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I live in a Southeast Asian country and have just graduated from college and have some internship experience during my study, and a full-time job as a Data Engineer (DE) after that. The interview is my second full-time job, which is also a DE position.

About this company, it is a large tech company in my country, and it is a product company. My first full-time job is working for an out-source company.

I had this interview with 2 employers, one is my future direct technical leader, and one is the product manager. They saw my CV and then asked some questions about my previous experience, I know my work is not impressive as I was inexperienced and tried to manage work and study. After I explained what I have done, they laughed and acted like this work is easy, everyone can do it. And then they asked a series of questions that requires years of experience (for example, how to optimize a SQL query, how to process massive data, etc). I did find it difficult to answer these questions and they make fun of it like there is not a lot of knowledge and can learn like 1 or 2 days.

My question is:

  1. Is it normal to make fun of an inexperienced candidate? To me, I am okay with making fun of myself because I know my previous experiences are not good and there are a lot of mistakes.
  2. What are the things I should concern about if I accept this company's offer?

Honesty, I felt bad after the interview, and I don't know what to do next.

Update:

I did not get the offer. I received this final result a week after the interview.

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    Hi huy, combining work and study is not easy, congratulations on how far you have come and good luck in your job search. Can you share some more context on which country you are working in, and whether the interview was across any cultural boundaries? (Eg for a role in a another country.) Jokes are especially hard in this context. Some things about the interview don't sound great, but on the other hand, it sounds like they might be offering you a job, which almost always means they have a positive impression of you and your skills.
    – Adam Burke
    May 28 at 3:37
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    @AdamBurke thank you for your comment, I have updated my post with some information about my geography.
    – huy
    May 28 at 4:08
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    Have you represented your skills accurately in your application and resume? If yes, I would consider their response a warning sign that you should have in your full evaluation of the employer. If there is more, this might not be a good fit for you. May 28 at 17:14
  • Were the interviewers the same gender as you?
    – Xavier J
    May 28 at 20:32
  • @XavierJ Yes, they are the same gender as me.
    – huy
    May 29 at 10:52

8 Answers 8

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Interviewing is a two way process. They are trying to determine whether they want to employ you, but just as importantly, you are trying to determine whether you want to work for them.

Is it normal to make fun of an inexperienced candidate? To me, I am okay with making fun of myself because I know my previous experiences are not good and there are a lot of mistakes.

Senior staff making fun of more junior staff's lack of experience is not a sign of a healthy culture in the company. And remember that, just like you try to show your best side in an interview, companies do the same thing and try to make themselves look like good places to work.

Do you want to work somewhere where that kind of behaviour is considered acceptable (or even normal)?

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    This. Importantly, "is it ok" is the wrong question to ask and frankly completely irrelevant. People will do what they do, and moralizing about it is of very little use. The question you want to ask instead is "should I be factoring this behavior into my decision to work or not work for this organization" to which the answer is a big fat yes. May 29 at 22:49
  • +1 for the opening sentence at least. I'd have probably walked out of the interview.
    – Tim
    May 30 at 11:03
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    While the general tone of the interviewers sounds inappropriate at best, the specific bit about "I did find it difficult to answer these questions and they make fun of it like there is not a lot of knowledge and can learn like 1 or 2 days" could be interpreted in different ways. I've interviewed candidates that were clearly very competent, but had very little experience in a certain technology, but the lack of experience wasn't concerning. We told the candidate "don't worry about technology X, it looks like something you could pick up in a couple days." May 30 at 14:57
  • Does fell bad after the interview make us remember differently from what we experienced in the interview? I remember that they make fun of me but is it because I did not perform well in the interview and thought that the problem is because of the interviewer's behavior?
    – huy
    Jun 1 at 3:02
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I worked in South East Asia for a number of years in multinational firms with a mix of international and local staff (and I was from elsewhere originally). Over that time I experienced both sides of the interview process including interviewing for junior roles. It's possible a gentle joke might be involved in these interviews, but nothing at the candidate's expense, and more likely something to buoy them up a little. It would be very unusual to mock anyone's hardwon experience, especially for new grads. This is even the case for fairly rough and tumble industries.

The company culture can be very different at locally run firms, but hopefully this anecdotal data point helps. The answer by @Gh0stFish is also good. Remember that interviewing is a two-way process.

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I know my work is not impressive as I was inexperienced and tried to manage work and study. After I explained what I have done, they laughed and acted like this work is easy, everyone can do it.

It could be lost in translation, but I have my doubts that they made fun of you. To me it was more like

  • You said you have little experience
  • They said "no worry, they laughed, this work is easy, everyone can do it"

While that isnt the most professional thing to say, based on your words I think they ment it more like a "dont worry about your experience" kind of thing.

I have a few years of experience now and I make similar remarks (though I try to be very careful with my words to avoid situations like yours!). The more senior people are often very aware of the complexity (or lack of) and we're all been a beginner so know how beginners feel.

If you like everything else about this company you could still apply, benefit of the doubt. I'm unaware of the rules in Se-A., but here it's common to have a probation month. Those work two ways, you can quit within that time as well.

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It's possible you encountered what is known as a stress interview. The goal of the stress interview is to put the interviewee under stress and see how they respond. It's more common in professions that might have to deal with, e.g., angry customers. The interviewer belittles the interviewee, makes them wait, asks aggressive questions, and generally makes the experience uncomfortable.

Being on the receiving end of a stress interview is not fun, but the big tip is to not lose your cool and not get angry. If you do, then it shows you don't handle stress well. In your case, the interview is already over so there's nothing left to do but to keep doing what you're doing, and evaluate the offer if it does come. It's possible you still get the job - the interviewer doesn't really think you are not qualified!

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    I would view a 'stress interview' as an immidiate red flag, personally
    – JMK
    May 31 at 9:58
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    Thank you for your answer. I don't know about the stress interview until you mention it. If they want to test how I handle stress, then at the end of the interview, they should clarify the uncomfortable question or their behavior is part of the stress interview. Because if they don't say it, it will not portray a good image of their company and I did feel bad after the interview.
    – huy
    Jun 1 at 2:56
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It's terrible that interviewers make fun of you.

They could have instead said "you are a great candidate, and with a few more years work experience we would be interested for you to apply again".

However I wanted to ask - are you applying for a job you are not ready for? If the interviewer asks about optimizing SQL queries, for example, this hints that they want a developer with at least 3 years work experience.

Did the job say that, and do you have that experience?

I really dont like how the interviewer acted, but also if you apply for jobs above your real level of experience you won't have good experiences in interviews either.

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I've won a position in the past by establishing an immediate rapport with the future coworkers, despite being technically weaker than other candidates who came across as "cold" in the 20 minute session.

An interview is a two-way process, and while I've personally never refused a job offer, I've certainly felt that I'd dodged a bullet by not getting accepted for some.

I've discussed this with HR staff conversationally, and their goal at interviewing is to find someone who can slot into the office culture, to be a good-fit without disrupting the environment.
Technical ability is nice, but a perfect skillset fit is incredibly rare, so the employer is looking for someone who can learn more than someone who is a drop-in fit.

The interview is only a short time to push your envelope and see how you react to stress, so they have to ask hard technical questions to find your technical skill level as well as how you react to being pushed.

They might have anything up to ten interviews, and asking the same kind of question to everyone helps gauge the best-fit.

There is no one-right answer, and not getting an offer does not mean you're unable to do the work; it just means the interviewers felt someone else was a better match for the office.

That you got an interview means your technical skills on paper are adequate for the role - interviews are much more about fitting in and working with the team members. Don't feel bad, and keep trying.

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I've more than once had interviewers react with denigrating remarks about any experience not gained 'in a professional setting', which they defined as "while being employed to do the work we're hiring for".

It's a rough world out there, and in many places and industries it's an employers' market, meaning companies can be extremely picky about whom they hire. So this is the kind of situation you're going to encounter, a situation where companies discredit your prior experience completely because it's not relevant to the job you're applying for.

Whether it's professional for them to do so depends on how they word it, and on cultural aspects of your society.

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What cultural background do the employers have? Usually in some (SE)-Asian cultures laughing is a way to save your face. So if you say something inappropriate or you blunder, people will laugh, but not laugh at you, but they want to convey it is not a big thing. You only have to worry if they dont laugh.

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