Sunday, November 19, 2006

The tale of two interviews, Part I

As you all know (even though 'all' implies singular or none here), I am graduating soon from my degree soon but I wasn't actively search for jobs yet. I was still planning to go back to HK after graduation. Hazel is still in HK and I don't want to part with her for too long. However, every CS grad has his/her own dream job and during the early October when companies came to McGill to advertise about their employment, I decided to apply for two companies. I asked my friend Albert for his resume, since he got his dream job already and I thought his resume must be impressive enough to push him pass the resume screen! I spent around an afternoon, doing nothing but reformatting my resume.

Two weeks later, I was blessed enough to receive the phone interviews from both companies. I made some mistakes, but I guess not yet enough for them to screen me out. I received the invitation for in-person interviews from both places, around one week apart. As of today, I am just on my way back from the interview from the second company! I don't know the result yet, but in any case I feel blessed to have these opportunities and the purpose of this blog isn't about me boasting anyway. What I really want to document is the experience from both interviews and the impression that I was left, how it would have impact my choice if I had the offer from both places.

First I'm going to talk about company A.

My impression of company A was that everything was taken care of. Upon receiving the invitation, it asked me to choose the date and time among the available days. I chose my date and one day later it emailed my the itinerary of my flights and the accommodation! It was also kind enough to let me choose to use taxi or rental car! More impressively, it would reimburse me of ALL meal and transportation expenses I incurred during my stay!

However, for some reasons the interview was held not in its headquarter, but in a closer-by Canadian city called Vancouver! Maybe this would produce less visa problem? I wondered... Turned out it wasn't true most interviewees I met during the interview period were canadians. Personally, I prefer Vancouver since I have some very good friends there and I could also tour the city, and later in fact I got to meet my parents as they were also on the way back to Edmonton! So personally, it was very good for me and I wonder if it attributed to the Lord since He let me meet my parents after my grandpa's funeral. Truly I was thankful...

But this doesn't have its implications either, and allow me to suspend it for a while.

So I arrived Vancouver, lodged at one of the best hotels in town, and slept on a king-sized bed in the first time of my life. I need not to worry about the expense cuz' Bill is paying my bill! All the gratitude to him! That night I drove to Richmond and met my friends, had my meals. I was having a blast!

Then came the interview the next day.

I woke up at around 6:30 am that morning cuz' the interview was held at UBC and I was supposed to arrive at 8:30. I arrived half an hour early, toured UBC a bit, ate my breakfast, and got ready to rock-and-roll.

As I arrived at the career centre at uBC, I discovered that there were 4 other people being interviewed in this morning section. Each of us would have three individual interviews with some of the top SEs in the world, and by the end of the session they would let us know if we got hired or not.

You can probably see that the pressure rose instantly! Dead-of-alive in 3 hrs! Better not screwed up! And then five nervous souls were led to rooms and started the duels.

Let me conclude that I had my ups and downs. The first two went alright, but the last one (about testing) really killed me and by Joel Spolsky's standard, my fate looked grim. However, the most grueling moments were between the interviews. You know, some of us came out early, some finished late. You could see our nervous faces though, and it's most unnerving when some guy stayed a lot longer than you did and you wonder if you looked so unintelligent that they threw you out early. Generally we had around 10 min before we went into the next round, but then it meant we had to stare at each other for 10 min! We tried to steer the conversation away from the interview questions to lighten our mood! But you could see that everyone wished this 10 min could pass by ASAP.

I could remember another annoying thing they told us in the beginning. We were told that this interview round was pretty successful! Out of 30 candidates they interviewed 11 got the offers! Wow! What a great news to know! 1/3 of survival rate! Only 1-2 out of us 5 would be the offer and the rest would go back to our hotel room, lie on our king-size bed, and ponder for the rest of the trip what on earth I did wrong such that I was deemed unqualified. You could see the tension on our faces during those breaks. We were NOT comfortable.

In retrospect, maybe it was a way to generate pressure in between such that they could measure how well our brain operate under those circumstances. Wait till one day when I sit on the other side of the table and I can tell you :)

Anyway, each of us completed 3 interviewed, and we were asked to sit outside to wait for the final result. By that time we knew the "moment" was coming and we were out of topic to converse anyway so we kept our silence.

Then, the main recruiter came out, and asked the guy from SFU go have a one-on-one. And the rest of us waited.

5 minutes passed by...

Then 10 minutes...


I guess each of us wonder why did that guy take so long! The only reasonable explanation was, maybe he got an offer! Or else they would've just say "Thank you very much and you did an excellent job, but currently we cannot find an appropriate position that suits your skills. We will keep your file and may notify you in the future if there's a suitable position"!. But tt was around that th 20 min mark that someone finally broke out this thought, and I was sure each of us started panicking. One got hired already! That left 0-1 spaces left! Oh no I'm toasted~! It was a long 20 min.

However, I never got to know who else got hired. I was the second one called into the room and because I bombed my third interview, they decided to hold a fourth interview to try me out! I had that, and when I came out all others were gone. Again they asked me to wait and by then the afternoon session had started already (and they got delayed for at least an hour because of us! Poor souls~) Finally as I was waiting I met one guy, the Concordia guy who was the least conspicuous of us all and he told me that he got an offer! Of course he comforted me that I would probably get an offer but I wasn't so sure. Eventually the second group went in as well and I was left alone again, and waited for another 15 min until the recruiter called me into a separate room to break me the news.

Now for those who know me, most of you would know about my fate, and again I must thank you all for your prayers :)

I haven't finished yet though... let me eat my dinner with Albert the Googler first, and finish part 2.

To be continued~

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