What corporate recruiters ask about computing students: It’s situative not cognitive

September 8, 2011 at 9:55 am 4 comments

I am now the Director of our Computational Media undergraduate program.  (I had the gig three years ago, and it’s circled back around on me.)  One of my jobs is to help answer the questions from the industrial recruiters, “What do your students know?”  Below are the questions that I just got from one of bigger, more well-known companies in this space.  Reminds me alot of the situative issues raised earlier in this blog.  They’re not asking what subjects or concepts, but what tools and in what contexts (e.g., Java for client vs. Java for server).

What experience will the students have with:

•       Engineering?    C, C++…

•       Mobile?   Objective C, iOS, Android…

•       Server?  Java, JBOSS, Jetty, Tomcat…

•       Networking?  MySQL/SQL/Database, TCP/IP, Unix, Linux, etc…

•       Web?  Java, C#, PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, ActionScript…

•       Tools?  C#…

•       Scripting?  Python, Ruby, Bash, Perl, etc…

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , .

UK CS graduates are more unemployed than average 4 years out, and fewer go into education OSS is led by an “elitist circle,” and newcomers don’t get access

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BKM  |  September 8, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Yes, this is pretty typical. When I worked in industry, I was involved in lots of hires of developers. I have also been on the other side (job seeker), and I pay a lot of attention to what my students are reporting about their job hunting experiences. This is how people in industry think. And, they will test the students on this knowledge. It is pretty standard for a job candidate who claims to know, say, Java, to get a screening exam on very picky details of Java syntax, behavior, and APIs. Sometimes, you might get a question on a data structure or algorithm – typically a tree traversal, or having to write code that generates Fibonacci numbers. But mainly it is language-specific stuff. I tell my students all the time that they need to prepare for this. There are books and websites out there to help job seekers prepare for technical screens.

    The worst of it is, you can never escape these tests. Even people with years of successful development experience are still asked to take them. It is one of the things that drives people out of computing.

  • 2. Brian Hanks  |  September 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Not all companies interview this way. The interview questions at the company I currently work for are focused on problem solving, design skills, and use of data structures. Candidates have to be able to write code to solve a problem while working at a white board – the language they use doesn’t matter. I’ve interviewed candidates who have used C, C++, Java, python, and C# – it doesn’t matter as long as they can come up with a reasonable solution to the problem. We also expect candidates to be able to determine the computational complexity of the code they just wrote.

    Do an online search for “Google interview questions” or “Amazon interview questions” for examples of the types of questions we ask.

  • 3. josh g.  |  September 8, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I’m curious, too, if what the recruiters ask for is in sync with what the tech leads at the company would actually want to see in a new hire.

    ie. Do the recruiters have a computing background themselves and an awareness of the difference between, say, someone who understands pointers vs someone who has never thought about them at all? Or are they only aware of tech labels and assume that each is its own independent microcosm?

    (I’m not slagging recruiters; I’m actually curious. I have no idea what’s most likely.)

  • 4. BKM  |  September 9, 2011 at 8:04 am

    When I was working in industry, we generally gave the recruiters a pretty specific description, including keywords. Also, usually the questions on the tech screens are put together by developers (which is one reason they are so bad – your typical software developer has NO background in writing good tests!). Most recruiters have little to no technical background, so they are heavily dependent on what the companies are feeding them.


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