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I've always felt that interviews were as much for the interviewer as for the interviewee. For interviews with whiteboarding activities, it seems like the goal of this exercise to evaluate the interviewee's approach to solving a problem.

The disconnect for me is that when I use whiteboards when I'm on the job, it goes nothing like it does in an interview. There's a lot more collaboration and switching off between myself and someone else, as we are trying to solve a problem together not myself alone.

As the interviewee, how should I view the whiteboard exercise as a way to evaluate whether this is the right company for me?

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    Why would you expect to? They're testing you for your knowledge. They're not trying to see if you can get someone else to give the answer. They want to know what YOU know. No, that may not be like you'd solve a person as a team member, but that's not the point of the interview. It's not a team exercise. – Keith Jun 5 at 17:16
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    I've been asked a whiteboard problem that had nothing to do with the job. They just wanted to see if I knew what I was talking about when I answered a question a particular way. – KingDuken Jun 5 at 20:21
  • Q: Are you comfortable writing code on a whiteboard? A: It's the only way I code! – AffableAmbler Jun 5 at 20:38
  • 2 of these responses are answers, not comments. – user70848 Jun 6 at 3:11
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You said,

I've always felt that interviews were as much for the interviewer as for the interviewee.

I agree 100%. An interview is a two-way street - you need to evaluate the organization, just like they need to evaluate you. However, that does not imply that every portion of the interview will be equally useful to both parties.

So, to frame challenge your question of:

As the interviewee, how should I view the whiteboard exercise as a way to evaluate whether this is the right company for me?

You shouldn't. The whiteboarding scenarios they test you with are designed to test you and not to display typical practices at that employer.

Instead, work on developing your own questions, that are focused on the things that are important to you. Since you mentioned your typical whiteboarding experience, you may want to ask about that:

Do your employees collaborate regularly on problems, or work independently? If they collaborate, can you describe how that usually plays out?

This way, you'll be getting direct, relevant answers that address your concerns, rather than trying to imply something based on the tests or questions they direct at you.

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Interviews are meant to be useful for both parties, but that doesn't mean that every aspect of the process will be useful for you. Sometimes a whiteboard exercise is just meant to evaluate your skills and it won't help you learn much about the company. To the same point, when the company HR person goes over their benefits packages and employee perks, that doesn't help them learn anything about you - it's all for your sake.

The only thing I could possibly learn from a whiteboard exercise is what sorts of information they expect you to know, and how demanding they are that you have it right. Otherwise, I wouldn't try to over-analyze every aspect of your interview.

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As the interviewee, how should I view the whiteboard exercise as a way to evaluate whether this is the right company for me?

The use of a whiteboard in an interview isn't for collaborative problem solving. It's meant for you to display whatever qualities and/or skills the whiteboard exercise is meant to assess. As such, I don't see how it has any value to you in evaluating the company.

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