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I have an interview coming up at a marketing agency. They have multiple developers so I feel they should be somewhat competent. I'd rate my own skills as middleweight. They want a full-stacker.

I've looked at their own website prior to my interview and it is pretty unimpressive:

  • 100+ requests with a whopping 14MB+ of data transferred (massive res images etc.)
  • Google Page Speed score of 0 for mobile / 0 for desktop. I have NEVER seen this before.
  • Multiple css files loaded in with no minification. Random mixture of classes and IDs. Strange overrides. font-family styles all over the shop. Duplicate styles. It's a mess and a maintenance nightmare.
  • Multiple js files loaded in with no minification. Mixture of jQuery and native JS. Potentially copy pasted code. Again an unstructured mess.
  • No off-the-shelf CMS. Probably some in-house nightmare written in PHP 4 with Smarty.

My question - should I diplomatically call them out on this at the interview stage... ("I noticed there are a few quick wins on your website you might be able to implement to improve performance")? Do I be honest...? How will the lead dev (who will be in my interview, along with the non-technical MD) feel about this? Pretty peed off I'd imagine. Do I just not mention their website at all?

Advice please. Thanks.

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    yeah don't do that... unless you don't care about the job. Aug 21 '17 at 16:38
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    Something to consider: if their website is in that state and they have people on staff already, it could very well mean that the people in charge just don't care and have higher priorities. This is very typical of service companies, who spend comparatively little time on their own sites/software/tools and are busy servicing paying customers. By calling them out for their poor website, you out yourself as not understanding their business model, priorities, and the reality of what this type of work entails. Not a great way to get a job offer!
    – BrianH
    Aug 21 '17 at 17:35
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Instead of talking about the problems with the website that they have, I would instead prepare a document that lists the steps you would take if it was in your responsibilities to improve the site, along with how long you think each step would take and how important you think the changes are to make.

Then leave that document in your portfolio. If at some point they get to talking about their web page you can mention that you did take a look and prepared a summary of the changes you would make if that were to become one of your responsibilities. In this manner you are not saying that they did anything wrong, but rather suggesting ways to improve. And showing that you have the ability to plan and take the initiative on things.

If they never bring it up and there is no natural way to bring it into conversation then I would just leave that summary in your pocket. Forcing this would likely look badly on you.

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I don't think it would be wise to mention this before being hired, unless specifically asked in the interview. What you want to do in an interview is demonstrating your skills and accomplishements, not to point the failures of others.

You also don't know anything about the situation in this company and what lead to such a mediocre result, which from experience I know is quite common. Sure you could think they should show their talent on their website, but you have to realize most propects won't look at the source of the website to choose a provider. As the ROI of having a technically perfect website might be close to zero (or at least they consider it that way), they then prefer to have their people work on billable projects for actual clients, their website becoming a pile of patches as years pass by. Pointing this in an interview might well get the interviewers frustrated or irritaded as they might be well aware of the poor quality of their website. You don't want to irrate an interviewer...

Anyway, as long as you're not one of their employees (yet), your only concern should be to know about the technical quality of the websites they produce for their clients, and if by working there you're going to be producing code that fits your standards, or be an happy developer at all. Indeed, ideally a job interview is 2-ways and you're free to ask questions about your future job conditions, you're even free to have them pass the Joel test, but criticizing their website is certainly a bad idea.

If you get the job, it would then be a good idea to propose such improvements pro-actively, which could be put in another question here if you want advise on how to address that.

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  • what lead to such a mediocre result its also possible that the site is a point of pride for one of the interviewers or a manager... No point in causing hurt feelings unnecessarily. Aug 21 '17 at 18:37
  • While the technical issues might not be visible or relevant to prospects, it's hard to imagine they're not going to be bothered by the 0 in performance... that's GOT to be noticeable even to a layman.
    – Erik
    Aug 22 '17 at 7:37
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If you do it diplomatically and at an appropriate point (e.g. If they ask about front end concerns or about site optimization), I think this would be a big win.

A few things to consider:

Business doesn't happen in an engineering vacuum, many companies consciously choose non-optimal solutions for financial or other reasons (e.g. Maybe their talent base is all server guys).

Acknowledge that to them then perhaps talk about how build pipeline, etc, could help automate that stuff without much upfront cost and pay long term dividends. Especially if you're interviewingn with someone non-technical be sure to cover the business reasons this is important (bandwidth costs, end user experience, mobile, etc).

If the lead dev is in the room, start by talking about how great you find the site otherwise and acknowledge that they probably have other things in their backlog, etc. in other words, pretend like you think he already knows what you're going to say, and had legitimate reasons to not have it done already.

Adding a personal example, given the number of answers that summarize as "no, are you nuts???" I had an interview once with IBM. At the end, they did the usual, "do you have any questions for me?" I actually had forgotten to think of any, panicked, and asked, "Yeah, do you ever kick yourselves for giving up the rights to MS-DOS to Bill Gates?"

THe interviewer was a VP (I didn't actually know that going in).

I got the job.

I had another interview years later where I called out one of my interviewers for antisocial behavior I'd witnessed prior to the interview. Got an offer there too.

I realize there's some confirmation bias going on here, but my point is that interviewing isn't as black and white as folks often make it. Interviewers are human and the most important thing is developing a rapport with them.

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Any comments you make will make you look really unprofessional, because as a non employee, you (really) have no idea.

Regardless of what you think is 'best practice' or whatever concepts you have, you really know none of the issues they have, why they're in the position they're in, and what their plans are. Anything you say, without knowing anything, is going to come off as arrogance.

They may have a parallel website made, and they're doing final testing. You would have no means to know that.

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