Amazon.com, Phone Interviews, and Failure
March 25, 2007
Not such a winning combination
I had my third and final phone interview with Amazon.com last week sometime, and I am just now getting around to posting about it. This was the interview I tanked, and it is now why I hold a deep hatred for technical interviews over the phone. The phone interview consisted of one question.
One long question.
And I completely tanked it.
The question was “Given a string of digits, write a method that would return all possible combinations of strings that could be created using the phone number-digit thing”. I may have abridged the question a little; I forget the exact phrasing of the question. This wouldn’t have been such a huge deal.
Except I had to code over the phone.
This is something I’ve never experienced before, and is why I no longer like over-the-phone technical interviews. I probably wouldn’t like an in-person technical interview, but that’s besides the point. All programmers have their own little style to how they code. I, personally, like laying out a basic skeleton for the program or method I am going to write, and begin coding, adding variables and adjusting my algorithms as needed. This has always treated me well; and I find it a fairly acceptable way to program.
This style of coding, however, does not lend itself well to coding over the phone. I was told to talk the interviewer through my algorithm, which I did, and that is what brought to light the problems in my coding style. I kept finding things I should change or add, and I’m pretty sure I drove the interviewer near-insane. It didn’t really help that I was unable to find a solution to the problem. I was getting to a solution, but I ran out of time.
I’m not blaming the interviewer or Amazon or the interview process. I know that the responsibility for passing that interview fell squarely on my shoulders, and pass or fail, I was taking whatever was given to me. While I’m not blaming anyone, I feel I’m in the right to express my displeasure in the system. If anyone has any tips for phone interviews and coding over the phone, feel free to talk with me. I would greatly appreciate the chance to improve my interviewing skills.
Job fair is on Wednesday anyway. Plenty of fish in the ocean.