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TL;DR: I feel this company not only does not appreciate prospective employee's time, also their interview process is less than ideal. How would you objectively put/present this into the recruiter and the company's hiring manager's perspective? (Forgive my subjective language as I'm still licking my wounds.)


A 'recruiter' on LinkedIn contacted me for a Senior DevOps position at the largest of its kind, previously local but now regional company in Singapore.

I liked the job scope because it presented a new, interesting challenge and growth opportunity, besides, it's a big company with probably good benefits (or so I thought.)

There were a few things which kind of put me off:

  1. The recruiter is only a consultant to the company, which is totally fine, but no one from company -HR or tech team- is interested in interviewing candidates even on the phone where I could get to see whether I'm interested as well.

She told me they are 'too busy'. I've also interviewed quite a number of candidates for my current workplace and this is something we never did. Considering I didn't apply to their job listing and they reached out to me by a consultant, this was the least expected. (Come on, for senior position? Plus I've been working in Singapore for 5 years, too.)

  1. I was told if I were to pass a technical challenge to show my competency in automation skills, only then I would be interviewed by their side, although my initial feeling wasn't good, I said "Of course!" to see what the challenge is.

Couple of days later I received an email for a "Codility" test which has a timer and your code needs to compile and run successfully in Codility's environment, else it's considered a fail.

Best part is 'technical challenge' is a competitive programming (some interesting opinions here) task which involves Big O Notation and has nothing to do with automation or DevOps.

I didn't do the test as I saw it absurd, irrelevant and no way I could complete multiple tasks they required in total of 3 hours. (I'm more than willing to put long hours to learn and tackle it though.)

What would you tell the recruiter in this situation? (I will probably receive this phone call asking about 'what happened' next week.)

Disclaimer: I have studied engineering but not CS, I'm from sysadmin background, currently working as DevOps Engineer.

I've passed technical challenges for other jobs I'm interviewing for and I've already got offers. Other companies presented a challenge and asked to solve it using standard DevOps tools like CM, CI/CD using virtual environment. Nothing that can fit into an glorified browser REPL.

closed as off-topic by Masked Man, gnat, Michael Grubey, Rory Alsop, Mister Positive Jul 31 '17 at 11:39

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  • I don't know that much about DevOps, but tests on Codility and the like (before the first interview) are not uncommon for programming jobs, even at top tech companies. Although your question mostly describes your situation without a clear goal that we can address, which is off topic. See this meta post. (How would you objectively put ... what? What do you want to achieve here?) – Dukeling Jul 29 '17 at 17:23
  • White boarding challenges are notorious for having little overlap with actual skills. Come to think of it, most interview processes have little to do with skill assessment and more commonly act like cultural fit filters. In any job search, you're going to get asked dumb questions, whether they are "How do you reverse a binary tree?" Or "What kind of animal would you be?" – Glen Pierce Jul 29 '17 at 21:13
  • @Dukeling while I agree it could have been better worded, there is a question I'm seeking an answer to. I will withdraw my interest in the job, reject the test, but not without feedback to the employer via the recruiter. I need to understand how much I'm in the wrong the way I'm seeing this and how wrong the way they are handling the interview process and my feedback should be as objective as possible. – sdkks Jul 30 '17 at 1:58
  • @GlenPierce not sure how binary tree question is related to cultural fitness. I had my previous workplace asking 'dumb' questions they googled out which I answered to get the job although not believing a word I said, only to see later that they don't know how to handle people's affairs or the work itself in the company and I shouldn't have bothered in the first place. It was a litmus test of the company and I didn't see it. I would never join a company again which requires answers to such questionnaire. – sdkks Jul 30 '17 at 2:06
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    If you already have offers from other companies then just pick the most suitable one and go for that. Everyone encounters companies they don't like during the looking process. – JavaGuru Jul 31 '17 at 10:54
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Screening processes which don't initially involve the hiring manager or internal staff aren't unusual, especially when you're dealing with international recruitment. That being said, I never have a good feeling about a position which requires you to pass a coding test before you get the opportunity to talk to a person about the job. As a senior, I'm sure you're at the point where the company culture is going to mean much more to you than their technical stack. The fact that they've placed more emphasis on your technical skills than your communication skills is a huge red flag.

I would suggest simply telling the recruiter that, after further consideration, you're no longer interested in the position. If they ask why, simply say you can't make an informed decision about whether or not this company provides a good cultural fit for you, because you haven't been allowed to discuss the position, the responsibilities, or (most important) the expectations with anyone who has decision-making authority. The fact that you're being tested on tasks not directly related to the job you're being hired to do calls into question whether the job responsibilities have been sufficiently defined to make sure that they hire the right person for the job. They would probably be best served by someone a little less senior who was at a point in their career where their future direction was more flexible.

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A few things to note:

  • A technical assessment before having an interview is not uncommon, even at top companies.
  • One candidate's opinion is unlikely to be given too much weight and is unlikely to change their interview process.
  • If this is their standard interview process, they are unlikely to make an exception for you simply because you object to it.
  • What any given role X consists of can vary greatly between companies, and this can be different from the skills tested during the interview process. As in you, or even most people, might not think any given skill is particularly important to your career path, but you may run into a role at a company where you'd regularly make use of such skills or one that simply has a "broken" interview process.

To summarise the above: there isn't much point in going into specific detail regarding what problem you have with the interview process. Such criticism of their interview process is more likely to leave a bad taste in their mouth than anything else.

At most, I would say something like this:

Due to the format of and skills tested during the initial assessment, I don't think this role would be a good fit for me.

(Only) if asked to elaborate, you can say:

The assessment consisted of a coding challenge, which implies that this role consists of a significant portion of programming, which, as a DevOps Engineer, is not what I'm looking for in a role.

Or you can go a different route and say:

I have not needed, and thus not learnt, these skills in my DevOps career thus far (or my studies). I'd have no problem putting in some time to learn these skills, but if these skills are required and can't be learnt on the job, I might not be a good fit for this role at this time.

You definitely should not be sharing your thoughts on whether a technical assessment prior to an interview is acceptable, competitive programming or whether big-O is important for programming.


I'd probably not wait for a phone call from the recruiter, but rather either send them a mail (possibly stating "I'd be more than happy to discuss this further over phone if you wish") or call them yourself.

  • This is the kind of answer I'm looking for @dukeling. I agree with technical assessment but I'm quite uncomfortable with the poor assignment selection. Culturally if you are not letting someone you reached out to, talk to you on the phone for 10-15 mins before shoving test down the throat, it just feels rough. – sdkks Jul 31 '17 at 4:46
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The interview process should normally focus on evaluating skills that are expected/needed for the company. A specific tile means something different per company and companies that are big with large number of applicants needs to weed out unfit candidates. You already know the company and since you applied you are interested in it. What the company did was reasonable. Why would they spend resources on a candidate that is not clear if he meets their minimum requirements? From your post you found the test outside of your skillset. You should ask them why the test was in that format so that you understand what the position is about. And you should do these tests even if you are concerned about them just for the experience. My 2c

  • 1 - I didn't apply, they found me. 2 - Challenge does nothing to measure any DevOps experience. – sdkks Jul 29 '17 at 18:24
  • 1) What does that mean? Unless you are someone in the level of Torvald you should be expecting that they follow their process. 2) Challenge measures whatever skills they think are important. – smith Jul 29 '17 at 19:57
  • that means they approached me based on my public profile, requested my resume, looked at it, then instead of picking up the phone and talking 15 minutes about what I do, what they need and what they do, they slapped me with codility test which has abstract CS questions that has no way of gauging my current skill set. I'm not one of hundreds of people applying to their job, I work in same country locally, they could have shown me the gesture of at least speaking on the phone about it. – sdkks Jul 30 '17 at 1:53
  • I don't have any reason to defend them. I am just telling you that unless you are a super star you should be expecting that the standard process they use would be followed. The fact that they found your public profile interesting does not give that much of a leverage from your side and strictly speaking could be a red flag on you for them. You could ask them about the test and why they think that skills are important. Maybe their process is bad in the sense the test weeds out good candidates. But in any case you will encounter tests often. – smith Jul 30 '17 at 12:57
  • Can you elaborate more on red flag? What do you mean by that exactly? – sdkks Jul 31 '17 at 4:48

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