Two weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to interview for a premier software development firm, here in Chicago. I had my resume submitted internally; I was over-excited about the prospect of working for the shop, to say the least. They were doing everything “right” in their software department: pair-programming, pragmatic agile, open-source work. They had everything I wanted in compensation: good money, open vacation policy, dental coverage!

I had my phone interview and everything seemed to be on the up and up. I was sent instructions to development a piece of code that did X, Y, and Z. Piece of cake! I was told that it generally takes users one to two hours to complete. No sweat! I was also told that as soon as I submitted my solution, there was, generally, a one day turn around and then off to the in-office interviews.

I began coding. I wrote pretty clear, concise code. I added TomDoc comments for the classes and methods. I had an entire suite of testing, built on minitest and flexmock. I was happy with it. Sure it took 4 or 5 hours to code, refactor, test, and comment, but I wanted to make the reviewers’ job as easy as possible. I submitted the code and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After a full two days, I received an email. “We do not wish to move forward with the interview at this time. If you would like feedback..”

WHAT?!?! (devastation hit me like a sucker punch)


How could I be so wrong? So diluted? So dillusional? So epically ignorant of my own inability to write decent software? What the hell happened? Were the blogs I read misinformed? Was the Github Ruby Style Guide out of favor at this shop? Was I just stupid? Oh no!!!! NOOO!!!!

I receieved the feedback:

The good: * The code was easy to follow * The code was well tested * The code was well commented

The bad: * The code contained ‘require minitest’ as well as ‘require minitest/autorun’, the former line was unneeded * The packaging and location of files were in the root directory * There was no rake file for testing

I responded, hat in hand: “I didn’t even consider those, I thought it was about the code” The HR said: “We leave the instructions vague, but for your experience and the position we expected more.”

She was right.

I didn’t cross my i’s and dot my t’s. I didn’t even consider the idea that perhaps organization of code would be taken into account. …Because it was just a “stupid interview coding project”….right?


No it wasn’t.

It was my first day on the job.

My first day on the job!

My first day on the job… I would have scanned an existing project’s folders and organization like a table of contents to a great reference book. I would have taken into this layout into account and would have organized my project accordingly. I would have not, only, made my program code easy to read, but also supplied scripts to make it easy to test and run. I would have provided a decent README. I would have done everything I know to be good developer. Code is a critical part of what we, as software developers, do; however, its only a part. The packaging, documentation, etc. make it shippable.

Lesson learned. Lesson learned. Lesson learned.

Your software problem is not, merely, an interview checkbox, its your first day on the job.

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12 June 2013