What Great Interviewees Ought To Know

There are *a lot* of posts out there about interview questions we should all be familiar with before going to an interview for a developer\architect position. I’m not going to add more to that Q&A list but rather to talk about how many interviews you should go to while looking for a job talk and how you should talk, react and respond during those interviews. I want to share with you my experience in the field both from interviewee and interviewer point of views. Maybe this will enable you to get some more $$$ to your paycheck, maybe it will make you simply more confident during those interviews or maybe I would be able to answer some of the questions you’ve got and still nobody answered before.

I’m looking for a job, when should I say “That’s enough interviews, let’s sign” ?

I would say between 5-10 *successful* interviews. That means that you have at least 5 proposals from companies you’re interested working for, even if 1-2 of them are out of the question due to the low payment. Less than 5 proposals will not give you the right impression about “how much am I worth?” so don’t hurry to sign, you don’t want to get stuck in a company just because they offered X$ more than the rest and you thought it was a lot. I know, you can always resign, but this is still a waste of time. Doing many interviews, on the other hand, can burn you which means you’ll go to your 11th or 12th interview and don’t give your best, that’s a shame; Don’t forget, your reputation is at stake and our industry is a small world.

Know how to walk the walk, but learn how to talk the talk:

Listen, an interview is like a blind date, you must create a great first impression if you want to get to second base (that means passing to the next phase in the screening, in our case). Therefore you must grasp the nature of technical people and press the right buttons and even more important – don’t press the wrong ones. I know, learning how to talk and sell yourself is very hard to master, some of us are just born with it, some of us just think we have it, some of us learn how to do it during the years and some don’t count on it (“I’ll be good and that should be enough!”). If you’re one of the latter, meaning that you know you’re good and you think that should be enough…. you’re damn right! BUT! you won’t get the payment you deserve, trust me, so continue reading, maybe you can learn some good tips.

In an interview you must convey me that you have the confidence I seek. See, we all want to hire people we can trust: trust that they can do their job even in stressful times, trust their abilities to learn new things and to teach others. Just be relaxed, have faith in yourself and in your abilities. All of us are nervous during  interviews, we all want to impress, but over-motivation will get you eliminated, you’ll simply cause the interviewer to be more anxious and try to make you sweat harder(“The interviewer must be better than the interviewee” symptom); This is not the impression you would like to leave.

So, how do you learn to talk the talk? That’s an hard question, but I’ve got a simple answer – search for a person(s) in your life who you feel does a good marketing for himself and start looking, listening and understand the way he talks and behaves around people. Try to stay close to that guy as he will make you move in the direction you want and will help you work on your PR(public relations) skills. After some time will pass you’ll feel more confident and that will allow you to be “rude” enough to push yourself and be confident about your abilities. That’s it.

Some tips about “talk the talk” during the interview from an interviewer point of view:

  1. Be relaxed. No interviewer wants to make you fail, he just want to make you sweat a little to see if you’re up to the job.
  2. Have confidence in your abilities. An interviewer can smell lack of confidence and this will make you harder to excel during the interview. Have a “pep” talk with yourself before – “I’m not the best programmer, yea, I don’t know how to write multi-thread applications, but I have the ability to learn, I have the passion for this job, I’m a good at X, Y and Z! yes! I’ve got a lot to offer”. When I was 16 and I got my first job (PHP programmer), I really believed that I can be great if someone would give me a chance. Why? Because I knew that I love programming and I’ll do anything to be good at it! you want me to work extra hours? to read at home? NO PROBLEM! Bring it on!
    This is the attitude you need in order to be a GREAT interviewee. Do it with passion!
  3. Think before you answer. This is the most important tip I can give to anyone. Numerous interviewees I’ve interviewed were eager to let me know how bright they are. They didn’t even let me finish the question. Relax (see section 1), let the interviewer complete his question and think before you answer. I would like to hear something “That’s a good question, give me a few seconds to think….. OK, so what you can do is ….”. This shows that you don’t hurry to pull something out of your sleeve just to meet “he asked, I replied” rule a lot of follows.
  4. Don’t have the answer? nothing happened! Relax! (I would write see section 1, but I think you got the point right?)
    All you have to do is simply tell me “To be honest, I don’t remember\know how to solve this question, BUT, if I had google, MSDN (whatever) – I would likely search “XXXXXX”. In addition, let me think out loud about possible solutions to your question… OK so you can (1)XXXXX or maybe (2)XXXXX, I’m not sure but perhaps (3)XXXX will work as well”. This will certainly make a good impression. Nobody can memorize MSDN and none of us has enough experience to cover 100% of the questions. Good interviewees just know how to stay cool and think out loud; Explain your way to the solution and I’ll show you the way to the job and paycheck you seek.
  5. You’re good, I have no doubt, but there are others who are better, I have no doubt. arrogance is a quality you must avoid or at least decrease. Nobody like arrogant people although I truly believe that there is a thin line between self confidence and arrogance. Try to stay humble, let them know that you have more than good programmer skills to contribute; Do it with grace.

Any tips you would like to share with me ?


New Hebrew blog at MS community

I’ve joined Microsoft Israel community so you can now find some of my post in this address:


I’ll publish a few advanced post in Hebrew in the following month so stay updated.


Developing a real project as an intern – Kudos Joel, you did it again !

 Today, a real experience is much more important than a degree, well, unless you’re looking for a government position. The problem in our industry is that students decide to study for the degree on the way, while trying to work in 120% job. In my opinion, if you want to give a student a chance at the real world while he can stay focus on his degree (and event enjoy it) you must assist him by finding him a position as an intern for at least a few months so later on he could apply to any position he’ll be suited for.

Well, that quote was mine(during launch time at my company). I’m one of those folks who tries to get my degree while trying to work my ass of. Sadly, I suffer 80% of the time as I struggle finish my papers for the universty on time and still enjoying my job(100% of joy). 
If internship was a part of the degree, I believe that the a lot of us programmers out there could enjoy the learning process without damaging our career and hack, maybe it will produce better programmers in our industry. 

In the USA (and in France too, as my cousin told me), this dream is a plain reality – you can see the internship project Joel Spolsky started here.


1, 2… 1,2 … testing – is this thing on ??

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve published my latest post hasn’t it ?
Ok, no time for lame “I was busy” excuses so let me fill the gaps –

  1. New position:
    I got a promotion at work and now I’m a team leader at our R&D department. I’ve come across, in my 6 years at the business, several great people; Some of them were good because of their technical knowledge, some for their leadership capabilities, some for their good nature and some for combining all the above. I’m working my ass of to affect my teammates and the rest of the people in my company as much as the latter ones affected me in the previous six years.

  2. Interviewing candidates:
    We are hiring; Myself and Roee(our technical manager) were interviewing about 50(some of them didn’t pass my “phone exam”) people in the previous 2 months. It required me to think about “what developers should know” and even more important “what developers should know how to find”. In addition, it gave me a great look at the people in “my world” (not a perfect one, but still…)
  3. New co-workers:
    We hired a team leader named Ken Egozi and a programmer named Tamir Kanhe – GOOD LUCK folks!
  4. New challenges:
    I’m now figuring out the “Smart Client” architecture which we want to use in our application, this includes understanding:

    1. Composite UI Application Block
    2. ClickOnce
    3. Windows Forms 2.0 best practices(data binding, Async work, web services & WSE 3.0 etc).
      The world of windows forms is new to me so I have a lot to catch up.

                  After reading a lot and making some dirty application to test things,
                  I’m now summing it all up to a clean paper –

                  “SQLink R&D methodologies in developing windows forms application”.



I gathered some usefull insights in the latest month so I’ll publish them in the following week.


Bye bye laptop

I’ve sold my laptop(Compaq EVO N800V) today. After almost 3 years with me I had to let him go (tears are dropping on my keyboard). I’m kidding(!), I’m planing to buy a new (monster-one)laptop next week so I had to get rid of my old one somehow. Dror advised me to publish a message at Homeless and his tip was gold (worth 2000 NIS, in this case).

I really recommend this site, I got more than 10 calls today, just an hour after I’ve published to post there. Let me see, I’ve published the post around 11:00 and I’ve sold it at 15:00 (someone came to see it and took it away).



Ho man, this one almost got me fall from my chair !

Like every good Jew, I like to listen\read what other’s has to say about me; So, a few days ago I’ve got a referrer and I went to see who’s mentioning me and why ? After reading the all post there I’ve seen this paragraph:

“After my PC got fixed, I found this:


One step closer to salvation. However, it didn’t work either:

Oren Ellenbogen (?!!?!? is this a real name!? To my native Dutch ears this sounds like “Ears Elbows”.) “
… [the rest is irrelevant]

Man, I laughed about it (with myself) for about an hour ! I know, “Ellenbogen” in Dutch is “Elbow” but “Oren” is “Ear” ?!

Well, I guess there is no such thing as bad publicity… ;-)


Back from Paris, and I have some insights…

I’ve just landed this morning in our too-big-too-much-to-walk Ben-Gurion airport from my one week vacation at the beautiful Paris. To be honest, I really needed this vacation, I had too much on my mind during the last couple of months – University planning, work (and lots of it) and some universal (we called it “in-romo-shel-olam” in Hebrew) decisions to think about like my near future goals which I love to think about every new year. Meeting my great family, having some 20 folks dinner with amazing food and lots of good wine can do wonders to your mind and body so I come back with some new powers which I’m sure I’ll need in order to progress during this new year.

I picked some insights during this week, some of them I would like to share with you –

Controlling the arm rest in the airplane as a life story.
On my way back, I flew with Arkia Boeing 757, meaning 3 seats in each side of the airplane; Guess what, I had to sit in the middle, between my father and another problematic guy. Why problematic ? I knew you’ll ask it, well that’s because he always tried to take over my arm rest and kept me awake for 4 damn hours and 5 minutes ! You can’t blame me that I haven’t tried, I tried to push, to take only the bottom side of the arm rest, only the upper side of the arm rest, to stretch while trying to take over, EVERYTHING ! this guy was persistent ! Well, I’m sometimes more stubborn than necessary, but I saw that this battle wasn’t for me to win so I took the battle into a field I knew I can win – the arm rest near my dad. Don’t give me that poor smile and nodding, if you try to move the man while he’s a sleep, you must come with some heavy armor. The problem was that he was sleeping(\reading, he turned the pages in his book every 2-10 minutes) and I didn’t want to move his hand. But… every child knows his parents’ weak points and in my father’s case it’s me. Moving a little bit in my chair and showing him I’m a little bit tired (=unhappy) gave us both a great idea. In a sweep move, my father asked the fellow beside me to get up as he needed to go to the toilet. I had to get up too, but it’s LIFO(last in, first out) style, so I had the position before him; Man, I love good tactics. So after 4 hours and 5 minutes, we had left only 10 minutes in the air so my trick was a little bit useless and I couldn’t sleep at all, but I think I’ve learned a lot from it, don’t you ?

Arm rests should come in couples for the chair in the middle in 3 sits airplanes.
See the section above. I think I should write a patent on this one, this is gold.

Take yourself some time to think about your goals in the near future, new year holiday is good time IMHO.
This year will be an important year for me, like any other year in our short life but maybe just a little bit more. This year I hope to start on the right foot (and hand, for that manner) my academic course and to step up in my work. In addition I’m planing to release a mini “product” out to the world and to see(and learn) how it goes. Well, you’re all familiar with those subjects (work, studies) but they are too big to think over without decomposing them into more feasible tasks. I started my thinking during the vacation and I promised myself to finish up (and “refactor”) during the next week.  So, I tried to decompose my “I want to improve at my work” task into smaller tasks like (just a small part from my tasks list):

  1. I want to improve my management skills

    1. I want to learn some time-management tools (so I’ll be able to complete the next section).
    2. I want to build my teammates schedules.
    3. I want to follow it with them so I would be able to understand better where do they “waste” time so I can avoid it or think about ways to improve it. I want to be able to detect good progress and good work so I could praise them and make sure that this good phases(\methods) will be longer on their next assignments.
    4. I want to be able to teach my teammates – I really believe that good workers(and human beings for that manner) are those that aren’t afraid to say that they want to learn new things every day even if that means they’ll have to change their work every X years. I want to be able to teach my teammates a thing or two, direct them to other resources so they’ll be able to learn, or any other media so they’ll be happy to come to work every morning.

  2. I want to be taught – I’m trying to be a good worker, so section 1.4 must apply to me also. In order to do that I must think about ways to learn and set my mind about the subjects that interesting me; Finally, I have to sit with the people in my company(or surroundings) which I think has the capabilities to teach me and think how can I convince them that teaching me will be beneficial for them as well.
  3. I want to improve my software analyzing capabilities – I want to think and participate in the design of 2 huge softwares we’re about the develop.
  4. I want to improve my selling skills – I’m thinking about releasing a small software with a friend of mine and in the last couple of days I’m thinking more and more if to release it as open-source or maybe trying to sell it as a product. I want to insert new technologies(.net 2, sql server 2005 and more) to my company, I must figure a good plan in order to do this smoothly and to justify any changes in our development phases so the management could be relaxed and fully understand why this changes will result “win-win” situation.
  5. I want to finish this year university courses with good success (85+ avg.) – The degree is important and I don’t want to let it go just because I’m working, and I can plan my time better so I would be able to work and study at the same time without neglected any one of them, it’s up to me, like always.

This is just the tip of the iceberg from my original list, but I think you get the idea. I’m planing to build this kind of list in my office so my teammates would be able to tell me their work expectations for this year and I would be able to think about ways which I can help them to achieve it.

Don’t be afraid to let the world know – “I want” to do this, this and that !
Almost all the people I know want to be rich for many well known reasons. The problem in my opinion is not the “rich dad, poor dad” issues of “we’re been taught to be humble about our desires, to be satisfied with our average paycheck” etc. It’s the lack of preparation from our side that keeps us from being successful. One of the biggest sections in my list is how to learn more about the subjects which will able me to add just a little bit to my regular work paycheck and how can I use the industry I understand the “best” (computers) for making me more money. Being “rich” can be comprehend also as being smarter or becoming a better person, It’s all depends on the list you’re making. Keep this list updated, this is the hard trick you’ll have to master; This will able you to monitor your progression and find new dreams. I have an uncle that good planing and a lot of self confidence got him the job of the president of a universal company and a lot of wealth for his good investments. He was never sorry for demanding more, and this is a lesson I will not forget. The bottom line is, be the best you can be, just be smart about it as we’re not living alone and I DO think that being a good person is much more important than being successful, I just say you CAN be BOTH.

I would finish with happy new (Hebrew) year to all of you, may you get a little closer to fulfilling your dreams.


Moving up in Google !

Searching Oren Ellenbogen in Google placed me on the third(3rd!) place !
It’s a huge progress if you keep in mind that just last week I was at the 15th place (second page, at the middle)…

update [14.09.2005]:

I’m at the first place now ! Respect !


Working hard… but I can’t complain (can I ?)

Man, I had a lot on my mind during the previous week.
The week began with installing my application in one of our client’s server which was pretty hard task due to couple of unexpected incompatibilities – lack of local IIS(meaning – no debugger!) and AD(Active Directory) complicated tree structure. This two alone are a major headache for any programmer, but I’m glad that it’s behind me now (another happy customer, I LOVE IT!). The week continued and I had to fix some nasty bugs in a couple of applications which I’m responsible for, which turns out nice – there is nothing better than a good bug and a good solution (IMHO anyway).

I spent the end of the week to prepare for my presentation on the next week. I’m going to talk about DHTML, XML and XMLHTTP with my co-worker Roee(which is going to talk about Javascript and the server-side .vs. client-side pros & cons) in one of IDF computers’ unit. It’s a huge time consuming task to organize a decent power-point presentation, a few demos and a set of exercises and most importantly – organize my time properly. But again, I can’t complain because I love giving presentation and work a little on my speaking abilities and time organization abilities.

In addition, I’m working now on Localization and Member-Roles Management solutions for our new ASP.NET 1.1 application. I know those requirements have built-in solutions in ASP.NET 2.0, but the client demanded ASP.NET 1.1 so unfortunately I can’t use them yet.

btw – I’ll upload the presentations, demos and exercises about XML\DHTML\XMLHTTP at the end of next week, maybe it will save one of you some time.

OK, back to work…