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How to get hired at Arcanys: Preparing for Interviews and Tech Exams

June 22, 202328 min read

The sequel to our "How to get hired at Arcanys" series is here! This time we chatted about what candidates can expect from the rest of our Recruitment process, which are the often dreaded interviews and exams. And to give their valuable insights are our recruitment specialists Lynnz, Gidz, and Mike, as well as our senior developer Djane. So get those pens and paper ready. You don't wanna miss taking important notes. 

If you wanna watch the entire episode instead, click either links below to watch:

Good afternoon, guys! Thank you for joining me today in this second part of the Recruitment series. Hope we'll be able to share more insights to applicants out there who might be interested in joining the Arcanys family. So first off, how about we introduce ourselves. Who would like to start?

Gidz: Hi, I'm Gidz. I'm a technical recruiter in Arcanys. I've been with technical recruitment for about 4 years now. And this is actually my first IT company because prior to Arcanys, I've been with call center companies. 

Lynnz: Similar to Gidz, this is actually my first IT company, as well. I have been working in Arcanys for four years already. But I have been in the recruitment field for, I think, over ten years.

Djane: Hi, I'm Djane. I'm a Senior developer at Arcanys and I've been in the industry for 12 years, almost 7 years of it is in Arcanys. In recruitment, I do some technical interviews—frontend, backend, full stack, from junior to senior. Not the architect level, just senior.

Mike: My name is Mike. I've been with Arcanys... actually, I'm the newest in the Recruitment team. I've been less than 1 year, even less than 6 months with the company. But in terms of work experience, I've been doing recruitment since 2004. So it has been quite a while. My first job was actually a mixture of in-house recruitment and I worked with recruitment firms. So a little bit of both, but mainly technical recruitment has been my exposure.

So it's as long as I have been in writing. Wow! Okay. 

So let's get on with the first question. What are the stages in the recruitment process and what do you aim to discover in each step or stage?

Lynnz: So the stages of our recruitment process: First is the HR screening, then, the HR interview. Then, we have the technical exam, followed by the technical interview, and then, the final interview stage. We also have  positions which include or which would require client interviews. But this is not the general process, actually. That’s just on a case-to-face basis.

It depends on the client?

Lynnz: Yeah, it depends on the client or on the requirement.

Why do candidates need to go through all those stages? Don’t you think some parts may be redundant? Have you encountered an instance where you think some stages or steps might have been redundant?

Mike: I can answer that. I mean I don't think it would be redundant in a way that… Typically, for a recruitment process, it's like a filtering system. You would be getting applicants, both from passive and active sources. So it's gonna be a bulk of profiles or candidates. And then, with the HR screening, you would review them based on their resume… see if the years of experience would fit… the skill set that they have in the resume.

From there, the recruiters would at least review and check who among them would be applicable for the HR interview. And then from the initial interview, they would speak with the candidate, get a feel in terms of how their profile is, their work experience, their soft skills. In a way, as recruiters, we also wanted to verify their people skills, their soft skills, besides the technical skills. Because it is important for us to identify candidates not only with their technical know-how but in terms of would they fit the culture of Arcanys. So that is the reason why we do the initial interviews or the HR interviews.

The technical exam, it's crucial before the technical interview. So at least we could assess their skill set, being hands-on. So they could do mockup tests or they have to complete a specific task. Then the technical interviewer (or reviewer) would basically check their work and then if they pass the assessment or the rating of the technical interviewer, then that's the time they would be scheduled for the technical interview. It's similar to the initial interview but the difference is that it's more tech-driven. It's more technical questions so it would later on identify if they really know the technical skills or the languages that they actually put in the resume. 

Finally, with Alan, it’s more or less checking if they pass the overall assessment. So at least if things would work out, then an offer would be made afterwards.

Lynnz: Our approach to  recruitment is actually holistic in a way. So each stage has a different focus, which is  crucial in finding  the right candidate for the position. 

How long does it take, the range of how many days  is the waiting period for an applicant before you guys can assess their CV and get back to them? 

Lynnz: So as soon as we receive the application, we make sure that we actually process the application right away because we have like a 24-hour window that we try to… We're really encouraged to process them right away, to keep them warm and to keep them engaged. So from the time that we receive the application, we assess the CV right away, and then if the applicant passes the CV review—after checking their technologies, their salary expectations, and also, how soon they can start with us. So basically, it's the minimum hiring requirement checking done during the CV review. And if they pass that stage, then they proceed to the HR interview stage. And in the HR interview, that's where we also set proper expectations for them, on what are the recruitment stages. 

Now, since you mentioned that after the CV assessments, it would be HR interviews. So for that stage, what's the first thing you try to discover about a candidate?

Lynnz: During the HR interview, we check on the work history, the projects that they had. So this includes the past and present projects that they had… and then technologies that they used in each project. We also check  on their interest and also motivations, like what are their expectations from the company, what technologies they want to be trained for. And on a personal level, as well, we check on their hobbies. What do they enjoy doing outside of work? And also, Gidz can add.

Gidz: To add, we also try to check if the candidate is a cultural fit. That one is very important to us. So during the HR interview, we ask them  situational questions. Of course, we relate to their… like for example, because most of the time, our candidates would tell us about the challenges of their work experiences. So coming from there, we relate our questions to their challenges and turn them into situational questions.

Lynnz: During the intro interview, this is also where we share the perks and benefits of the company. And then, we set proper expectations for the next stages. And at the end of the interview, we also give the applicants the opportunity to ask questions, too. So that's where they ask personal or sometimes questions that's related to Arcanys… or how’s our experience, so far, working in Arcanys.

I'm curious though, you just mentioned “work-related”… have you had some candidates ask you about personal “to the point of impertinent” questions?

Lynnz: Yes, I don't know if it's personal but for me, I think it's personal. He actually asked me why I'm still in Arcanys. Yeah, because I mentioned during the call that I have been working in the company for four years already. And then, he asked me “Why are you still in Arcanys? What's making you stay in the company?” So I think it's personal… so I answered him on a personal level because the question for me is kind of personal. So yeah, I shared with him my experience with the company.

That’s actually a smart one.

Djane: Yeah, I actually get those, too. 

Especially you, Djane, because you've been… almost a decade with the company?

Djane: No, just almost. But yeah, I get those questions, especially the questions “What do I do on a day-to-day basis?” and “Why I like Arcanys?”  But I  just treat it as an opportunity to advertise more in what we actually do and the perks… because personally I like the perks in Arcanys. So I  try to, at a personal level…   “Yeah this is what we have. It’s so cool.”

Nice! Thank you, on behalf of the marketing team. 🙂

Mike: It’s also a plus if ever candidates ask that because it shows their interest that you know they are actually eager and they wanted to know more. Because I think nowadays, I think the younger generation they're more keen in terms of what will benefit them. Let's say if they join a company, not just [about] the work but in terms of the company itself. So “What would they get?”  “What would they experience?” So having those questions asked by the candidates would actually help us to, you could say, sell the opportunity and the company. So yeah, that works.

Yeah, I agree! I was just thinking, “Oh, that’s a smart question.” I don’t think I thought of that when I got interviewed. 

How long do the HR interviews usually last? And right now that we're doing a hybrid work setup, is it always online?

Gidz: Usually it takes about 30 to 45 minutes with us, mostly longer for seniors who have many years of work experience. And for recruiters, we're working from home so it's mostly online. So there's no need for candidates anymore… like previously we asked them to go to the office. But right now, it's very easy now since we can do interviews online.

Okay, next question. How can you tell if someone is a good culture fit with Arcanys or not?

Gidz: Okay, we check if the candidate is positive,  not arrogant, and maybe can work well with team members. Because this is what I've noticed, for some of the reviews of the technical team, they should be able to work well with the team members. And then,  they should also be self-motivated, who [are] into learning new technologies and…  interests and goals are aligned with the company's values, as well.

Djane: Yeah, sometimes motivations can make or break, in my end… since sometimes when we interview [them], there are candidates that don't quite get the cut, in terms of technical skills and experience. But when you look at the positivity and their eagerness to learn… they're almost there but they're not even motivated to learn more. So it's definitely a no-no for me. But sometimes they're very motivated, even though they just have a bit of experience. So sometimes I just include that note in the feedback, and then put a thumb mark there. 

Nice, okay. 

How do you make sure that the candidate is giving you honest answers, not just the ones that they think you would like to hear from them?

Lynnz: That’s where the STAR method would actually come in. We don't just ask for one situation or one experience that they have. We actually asked for two or three experiences that they have. Gidz can answer this question, actually. 

Gidz: As Lynnz said, we typically ask them situational questions about the challenges that they encountered. So for example, we ask them how they dealt with having to work with someone they're not comfortable with. So with this question, we get to see

how a candidate can be a team player or not. And then maybe another question, for example, for organization or time management, we ask them how they cope with their work when there is too much on their plate. So those types of questions we ask during the HR interview. 

Lynnz: And then, we also take a look at the pattern of behavior of the applicant, or the pattern of their experiences. I'm not sure if you've heard about this one, in Psychology they say that “past behavior predicts future behavior.” So  this is actually very applicable to me, since I started working in the recruitment field. I look at the past experiences of the candidates and see if there is a pattern in their behavior. For example, if the candidate had conflicts with his or her colleagues before in almost all of his or her employment, that's a red flag for me. So it might translate that because he or she had conflicts before, he [or she] will also have conflicts when he [or she] joins the company. 

What kind of questions do you usually ask to find out or discover a candidate's soft skills… like, maybe communication skills?

Mike: You mentioned communication skills… so I think what's important there is during the interview you could actually gauge already if the person speaks well. In terms of the other soft skills, I think Gidz already mentioned situational questions. We don't normally ask, let's say, a question that could be answered by a yes or no. It's something more illicit, where they could explain why… with Gidz mentioning, not just one question but also other scenarios, not just one. Sometimes it could be similar questions checking if they are actually accurate or not, or if they actually, give different types of answers with the same “lusot” (excuse) if ever that would be the case. It's more of that, so it’s a bit of psychology questions and a bit of, let's say, trick questions to make sure that they are actually consistent with their answers.

How do you decide if the person can move on to the next step or not? Do you have a checklist for each step or do you do it by feel?

Lynnz: I think the nearest to a checklist would be our minimum hiring requirement per position. Say for QA,  we require at least four years experience in software testing. So that is a number one [in the] checklist. So the candidate has to have at least four years experience in software testing. I think it's very clear. Then second would be their salary expectations, which is usually discussed during the HR interview stage. So we have to set proper expectations for them that we follow a certain range for the salary offer. Our offer is actually based on different factors, which we'd rather discuss during the HR interview stage. Next would be their availability because there are some positions that are urgent so we need someone who can join us right away. And there are applicants who are not flexible in terms of their start date, so that is also another criterion on the checklist.

Okay, short and concise, straight to the point. What else?

Mike: For the HR interviews, a no-no would be going to the interview unprepared. Make sure that you review your resume, your experiences because definitely we would be checking those things in terms of consistency. And another no-no would be candidates not asking questions because that's actually for us to determine if this person is interested or not. So yeah, those two things are something that, for me, is important. One would be “Be prepared.” and second would be “Ask questions.” I think that is something that is critical also for us.

Okay, how about the ladies? Do you have any tips, any no-no's?

Gidz: It's also very important that you show up on time. As much as possible we respect each other's time so please avoid being late during the interview. 

Lynnz: It's important that you maintain a good environment during the call. So you eliminate the distractions, like maybe pets or children joining the interview, waving at the back. So that's actually a big red flag for us because we are now in a permanent work-from-home setup. So it is vital that you have a good working environment and you have a good internet connection, as well.

Next is the technical interviews. So this is your time to shine, Djane. [Laughter]

Djane: I don’t wanna shine. [smiles]

For the technical interviews, who conducts the tech interviews? Apparently, guys like you… but do you have a criteria when you tap into the tech experts like Djane here? [addressing the recruiters]

Gidz: Interviewers should  be strong with the technology that they're interviewing for and we also get recommendations from Alan and Eric who can do the interviewers.

Lynnz: Seniority. For QA, our interviewers are all senior level QAs already. Because they have been in the company for quite a while, they are the best person to really determine if the candidate can fit into the culture of the company and if the candidate can be a team player… or if they can work with the candidate, as well.

That's important, I guess. How about from the perspective of the technical interviewer, Djane? 

Djane: Yeah what they said is true, but one factor I can add is, maybe the availability of that developer. For me, personally, I'm in a project wherein like Alan… or the company is a shareholder for that project, so we have more flexibility with my time. Alan can easily try to grab me or put me in other things without upsetting the client. 

Lynnz: That's why we get as many technical interviewers as possible, so we can be flexible. 

In case someone is unavailable, you can tap somebody else right away, you have like a lineup already.

Usually, what type of interviews are technical interviews? Is it an individual interview or have you had a panel interview? How about also a comparison of before we went remote and now that we're remote.

Djane: When you say panel interview, do you mean like a bunch of  people line up at a long table and then ask a person sitting on a stool? 

Yes, something like that. Like those things you see in interviews, especially in Japanese shows.

Djane: In my end, in the past, when we interview in the office, we just usually sit at a table together with the candidate. It’s sort of informal, maybe also because of the culture of the company. We're not that formal in the office so we try to do the interviews as comfortable as possible. And I think it helps also to make the candidate more relaxed. You can get more accurate information if they're relaxed. I  experienced a candidate once that he was very, very nervous.

Okay, but when you did the interviews before in the office, was it only you or were you with another Arcanyte?

Djane: When we interview, I think it's almost always a minimum of two people. For me personally, I want it that way, I  prefer it that way to have more opinions. I don't want to be the sole guy responsible for the applicant’s progress. [laughs]


Djane: But there are times wherein there are two interviews booked but one got an emergency or something. So they couldn’t join so we’re forced to have one interviewer. So that happens also.

Okay. So now that we’re doing remote, it's also the usual? Two technical interviewers with one candidate?

Djane: Yeah, I think it also depends on the technology since… for example, if you have a Go dev, I think there are not many Go dev that can do interviews. I think there's only one. So you're forced to have only one interviewer for that. If it's Node.js, I think there are a lot, so you have a lot of choices. 

Okay, so it also depends on the availability of the interviewers.

Why do we bother with technical interviews? I mean a lot of tech experts don't actually like face-to-face talks and stuff, but here in Arcanys, particularly, why do we bother with technical interviews? Can’t the CVS or the portfolios be enough?

Djane: Well, I think I can answer since I'm the one doing the technical interviews. Yeah, what I've seen so far is that CVs, sometimes people write them with less info, or sometimes, more info than you need. Basically, sometimes they underestimate themselves in the CV. Sometimes, they overestimate themselves in the CV. So, it's very good to talk to them and have a conversation, like one-by-one, with each  experience that they have, how deep their experiences are… like what are the things that they've tried in that field. Because sometimes they write something, a technology, but you don't know actually what's the thing that they did with that technology. Sometimes they just helped with developing that… sometimes they developed it from scratch. So yeah, it's a big help to actually talk to somebody.

Mike: You know, people could put anything in their resume. They could base it off, let's say, somebody else's profile. So it's more of like verifying, making sure that what they actually input in the CV is actually correct, and in a way, just double checking if it's true, what's actually in the CV.  So, just as I mentioned,  just verifying or double checking, just to be on the safe side. 

Gidz: Yeah, I agree with Mike and Djane, we might make wrong assumptions when we just see the CVs of our candidates. And then, also in CVs,  we can’t also determine the thought process of our candidates. As Djane said, it's better that we talk to them.  So that we know when we have… like for example, they have certain skills like problem solving skills or how they make judgments. 

Now, we move on to the technical exam. So how long do the exams usually take?

Djane: Well actually, there are a lot of technical exams and I don't know all of them. For the exams, usually it's Eric. I only have the Python exams, which take around four hours. 

Whoa, really, the Python? So you only check the python exams.

Djane: Yeah. It's not one exam, I think it has multiple problems to solve. So it's not really just one problem in four hours. 

How about the recruitment team? I know that you guys conduct the technical exams.  How long does it usually take? How about for the web dev or the QA?

Gidz: For other openings, it usually takes two to four hours, depending on the skill level of the candidates. For example, for our .Net developer position, we have an examination for mid-level .Net and it's actually two hours. For our senior candidates or senior level, it's a four-hour exam. 

That makes sense…. since you say that you know more, then you have to show more. 

Gidz: More coverage for senior levels. [chuckles]

As you’ve mentioned, I'm guessing the exams will depend on the technology… But what are the usual challenges candidates can expect from them?

Djane: Yeah, I guess it’s the time… because it's mostly like a mini project that you have to complete in that amount of time. Mostly, the project is already existing in a broken state and they have to fix it. 

Ahhh, it’s like a grammar exam, like “spot the errors in this or something.” 

Djane: Yeah, in programming we have automated tests and then, they have to pass all those tests that are there. So they have to fix it. It's mostly like that.

Lynnz: Speaking of automated tests… for QA, [it’s] pretty much similar to the web dev exams. It has different categories. For example, it has test case creations and they also have to find the bugs. They're presented with a broken system, so they have to check on the bugs and report these bugs. And it's also a time-bound exam. It's one hour and 30 minutes. Then for automation, which is, I'd say, more complex, it's a three-hour exam. So same thing, it has different categories, as well for automation. We really make sure before we schedule them for the exam, to actually set proper expectations with them. We give them tips on how to prepare for the exam, and also make sure that when they start with the exam they won't be interrupted anymore. And that they have, which is very important, a good internet connection.

Ultimately, what should these exams help you assess in a candidate?

Gidz: In the technical exam, there are four categories. The first category would let you answer multi-choice questions. So here, you'll be asked questions or we will assess your knowledge on some technical terms. For the second part, we assess your written communication skills by answering an essay. And the technical exam there for the third and fourth categories, these are programming tasks. So here, you’ll be assessed on your programming skills. 

Who usually checks or assesses the exams? Are they the same people who will conduct the tech interview? 

Djane: Not necessarily. I  notice  for the web, mostly it’s Eric, with the architect. For Python, me since I'm the Python guy there. I think that's it. For .Net, I guess there's Rafael?

Gidz: For .Net, we let Buck check the examination and Rafael does the technical interview.

So how long before you can give candidates feedback after this step?

Gidz: As soon as the result is up, we immediately give updates to you. So our goal is actually to give you an update within 24 hours. 

So it's the same as when you assess the CVs. 

Gidz: Correct.

Djane: I think we are the bottleneck… the one that checks. We’re usually the ones who are late.

Gidz: After the technical interview, we, right away, endorse the candidate to Alan.

Next, do you have any advice for those candidates who fail the exams?

Djane: First of all, candidates, I'd like you to be open in your answers. If you have technical issues in answering the problems, then you should try to warn us, or I mean, tell us about it. We’d highly appreciate [that]. We don't want to fail people who are legitimately skillful just because of an issue that can be solved by asking.

How about for the recruitment side, do you have any tips for candidates who fail the exams?

Gidz: Refresh your knowledge and be updated with the best practices in the industry, maybe by enrolling in some training plans that are available online. Most of these training plans are actually for free, so yeah, you can choose there. And then, you also create personal projects, maybe you can do some side projects using the latest technologies that would actually help in honing your skills. 

That is one smart tip. 

Mike: Just to add on that, so even in terms of giving feedback, candidates should be open to conservative criticism. I mean for the interviews, you could pass, you could fail, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you won't be welcome anymore in Arcanys. With the constructive criticism that is given to you, work on it. And then, in a couple of months or maybe after a year, you could apply back and then who knows by the time, your experience may be more suitable for the company. So it’s more of, don’t give up. If it’s the company that you really want to apply to, don’t hesitate, just try and try. Then we’ll see, in the end, if it’s gonna be a win for you or a win for us. 

How about for the final interviews? Do all successful candidates go through the final interview with Alan?

Gidz: Yes, because he is actually the deciding person if the candidate gets considered or not.

Lynnz: Alan has the final say if we’re hiring the candidate right now or we're pooling the candidate for future requirements.

So what can candidates expect from this setup, the final interview? Now that we're doing remote, is it still remote? 

Gidz: For the final interview, it’s just very brief. So you'll still be asked questions, though, about your work experience, your past projects, the setup of your team, the training that you followed. He’d also ask you about the technologies that interest you and your aspirations, as well. 

Mike: Just to add on that one. I think we’ve discussed this in the previous answers. Alan also, let's say, maybe confirms your past answers from the initial to the technical interview. So just to make sure if this person is consistent… and then, if he feels that you could be a good fit for us, and then he'll go for or he’ll [let you] pass you for the job offer.

So do you have any tips, how candidates can prepare for the final interview?

Lynnz: For the final, it’s the same tips that we have for candidates who are for HR interview, technical exam, and technical interviews. So still the same, okay? So our final interview is via zoom and we actually require our candidates, or you will be required to turn on your camera. So as much as possible, before you join the zoom meeting, you’ve already eliminated the possible distractions that you have. And also make sure that you have a good internet connection all throughout the interview. And the most important tip, and I guess this is where Alan is really very particular with…  refrain from using titles like sir or mister or boss. Call him Alan, we're on a first-name basis here in Arcanys.

I remember that, they made it a point to tell me that… that you shouldn't say sir.

Lynnz: For me, I include that even during my HR interview. So when they start you know calling you Miss Lynnz or Miss, so I  set proper expectations with them as early as HR interview that you have to practice as early as now because you still have two or three more interviews and we're on a first-name basis here in Arcanys, so make sure that you practice as early as now. 

Gidz: It's also because of our flat management style, so at least we start from there, calling each other on a first-name basis.

Lynnz: Our developers and our QAs here in Arcanys, they are like consultants to our clients. So they actually have direct communications with them and our clients are also… I  can't speak on behalf of them but I’m assuming that they have this culture as well, that they would want to be called by their first name.

 That makes sense.  Aside from that, what other tips?

Gidz: As much as possible, just be themselves. Be honest about what you know and what you do not know.

Lynnz: Right. And also, be consistent with your answers and also in your salary expectations, because I actually have an experience, a candidate was endorsed to the final interview stage. He gave a different amount to Alan. Alan was not happy about it because it shows that the candidate was not consistent with his answers.

Alan doesn’t mind pauses. Have you noticed that?

Lynnz: Borderline, he doesn’t like talking too much. When you give long-winded answers, it’s something to avoid. You have to go straight to the point and give relevant answers. 

Djane: I don't have much, but looking at the culture of the company or overall, they should just be themselves. And just relax, Alan’s not gonna bite.

I guess it would help that you think of him as Alan and not “Mr. Alan” or “Sir Alan.” It’s more intimidating to imagine “Mr. Alan” or “Sir Alan.” Just Alan. You’ll be more relaxed by not using those honorifics.

Yeah, yeah, you’re right. 

Anything else, you guys? Maybe general tips for candidates applying to Arcanys, or for candidates applying to tech companies like Arcanys.

Mike: Yeah, tips most likely would be, just be prepared, on time, be yourself, and don't be afraid to ask questions. So those are some simple tips  for any interviews that you would be attending.

Gidz: At least show connection to your interviewers. Be engaged in the interview, smile, not most of the time, but from time to time, you smile at your interviewer. And just make sure that you will not be distracted throughout the interview. 

Those are good tips! Nice. Thank you for joining me today, answering questions and giving insights for future candidates to Arcanys and maybe to other tech companies. But well, hopefully, they will come to Arcanys. Thank you again, guys, and hope you have a good evening.

As they say, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. So if you are planning some career changes soon, whether you're considering joining the Arcanys family or some other tech company, insights from recruitment specialists and a fellow techie may be very good to have in your metaphorical arsenal. And with that, may the odds be ever in your favor, brave technophile!

To check out previous episodes of Arcanys Career Talks, check our YouTube channel or show on Spotify.

If you wanna take a gander at joining the Arcanys family, check out our vacancies here.

Hope to see you in the next episode. 

Line Arias

Line Arias

Content Writer

Line Arias

Content Writer

Line is a Content Writer at Arcanys. She's also an editor, a bibliophile, a collector of pretty knickknacks, and a versatile doer with serious OC tendencies. She loves the written word undoubtedly, reads creepy stories by Poe, and shows great enthusiasm for every project like an eager beaver.