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I recently got hired as a software developer (internship) at a very reputable company whose product is widely used. The interview consisted of ONLY a phone interview. During the interview, the co-founder of the company's main product asked me a lot of "technical" questions regarding the programming projects that I did in school. I am graduating this summer with a BS in Computer Science, by the way. I answered every question very well because I was very involved in all of the projects that I did including two projects that I lead in.

He must have really liked me because I got an offer from the president of the company 4 days after the interview.

My main question is, was this a good thing or a bad thing? I see that in the Joel Test, it is highly recommended that employers have candidates code during the interview. I can completely understand the reasoning behind it. But could a good company get away without having candidates (at least interns) code during an interview? I am completely confident that this company is not just desperately hiring code junkies.

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    Interns are really cheap (relatively speaking) mistakes if it ends up being one for them... – enderland May 10 '13 at 2:24
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    You are spending time, money and effort getting a computer science degree. I think it's fair to assume that employers assume you can code. – DA. May 10 '13 at 6:00
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    "hire for attitude, train for skill". It's not a big deal if your code is not clean, you can learn to code better! – Maxim Krizhanovsky May 10 '13 at 7:56
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    @DA. That's the problem. – user8365 May 10 '13 at 15:13
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    @DA. CS degrees are relatively easy to get, at least in Finland. And education is free. So it's really only about having the butt-muscles to sit for 4 years for 7,5 hours per day, 5 days a week. Which, come to think of it, is damn close to work life :) – Juha Untinen May 13 '13 at 8:16
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Most companies hire without making people code. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it's very common, and it's done by good companies. There are plenty of good companies that only score 10 or 11 on the Joel test - despite what he says.

There are a number of reasons why companies don't ask you to write code in the interview, some of which are good and some bad.

If this is the only thing you have against this company, don't let it worry you. Now if it's only scoring 5 or 6 on the Joel test, that's another matter. You did ask about the other items on the Joel test, didn't you? :-)

  • Just because one interview technique has become popular (overly so in my opinion) doesn't mean that other ways of interviewing are not valid. – Neuro May 11 '13 at 22:13
  • It is good to have someone write a few lines of code as a quick filter. Some people, oddly enough, apply to programmer jobs only with the interest of becoming a manager or architect, whatever they think that involves. This can filter out those odd, yet common candidates. Other than that sometimes the programming exercises can be very involved. I do not think those are so great, it is not the same writing code when under the pressure of an interview. Complex algorithms are not to be written under pressure, why test for that? – Zombies May 13 '13 at 6:04
  • Yes, the simple answer here to the actual question is "It's totally commonplace to hire programmers without code tests". – Fattie Sep 27 '17 at 19:40
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I recently got hired as a software developer (internship)

A key here is internship.

Interns are pretty cheap for a company, especially when compared to the cost of bringing a new full-time employee on board. They are also fairly low risk should things not work out.

But could a good company get away without having candidates (at least interns) code during an interview?

You are going to be coding a lot during the interview.

Your internship is part of an extended interview process, as most companies with interns use internships to get a much better feel for the answer to, "would this person be a good full-time hire?"

I am completely confident that this company is not just desperately hiring code junkies.

Also consider that as an undergraduate, you likely haven't worked on any project remotely close to the scale and duration of real software. Being a good software developer is not just about being able to write code which does amazing things.

You could be amazing at programming and yet make life miserable for your entire team. Or somewhere else on the spectrum of "awesome vs awesome-and-impossible-to-work-with."

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Next month I will begin my third position that involves software development. I have never been asked to code as part of an interview. I admit that I am not the best programmer (in fact, I have very little "formal" programming training, although I do have a four year IT degree), but that has not stopped me. I occasionally get stumped, but I work through it, and am better for having done so.

In the real world you will often get hired based on how well you sell yourself, not how well you can actually code something. From an employer's perspective, you may be the best programmer in the world, but if you do not fit in the company culture, you will not last and you will have proven a costly mistake.

In your situation, consider it good. You now have an internship with what you consider a good company. This will look good on a resume after you graduate, and perhaps you will be asked to stay on as a full time employee, which would also be good.

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I think the fact that you'll get to work on a widely used product at a reputable company should override any fears of the company's immature hiring practices. Since you're doing an internship, you're probably just trying to get some good experience under your belt so that you have an easy time finding a job after graduation, right? Most internships consist of working on trivial projects, so you should jump at the chance of working on a widely used product in an internship.

Like @DJClayworth says, there are many good companies out there hiring developers without making them write code in their interviews. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but I bet one of the most common reasons is that the interviewers feel that they can get a good enough grasp of your technical skills through conversation. Of course, this is not true in most cases because there are many people who can talk intelligently about programming and software design, but who can't even pass the Fizz Buzz Test.

My main question is, was this a good thing or a bad thing?

For you, it's not good or bad. For the company, it's somewhat reckless. I don't think you should be too concerned about it.

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    Most internships consist of working on trivial projects <-- this should be written as: internships at terrible companies consist of working on trivial projects – enderland May 10 '13 at 12:18
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    @enderland True, but I've seen a recurring theme of interns getting hired and then no one having the time to mentor them. They end up working on some low-impact assignments that don't require so much supervision. Of course this isn't the plan, but it happens really often. – Jefferson May 10 '13 at 13:05
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One draw-back to being an intern at a large company is you're not going to write one line of production code. A smaller company may let you get involved on a pilot project at least.

You're there to prove you can learn how to program and get a real job.

Doing a code test during an interview is important, but that depends on the type of test. If it's just pencil and paper with no discussion on how you code/think and why you did what you did, I think it is less relevant. Some may even just have you use a pseudo language. Anyone who is overly concerned with dotting the semicolons, would probably be better off not testing at all.

Different projects have different demands on adding new people and some time it is important to just get a technician in a certain language/framework. If they want to convert interns into employees, they better be able to measure upside.

  • One draw-back to being an intern at a large company is you're not going to write one line of production code. A smaller company may let you get involved on a pilot project at least.: This is a horrible answer. Every company is different – user40361 Dec 23 '15 at 21:51

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