What do interviewers look for during the interview?
Updated: Jun 8
We asked the above question to our May 2021 cohort. The cohort comprised of budding engineers from companies like Luminar, workday, AMD and Google. We got a consistent answer from all of them. Most optimized solution.
We do not blame them. Everything around us expects the best out of anything we do. Our education system also teaches us to be best and the only way to be best is to give correct answer. However, that is not true with good interviewers. The keyword here being good.
So what do interviewers look for if not the most optimized solution? The answer is pretty simple. It is the thought process that leads to the solution. If a candidate has seen the question before or has solved a similar problem, they will probably the most optimized solution. But here the interviewer would have no idea how the candidate got to the solution. The candidate probably may not get lucky if hired at the job.
So why do interviewers look at the thought process? It was not until we started interviewing that we saw the patterns. At our day to day job, we are faced with difficult, annoying bugs which put us in uncomfortable situations. It is this approach that the interviewers are trying to get a peek into. They are trying to see if you can think clearly and if you can articulate your thinking. If you cannot do either of those, then it will be hard for you to communicate with your team, customers, product managers at your job.
However, it does not mean that they are looking for an unoptimized solution. If you reach a semi-optimal solution, but have a concise thought process, the interviewer may have an opinion that you could have found the optimized solution given more time. And this can only come with practice.
So next time you interview, or prepare for interview, shift your focus on your approach rather than solution. This will not only help you calm down during your interview, but also give the interviewer the peek into your thinking process.