I've done many interview cycles that follow this pattern and end in rejection:

  • Apply for job
  • Maybe have phone screen with a hiring manager
  • Onsite interview with (at most) some shallow questions about my resume, but no in-depth quizzing of my knowledge

I don't understand the point of prospective employers wasting my time and their time if they bring me onsite, don't go to any length to find out about my technical skillset beyond what they can read on my resume, and then decide to reject me. (I think I'm a reasonably attractive applicant in other terms, e.g. how I appear socially.)

Does anyone have any insight into what's going on in such a hiring process? Is there anything I can do predict this situation (and then avoid it)? Or is it inevitable wastage in the job hunting numbers game?

(There was a related thread about what an onsite interview says about your chances (Onsite interview and hiring).)

closed as off-topic by Jim G., scaaahu, Kent A., gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 5 '15 at 17:44

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  • Did you ask how they plan on selecting applicants for the job? – user8365 Oct 2 '15 at 21:56
  • When I see key words like "waste my time," they immediately open the possibility to me that the person saying them might have an inflated view of their qualifications, or could be oblivious to the fact that they might come across as undesirable for the team for which they are being considered (arrogant, impatient, etc.). Not knowing more about you, you must admit that this is at least a possibility. – Kent A. Oct 3 '15 at 13:43
  • @KentAnderson that's a bit of a stretch. The entire phrase is "wasting my time and their time". It's a fair point to mention that our mutual time is being wasted, so why do this? Your entire comment seems focused on finding something wrong with the OP when in reality, we should all know many times face-to-face assessments are made on social and physical cues, e.g. attractiveness or body language. – Chan-Ho Suh Oct 4 '15 at 0:31
  • @KentAnderson: I most certainly do not have an inflated view of my quals. No, actually, by "waste my time" I mean "I have a full-time job, a spouse who also works, and two small children, with very little time left over for improving my skills or job hunting. I'd much rather be eliminated by a quick vetting of my resume or, failing that, a reasonable rigorous phone screen, as opposed to spending 5 hours onsite plus one hour traveling to and from the site, only to have no one grill me on my qualifications." And as Chan-Ho Suh points out, the prospective employer is wasting their time, too. – user1071847 Oct 4 '15 at 13:15
  • 2
    "Hire for attitude, train for skill" - some companies value people, personalities, attitude, and culture fit, over technical ability. – Jon Story Oct 5 '15 at 10:55

I don't understand the point of prospective employers wasting my time and their time if they bring me onsite, don't go to any length to find out about my technical skillset beyond what they can read on my resume, and then decide to reject me.

In many companies, interviews are performed in a layered manner.

When I hire people, I do a phone screen first. I narrow the list down to a handful of candidates, and then I bring them all onsite.

I am always the first person a candidate talks to once onsite. I talk with the candidate for at least 1/2 hour. If I conclude that the candidate isn't worth a further look, I'll thank them for their time and walk them out at that point. This doesn't happen often, since I've already spoken with them during the phone screen, but it does happen.

If the candidate is worth a further look, I'll then have them talk with others on the team and outside the team that will ask far more technical questions.

While I usually try to conduct all on-site interviews in the same session, some companies separate out the initial sessions and technical sessions.

It's possible that you never reached the sessions in your interviews where the hiring company felt it was important to delve into your technical background in detail.

Without knowing all of the specifics, there's no way to determine why you were rejected. Clearly the hiring company felt like you weren't a good fit - but there are many, many possible reasons. It could be communication ability, the way you talk about yourself, the salary you are seeking, or anything that comes across in person that isn't apparent in your resume.

It's also possible that you were simply caught in an interview process that was bad to begin with - the company is poor at interviewing.

Additionally, some companies believe that the non-technical aspects of the candidate are most important, and don't feel the need to dig in on the technical background as much.

Unfortunately, there's no good way to know ahead of time how the interview will go. You just have to spend time and work hard at the interviews to land a good job.


I have given interviews where I didn't really prepare anything. Sometimes by choice. Sometimes because I got thrown a resume at the last minute. I would look over the resume and circle a few things that caught my eye. Then I would go in, do the interview and throw out softball questions like "I see you have experience with Angular." My hope was that the interviewee would take that softball question and knock it out of the park. I would get interested in something they said and follow it up, and before you know it, we are having a good discussion of the interviewee's skills.

It's up to you to spin a shallow question about your resume into a memorable answer that emphasizes your technical abilities. For instance, if your interviewer says, "I see you have experience with Angular," you need to reply with, "Yes, in my current job, I am responsible for creating all the custom directives we use, and I also created all our single-page apps using ui-router and templating. I find ui-router much better than the built-in router because blah blah blah...."

Your job in an interview is to sell yourself, even if they don't seem interested in buying. Your answers should convey your technical knowledge, and they should invite follow-up questions from the interviewer. Make yourself and what you do interesting. Always give a deep answer to a shallow question.

  • In fact, there's a technique of "non-directive interviewing" which is very much a matter of feeding the interviewee more general questions to give them a chance to sell themselves. I've gotten a basic intro to the principles, and have had occasion to use this approach once, and done right it's actually very effective. No tech questions per se, but questions that invite the interviewee to tell you about what they've done and what skills were demonstrated. My only regret is that I couldn't get the rest of the training, not being a manager. – keshlam Oct 3 '15 at 1:38

Typically, by the time I was interviewing a candidate we knew that they could do the job if the resume were accurate and if they could communicate well. The work was too specialized to expect to find someone who was already expert in it. Instead, we were looking for people who would be able to learn. We also needed very good technical communication skills.

The best way I could think of to check both resume accuracy and technical communication was to try to get the candidate to tell me about one or more of their prior projects. Whenever possible I picked a project for which I had some background knowledge. Did they know as much about the topic as I would expect from the resume? Could they explain it well?

If you have another interview in which you get "shallow questions about my resume" treat the questions as an invitation to showcase your understanding of the work describing in your resume and your ability to communicate that understanding. One or both of those may be what the interviewer is trying to test.

  • 3
    +1 So many times I see something interesting in a candidate's background and ask them to describe it. I am looking for a demonstration of their knowledge and understanding of the principles they purport to have experience with, and if they can't show me that they actually understand what they said they've worked on, I'm not interested in asking more questions. They might get one more chance, but never more than two tries. We lob "softballs" early in the interview to test your depth, and get more technical as you demonstrate you can keep up. – Kent A. Oct 3 '15 at 13:35

I have been on many interviews with limited or no technical questions regarding my experience. 9 times out of 10 the interviewer does not have the technical background to understand the context of technical questions, nor be able to accurately judge a candidate's answer. This is highly problematic for good hiring practices. I've seen this happen mostly because the actual technical people are busy working, and can't/won't participate in the face-to-face part of the hiring process.

The other side of this may be that the companies have already determined they will be hiring a specific candidate (such as a referral from a current employee), or promoting internally, but still must go through the motions of the interview process.

  • I agree with Ashley. I think, more often than not, hiring managers for technical fields(barring giants like Google or Microsoft) tend to be on the inexperienced side when it comes to technology. I would like to add that often times it can be hard for them to understand technical terminology, even if it's remedial to people in the field. For instance you could say "I have experience and I'm skilled in all aspects of the MEAN stack" when it may be more effective to say "I create websites and applications from the ground up using such and such technology." Knowing your audience is important. – zfrisch Oct 2 '15 at 21:09

Onsite interview with (at most) some shallow questions about my resume, but no in-depth quizzing of my knowledge

You seem to be placing the entire burden of the interview questions on the interviewer himself.

If you've done work you're proud of, you can easily take charge of the interview. Enthusiasm is infectious. Take this as an opportunity to teach someone non-technical something technical. Your resume is often the starting point, so it's easy to predict and prepare for some of the general questions that will be coming your way.

Also, don't be afraid to quiz the person on the development process and the tools being used. If that person can't answer your questions, then you should ask to speak to someone who can answer your questions. Interviews are two-way streets. You need to do your own screening as well.

If something seems to be off about a particular interview, don't be afraid to bring it up yourself and ask for an explanation.

Don't just screen employers on the process and the tools they're using, screen your future co-workers on their technical abilities as well. This is doubly important, if they didn't seem to screen you on technical abilities, then chances are your future potential co-workers may not have been screened properly either. And the time to find to find this out is during the interview process, not a couple of weeks after you've already started the job.

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