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I recently finished a phone interview and was requested to come in for a second interview on Tuesday. I just finished scheduling the second interview for Tuesday. I was asked 4 technical questions during the phone interview. I remember the 1st and 4th question but the 2nd and 3rd question was regarding a software whose name I cannot find on Google (I took note of the software name which I was not familiar with, but after I got home and researched about the software, I didn't find anything so I'm assuming I heard the name incorrectly).

With that said, is it okay for me to email HR right now (the person who interviewed me) and ask them what the questions were?

Edited for clarification.

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    The answers have good notes about being prepared, but also consider that some people, especially from placement agencies, will try to get questions and share them with the recruiter. We would never give out a list of questions, and we take up our printed questions for face to face interviews. And of course, as others have stated, many phone interview questions are made up on the fly anyway. – JPhi1618 Sep 2 '15 at 20:38
  • Lesson Learned: when making important calls, use your cell and an app like Android: Record my Calls or iTunes: Call Recorder. Fancy once automatically record, save, push to dropbox, etc. Really useful stuff :) Great addition to note taking, since notes can be illegible and it's great for CYA when you can say "but you said..." – WernerCD Sep 3 '15 at 0:26
  • About the 2nd/3rd questions: Did you know the software and answered easily (which is JMK's understanding)? Or was it like "- What do you think about tools like MacroFiniteElementsFrameworkSuite's VisualEntropyIntrospectionDeluxe plugin? - Wut?" – nic Sep 3 '15 at 4:54
  • @NicolasRaoul I had no idea about the software and mentioned it right away that I'm not familiar with it. – user112321123 Sep 3 '15 at 6:13
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    "I took note of the name which I thought I heard, but after I got home and looked up if a software exists with the name I took note of, I couldn't find any such software." - On a different SE site, you may be able to post the description of the software and what you think it sounded like and get a quick answer. For example, "A compiler whose name sounded like '#@!?' or something like that." Tough to google if you don't know how it's spelled, but with a rough description people can point you in the right direction. – Brandin Sep 3 '15 at 10:08
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No this is not appropriate and will make you look bad. If I was a hiring manager and HR forwarded this on to me I would not be impressed. By asking you are telling me that your communication skills are lacking because you left a meeting (our interview) without all the information you needed.

You should have taken notes during your interview if this was important.

Good note taking is an important business skill as well, there is no way you will remember everything from a meeting.

Also, don't be pecking away on a keyboard for these notes either. It's distracting in a face to face meeting and on a phone screen it will sound like you are googling up the answers.

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    +1 - You should have taken notes during your interview if this was important. Note taking is a sign of preparation. Someone who doesn't takes notes is planning to be unprepared. – Joel Etherton Sep 2 '15 at 19:33
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    Note: "Googling up the answers" is a valid business skill, if you are good enough at it. For example, in a phone interview, you'd have to be an extremely fast/efficient Googler to: (A) pick the right search query to get good results; (B) correctly identify the best result to click from the brief snippets given; and (C) do all of that, read the information in the result page, and give a satisfactory answer; all within a short enough timespan that you don't sound like you're just looking up the answer. – Dan Henderson Sep 2 '15 at 20:39
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    Related: "[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books." - Albert Einstein, in response to not knowing the speed of sound as included in the Edison Test. – Dan Henderson Sep 2 '15 at 20:40
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    Also, researching things on Google is the reason many of my coworkers are constantly impressed by my "amazing skills". Even those to whom I have revealed my "secret weapon" still continue to compliment my abilities again and again. – Dan Henderson Sep 2 '15 at 20:46
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    @DanHenderson I have experienced a candidate who looked up the answer to a question that way. She proceeded to read out an entire paragraph of text, which happened to contain the answer to my question as a single sentence somewhere in the middle. I was left with the impression that she didn't even realize which parts of that paragraph were relevant to the question and which were irrelevant. As an interviewer I'd much rather hear a candidate say "I don't know". – kasperd Sep 3 '15 at 8:20
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is it okay for me to email HR right now (the person who interviewed me) and ask them what the questions were?

It's certainly okay to ask, but I wouldn't expect a great outcome if you do.

Likely, the interviewer doesn't even remember the specific questions that were asked.

Additionally, you are basically telling the interviewer "I can't remember four questions for a day. I wasn't on top of things enough to jot them down during my phone interview earlier today. And I don't want to go through the work of doing some research online to see if it jogs my memory."

While the interviewer might be willing and able to give you the questions that were asked, I don't think the negative impression that you might leave by asking would be worth the risk.

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    "Likely, the interviewer doesn't even remember the specific questions" -- which is a win, since if they can't remember either then there's nobody able to test whether the interviewee remembers :-) – Steve Jessop Sep 2 '15 at 23:56
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A slightly different answer.

With that said, is it okay for me to email HR right now?

No, don't do this!

The other option would be for me to search online what the name of the software was

Don't do this either.

If you are really that curious, just bring it up in your second interview. You clearly gave enough correct answers that they want to interview you again.

If you were giving those answers of the top of your head, it isn't that surprising that you wouldn't remember what the questions actually were.

If somebody asked you where a particular street was on your way to work this morning, and you instantly knew the answer, you would be hard pressed a day or so later to remember that street. I think the same principle applies here.

If, in the course of an interview, you are asked about something which you know really well, it's not unreasonable to think that you will go into autopilot and not really think about your answer, but still give the correct answer, and it wouldn't be a memorable event later on.

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    Chances are more technical questions will come up about the software during the second interview. Finding it online might help in that case. – nic Sep 3 '15 at 4:46
  • @NicolasRaoul I actually didn't know the software at all and mentioned to them that I don't know it. It'd be weird if they ask more questions about it during the second interview. – user112321123 Sep 3 '15 at 6:14
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    @user112321123: If you look it up, maybe you'll find out that VisualEntropyIntrospectionDeluxe is actually the new name of Notepad, which you have extensive experience with? In that case bringing it up during the second interview might improve your image. – nic Sep 3 '15 at 7:02
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No, it would be a ridiculous request (were you not paying attention?). You should have taken written/typed notes. In particular brief details on questions asked, information about the position, skills, buzzwords, hiring manager, team, hiring process, timelines, compensation etc. Writing stuff down is like 5000 years old. You have no excuse whatsoever for being sloppy. Gives a bad impression, like you weren't taking the interview seriously.

Before any phone interview, try to do all of the following - should only takes 15-30 minutes:

a) print off the job spec and make notes on it / or the back of it (compact, and saves trees)

b) check the interviewer's name and background (so you can predict what they might ask you, and read up on it. Algorithm questions? Behavioral questions? Your resume? Knowledge of the sector?). Always try to get the name of the person who will interview you. If the person you speak to doesn't know it (or doesn't care), ask in the email you send confirming your interview date, time and phone number, or else failing that, call them and ask the name of the interviewer and their position.

c) take out a notepad and pen, write the date & time, name of interviewer, position, phone number, yada yada. Keep those notes for your next round interviews. (Sometimes you will even pick up on discrepancies in the hiring process or the company's internal communication, which might or might not matter)

d) open a vi/emacs/GoogleDoc/task-manager/whatever file to take notes. To the people objecting about typing while on the phone, mute the line whenever you're not speaking, and/or use a headset so it only catches your voice not all teh noise on your end.

e) if you have time to kill, read the company's other job listings, product descriptions(/API documentation), whitepapers, press releases/filings, press coverage, (independent credible) reviews of products/services, strengths and weaknesses, who are their customers, sector reviews, webinars, Q&A, Glassdoor etc. Don't waste time reading boilerplate endorses or PR. Identify major competitors and who they lose(/win) staff or customers to(/from). Identify people you know who can give you an impartial opinion of the company's product, people, positioning, customers, future etc.

Write down important stuff even if you're pretty sure you'll remember it: why? you might forget, as in this case. Other urgent things might come up and disrupt your schedule and concentration. Also so you can review the whole process later in the future, or in case someone you know is going to interview there or some similar company and position.

  • thanks for the thorough response. In reply to your question "were you not paying attention?", I actually quickly took note of what I thought I heard and then said "I am not familiar with the software". After I got home, I looked up what I thought I heard and couldn't find any software with that name, so what I thought I heard was definitely not what was mentioned. Nonetheless, lesson is still learned. Always take proper notes and if I hear something which I am not familiar with, at least I should confirm if I heard the name correctly and how it is spelled. – user112321123 Sep 3 '15 at 1:12
  • @ user112321123: I thought it goes without saying, but always have a computer with working internet connection ready before the interview, so you can check out people, tools, technologies, packages etc., bookmark them for further reading etc. Preload all pages you anticipate needing in the interview (job description, LI profiles, product overview etc.) so you can struggle by even if the internet drops (this happens). – smci Sep 3 '15 at 1:14
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    right, I should do that next time. I had my laptop but didn't bother turning it on or using it because I was afraid HR might hear keys typing and think I'm Google'ing everything. I had notes on 1) the people and 2) tools discussed in the job posting, but the software I was asked about wasn't something I could've predicted in advance. Should've Google'd. – user112321123 Sep 3 '15 at 1:22
  • @user112321123: so mute your line every time they're speaking – smci Sep 3 '15 at 2:51
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    This does not answer the question at all. – jmorc Sep 3 '15 at 13:37

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