knew him (but not that I was interviewing for his job, until I got there) we of course hit it off, but his boss was the one that needed convincing. I get showed around, described the job, I take some tests, where I ace them, save for the questions that were either asked poorly or the answers wrong (2 out of 20) and we all agreed I was an exact match, and even slightly over-qualified. We got this feeling early on, but they continued to grill me through the full battery of people and tests. After 6 hours (We get a1/2hr for lunch)

    We finish up, call the recruiter it looks good... They elect not to make an offer because I would be too good for the job. never mind the pay was better, the location was better, the industry was better and it was a topic I was very interested in.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >> They elect not to make an offer because I would be too good for the job.

      Amazing that they could say that with a straight face. More amazing is that you actually believed them.

      • Care to explain your comment more?

        Some places don't like to hire overqualified people as they are afraid of them leaving or being demanding.

        It is possible that someone along the way didn't like him as much as they say they did.

        What other possibilities are you thinking of?

  • Don't do it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:09PM (#41289557) Homepage Journal
    You are already bending over and taking it, before you are even employed. You are working hours you won't get paid for, and they already have the upper hand in this "relationship"
  • House MD season 4 was mostly an extended "interview" with a crowd of medical folks.
    I would have thought that this was FICTIONAL. (and at least DR House was decent enough to PAY them (until they got hit with ROW D YOUR FIRED!)).

  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:11PM (#41289601) Homepage Journal
    a 20-60 min interview over the phone isn't enough. People can talk a good game and sound intelligent when answering my open ended "How do you solve/approach this asynchronous timing window?" questions. You may have spent 10 years in the industry, but you may not have the right mix of skills to get tasks completed. Then I go and waste months training them up and they just don't work out.
  • this sounds like spec work. which is a big no-no for anyone with nothing to prove.
  • by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:20PM (#41289739)
    but we pay them inflated contractor wages. For the most part, we don't hire anyone direct, but convert contractors to full-time.
  • by Reasonable Facsimile ( 2478544 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:26PM (#41289849)
    With one-week sprints.
  • Paid contract? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by i_ate_god ( 899684 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:27PM (#41289865)

    I had an interview for an out of city employer. It resulted in me being given a PAID two week contract to see if I'm worth hiring. I forget what it was I made, but I was paid $2000.

    that $2000 was part of my moving expenses if I was hired, and if I was not, I still got $2000, because I signed a contract stating if I finished the work on time, I get $2000.

    This seemed like a good way to do things and benefits both the company and myself. I get money, company gets proof I can not only code, but be professional (meetings on time, meeting deadlines, etc).

    • by Altus ( 1034 )

      I did this with a local startup. I gave them a discounted rate hourly on a small (40-60) hour project they needed done in the hope that they might offer me full time employment when they could. Ultimately they did because they saw that my work was good and I was responsive to their needs and creative enough to suggest solutions to design problems. It worked out pretty well for me.

  • If it takes someone a week to figure out if their candidate is "the right fit" they're either doing it wrong or they're angling for free development work. Personally, I believe that anyone but a true PHB could figure out how inefficient is the latter case. So that leaves us with the former, in which case they're probably a bad bet as a prospective employer. Now, careful evaluation does need to be done, but if it can't be done in a day or two, tops, I'm suspicious.
  • ...perpetual "working" interviews.

    Never hire anyone, of course, so you never pay for salaries, FICA, health care, vacation, paycheck distribution...

    Next step: require that the interviewee simply telecommute in with their own computer. Now you don't even have to worry about covering transportation costs, desk space, office supplies...

    Genius, I tell ya. Evil genius, of course. But still.

  • My current employer already has a problem getting otherwise bright & capable candidates to submit code samples against a simple problem that take experienced devs all of a couple of hours to do. They decide the hurdles to hire elsewhere are lower, and don't bother to finish our problem. Yeah, you might say maybe we don't want them, but the truth is that sometimes we do, and it takes a very long time to fill some of our positions since top talent has their pick of jobs. The core issue is that they don
  • by lessthan ( 977374 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:38PM (#41290059)

    A week is nothing. When I went for the Marines, it turned out that the interview process was 3 months!!

  • slight problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by w_dragon ( 1802458 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @02:07PM (#41290541)
    Guess I can't interview there. My contract has one of those wonderful 'all IP created during your time here belongs to the company' clauses. If I create it during my interview my current company still owns it. I've never worried about interview code before since it's all toy problems and junk code anyway, but if I was doing something commercial as part of an interview process there could be some nasty legal implications if they try to release it.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:35PM (#41291817) Homepage Journal

    Remember that most of your stuff was cobbled together in a week by code monkeys of unknown skills and quality then passed on to the next code monkeys who never saw any of that stuff before.

news: gotcha