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I passed first two technical interviews at a global e-commerce company for the position of senior software engineer.

I was told that there are two more interviews, one with a senior development executive and another with a person from human resources (HR).

  1. What kind of questions I should expect during the interview with the senior development executive? Is is technical, high level architecture related, etc.?

  2. During HR interviews, is it ok to ask about the work-life balance and actual working hours?

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closed as not constructive by Jim G., Walter, ChrisF Jul 11 '12 at 8:00

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One question I'd expect from a Senior Development Exec would be how well you perform under pressure. Looming deadlines, broken hardware, panicking customers on the phone? –  Mr Lister Jul 10 '12 at 5:58
The Senior Development Exec will be the person who can tell if there is substance behind the buzzwords on your resume. –  user1249 Jul 10 '12 at 10:40
"During HR interviews,is it Ok to ask about the work-life balance and actual working hours?" - I guess making the balance is your problem. The HR person does not give you tasks and if you complain to HR about the work load, your boss may fire you. So, what is to ask about? –  Emmad Kareem Jul 10 '12 at 15:09

4 Answers 4

Expect to Defend Everything that's on Your Resume

  • If you don't really know how to use it, don't list it.
  • If you say you master something or are advanced at something, you really better be.

Basically, expect any potential BS to be brought into the spotlight.

Expect to be Asked Beyond What's on Your Resume

Your resume describes what you already know. That's great, what the guy wants is also to know how you approach uncharted territories.

The "execs" (except maybe in small-sized companies) won't care much for your technical prowess. They'll care about:

  • attitude,
  • communicate,
  • smarts,
  • adaptability,
  • ability to relate the technical to the business.

Be Humble, but Challenging

Obviously the guy in front of you might know a lot more than you do. So don't start a pissing contest (because even if you win it, well, you'll lose...). Be humble, accept defeat, and see interviews as a learning experience.

Why People Skills Matter, by Scott Adams' Dilbert

But also challenge what you're being told. For one thing, so statements of the interviewer could be tricks (but don't overthink it!), or they could be genuine errors. It's OK to point them out, as long as you can back up your assertions.

Knowing What to Expect Doesn't Mean You Can Prepare

Some of the above you can handle (cleaning up your resume and tendencious entries in it), others you can't really prepare much for it. It comes with experience. The point is for them to assess it. Bluffing your way through is not beneficial to them, and probably isn't beneficial for you either on the long run.

Just be earnest.

That being said, reading The Oatmeal's top 10 interview questions and The Oatmeal's 6 types of interviewees, while not necessarily instructive, will allow you to go to your interview half-chuckling.

About Work-Life Balance

Programmers (and others) need to burn this into their brain:

anything is fair game!!

There's no harm in asking. If you don't ask, things may not be discussed, and you'll have a harder time taking your decision. You taking the right decision matters to them just as much as it matters to you. In fact, I usually discuss salary and perks as early as possible. Maybe not the specifics, but it just makes sense to figure out things quickly. It doesn't mean you care only about money, it means it's the elephant in the room and you address it early. You're upfront about it, that's all.

If they don't know, they'll tell you they don't know and refer you to someone else. Or you can ask to talk to someone about it now (which might allow you to see if they want to show you the door or are really interested in you). Or they'll tell you it's discussed later on. Which is often the case with multi-stage interviews for bigger companies, but still always ask: what's the point of another 3 interviews if in the end you will turn down the offer because it's not appealing enough for you? Sure, that's good training and all, but don't waste your time (and theirs).

Also, the same applies to you: you are not forced to answer everything they ask. You can very well say that you are uncomfortable answering something.

Another thing I have seen recommanded a few times here (and have done myself twice) is to ask them for references from current and past employees. That's unusual, but really shouldn't be: they want yours to check you're not making stuff up (though you still could), and so do you. Doesn't guarantee that you'll get honest answer, but it's more likely to be less formal than in an interview room with your future manager or HR person. Careful though, it could be a secretly disgruntled employee who will overly trash them... that's why references, both for them and for you, are unreliable. But they can be used to weigh in.

And obviously when I say that everything is fair game, I obviously mean within the boundaries of the framework of laws that apply to your location.

(The picture is courtesy of Scott Adams and Dilbert.com).

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1) Behavioral and technical questions would be my expectation. This is the person looking for how well would you fit into the team and thus both technical and soft skills may be questioned.

2) Yes but I'd be more tempted to follow this up with either the "Senior Development Exec" or your manager which is likely not in "HR" as there may be differences between how "HR" runs and how the manager runs their own department.

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+1 for point #2. Every company I've worked in has had different rules for IT workers when it comes to time and schedule which HR is often willingly ignorant of. –  briddums Jul 10 '12 at 14:49

This is not just about How They See You it's also about How You See Them. Make sure this person gets a feeling that you are also interviewing them as well.

I would not expect the discussion to get down into the technology weeds... that was probably your first two interviews. I would expect the discussion to center around more big picture items. For example:

  • Project Management Ability
  • Handling Priority Shifts
  • Decision Making (Quality vs Speed)
  • Managing Conflicting Deadlines

I would expect to be asked these type of questions

  • What skills do you have that would fit into our current product line?
  • Tell me about a problem you solved at your previous job.
  • How do you see yourself benefiting our company?
  • What are your strengths?

I think the key is...


  • Confident not Cocky
  • Strong not Shy
  • Enthusiatic
  • Consistent Eye Contact

As for HR... I would ask about these things...

  • What is the company's mission statement?
  • What makes your work environment special?
  • What benefits are most underutilized by employees?
  • Fill in the blank for me... People like working here because...?
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what kind of answer should i give to "Tell me about a problem you solved at your previous job".In my previous job actually I made most of the technological decisions.Do they expect something related to management ? –  Umanga Jul 11 '12 at 2:54
I would probably expect something about management to be asked. Only you can answer that question. Pick one or two specific examples that either improved a process that reduced time it took to accomplish something or talk about how you saved the company XX,XXX by implementing (fillintheblank). –  Michael Riley - AKA Gunny Jul 11 '12 at 3:35

The "Senior Development Exec" is probably going to be looking at how well you fit within the organization as they see it. Depending on the person and job, this could be highly technical or it could be more along the lines of do they like you and will other people on the team like you.

The "HR" thing is most likely setting up for background checks, drug screens and so forth.

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