During an interview for a potential new employer, I was asked for a second meeting. For this second meeting I'm expected to present in one hour the architecture and implementation of a random previous project I have worked on. A couple of developers and architects would be attending. This would be to judge my skills.

I'm having some doubts:

  • Is this just a way to get free consulting? Red flag?
  • Is this unethical in terms of confidentiality? How much info can you give in an interview setting? Red flag?
  • Is the time investment preparing a presentation, slides... acceptable?
  • Possible alternative: should I just make up an imaginary project?
  • 1
    A hour seems a bit much, but checking candidates understand the projects they've worked on and asking what they would have done differently is a good interviewing approach.
    – Nathan
    May 18, 2016 at 4:18

3 Answers 3


Do not make up an imaginary project. Period. You cannot possibly fake enough knowledge of a made-up project to answer the kind of questions you'll get and you won't have the time to make a reasonable facsimile.

Whether this is on the level depends and whether the request and the amount of work it will entail is reasonable depends on a number of factors that you don't mention. Based on the info you provide I'm inclined to consider this a legitimate request from the hiring company to get to know your style as they just asked you for any random project you worked on. It could be a hobby project or something from a past employer. As long as you sanitise the architecture, which is to say scrub all company-specific references or business logic, you won't give them any useful information from a previous employer. Since it can be on anything this isn't a request for you to do free work. The lack of restrictions also mean that you are free to avoid projects that might be covered by an NDA.

As for whether it's reasonable, I would probably balk at the kind of effort this would involve if this was a low-level programming gig. But if presentations or client contact are a significant part of the description this is entirely reasonable and I'd say it's a great way for them to filter out good candidates. Even if that's not the case, this kind of interview lets them select for a specific kind of candidate that matches their culture, which isn't a bad thing at all.

Finally, I can't tell from your post if this would be an hour-long presentation, but that seems a bit long for talking about a random project. I would sooner expect a twenty-minute presentation followed by Q&A. If you're unsure I'd ask clarification on that. In fact, it's entirely reasonable to ask for some more details on this and I highly encourage you to do so. You should ask the hiring manager about:

  • the goal of the presentation: they can answer your question better than this site could
  • timeline: how much content should you give
  • focus: architecture? languages? interface points? documentation? training?
  • audience: what's their tech level and background? This is probably not an issue if they're all developers but even asking the question is a good sign as it shows that you're aware of the need to adjust your presentation based on what you're trying to get across

Before you partake in such an exercise, make sure it's worth your time. How many more interviews? Will they make a final hiring decision based on the outcome? How much time and effort have you already spent interviewing for this position? Some companies have no issue with wasting applicants' time.

Additionally - is architecture a part of the job description? Because if it's not, I'd question the relevance.


This seems to be a completely reasonable interview technique to me. They want to see how you think, how deeply you understand projects you work on, etc. It is highly unlikely the prospective employer will gain anything significant from an hour of lecture on a random project of your choice (i.e. consulting or confidential trade secrets) except a better understanding of you as a potential employee.

As for time investment, that is completely up to you. From my perspective, it is not a particularly onerous requirement.

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