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The Mental Impact of Tech Interviews (Heartifacts 2018 Edition)

The Mental Impact of Tech Interviews (Heartifacts 2018 Edition)

It's time to refactor tech hiring. Lengthy technical interview processes frustrate tech workers and can have a negative impact on mental health. While it is almost universally recognized that technical interviews are broken, the impact they have on tech workers are not being recognized.

Zack Zlotnik

April 21, 2018

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  1. The Mental Impact of Tech Interviews By Zack Zlotnik Twitter:

  2. The opinions and views expressed in this presentation are solely

    my own and do not represent those of my employer
  3. Content Warning: Discussion of mental health disorders, technical interviews, etc.

  4. Overview

  5. Job interviews are a universally stressful experience

  6. Coding interviews are broken

  7. Mental health is a growing problem in the tech community

  8. Impostor syndrome is real

  9. The dreaded coding interview

  10. What is a coding interview?

  11. A timed skill assessment wherein a candidate solves a problem

    by writing code in real time
  12. Why are these done?

  13. Companies want to ensure that candidates have the necessary skills

    for the job
  14. Coding interviews attempt to measure problem solving ability as a

    predictor of success
  15. But...

  16. Candidates must undergo a large number of interviews at an

    individual company
  17. High false-negative rates

  18. Candidates are intensely and exhaustively interviewed

  19. Coding interviews are not accurate, objective, predictive, unbiased nor consistent

  20. Coding interviews are often adversarial instead of collaborative

  21. Many companies do not have formal training requirements to become

  22. Technical ability takes precedence over everything else

  23. Very little time for candidate questions

  24. Coding interviews favor those who can devote significant time to

    study, practice and preparation Source: https://triplebyte.com/blog/how-to-pass-a-programming-interview
  25. None
  26. None
  27. Outcomes are arbitrary and random Source: http://blog.interviewing.io/after-a-lot-more-data-technical-interview-performance-really-is-kind-of-arbitrary/

  28. Stress negatively impacts performance on tasks requiring high cognitive load

    Source: http://human-factors.arc.nasa.gov/flightcognition/Publications/IH_054_Staal.pdf
  29. What if other jobs had similar interview processes?

  30. Auto Mechanic

  31. None
  32. Plumber

  33. None
  34. Locksmith

  35. None
  36. Accountant

  37. None
  38. What do these interviews accomplish?

  39. They put candidates under synthetic stress and pressure for no

  40. They cause candidates to make mistakes they normally wouldn’t

  41. They cause candidates to become mentally blocked

  42. They cause impostor syndrome

  43. What don’t these interviews accomplish?

  44. They don’t provide an accurate skills assessment

  45. They don’t provide repeatable and dependable results

  46. They are not predictive of success

  47. They don’t determine if someone is pleasant to work with

  48. Why should we fix things?

  49. 25% of US adults have a mental health issue Source:

  50. 50% of US adults will experience a mental health issue

    within their lifetime Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealthsurveillance/fact_sheet.html
  51. What is impostor syndrome?

  52. “Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are

    unable to internalize their own accomplishments.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome
  53. In mentally healthy individuals, impostor syndrome is a temporary annoyance

  54. In mentally unhealthy individuals, impostor syndrome can be devastating Source:

  55. 70% of Millennials have experienced impostor syndrome in one form

    or another Source: http://thehustle.co/why-70-percent-of-millennials-have-impostor-syndrome
  56. What does this have to do with tech?

  57. Mental health is a growing problem in tech

  58. None
  59. Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI) conducted a survey in 2016

    Source: https://osmi.typeform.com/report/Ao6BTw/U76z
  60. 42% indicated they have a mental health disorder Source: https://osmi.typeform.com/report/Ao6BTw/U76z

  61. 73% have a diagnosed mood disorder such as depression, bipolar

    disorder, etc. Source: https://osmi.typeform.com/report/Ao6BTw/U76z
  62. 61% have a diagnosed anxiety disorder Source: https://osmi.typeform.com/report/Ao6BTw/U76z

  63. Mental health disorders are often comorbid Source: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/The-Comorbidity-of-Anxiety-and-Depression

  64. What does this have to do with coding interviews?

  65. We all experience insecurity around our technical skills

  66. Examination of those skills and abilities is often distressing

  67. Doubly-so in an adversarial environment, such as an interview

  68. Grueling interviews often leave interviewees feeling worthless, demoralized, etc.

  69. Good candidates are self-excluding themselves from bad interview processes Source:

  70. How do we fix things?

  71. Admit it is broken

  72. Emphasize unconscious bias awareness, empathy and candidate experience in interview

  73. Incentivize interviewing

  74. Anonymously test new evaluation techniques on current employees

  75. Do not use automated coding assessments

  76. Take-home coding assessments (if used) should have sensible limits for

    scope, complexity, time and deadlines
  77. Ask your candidate to do a code review

  78. No live coding (from scratch)

  79. Interviews should be structured and graded with a rubric

  80. Limit number of interviews

  81. Raise the soft skills bar

  82. Communicate decisions promptly, diplomatically and professionally

  83. Be respectful

  84. Ghosting is unacceptable

  85. Collect and monitor interview metrics and statistics

  86. Ask candidates for feedback

  87. Remember...

  88. Your interview process should do no harm

  89. The goal of an interview is to have a conversation

  90. Not an interrogation

  91. Not a deposition

  92. Lastly...

  93. Each and every one of you are awesome and deserve

    a fulfilling tech career
  94. Thank you

  95. Slides: goo.gl/M6ke9t