Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Last minute interview switcheroo...

So I have an interview in a couple days and I get a call back from the HR guy saying that I need a CD ROM or laptop with GUI examples I've done.  Unfortunately, I can't get access to any of this from my past company. 

What would you do in this situation?

Monday, January 12, 2004

I'd be straightforward with them and tell them you don't have access to your old code. However, if "a couple days" is enough time for you to put together one or two such examples, you might try to do that so at least they have something.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Do they mean examples of GUI code or screenshots?

Monday, January 12, 2004

In the future, always burn ALL of your code and documents long before you give notice. 

Monday, January 12, 2004


That's the approach I'm taking, but I'm having to go from memory and use wierd you-won't-find-this-in-the-books techniques that I haven't had to use in months.  There's no way it'll look as nice (and definitely won't be as functional) as the real thing.  The idea is that I'd explain that this isn't the full app, but I'd always wonder if maybe the impression of a less-than-perfect app would be too negative to be overcome by reassurances.


I think screenshots or a sample running app is what they're looking for.


I didn't even think to do this because I don't even consider myself a GUI developer per se.  It's just something that I did on my last job.  Anyway, consider the lesson learned.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Are you on good terms with your previous employer? Could you ask your former manager to provide this? This really isn't so different than asking a former employer for a reference. I also don't think it would be unreasonable to ask for some more time to gather this information and get it to them soon after the interview.

I'm with Bella - I keep everything I have ever worked on.

Monday, January 12, 2004


I don't think that's possible as they're real jittery about letting us so much as breath in the same room as a PC (I was layed off from last job).

I've never been in this situation before as most stuff I've worked on (or interviewed for) has been backend stuff, which wouldn't run outside of the environment it was developed for.

Monday, January 12, 2004

As for burning actual code, wouldn't there be some IP issues with that?  Or is this a wink and nod thing amongst experienced programmers?

Monday, January 12, 2004


Opportunity kicks Crimson in the face and once more he runs and hides.

It seems people dont want jobs or success... they run from them... invent a thousand imaginary reasons why it wont work out for them.

Answer : do your best... get together what you up.. be calm confident and get the job.

If worst comes to worst....  turn up with a pen... a piece of paper...  and say..

"OK...  You need to see some gui work I have done.

Unfortunately for the last 14 months I was working on a various applications for UniWoblers and although they were very happy with my work they werent so happy with me demonstrating it to other technology companies

( wow almost sounds as if it was so good they dont want anyone stealing your cutting edge stuff).

BUT...  If you will indulge me for a few minutes I will give you a brief explanation of one of the applications...

_draw diagram_

_identify 5 or 6 design decisions_

"Initially the user...  but after testing it a user pointed out that..... we felt a better solution would be..."

_talk about the technology_ "and to look at the technology side of things we learned some lessons about....  compare and contrast...

Come on dude... Back yourself up...  If you do it right it will blow 9 out of 10 of the guys who show up with a laptop and a crappy app out of the water. 

In fact.... they will be blown away by your ability to bring them into the world of software with only a pen and paper.

Do you want the job ? can you do the job ? would you be a good person for them to have on board ? 

Whether you show up with a laptop and software or a large super supreme pizza wont make a difference if you can make them see that.

Monday, January 12, 2004

From the sound of it you were working on an internal application but if it was a commercial app or perhaps a website or web based app you may be able to download a demo of it from your old companies website, install it and get some screenshots.

Monday, January 12, 2004


LOL!  Thanks man.  Actually, what you said is *exactly* what I planned on doing (if worse came to worse).  To answer your questions.

(1) I *kinda* want the job. I'll take it if nothing better comes along.  Can't be overly picky in this economy.

(2) I genuinely KNOW I could do the job and I'd have a lot to add to the team.  I have no doubt about that.

I was just wondering if my talk of "imagine this" and paper diagrams would be seen as lame cop outs.  I've never interviewed or hired for a position where it would be all GUIs all the time like this.  I wanted to know what was standard operating procedure.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Whatever you did belongs for whoever you were working for at the time.  You can't just willy nilly go exhibiting code.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

> I was just wondering if my talk of "imagine this" and paper diagrams would be seen as lame cop outs.  I've never interviewed or hired for a position where it would be all GUIs all the time like this.  I wanted to know what was standard operating procedure.

A walkthrough like brain_ged described is many orders more impressive than a set of screenshots IMO. In fact, it is pretty much the optimal answer and demonstrates everything that I'd be looking for in such a question.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that it is what this particular company (esp. their HR guys) are looking for...

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I'm with the previous posters here. The pen and paper walk-through is by far the most impressive way to approach this. I've hired dozens of contractors and full-time staff for my clients in the past 20 years and that would have been awesome.

The problem with asking for screenshots (or code samples, as some employers do) is that anyone can grab a few screens and claim it as their own work.

No, the pen and paper idea is the best, it demonstrates a deep understanding and allows you to really "engage" the interviewer.

It's also a good chance for you to see if they go along with your preferred way of working. Don't forget that interviews are a two-way street. If you go in with all your best ideas and they seem to contradict you or prefer a different approach, it might be a heads-up for you that you don't want this job as much as you first thought.

Steve Jones (UK)
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

As an aside, I wonder if you could use the "bring some examples of your work" as a form of industrial espoinage?

I have suspected this was going on when interviewing in the past. Sometimes the interviewer was a bit too keen on the details of a previous assignment.

Certainly seems like a good idea, though. After all, all's fair in love and war.

End of aside.

Steve Jones (UK)
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Good point braid ged!

Tell them part of the terms of your previous employment were to not make public the work you were involved with for both code and visual examples. This is probably not so different from how this company would want you to act with their products. I just got laid off a few weeks ago and the paperwork I had to sign basically promised I would never use the company name in a sentance again. I suspect they will respect this.

The exception to this of course might be if this is a job that leans heavily on the creative aspects of production. "Artists" are expected to have portfolios.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"I've never interviewed or hired for a position where it would be all GUIs all the time like this"

Is this job graphic design rather than programming? If that's the case it's normal for a company to ask for a portfolio; any graphic artist would have one ready for the asking (and standing up there waving your hands might not go over too well). On the other hand if it is GUI programming you might be able to pull it off.

Tom H
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

> In the future, always burn ALL of your code and documents long before you give notice. 

Illegal considering the contracts most programmers sign.

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

>>> Illegal considering the contracts most programmers sign.

So, why is id adequate to ask to see it?

Ignore my ignorance
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"burn ALL of your code and documents… Illegal considering the contracts most programmers sign"

Perhaps this is true, especially with documents. If I do use code form my past, I use it more as a template and improve/change it enough that it is no longer what I supplied to previous employers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Tom H.:

It's programming GUI's, not graphic art at all, which is part of the reason I was a little suprised.

I think I'll take the advice of most of the replyers and just walk them through it, explaining various technical decisions along the way.  I just feel much better about this approach - I just wasn't sure if it was considered "standard" or not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

It is inappropriate for them to ask to see work you've done at a previous company.

Tell them no because that work belongs to your previous or current employer.

If they don't like it -- tough.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home