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How to handle an argumentative / defensive candidate in interview?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

I work at a startup hiring senior software engineers. I have less than 1 year experience but I was asked to take technical interviews. I explained that they have wide skill set and I might not be the best person to interview them. They told me it's not a problem and that I can ask them questions related to what I already know.

So I interviewed a PayPal software engineer today and he has 6 years of experience. I've asked JS/TS specific questions like "here's a sample code, tell me what's wrong with it?" and I noticed that the candidate couldn't answer these questions. He started to get defensive and said that I shouldn't be asking these type of intricate questions given that it's easy to resolve the problematic code by relying on code editors' intelligence or simply googling the bug. In the end, we gave him a DSA question which he solved in 15 min.

I want to hear opinions of engineers here because I was expecting a senior engineer to know the "gotchas" of languages they have experience with and not just be good at DSA. I know it's important to have confidence in interviews, but is it okay to straight-up tell the interviewer to not ask language specific questions? Is asking language specific questions not the right way to evaluate someone's knowledge?

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(2 comments)
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    I've asked JS/TS specific questions like "here's a sample code, tell me what's wrong with it?

    It's very important to have strong code fluency in a startup - Smaller startups in particular need high code output as they're just starting out. This is a perfectly good question to ask.

    He started to get defensive and said that I shouldn't be asking these type of intricate questions given that it's easy to resolve the problematic code by relying on code editors' intelligence or simply googling the bug.

    This is a red flag to me, especially if the code sample was straightforward and only used core framework/language patterns instead of very specific "gotcha" stuff. If a candidate did this to me and I was interviewing them at Robinhood or Course Hero, I would strong reject almost certainly.

    It's funny, because I would imagine a senior engineer to not be familiar with DSA as much and be more familiar with actually writing code. My guess is that this person is trying to get into FAANG, so they have a lot of DSA prep and not too much on the practical coding side.

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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    Another perspective: sync with your team about what kind of interview each person wants to conduct. It’s fine to do code debugging vs live coding vs DSA, but what you want to avoid is randomness -- the interview experience should not be completely different based on the interviewer.

    IMO the test of a good interview (for both the company and the candidate) is “if this person came in and interviewed on different days with different people in the office, how much would the various assessments agree?