Interesting interview experience at SpaceX

Nvidia rotel
Aug 19, 2018 30 Comments

I had an eyebrow raising experience in the interview process. I have a doctorate in physics, 30 years of programming experience (since I was a kid, actually, I knew Niklaus Wirth's book by heart in the eighths grade, was writing recursive programs for fractals, knew Fortran, Pascal, C, PDP11 assembler when I was in school), and work for 18 years in the SW industry. I applied for a physics simulation position. An ideal blend for me: half physics, half software engineering. The technical quiz was interesting, even with a physics question in the end. Then they had a programming challenge: a task for 6 hours. Since this is a physics simulation position, I expected something like: interpolate this function, filter out noise, solve an integral equation numerically and estimate an error, minimize computation error here, use finite elements method to solve this equation, regularize an ill-posed problem, etc.

The problem I received instead was a primitive DB task to print out a check out of the cash register using an input from the scanner. The product database was in a text file and the scanner output is a set of integers. So it's a simple task of reading a db, indexing and search for records. There's some complication with discount cards. But it's pretty straightforward.

Now the interesting part. It's C++. But I cannot use any standard library means. I.e. I have to write my own containers, sorting algorithms, tree search, etc. Really? The last time I had to think about sorting implementation was in 80s. It's absolutely unrelated neither to the contemporary software engineering nor, most of all, to the physics simulation. Don't get me wrong, I know the CS stuff, algorithms complexity, sorting, etc. But I would have fired a dude who had tried to implement his own sorting algorithm or his own container. Also as a senior engineer, I know that even an accurate container in C++ with strong exception safety requires more than 6 hours of work. Save a balanced tree implementation.

To set the perspective right, I came up with an anology. Imagine you are an experienced chef applying to a position in a very fancy world famous French restaurant. They organize an important 6 hours test for your skills. When you arrive the task is to peel potatoes with a pocket knife. You will be like: hmm... hey guys, am I at the right place? Is it really the position I applied for? Why should I spend 6 hours of my life doing that?

When I voiced my concerns, they were: sorry you have decided not to pursue this position, good luck with your endeavors, and everything, etc. I.e. basically they said to eff off.

Wow, guys. Good luck in search for a good senior engineer with this approach. :-D

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TOP 30 Comments
  • Flagged by the community.

    • The Home Depot IndexOutOf
      What ???
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      I don't mind question. Simple or tough, doesn't matter. That was different than just questions. :)

      Why do you need to peel tomatoes, btw? :)
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Intuitive Surgical Paine
      Dude, I get that you are trying to troll but it was funny only the first time.
      Stop spamming all the posts.
      Post your KenM shit on Facebook
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Microsoft Keleven
      Or you know, just don't post it. At a minimum find a new slant. WF troll is way funnier
      Aug 19, 2018
  • Fitbit th47
    I hear what you're saying about the level of the question, but pushing back on a question that's been asked of you is generally death during an interview. Answer their questions as best you can. Rock their world. At some point they should ask you for your questions and that's when you start respectfully probing on the expectations for the job. If they never allow you to ask questions then that's a super bad sign.

    FWIW, I have not heard super great things about Space X. Work you hard with low-ish pay.
    Aug 19, 20183
    • Oracle sidabbott
      Presumptuous line of questions indicate they didn't bother to understand the candidate's profile. It's a waste of time after that and both sides lose!
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      @th47. No, no, as I said, I don't mind questions. Stupid or tough. If they asked, I could answer a lot of stuff a newbie doesn't know. For example why quick sort is not the best choice for almost sorted data. Or that in contemporary std sorting is not quick sort. But it was more than just questions.

      But I understand what you are saying. And I disagree that we should not push back. How they treat you during the INTERview (inter means both ways, right) sets the bar for how they will treat you if they hire you. If they don't give a shit about your opinion now, they won't in the future. We should not be beggars. The company should be. They should show the respect and the interest should be mutual, not like: we are making you a favor, you disagree, then eff off.

      Otherwise the corporate culture that treats developers as expendable crap won't change. They need us.
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Nvidia goNV
      Very well put by Rotel , I agree. Was applying as a embedded engineer in Google a few years back and they kept asking me to interview for generic CS which I declined. If you can't show me a position/team I'm interested in then the interview is pointless
      Aug 20, 2018
  • Tesla LEETCODER
    Not even surprised. Same shit happens in tesla. Here is how it goes.

    Shit recruiters find candidates who don't fit the job description I.e a front end guy to work on compiler optimizations🤦🏻‍♂️

    All of a sudden the team gets tons of unqualified resumes. So now you either spend time coaching these dumb ass recruiters to find proper candidates I.E do their job for them or create a take home test to weed out unqualified candidates .

    Often times the manager is too lazy to create a good take home test, that tests what they are looking for. So the manager will either ask the new grad on the team or steal a take home from a different team and hand it to the recruiter.

    The dumb ass recruiters will send this stupid test to everyone who applies. Even good candidates with 30 years of industry experience or candidates who have a full time job. That's how you ended up with this test.
    Aug 19, 20182
    • Tesla Sponge_bob
      Yeah I’m trying to get candidate on the phone for a “fit” discussion *before* we do anything technical with them. To make sure the right person will do the right phone screen, and we set the right challenge if needed.
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      This is the most mysterious part. We did have a fit interview, then there was a technical quiz, then a technical phone interview. Everything before was quite adequate. This one was absolutely out of blue.
      Aug 19, 2018
  • SpaceX / EngSlaveX
    Peeling potatoes at the interview doesn't end at the interview. I have two master degrees in engineering yet I'm expected to be a technicians gofer because they are too cheap to hire enough people. Salary is free goes the SpaceX motto.
    After going through an interview if 1 person out of 20 doesn't think you're a fit then you don't get hired. Or funding drys up b4 the candidate signs paperwork so your SOL. It's a an act of elon to get any one though the hiring process. By the time we get 1 person though at least 1 has quit.
    For the MS peeps: Elon hates you. Almost everyone he fired in Seattle were former MS employees. Good luck getting in, you will need to prove yourself more than others.
    Aug 20, 20185
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      Yeah, sorry man. Why are you still there? I got a feeling that peeling potatoes wouldn't stop at the interview. So I am glad it ended this way.
      Aug 20, 2018
    • SpaceX / EngSlaveX
      Same as most. Believed the initial Elon con and a significant amount of our TC is vesting stock. Got to vest b4 leaving to make the BS worth it.
      Aug 20, 2018
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      Common, money is not everything. Don't let anyone treat you like a slave. Leave, personal peace of mind is more important. :)
      Aug 20, 2018
    • SpaceX / EngSlaveX
      Aerospace is a niche industry. I get offers for start ups ups but they're risky. The veteran aerospace companies are more interested in sucking the government's tit and killing brown people.
      Aug 24, 2018
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      How about ESA? European corporate culture is different, they don't work people to death and don't think that it's a virtue of a good engineer to work 60 hours a week.
      Aug 24, 2018
  • Microsoft ChristLove
    I also had a strange interview experience there. Probably the worst recruiting experience I've ever gone through. They were incredibly disorganized, forgetting about multiple scheduled calls. I did their online quiz, the recruiter screen, engineer screen, and take home test. All of that took about 5 weeks.

    After that, recruiter tells me they've put all hiring on hold for two weeks. I get back to her in two weeks, she says they are still on freeze. I email her after two weeks again... same thing. A few weeks after that I check in and she says they are postponing all hiring for the foreseeable future and that they'll reach out to me as soon as they can take someone on.
    Aug 19, 20183
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      Oh, wow. You of course have to patiently wait until they reach out.
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Microsoft ChristLove
      Well, they've removed almost all job posts in Redmond. Weird.
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      There was something on Blind about shutting down that site.
      Aug 19, 2018
  • This comment was deleted by original commenter.

    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      Yep. The best interview practice we developed in my company is to discover what a candidate knows, not what he doesn't know.
      Aug 19, 2018
  • New maga 45
    Space X Seattle is no more.
    Aug 19, 20181
  • New / EngLiterally
    How come they didn’t ask you to invent the stored program computer
    Aug 19, 20181
    • SpaceX dill
      Ikr, getting too easy
      Aug 20, 2018
  • Apple Vhff45
    Did you voice your concerns after or before you attempted it?
    Aug 19, 20181
    • Nvidia rotel
      OP
      Before. I honestly thought they mess up something and sent me a wrong task.
      Aug 19, 2018
  • Amazon cayde-6
    Sounds like a bad plan to fill the position. That's ludicrous.
    Aug 19, 20180

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