Interview Contemplation

Posted on Wed 25 February 2009 in general

I had my first interview of the current job hunting period yesterday. Although the end result was the company in question didn't want to go forward with the process I thought it might be do some introspection and contemplation as to why.

The job would have involved joining a small local team as part of the Cambridge annex of a large international telecoms firm. The work looked pretty low level, about 30% assembler writing firmware for a domain specific processor and the rest C++ based management code. From a technical point of view it was certainly in the right direction which would have seen me heading back to my system level roots.

The interview lasted for around and hour and a half which I think is usually a good sign. It might be that I just gabber too much when discussing technical things but hopefully this gives a good idea of how you think and approach problems. I was itching for access to a whiteboard though! Surprisingly I wasn't asked many technical questions about the job I was going for, we mainly went over my CV. This is not necessarily a bad thing as not many engineers come to posts with the exact skills profile a company is looking for. I think my CV demonstrates I have worked within a variety of problem domains and can apply that broad experience to picking up new knowledge quickly. In fact the feedback confirmed that as for as the interviewer was concerned my technical skills where perfectly fine for the role.

However as the interview progressed and we talked about the role we both started wondering if it contained enough to keep me interested. As I would be one of 3 or 4 experienced engineers there wouldn't be much opportunity to build on my technical lead and mentoring skills. The code base is also relatively mature and team boundaries quite rigidly defined so I would basically confined to a single area of the overall system. The interviewer intimated that a deal of the work would be of a "handle turning" variety. He wondered that given my experience if there would be the potential of me getting bored. We did try and discuss the scope of changes that are likely to be made but it's no substitute to getting your hands dirty hacking around with the code. One of the disadvantages of working entirely in the proprietary sphere is the inability to be transparent about the work with potential employees.

So later in the day I got a phone call from the agent who confirmed they didn't want to take the process forward. They didn't want to waste time on hiring someone who may get frustrated with the rigidity of the role. I'm a little disappointed but I'm grateful the guy was honest about the scope of the job. I'm determined to take the time to find a job that is going to be a good match for my skills. I've been very lucky that I've enjoyed most of my career to date and although I don't live to work it certainly helps if I find my work engaging.