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Getting Past the Screener

Before you get to the white board you'll likely have to pass an introductory screening interview - a short call (or in person meeting) to suss out what you know.

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Nice to meet you…

Most companies will want to be sure you’re the right fit for their organization before scheduling a full “round” or “onsite”. There are two reasons they do this:

  • To help you get to know the company, the job you’re applying for and the process you’re about to go through
  • To make sure you’re who you say you are and your resume is “in alignment” with your skills

Here’s the simple truth: people lie on their resume. “Lie” might be a bit strong, but it’s true! When you need a job you need a job and people will emphasize what they need to in order to get in the door. Screeners and recruiters know this, so in this section we’re going to step through what that might look like.

Check Your Resume

First things first: check to be sure your resume is accurate in terms of how it portrays your skillset. Did you use the words “master” or “expert”? Your screener will zero in on that guaranteed.

Know Your Basics

You will be studying some super tough problems in a short while - but it will all be for nothing if you forget the very basics. Let me give you an example - something that happened to me a few years ago…

Rob, I see here that you really like Elixir and you’ve written some open source libraries with it and even given a few conference talks. I love Elixir too - great language. Would you say that Elixir supports first-class functions?

This is going to sound absolutely crazy… but I utterly froze. I know what first-class functions are - I’d written about them! When you’re in an interview setting, however, and depth-first traversal is cycling in your brain, even the most basic things can completely escape you. In this instance, I saw the concept in my mind, but the exact definition and phrasing just evaporated. I said as much to my interviewer and they were understanding. Unfortunately for me, I was completely thrown off my game and struggled to get back on track.

Note: if you don’t know, first-class functions are functions that are treated like any other variable. JavaScript callbacks are a prime example.

Ready, set…

Let’s go through some screening questions now. I obviously don’t know your skills, but I’ll do my best for each popular language out there. Before you go on - look over your resume. See if the words I focus on are in yours. If so, translate as appropriate.

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