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I am doing an interview for a Research Engineer position in a startup. I have already passed a phase that implied a long test and two coding projects rather time consuming.

Now I have been sent an email saying I pass to the next round which consists in doing another even longer programming project.

I am very tempted to ask in which phase of the interview process I am, since my efforts will vary depending on. For example if it is stage 3/7 and there are another 200 candidates on this phase I can infer that they were not very selective with my previous submissions, a situation very different to the case it was the final stage before the in-place interview.

Is it an impolite question?

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    I think it is very fair to ask. – paparazzo Mar 18 '17 at 2:42
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    I do hope you retain ownership of these 'projects', because otherwise this sounds a lot like getting free labor to me. – Weckar E. Mar 20 '17 at 11:38
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    A code challenge or so is fine. Multiple projects are not. They are getting free labor most likely. – cbll Mar 20 '17 at 12:22
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    Yeah, Arnold. You should read up on crowd sourcing through interviews. Some unreputable companies (and startups are more prone to being one one of these) will give long interview "projects" as a way of getting free labour out of people. I'm not saying that's what going on here, but ask yourself, "would an established, sought-after programmer put up with these tasks?" If the answer is no, you should consider whether you're willing to, either. – Jaguar Wong Mar 20 '17 at 15:31
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Is it an impolite question?

That depends on how you ask it. "Can you give me an overview of the interview/hiring process at _____ Company?" is perfectly reasonable, where "So, how much longer is this going to take?" will probably go over poorly. It's a completely reasonable question to ask, you just need to not be a jerk when you ask it.

I have already passed a phase that implied a long test and two coding projects rather time consuming.

Now I have been sent an email saying I pass to the next round which consists in doing another even longer programming project.

Don't forget that you're interviewing the company just as much as they're interviewing you. If they don't respect your time now (and mentioning "rather time consuming" coding projects suggests they don't), it's only going to get worse once they're actually paying you.

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Impolite question? It sounds to be like this employer is being rather inconsiderate with their candidates' time. If I were you, I would ask them to lay out the entire interview process, from start to finish. After all, they are not paying you to invest all this effort.

Companies usually do not like to admit it, but they do gain valuable information from their candidates about the state of the labor market and how their competitors' employees perceive their company. Do not let them string you along. If you do not feel that the interview process is progressing at a fair and reasonable pace, look elsewhere.

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    I think you meant do NOT let them string you along. Thanks for your input – A. Frenzy Mar 18 '17 at 2:34
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    @Arnold Just FYI, you can suggest such changes as an edit. It is ok to edit other people's posts to fix or improve them. For this one, I have made the change. Cheers! – Masked Man Mar 18 '17 at 3:04
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Is it an impolite question?

It's probably not impolite.

But you don't want it to come across with the same tone as appears to be inherent in your question ("my efforts will vary depending on [the phase].")

If the interviewer senses that you aren't bothering to put a best effort into the interview, you will almost certainly "lose points". And if your approach is that you won't try as hard depending on the phase, it will be hard to hide that attitude.

Ask if you feel you must. But you might be better served not to worry about the phase and just put forth your best effort each time in hopes of landing a great job.

And if this job isn't worth that effort, maybe this isn't the job for you.

  • Thanks for your input. I am talking about a project that has taken already two weeks of my time. I would say tha if I was more versed on the subject (I am relatively young) it would have taken maybe a week. But some of the questions are to come up with novel apporoaches for a hard problem to show your ingenuity (is for an R&D position in a private corporation). This really drains out your energy and I would simply not put effort if gauged that they were not taking it seriously and just overlooking at the work done. That is what I tried to express – A. Frenzy Mar 21 '17 at 4:37

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