IT Jobs Code Samples

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IT Jobs Code Samples

Bug Race '08

Katherine asks: When IT employers ask for code samples, what are they expecting? How long, how complex?

In answer:
It depends: why not ask the employer?

Software Writers or Coders come in four forms: creators, efficiency improvers, maintainers – and systems designers. This type of question is designed to prove or find out which type you are.

Give me an example when

This is a more practical/applied form of the job interview question “give me an example when you (had to solve/address) this type of problem?” It is demonstration of applied knowledge, the level of complexity of the solution depends on the problem and on the job you are applying for.

Generally, by asking this question, they want to know the magnitude and complexity of the code you are capable of writing. The examples must show code that reflects a large code base (indicating that you are capable of working on large applications), as well as code that is inherently complex to see how you handle complex situations.

In a job interview, there would never be enough time to fully analyse the code, and get input from existing staff. Therefore, most – as we have, when acting for a client – go for a high level design approach, which we ask you to explain in the first interview: why you choose it, why you think its complex, how it addresses the key issues (and hence, what the key issues as you see them are), and then how you think it works well/could be improved. For the complex code, it depends on your example, but it should tend to be a single example that shows off your skill.

If you return for a second interview, then we get in a technical specialist in that area to grill candidates down further on a line by line basis in a key area.

When ever faced with this type of “what should I do when” question, your best and hence first move should always be to ask the employer what they are seeking from the exercise, in order to best address and answer it. Ask a “I’m am seeking clarification” type question, and you should gain more valuable information – which could also be the aim of the exercise. Some times, some employers do ask “Doh!” type questions to find out which candidates have the intelligence to ask, and are hence worth employing.

Good Luck!

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