Are you coming for an in person interview at Fog Creek Software in New York? Here's a look at what to expect and how to prepare.

If you're applying for a job at Fog Creek, there's one thing that's very important to know: we get about 200 applications for every person we hire; about 15 get phone screen interviews and about 5 get in-person interviews. When we interview in person, we are usually choosing between 5 extremely talented candidates for one position. That means that if you don't get an offer, it may simply be because we're a small company and can't hire every talented applicant. Don't take it too personally and don't get discouraged; merely the fact that you got as far as the in-person interview means you're probably among the top 3% of resumes that we saw.

Every candidate interviews with at least three people, usually in our office in New York. By now you've probably read Joel's article The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing. Keep in mind that that article is fairly old (it was first written more than ten years ago) and our process has changed a bit, but the spirit is the same. We're no longer quite as impressed by people who write the closing brace of a block before they write the body, because it's gotten to the point where everyone does that, and then they sort of look at us to make sure we saw what they did. This tells us something -- it tells us that you're diligent enough to poke around our website and prepare a little bit for the interview -- but we have other things we're really looking for, namely, are you smart? And do you get things done?

Preparing for the Interview

We're not looking for people who have memorized the answers to questions or the source code for string functions. If you have memorized any answers, merely regurgitating them during the interview won't really prove that you're smart.

For programming positions, during the interview we're going to ask you to demonstrate that you know how to program. We prefer that you use the language you're most comfortable in. We'd rather see you write good code than struggle with the language. At Fog Creek, we use a mixture of Python, JavaScript, CoffeeScript, C#, C, C++, a custom in-house language called Wasabi, Java, and more, so we don't look for experts in any particular language.

For nonprogramming positions, you don't have to program during the interview, but we'll expect you to do the same kinds of tasks during the interview as you will do in the real job. For example for administrative positions, we often ask you to write letters, do Internet research, etc. For software testing positions, we'll ask you to test some software. You get the idea. We want to give you a chance to demonstrate that you're smart.

Coming to New York

If you're coming from out of town, we will pay all expenses related to your trip.

Airfare: We'll make your reservations and send you an itinerary. This will almost always be an e-ticket so you just have to show up at the airport with photo ID and a printed copy of your itinerary. Please let us know which airport you want to fly from, and if you have any seat, meal, or other special requests so that we can make the reservation. If you want, check the online travel timetables at Orbitz, Expedia, etc. to find the flights that would be most convenient for you, and we'll try to get you those particular flights. The closest airport to Manhattan is Laguardia (LGA), but if there's no nonstop flight from your town to Laguardia you can also fly into Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) or John F. Kennedy International (JFK).

Hotel: We'll provide for up to two nights in a hotel in New York. We try to find hotels that are within easy walking distance of Fog Creek. Most of the time, we will prepay for the hotel room, although you'll have to show a credit card at check in. When you check out, the hotel will charge your card for any "incidentals" (e.g. room service, movies, telephone calls, weird taxes, etc.) It often happens that hotels, through incompetence, won't realize that your reservation was prepaid and they'll charge your card for the room anyway. Don't panic -- call us to confirm, and we'll sort it out. In either case, save the receipt from the hotel for reimbursement.

Meals: While you're in New York, please save all your meal receipts for reimbursement. We'll reimburse you for up to $45 per meal while you are in New York.

Transfers: Save your taxi receipts. Tipping is customary in taxis in New York, but the tip usually won't be on the receipt, so write the amount of the tip on the receipt separately and circle it.

Other expenses: Save the receipts for any legitimate travel expenses you incur as a part of the interview, for example, taxi to the airport in your hometown, parking at the airport in your hometown, WiFi or internet access on the road, snacks at the airport.

When you get home gather up all the receipts and send them to us. We'll mail you a reimbursement check within two weeks.

The Day of the Interview

Fog Creek is very informal. We usually wear jeans and t-shirts at best. You are welcome to dress up, but it is by no means expected, and in fact you'll probably be more comfortable if you wear what you usually wear.

Most interviews start at 10:00 am; unless you were told otherwise. You can expect the interview process to take somewhere between two and six hours. If the interviews are going long someone will take you out to lunch.

We will not give you an answer at the end of the day. Sometimes we will not be able to give you an answer for a couple of weeks, in cases where we are interviewing several people for the same position and want to give them all a chance.

After the Interview

Somewhere you probably read a book which told you that it's polite to send a thank you letter after an interview. We often get these, read them, smile, and throw them in the trash, but they never influence our hiring decision. So let's save some paper and time: we appreciate the sentiment, but don't bother with the thank you letter and we promise not to care.