Why I don’t do live coding interviews: an open letter to hiring managers.
I’m a leader in software engineering, both in the technical sense and in the people-management sense. I love analysis and systems design. I enjoy being put on the spot. I love solving challenging problems with others.
And I will not do a live coding interview.
Before I get into why, let’s talk about better ways to get a good feel for the skillset I bring to the table.
One great way to get an excellent performance out of me is to send me a “take home” assignment. You can even ask me to return it within a single evening. I like the time pressure, and I can guarantee you will be impressed with the tracks I am able to lay down in a short time.
Another way to go would be to familiarize yourself with one of my open source projects and then bring me in to discuss it. Every commit I ever pushed at Streamlit, every piece of help I gave to the community when I was managing that project, is still available for your parusal.
If you like the time pressure, then what’s wrong with live coding interviews?
Because they trigger childhood trauma.
Kind reader: I have almost 20 years of professional experience writing software at nearly every possible scale. I taught myself to code (in BASIC) when I was about 9 years old. I have architected and developed about two dozen production-grade systems myself either from the ground up or by heavily refactoring existing code, incorporating forward-looking database and API design. I have written 100s of pages of code documentation, much of it Open Source. I have literally dreamed Apache configurations.
One of my Open Source libraries, illuminate, was picked up for production use in the bacteria lab at the Center for Disease Control. Another FOSS library I built called sensate helps clinical labs set up decentralized event-driven environmental controls using NIST-grade lab sensors.
I have prematurely aborted nearly every single live coding interview I have ever had.
Without going into details, these situations invoke a well-trodden, incredibly painful path that leads me into a cul-de-sac where the only thing in my head is “just stop thinking and feeling and it’ll be over soon.”
So in order to save everyone time and frustration, I’m writing this article to smooth over an unfortunate piece of communication I have to give every company right now as I work through yet another lovely surprise gift left to me by an abusive parent.
Sorry for the inconvenience, but I won’t do your live coding interview under any circumstances. The risks for me are too high, and honestly, this type of interview tells you a lot less about skills than you may think.
Non-starter? That’s fine; I won’t be following through with this process, then.
Can you offer other options? Great to hear it! Hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks for your understanding.