Life as an Interview Engineer
Karat Interview Engineer Q&A with Joshua Lewis
The Karat Team
Joshua Lewis is the Chief Technology Officer at forgood and a Karat Interview Engineer. He has been in the software development industry for over 15 years. Husband to one, father to two. He/his/him. Joshua recently sat down for a Q&A with the Karat team to chat about his experiences and what led him to consider conducting technical interviews as a profession.
Why did you become an Interview Engineer?
There were several things that appealed to me about the opportunity. I’d had similar ideas in the past, as my own teams conducted interviews, but I’d never really acted on it. As a senior engineering leader, I’ve participated in many engineer interviews in the past, on both sides of the conversation, and almost every experience had a bad element.
It was quite evident to me that engineer interviewing was pretty bad generally, with not-great outcomes for both parties. It’s crazy if you think about the rigors that go into pretty much every engineering discipline except for interviewing, so the fact that Karat was applying that same quality and consistency to interviews was really appealing. The chance to improve my skills and experience as an interviewer was very attractive. I thought my experience as a developer, manager, consultant, and coach would stand me in good stead as an interviewer, and that I’d ‘fit the mold’ quite well.
What are the top 3 things you’ve learned as an Interview Engineer?
- How important the energy I bring to an interview is and how much that can impact the candidate’s experience. This is something that anyone who conducts interviews as part of their job should consider.
- How diverse the pool of engineers is worldwide, I’ve interviewed people from so many different backgrounds, including armed service vets, data scientists who interned at CERN, and senior program managers from Microsoft and Apple.
- There are many ways to go about solving a problem, and also to implement a solution.
How has being an Interview Engineer impacted your work outside of Karat?
Without question, I’ve become a better engineer. I’m much more aware of things like complexity, code readability, and communication of ideas. I’ve also had to become more disciplined in my day-to-day work since I interview through Karat after-hours, I no longer have that time available to catch up on the things I didn’t get to during the day.
What are your favorite aspects of the Karat Interview Engineering community?
Having access to such an engaged, helpful, and generous community of experienced engineers has been very fulfilling for me, both personally and professionally. The Interview Engineering community has become one of the places in which I feel really at home and safe.
What has surprised you about the Interview Engineering community?
How generous, kind and quick to help everyone is, including Interview Engineers, Customer Experience, interview question R&D folks, Karat engineers, and all of the support staff. Questions, concerns, suggestions are usually handled within minutes and are handled well. Everyone feels super-supported in their role and that they have a voice in terms of what happens at Karat. Also, one of the things that impressed me the most about joining the community is the thought and effort that is put into the tooling and processes used, from onboarding to invoicing and guidance. None of my previous roles had such smooth experiences.
What advice do you have for candidates preparing for technical interviews?
- The most important thing is to be calm and confident during the interview, you’ve got this! You won’t be judged at all by the Interview Engineer. Everyone makes mistakes, and every single Interview Engineer has most likely made any mistake you might make in an interview, and many more besides.
- Practice solving algorithmic problems under time pressure, without your regular tooling available. The most important part of this is not your code, it’s your problem-solving ability, and thinking through a good approach.
- Every Interview Engineer at Karat has made it through quite a difficult process before they interview candidates. Their primary job is to make the experience for you, as a candidate, as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Lean on that. Ask for anything you need.
What advice would you have for someone who is considering becoming an Interview Engineer?
- Your primary job is to craft a good experience for the candidate. Make sure you understand what that entails. You’ll need to be able to communicate effectively with people from many different backgrounds and cultures. You’ll need good people skills, like empathy, to create a good rapport with the candidate and make them feel comfortable.
- You need to be calm and collected under pressure, and to be able to deal with unexpected challenges on the fly. Interviews are often bumpy and unpredictable.
- You need to be a reasonably good software engineer yourself, for two reasons: you need to be able to solve all the problems given to candidates, and you’ll need to be able to read and understand the candidate’s code candidates quickly. Often the candidates have challenges solving the problem and require guidance from the Interview Engineer. On top of that, this is often in a language you’ve never used before!
How did you find out about the role?
I saw an ad for the job on the ZATech Slack (zatech.co.za) – a Slack for the tech community in South Africa.
Being able to specialize in conducting professional interviews as a job piqued my interest since it’s something I’d been interested in for a while. The fact that the role is remote-only, virtual, and that I can choose how much I want to work, and the generous USD-based remuneration made applying a no-brainer for me.
What makes a good interview?
A good interview is one in which the candidate has enjoyed the experience, even if they haven’t done as well as they expected to. This sounds a bit like a contradiction but it happens quite frequently. If the candidate feels supported, heard, and that they’ve learned something, that makes for a good experience. For the Interview Engineer, a good interview is one in which they’ve crafted an experience like this for the candidate, and when they’ve brought the best out of a candidate.
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