What are some red flags for you when interviewing software engineers?


When i perform risk analysis of a person, i generally try to fashion a form of timeline in my head, where i build a summation of what i know of the person.

Factors that can be telling, can be how the person uses words.

Couple of diferent areas:

Lying -> Self-Convincing:

For instance, a common telltale sign of someone who is lying, but is bad at it - is when someone is attempting self-convincing.

Self-convincing, implies that the persons wordage or talking - acts like they would re-enact the tale to themselves - to simulate that train of thought for themselves.

Telltale factors of this, can be like body language - or very strong expressing language, or dragging explanatory timeline predicaments - or over pernounciations of Details.

Generally, when someone is telling a story of something happening - based on how intense the experience was, if it was traumatic, or exciting etc..

The level of details the person presents - differs.

If it’s a very heavily emotionally charged moment - they will most likely recall taht in high detail.

However, if it’s traumatic - they’ll generally tell it in a form of “broken” matter - like, details are left out, the pacing is kind of off - The body language changes to generally closed or wordage drops off, etc.

Equally so - when someone is trying to convince me of something that is just not true - They might jump to things subconciously, that i did not even infer.

Strong vocations:

Like instantly jumping to a strong vocation of “That’s bullshit! And you know that too!”

Such is a very strong and overt defensive manuever - of responding to something that i am not even infering or aware of.

Or trying to strongarm me to be on the same side, when i am being a objective party - like - playing a form of emotional bias ordeal - kind of like,

“Yeah, but you know me - I’m a nice guy, so i did X/Y/Z instead, bla bla” etc.

Equally so, if someone has a very strong vocation of “Championing something” - That can come out of a bad place.

I.e, if someone is STRONGLY vouching for something - i.e on level of, basically activist or something -

They MIGHT be the perpetrator of said thing themselves.

This “doublethink” is usually pertained to related mechanisms such as “Forbidden thinking”.

I.e - When something is deemed as punishable - sometimes, people cope with doing the oposite to the extreme.

As in - “If i can’t be rude to Randy/Sandy, i’ll instead be SUPER NICE to them, and be hyper defensive about them”

Which - is generally a warning sign - because a person who is so ambivalent or strongly emotionally charged about something - is generally investive in emotional manipulation.

Like - a neutral, naturally acting person - generally has reactions that are in line with what you would expect in said moment.

So - i would naturally expect that, perhaps the person is emotionally nervous, or excited, or confident - or whatever -

But trying to “Pick sides” or using such things, i find that rather disconcerning.

Hidden details:

So - one of the most important thing when you are talking to a person, that is most importantly AWARE or ON GUARD for some reason - as would come to be expected in a Interview environment (they know it matters) -

Is how people infer a reaction.

If a reaction of a person is a timeline, of say, 1 second:

0.1 ———————- 0.5 ————————————-> 1 Seconds

Original Reaction -> Some form of masking -> The answer you get

So - what i’ll look after, is if someone has a reaction in the base - that is completely contradicting what they are saying.

If the “base”, they come from - is say, a tone of deep disgust or deep resentment - but they showcase that in a “converted” format of having dampened it -

I will extrapulate based on what that underlying reaction was.

Generally - the reason for doing this - is because of how people plan around incentive.

This is generally known as “Conflict of Interest” - i.e - There is reason for them to “tilt” the playing field - Thus, you have to treat them as a bi-ased party.

The question in of itself is not so important, as much as what the body language is.

There are certain body language hints and ways of inferring - that people generally CANNOT mask that well.

Talking things like throwing their head backwards, clenching of fists, dialation of pupils, throwing back the head, tilting head upwards backwards and looking down - such as signs of aggression.

These are things - that you generally should look for in how the person speaks.

It’s not so much about WHAT they are saying - because words can be pretty useless in terms of context - But rather HOW they are saying it.

Comparison of known protocol of stature:

So - based on the stature of the person, it’s generally predictable how a person behaves.

There are some “clusters” of behavioral dynamics - that you can come to see, that are naturally inclinations or reflections - based on how the person is in terms of personality type.

For example, a person who is TOO nice - is a warning sign.

Because that might entail emotional manipulation - someone who has literally taken their time, to have “gotten good at the game” - Which camoflauges the actual merit of their engineering skills.

Remembering that i am hiring for a position, not their soft skills alone - I would try to scale away when someone is “too nice”.

Like, out of order compliments - or out of the way/inordinate niceness - I expect someone to be human, y’know.

If they’re too nice or too rude, i know something is wrong.

So, let’s run through a few of “known statures” that can be destructive:

Does the person express disdain/inability of comprehension of law?

If the person does not understand law, or has strong vocations of thinking that “X thing is such a bullshit stipulation” or plain racism in some cases - it’s strong indications of traits that are actively destructive.

You do not want to be hiring someone who does not respect law.

That may sound obvious - But don’t glance over that.

If the person does not “compute” what law is - said person might very well rationalize that “Stealing trade secrets from your enemies is a good thing”

Or in milder cases, “my coworker should think what i think, regardless of how they feel, so i will talk for them in their place”

Such things are actively, VERY, VERY, VERY bad.

It’s not “machiavelian” per say - It’s more just, stubbornly ignoring the predicament of Law/Rights of others or general Social cohesion.

How extensive is the persons experience - contra to what they are saying?

If someone is very experienced in something, they generally should be able to tell me certain details about that - or showcase that.

If the person simply cannot, or refuses - to co-operate in showcasing or showing proof of having worked with it - I will generally consider that person as “having a red flag” noted on them.

An example:

Joe claims to have “5 years of working with Java”. Alright, so, what did he DO during those 5 years?

5 years is a lot of time. He should be able to tell general gists of details of projects - Things that are NOT proprietary.

It may be proprietary what brand or name or whatever -

But things like, “Utilizing Some FIFO Stack structures, Annotations, worked a bit on Threading” - and naturally, explonations to said things as well.

Equally so - writing a FIFO stack or a general workflow on paper, how Caching works or how the threading worked - should not be impossible/hard or take a lot of time.

I could rattle off to you how Threading contension/Deadlock interactions work in about 1–2 minutes, depending on the situation and how familiar i am with said thing.

Equally so, should someone with 5 years of exp - You are bound to have learned something after 5 years.

How do they describe others/what is their view on Work ethic?

One of the most telling signs - is how someone views work ethic.

I’d ask em how a general day of theirs goes and how they go about it - If there are obvious gaps in their reasoning - or the timetable does not match with how long said things should take - I put a yellow flag.

If the person is having insisting exclamations in relation to that - or starts “dilly dallying” - that’s a straight up red flag.

I do not think twice when it comes to someone bullshitting me - I don’t need someone to waste my time with playing games - I’ve seen it before.

What you look for here is “Bait n Switch”, “Donnings of Personas”, “Shifting of Blame”, “Never enough”, etc.

You’re looking for the typical “I can’t internalize responsibility, i will shove it on others, etc.” kind of ordeal.

People make mistakes - But mistakes are just that - learning experiences, not things you get to shovel unto others.

There are more things i could talk about here, but this is a the general gist of how i analyze and think of behavioral patterns.

I don’t so much rely on emotion - but rely on behavioral cues and proven statures of studies/predicaments of Personalities/Disorders.

Generally, people follow certain patterns - based on their underlying stature.

You just have to find a mesh between what is being presented to you and the truth - and weed out what you think is too risque or unacceptable in your situation.