12

I applied for a web developer position, and they called me back for a phone interview. Everything went well, the interview lasted for over an hour and they asked me to send them a code sample and a portfolio. While researching the company and their products, I found an error in their application.

Should I tell them about the error and how to fix it? Will I blow my chances if I do?

21

I think that you should inform them, but rather than telling them that you spotted a bug, you might want to rephrase it and say that you found something on their website which you could not understand. Usually the last section of an interview is devoted to answering questions from the one being interviewed, so you could ask it there.

In my opinion, this should show them that you have interest in what you do and that you can spot the bugs of others, which I think is important when working on Teams.

  • 1
    +1 Because this shows that you can recognize a bug, but doesn't come across as saying "Ha! I'm better than your developer!" – David K Jun 4 '14 at 12:44
  • 2
    +1 Simply write "I am concerned about what I found" and describe what you found without calling it a bug. After all, someone's bug may be someone else's feature :) And you do have to be diplomatic, because the bug in question may come from someone who may be voting in favor of hiring you :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 4 '14 at 13:32
  • 1
    @VietnhiPhuvan - I'd recommend going with npinti's "don't understand" language. Expressing concern very much says you think it's wrong, and prior to an offer is the wrong time to be telling your potential new boss that he's done it wrong. – Michael Kohne Jun 4 '14 at 13:36
  • 16
    I strongly disagree with the “I don’t understand” part, as it might look as incompetence. Instead of labelling the issue as a bug, the OP could explain what he noticed in a matter-of-hand but friendly manner and ask whether it is intentionally done this way. During the second interview for my current job, when the company’s web site was mentioned, I said ‘By the way, I spotted that one of the links opens an empty page and ...[another issue]’. The reaction was ‘Oh, we were unaware of that. So you are good at finding bugs?’ I got the job and have a good work relationship with the web developer – greenfingers Jun 4 '14 at 14:20
  • 5
    I want to hire programmers who will speak up when they think the code is wrong and have a way to fix it. Leave all the hand holding and ego massaging to the marketing department. – user8365 Jun 4 '14 at 17:31
4

Get the job and in one of first days, have a chat with your boss: Hey, I just tried our app, but "describe gently the bug" happened and I couldn't do "expected behaviour", can you help me? (boss will try it as well and he'll figure out it's a bug)

2

I would say yes. Tell them, put it right context, and be polite, since your bug spotting should be beneficial. Remember, a software is not a piece of ... just because it has bugs. The only developers who don't make bugs, don't work at all.

There can be two main results:

  • As Guy Schalnat said, you might not get the job. I would say, it is a good warning. Personally, I wouldn't go to a company where critical thinking and problem solving are flaws.
  • On the other hand, you can see their reactions when they approve your bug research. It shows effort from you to check out their product, and shows that you do care about code quality. That is a good sign of the right type of thinking inside the company.
0

I once tried that and didn't get the job. I'd say no. You don't know if someone interviewing wrote that code and would take it badly to be told their code wasn't right.

Let your work speak for itself, but be positive.

  • 4
    is it possible you didn't get that position for a completely unrelated reason(s) other than pointing out a bug. – DXM Jun 4 '14 at 5:05
  • Of course it is possible. I didn't get offers from every interview I've ever been on. I just feel that being positive about your work is better then negative about someone else's work (in an interview and in real life). – Guy Schalnat Jun 4 '14 at 5:28
  • 3
    If you find a legitimate bug and point it out, I guess it depends on the hiring manager, but personally I wouldn't view it as a something negative. We all write buggy code and I welcome any feedback wherever its coming from if it helps me improve the quality of my stuff. Not arguing that presenting your own work isn't good. Clearly one should do that too. And then if your hiring manager takes your constructive feedback as "how dare you attack my baby!", then ask yourself a question: do you actually want to work with someone like that? – DXM Jun 4 '14 at 5:40
0

Depending on the nature of the bug I might tell them.

Most people would appreciate being told that you were on their website and went to this screen and got an error message. Just like they would prefer any other user to tell them. I am sure I would not be interested in working for the kind of person who would be insulted at reporting an error message you saw.

If the bug was one you found by really digging in the HTML or the URL line, it is a gray area. I would think many people would like to know you took the time to go into that depth. I would think I would prefer to work for those kind of people.

If you spent a lot of time trying to hack into their system and got in, that may be a better thing to tell them later. Unless this was for a job where those kind of hacking skills were needed and even then I might be careful. But your mileage may vary. Maybe you only want to work in a place when hacking into stuff you shouldn't be into is acceptable or encouraged. Then telling them this stuff might knock you out of some postions, but improve your chances of ending up in a compatible place.

0

This is what I call a two edged sword and potential gamechanger. Handled wrongly, it could cost you a job you would otherwise have. Handled well, it might get you a job you might not otherwise get.

The first thing to do is to evaluate your chances. If you appear to be a favorite, don't rock the boat too much or otherwise jeopardize your chances. You might point it out, but in a diplomatic manner suggested by others, and ask for the purpose, or if it was intentional, rather than an error.

If it is a crowded field, and you are otherwise a long shot, I'd take this opportunity to show what I could do, and point out the error. Again, a diplomatic approach is best, but not as crucial as in the first case, because you have more to gain than lose. One way or another, it will set you out from the "crowd," and one of these ways is a positive way.

I once read of a situation where the interviewer (and prospective boss) handed job applicants what was purportedly a company "package" with a deliberate misstatement. One of the applicants spotted the error and got back to the "boss." The others didn't. I don't need to say which applicant got the job.

0

I think it is good point to show your interest about the company. So it is better to tell them about it. But beware they may be not willing to know their fault from outside even the coders are not in interview panel.They would take it as a shame.

You can tell them as a suggestion for their application. For example say you have interest about their application and you have some suggestion about it that you think it will improve the application performance. Do not say it as a bug or error.

Just say it as a suggestion to improve their application in good manner. I think it will add some positive marks to you at the interview.

0

Personally, I'd really respect a potential candidate for pointing out a bug. It shows that they pay attention to detail, and also that they did their homework and researched the company.

However, be prepared for them to ask you how you might fix it!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.