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I just had an interview for a software developer job and the whole process was simply a 30 minute phone call, followed by a one hour panel interview (around 5 people).

The panel interview went fine but there weren't any whiteboard coding problems or problem solving questions. Just asking about my background and what my experiences are with tech stacks. It felt more like a "meet the team and here's what we do" sort of meeting.

Interested in the project in hand; but I'm finding a hard time believing that a company would hire me solely based on a one hour panel interview. I'd figured there would be some follow-up interviews where we could go more in depth of my coding abilities and system architect's logic. Note that half of the interviewers were interviewing remotely without video. There were software developers in this panel, not just managers.

I'm not sure if this is common practice or if they are hiding something up their sleeves. This company is in the defense industry; an industry whose number one interest is your ability to hold a security clearance (which I currently possess). I've interviewed through a variety of tech companies and this is the first I've seen it going this well.

I've been in a couple companies where software development isn't their forte. I've typically ended up being that "rock star" employee trying to bring the IT/developers up to modern standards. It's not my interest to be that employee again; I want to work in a team who is willing to read a tech article. Meeting with them makes it seems this won't be the case (but I'm an optimistic sort of person).

Should I be concerned over how they conducted their interviewing process or am I just overthinking it?

EDIT: Comment section is blowing up, hard to answer specific questions. This is a full time position and I do have experience in the industry (yes, defense industry). Hope this clears up a few things.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Jun 13 at 5:59

14 Answers 14

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You realise most people here would kill for a one hour interview that resulted in a job offer the next day, right?! That's great!

I'd figured there be some follow-up interviews where we can go more in depth of my coding abilities and system architects logic.

IMHO, I'm glad more companies are actually moving away from this style of all-day really in-depth whiteboard / algorithm coding interview technique - as it really tells you very little above and beyond the hour or so interview that you describe:

  • It's very easy for any candidate desperate for work to revise that sort of stuff in advance, spit it out on the whiteboard, and be next to useless in the day job. On the other hand, good candidates that may not bother (because they're likely to get hired somewhere decent anyway) might get passed up.
  • If someone doesn't have a clue what they're doing, it's very rare that doesn't become apparent in an hour or so's worth of technical conversation. You'd usually smell a rat in the first 5 minutes.
  • The longer the process is, the more likely it is that good candidates will receive offers elsewhere in the meantime, and so disappear before the company has a chance to evaluate them.

Nothing shady about it. If anything I'd congratulate them for having an interview process that's quick, short, efficient and to the point.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Jun 14 at 8:39
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    Exactly! I see it as a case of diminishing returns. Of course you can always learn a little more about a candidate by a longer interview, but the amount of what you learn in a second hour is much less than you learn in the first, and so on. - You can never be sure about a candidate, just sure enough. – Falco Jun 14 at 12:45
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    Also, if you have lied on your CV, you will be found out within the week, if not days... So, if you can do what you say you can do, why spend hours of everyone's time when you can offer the job, and get them started in the real world. – RemarkLima Jun 14 at 21:34
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Interviews serve two purposes, both very important. One is for the employer to assess whether you are a good person for the job.

The other is for you to assess whether you want to work for the employer.

A one-hour many-on-one interview isn't a great way for you to make your assessment, as you know.

You can say to the hiring manager something like "Thanks for the offer. I'm really interested in working for you. Is it possible for me to have a couple of conversations with the other members of your group, to get to know you all a little better?"

It's a reasonable request from any potential employee. And, you're in a strong position because you already have an offer in hand.

The rapid offer after the interview isn't, in itself, a red flag. After all, you have a security clearance and the right skills, so you're rare and valuable. But, if they make it hard for you to assess the company (and the group you'll work in) before you accept the job, that's probably a red flag.

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    This is the most appropriate answer, you interview the company for fit as much as they interview you! – Leon Jun 12 at 13:05
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    +1 How the company conducts interviews is not a good proxy for the work environment. Forget about red flags, and request the time and information you need in order to decide whether you want to work there. – Peter Jun 12 at 13:42
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Having been vetted for security clearance and passing a one hour conference can in some cases be pretty normal - especially if they're in need of a particular skill.

I got hired to one of my nicest jobs in a similar fashion (basically a team of 20 people eating pizza and interviewing me). I don't really understand from your post what you are worried that they have up their sleeve?

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    Thanks for the response. I guess my main concern would be the quality of current team. If all it takes is a brief overview of what you've done; how do you know the employee has employed good software practices? An example would be the creater of Homebrew getting rejected by Google (reflection post here). His reasoning is based that popular/working software does not correlate with good code. This is debatable and is what's causing me to question. – User Jun 12 at 7:28
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    +1 I'm a contractor and many of my interviews go the same way. Some don't and some are failures. You can ask the "what tool/process do you use for x" questions, but it'll never give you the full picture. If it turns out they're a mess, think of it as an opportunity. Good luck with the new job, User, and please update this question in 6 months so we know how it worked out. – Justin Jun 12 at 8:05
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    @User may depend on country, but here you usually have a probation period of 1 month, which tells you way more about a candidate. Personally, I would reject every employer which forces me through a lengthy application procedure with multiple iterations, including pseudo coding and similar stupidities. Especially in the software industry, you choose your employer, not the opposite. – sbo Jun 12 at 8:58
  • I think I got hired at all my jobs via a similar process. When conducting interviews, I find validating the claims on the resume and assessing the cultural fit is all I'm inclined to do, and that doesn't normally take an hour. – Todd Wilcox Jun 15 at 0:42
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The places where I have worked with a smart, competent, motivated and functional team have typically employed LESS whiteboarding/tests/various interview shenanigans.

My own theory on this is that knowledgeable technical people are able to identify others with appropriate proficiency just by asking them pertinent questions. There seems to be a direct correlation between requiring lots of hoop-jumping in the form of code samples, fizzbuzz, "gotcha" implementation or syntax questions that realistically I would go to the documentation over in the course of actual work, and the like, and an interviewer who doesn't really know their stuff, and thus is trying to generate specific responses that they can compare against an answer key of some kind.

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    Exactly this. Highly skilled workers recognize each other very quickly, in my experience. – Todd Wilcox Jun 15 at 0:43
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I am going to be the dissenting voice here. I had this experience. I interviewed with a government contractor doing software. Just met with one or two people and got an offer. High paying offer.

It was one of the worse places I have worked. We had people that were so bad they wouldn't even bill them to the contract and it still took them forever to justify getting rid of them.

You are a body in a seat billing $200 an hour to the contract of which $100 is profit to the company. They don't care about being efficient. Efficient costs them money. I had arguments about computer equipment, doing things smart and efficient, you name it. They actually told me that being more efficient by having a second monitor was not in their best interests.

It was not all bad. There were some smart people. But they were not very prevalent and that was not the culture.

Your mileage will vary. Could be the most amazing place ever. Who knows. But bear in mind, everyone else there had as much of a screening as you did.

And just because your co-workers have clearances means nothing. A clearance just means you don't have bad debts, don't do dope, and are basically a boring person.

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    I absolutely agree with this. I once took a job after an a couple interviews that included only a very quick (< 5 minute) coding section. I took it as "just a sanity check to verify my resume". In reality, it turned out to be a company with low standards and developers who had done little to grow their skill set in a decade or more and were highly resistant to change. – Joe Schrag Jun 12 at 23:42
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    This has largely been my experience with government-related positions as well, especially when a clearance is involved. On their own, the OPs concerns about the interview would not bother me, but combined with the industry involved they become much more significant, IMO. All of the other answers are true in a general sense, but I suspect the people providing them have not worked in this specific type of environment. – krb Jun 12 at 23:48
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    This answer and the comments describe how I feel the defense industry is. Appreciate you for sharing this as I'm not the only one who felt this. – User Jun 13 at 2:07
  • Most of the answer I can relate to, working in the IT service industry. The last paragraph cracked me up. – cst1992 Jun 13 at 10:14
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    An aspect of this that strikes me is that interviews (should) go both ways. So maybe what's really eating at OP is that they didn't learn what they really want to know in the amount of time they had. Maybe a way to avoid situations like this is to make sure, as a candidate, that you're getting all of your questions answered and that you're vetting your supervisor, team, and company to your satisfaction. – Todd Wilcox Jun 15 at 0:47
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Should I be concern on how they did their interviewing process or am I just overthinking it?

You are overthinking it. I once had an interview which was over before I had finished my coffee (took the job) and I once gotten an offer while walking back from the interview to my car (did not take the job). My previous job I landed after a more "normal" process (multi-round interview, offer a few days later). Took the offer, only to find out within a few months that that was a bad decision, and I moved on. Current job? One interview where I interviewed for two positions at the same time (developer and sysadmin), followed by a few weeks of silence, and then a phone call "Can you meet with the CEO tomorrow, he'll make an offer, and can you start next week?" I've been holding that gig for 12.5 years now, and counting.

I've also done 13 interviews (at the same company) in a day (no offer due to visa complications), a 7 AM interview with dozens and dozens of rapidly fired technical questions (they found me overqualified so they didn't make an offer) and an interview process lasting weeks were they slowly whittled down from 60 candidates until they were left with me (took their offer).

And then there are the gazillion times of "we'll get back to you" after the first interview, I'm still waiting for.

My point is that there are many ways companies do their interviews. There isn't a right way to do interviews (as in, there is not a single right way which works for everyone). And from the outside, it's very hard to judge whether a company's style of interviewing is one that works for them. Don't read to much into it. Take it as it is, and if you don't feel comfortable with it (and I do realize that that is very subjective), look elsewhere.

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    I think this is, as they say, a "necessary but not sufficient" condition. In these cases, it would be best to ask around the rest of the company about how you'd fit rather than trying to judge from the interviews alone. – cst1992 Jun 13 at 10:18
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For many companies, the style you described is absolute standard. If these are companies that you wouldn't want to work for because of this, that is of course your decision. But you shouldn't consider it a exceptional behavior or red flag.

I always wondered how common 'show-coding' interviews really are - I have been in panel interviews for at least forty hires in the last fifteen years, and we never would dream of such an interview style.
Coding capabilities are not the most important thing in the selection process (for us), and they can also be improved rather easily. We ask some questions, to verify you really know the language you claim you know, but more than that we value attitude, spirit, communication and other soft skills, and the impression someone gives about smartness and 'teachability'. In other (harsher) words, if you think you know it all already, we might not want to hire you.

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Interviews don't have to be the long, grueling affairs that some employers make them. Interviewing is often about "fit", as in "Do you fit in their culture?". For some places, the interviewers believe they can figure this out quickly. Furthermore, people often assume your resume tells the story of what you've done and/or they ask just enough to figure out if it (the resume) is truthful.

As noted elsewhere, already having a security clearance is a big advantage in certain environments. So, if you already have the skills they want and the appropriate clearance, that may be all the really want. The interview may have been a formality to make sure you have a pulse and aren't a jeans & tee shirt person walking into a suit & tie kind of place (or vice versa).

My own experiences include a couple hiring processes that bear this out:

  • Personally, I was once offered a job (also in the defense sector) without even interviewing. The recruiter assured me I would love the job, even though he couldn't tell me what it was. I decided not to take that job.

  • The shortest actual interview I ever had was 20 minutes. (To be fair I did have to take a coding test separately, but they wouldn't have had me do that if I hadn't passed the interview.) The hiring manager saw that I had certain skills that were relevant to the job and had some experiences that were not directly related to that actual job, but of interest to him. At that point, he just said "Hire him". It wasn't a great job, but I stayed there for a few years while I took classes to improve my background for something I would like better. I then left for one of the best two jobs I've had.

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Interview was just an one hour panel. Got offer the next day; do I take or is this a red flag?

Neither.

Maybe they are bad at interviewing, and maybe that's it and it's a great company. Or maybe it stems from incompetence at everything. Or maybe they've decided that technical interviews and/or skills aren't worth very much compared to willingness to learn and cultural fit — which might be true for their business, or might not be.

You are overthinking their process because you don't have enough information on it to do so. You might want to ask them about it and see what they say. More important, though, would be to follow the advice in O. Jones' answer and interview them. You should give yourself the opportunity to see the red flags rather than guess at them before either taking the offer or (if you are indeed very interested and it's worth your time) rejecting it.

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I cannot say for sure with the information you have provided, but there can be other factors that have some importance. But it boils down to:

  • They have your CV,
  • They have asked clarifications and could evaluate your personality (what an interview is for),
  • They have specific needs (otherwise they would not be hiring),
  • They may have other information (I would guess that the defense industry is not that large an industry, especially in a given country, so they may have 3rd party info on you from your previous employment).

Given the above, they decided that you were the right person to fill their needs. Or at least give it a try, as there may be a trial period (down here, typically 6 months).

You are not necessarily aware of the full extend of the points mentioned above. For example, small(er) companies have usually a lack of candidates. And usually rely more on person-to-person impression than lengthy processes to do their hiring. And accept the possible need to train you on the job. But they could, for example, have a big project coming up, and without someone with your skill-set, that project would have to be postponed, or they would need to find some freelancers (more expensive, and not ideal for that kind of industries).

As a summary: it is not that common, but also not not-heard of. At the end, they had enough input to take their decision. Do you?

  • This. I would hire a dev sight unseen if they where recommended by certain people. These are people I've known and trusted for a long time but my relationship to them might not be apparent to an applicant. But when "harry", who I've known for all my professional life, who worked with me on various projects over the course of decades, says you're a good hire: You're hired. – Douwe Jun 14 at 8:37
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My current company made an offer after a one hour interview. Which was all about solving real world problems with the big view of things, no programming at all. Another company interviewing for an hour led to me calling my agency “sorry, not these guys”.

The company before took two hours. Manager of the team I would be joining, followed by team lead of another team + manager two levels up, followed by an offer from the agency two hours later.

The one before was no interview at all (but I had worked there before as a contractor).

So, no red flag here at all.

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Since you have security clearance you must have worked in the defense sector before. I have experience in the public transportation sector which is fairly regulated. I can only suppose that the situation in defense is similar to other industries whose products are not software per se but machines (or weapons) which use software. Especially in regulated domains (like transportation or, I suppose, defense) the software part is often not cutting edge, technologies and tools are validated and ancient, and the pace is slow in every respect. Homologation, standardized processes and reliability are paramount. Many employees are educated in the respective problem domain and have only gradually become software developers. They are typically passionate experts their field but their degree of CS expertise differs widely with talent, inclination and company culture regarding continuing education.

In such an environment a CS professional tends to be the go-to expert for problems regarding software development. (On the other hand, typically there is quite a learning curve for the CS professional regarding the problem domain and specific processes.)

Which all boils down to this: They don't need a cutting edge CS crack; they needed somebody with security clearance who is good enough (in their case not such a high bar) and has references showing that s/he can reliably work in such an environment which focuses on plans and formalized processes.

No red flag; but be prepared to slip into your old role again.

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Short interview alone is neither red nor green flag.

There are 2 strategies that work:

Hard to get in, hard to get out. This is probably what you're used to. A difficult interview that's supposed to weed out bad candidates, and after that everybody lives happily everafter with coworkers held to equally high standards.

Easy to get in, easy to get out. This is acknowledging that no matter how elaborate interview, it still can't weed out all bad workers. Only doing actual work can vet for one's ability to do the actual work. If you can't do the work - farewell.

Both of them are good. First one is usually employed by very large, very structured and very old companies, who had enough time and resources to create hiring procedures that deliver. Second one is better suited to small, new and agile companies that don't really know what the next year tasks would really look like.

When it comes to the interviewed, they also have particular pros and cons. First one is better suited to people who have rarely needed skills, have difficulty or high costs of switching jobs, have no financial safety net and high recurring costs (like mortgage) that must be paid in time. For such people, finding out that the new job is not for you AFTER you've ditched the previous one can be disastrous. Second one is advantageous for people who's requirements for the job is beyond what can be learned on the interview and/or specified in the contract: work culture, workplace "vibe", work-life balance, personal growth opportunities, etc. You can't really evaluate those without actually putting few months into working there.

Now, the red flag is being inconsistent and mixing those two. Eg. "easy to get in, hard to fire" is commonly found today, in low supply, high demand market. A good indicator of a company in so dire shortage that you'll have to work with incompetent people and pull up their slack. "Hard to get in, easy to fire" usually signals unrealistically high performance expectations and is more common during times of high unemployment. A company culture of "you should be thankful for working for us" thinking.

So, in order to make anything out of your experience, you need to learn how easy is for a new employee to get fired. If a short interview is followed by a trial-period contract - that's a good sign. If you can live with possibility of changing jobs again if they wont renew it. On the other hand - as employee you're at privileged position. You can always decide after few months "sorry guys, you're not the right fit for me".

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A lot of good answers already, so I'll focus on the personal experience bit, which adds just a little.

I'm currently working in a job which I got through a similar process. Though there were a few face to face interviews, never did I do a technical challenge of any kind.

There were 3 meetings in total.

  1. Meeting with the team lead, but the topic was a whose who, what do we do, what do you do, kind of meeting. Includes anything from weather preferences, what non-work time is spend on, to what tech's I like working with and why
  2. Meeting same guy again, this time we talk about tech. About tech's which interest me, also outside of work, how to approach problems, how/when to interact with others concerning something I'm working on. Any side projects which my be relevant and / or educational (both for myself, but maybe something I'm doing from which the team could benefit). This meeting was "interupted" by a few minutes of the "big boss" being present, introducing himself and obviously getting a feel for me in the process
  3. I got the offer before this meeting, so this one was a "come sign the contract, meet the whole office and have a beer" kind of meeting (I purposefully plan meetings on Friday afternoons, just to see how the company treats employees the last few hours of the week)

So, no challenge of any kind. Just the verbal back 'n' forth during the "technical meeting" as to how to approach a problem/task.

Afterwards I've asked why this was, as pretty much every other company I've interviewed (Netherlands by the way), I've always had to do a challenge of some sort. Be it creating a little game, solving a problem, building a little website or adding features to something existing.

The answer I got was simple, paraphrasing:

You can only tell so much by a technical challenge. You don't know the time spend [on a take home challenge], so it's value is limited. Having someone who can fake through the trial period is extremely expensive for the contract duration. It's much cheaper to hire them with a slightly longer trial-period [2 months] and fire them in that time if they don't live up to minimum requirements and promises made.

I thought that was a good approach, as I had that feeling every single challenge I got. Made me like 'em just that bit more.


TL;DR;

Get a feel for someone. If you like 'em, hire 'em. Have a slightly longer than usual trial period. If you like 'em throughout, keep 'em. If you don't, fire 'em.

Seeing someone approaching problems day in and day out gives a much better picture of someone than a "moments' recording" (picture moment, snapshot, whatever the expression). People are also inclined to put in a bit more effort if they're being compensated, ie: paid.

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