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I was recently interviewed for a software engineering position. This was a second round interview and I was told to prepare for general CS knowledge and system design questions.

When the interview started however, I was given the link to a Google Doc with a questionnaire containing trivia questions about the company. A couple of them were relevant, but most weren't. Some of the questions included: "where and when was the company founded?", "list 2 of our major competitors", and the kicker: "how many stars does our app have on the App Store?".

I was astounded; I've interviewed in the software engineering space several times now and I have never seen anything remotely like this as part of the hiring process. After I answered the couple of questions that I could, I told the interviewer that I was done. They asked me to rate how I did on a scale from 1 to 10; I said I was at a 5 or 6. I received a disapproving look and was promptly told that this questionnaire was given to all potential hires and that I had scored way below average.

This, of course, took me aback and shattered my confidence for the rest of the hour and 45 minutes I was interviewing. To me, it seems to be grossly unprofessional to tell an interviewee that they are doing "below average" on an interview assessment while the interview is still going on. Obviously I'm still emotionally charged from the situation, but I have no intention of accepting their offer if they extend one. I would never want to work somewhere that treated potential candidates like this.

Is it worth it to email them to withdraw from the process and tell them why I'm withdrawing? I don't want to burn bridges necessarily, but I also won't work there unless they change how they approach interviewing. Also, if I'm completely off base with being upset about the questionnaire and the interviewer's comment, please let me know. Thank you!

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    Something like that should never undermine your confidence. It's their problem, not yours. A colleague of mine told us how he had a question similar to the "how many stars" in an interview. His answer: "I don't care how many stars you have now; I will improve it". – gnasher729 Sep 19 '20 at 0:13
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    @gnasher729 That's a really good answer, I'll keep that in my back pocket in case I need it XD – Ertai87 Sep 19 '20 at 1:30
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    Could the whole point of the questionnaire been designed to fluster you? – Gregory Currie Sep 19 '20 at 3:29
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    @JoeStrazzere This is an interview for an engineering position. While you probably will want to have looked up the company for your own reasons, who the hell cares how many stars are on the app store? Or when and where the company was founded? If that's the kind of thing they think is important, then their job isn't worth taking. Competitors would make sense as a question in a strategic position, but not at an engineering level. – Gabe Sechan Sep 19 '20 at 5:56
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    The company simply wants to know if you looked them up before applying, which you did not do as it seems. If you had installed their app (do they only have a single one?) you would have noticed if it's a 5 star app. They want to make sure that you are willing to identify yourself with the company and the product. – Bernhard Döbler Sep 19 '20 at 9:27
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+100

Is it worth it to email them to withdraw from the process and tell them why I'm withdrawing?

No

I don't want to burn bridges necessarily

Then don't.

but I also won't work there unless they change how they approach interviewing.

You haven't got a job offer and probably won't get one. So this is a moot point.

Write it off to experience and move forwards. Nothing constructive can be done here.

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    You can however, send a simple email that you've decided not to continue with this company (dont give a reason), wish them a good day and continue with your life :) – Martijn Sep 23 '20 at 15:21
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I wouldn't. As this was an on-site, it's probably the last round of interviews and you'll get an offer or not shortly. Let the company come to you. If they like you and they extend an offer, then you can decline the offer and explain why (and I wouldn't change much from what you've written here to be honest, at least in terms of the level of detail, although I may choose somewhat different words). If they don't extend an offer, then just don't reply and let that be the end of it. If you feel very strongly you may reply to the rejection letter and let them know anyway, that's up to you. However, in situations where you are upset, it always feels better to have the other person ask you to do something for them (in this case accept a job offer) and then throw it back in their face with a "no and" than it does to pre-empt that exchange. Not that you should act unprofessional, but it does allow you to feel more catharsis, or at least it does for me.

As for the actual reason why you are upset: Asking details about the company is normal. Most companies expect you to at least have a reasonable grasp of what the company is about. This company certainly went overboard; I've never been asked things like "when was the company founded", that seems kind of ridiculous, unless it's a well-known date in the public domain. However, "list 2 of our major competitors" is a reasonable question to ask; you may want to do some investigation into your competitors' products during your time at this company to "get ideas" for "new innovations" you can "improve upon" (read: "features you can straight rip and copy") from their products. It also shows the company that not only are you aware of their business domain, but also you are interested enough to know who the major players are. For example, if I was interviewing you at Rakuten and I asked this question and you didn't immediately say "Amazon and Shopify", I'd be somewhat surprised that you are interviewing at an ecommerce company but are so disinterested in ecommerce that you don't even know those companies.

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    I can honestly say in 20 years I've never had a company ask me about itself. Tell me about itself, sure. Provide a place for me to ask questions, of course. But asking trivia questions about themselves in an interview? Not normal, a waste of time, and a bit of a red flag- they think way too highly of their own importance and are focusing on the wrong things. Competitors would make sense in a strategic position, maybe a PM. Not in a programming one. At that level they aren't doing competitive analysis and for legal reasons its generally frowned on to try. – Gabe Sechan Sep 19 '20 at 5:57
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    I've had a few ask about themselves, but at the level of "what do you know about us?" - have you done basic research, are you interested in this job specifically or do you just want a paycheck. Or as a segue into them trying to sell the job. Not trivia, fortunately, and I certainly can't see the point of trivia questions. – Julia Hayward Sep 19 '20 at 8:58
  • I had one ask, "do you have a burning desire to work with us here at Initech, or are you just looking for a job?". I told them "well, I hadn't heard of you until last week when the recruiter put me in touch, so..." and they didn't seem to appreciate that very much. Like, people might have life-long wishes to work at Microsoft or Google or Apple or Tesla, but not some random company no-one's ever heard of. I'll do some basic research about a company like that, of course; but they need to try to convince me I want to work for them, not check I've already drunk the kool-aid before I even join. – BittermanAndy Sep 20 '20 at 20:11
  • @GabeSechan I've had three ask me about them. – Old_Lamplighter Sep 23 '20 at 18:07
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If I were to email them withdrawing (and you should if that's what you intend to do), I would state that the main reason you left was because the interview process made you lose confidence in the position (which is true. Let them take it however they want it).

At the very least, let them know you won't be continuing with them, just to be professional.

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  • I didn't downvote, but I do disagree about the withdrawal email. It does nothing to serve OP, it can only hurt their future prospects. – mjjf Sep 20 '20 at 2:34
  • Just say you felt it wasn't a fit in terms of company culture and be done with it. – Chris Stratton Sep 23 '20 at 17:17
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I recently had the worst interview of my life and I was considering doing the same .

But don't do anything . Forget about it and if they come with an offer tell them that unfortunately you have already secured a position and you are no longer interested in exploring new opportunities ..

You have your values and it was obvious to you that your values definitely do not align with the company's so in a way the interview was successful !

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    No need to lie, drop the secured position and this is spot on. no longer interested jn the position. no reason to go beyond that. – jmoreno Sep 27 '20 at 3:28
  • Yeah, you are right – Cap Barracudas Sep 27 '20 at 9:59
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To be honest, the one who is unprofessional in this instance is you.

Every last question they asked you is legitimate, and they were correct in assessing you as below average. There is no such thing as an irrelevant interview question. Every last question is to elicit a response from you that is then used to gauge your suitability. Part of it is to see how you deal with odd questions, because anywhere in IT, you are going to get odd questions.

As an interviewer myself, I can say unequivocally that many of us are far more concerned with the tone of your response and the associated behavior than the actual answer.

I often mention one fellow I interviewed and deliberately threw obscure technical questions at him that I knew he'd never be able to answer, and he wasn't. The purpose of those questions was to see how he'd react when he didn't know something, which was a VERY important thing to screen for, since we had NO margin for error.

Now, for the TLDR

Once you start the process, see it through to the end, you don't want to give them the same impression they gave you. One place I worked, by boss was interviewing a guy who just picked up and walked off. Not only did he not get hired, he'd never be hired nor would anyone who witnessed it ever allow him to be hired at whatever company they worked at after that.

You never, EVER want to burn bridges as you NEVER know who you could end up working for or with.

Go through the process and see it through to the end, and leave any hard feelings at the front door. At the very least it's practice for your next interview, at best you could end up making contacts, or finding out that your first impression about them was wrong, or even getting the job.

Again, NEVER BURN YOUR BRIDGES

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    @JahzielVillasana the only person who can decide if you want to work there is you. Suggestions that the interview process may not reflect the daily reality aren't wrong, but if you're sufficiently uncomfortable there is nothing wrong with politely thanking them for their time and saying that you don't feel the company culture is a fit for you. – Chris Stratton Sep 23 '20 at 17:24

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