On job interviews and job descriptions

Two recent articles have really resonated with me: Front-end Design by Brad Frost and Startup Interviewing is F**ked by Zach Holman.

At the point of writing this, I have been freelance (full-time) for a little under 8.5 years. Initially I fell into freelancing but the reasons, 8.5 years ago, for pursuing it were down to limited opportunities (for me, as 24 year old web developer) to grow professionally. By going freelance, I was able to work for international brands via numerous different digital agencies on a variety of projects (and got paid more money too) than I would have done as a full-time middle-weight web developer (with only 3 years of industry experience).

Since moving to London (in July 2015), I’ve continued to freelance, but I have noticed that here, compared to elsewhere in the UK, there are lots of big company headquarters with well known digital teams and seemingly lots of job openings on those teams. My thought process 8.5 years ago was that to further my career it made sense to be freelance; whereas my current thought process is that perhaps working in one of these corporate headquarters as a permie would be equally career-furthering.

So I investigated this avenue and, shock horror, applied for some permanent roles.


From my experience of applying and interviewing, it seems being what I call a Front-end Developer and what Brad Frost calls a Front-end Designer isn’t as sought after in the job world here in London.

I’d argue there’s plenty of companies needing people with a specific skill-set that straddles design, UX and dev but they all seem to be recruiting for people with advanced JavaScript skills as if their HTML and CSS is an after-thought (after all it can/will be built with Bootstrap) and anything and everything has to be built as a one-page app with React/Angular – with no thought as to whether that is the best solution for the project.

A tale of a recent interview

Being freelance means that I have avoided job interview hell for nearly a decade. Amazing. And being freelance means clients usually hire you based upon a recommendation or by viewing your portfolio – sometimes that is it and sometimes you may be asked to come in for a chat too. A chat. Easy. However, I did interview for a recent full-time position and it did not go great…

The interview was a 4 stage process – I’d argue it was 5 steps, because the first step was me trying to get the in-house recruiter to tell me what the salary was (I failed to get that information after asking several times), then you apply via CV/covering letter, then it’s a telephone interview, then a 2 hour (in your own time) test, which would be followed by a pair programming session and then a final interview in person. Overkill for sure.

Interview stage 1 – the telephone interview

In the telephone interview with two developers, I was thoroughly examined on my knowledge and asked to describe all the different HTTP methods like GET, PUT, POST, asked what a closure was in JavaScript. Not easy stuff on the spot. For someone who hates making phone calls.

On the job, I will Google answers a lot; not sure of something – Google it. There’s so many facets to this job that you can’t keep it in your head all the time. My Google search history is a litany of misspelt WordPress function names – it’s gross.

I managed to pass this stage. Somewhat surprisingly.

Interview stage 2 – the 2 hour coding test

The next step was the two hour coding test; it wasn’t too bad – the brief was to create a module/component grabbing a list of content from the company’s API that would sit on the site; you were to take only 2 hours and the resulting product was something that you should be proud to release onto the working website. In my opinion, 2 hours is not enough time for this – it’s enough time to get something working but not enough time for you to proudly deploy to a website.

Interview stage 3

A few days later I was emailed to say I wouldn’t be progressing to the next stage of the process, when I asked for feedback I was told my paired programming test showed that I wasn’t of a high enough standard for the job, when I explained I hadn’t done the paired programming test, and asked (nicely) if I could have some feedback on my test I got no response.

Pretty demoralising stuff.

So what’s my point?

I know it’s hard to find new developers and trust that they will come in and be able to work to your team’s high standards. A lot of applicants for these kind of jobs have none of the requisite skills – so I totally get that a process is needed and rejection has to happen and that has to be based on some criteria. If you get 100s of applicants and 95 of them don’t know basic HTML then they need to be whittled out. But, I think my pride was hurt at being rejected because I feel I’ve shown enough in my career that I can go into any team and adapt to their coding style and learn new methods quickly.

I’m not sure what the right solution is for interviewing/finding new developers but I do think I have a lot to offer (and so do many like me) and the current hiring process doesn’t recognise me as a good candidate.

Further reading

If you liked Brad and Zach’s posts then you may like these great articles too:

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