Synthace office - Lauren whiteboarding

Interviewing at Synthace

What to expect when you interview with us, and how to prepare.

When you interview with us we want to meet the best version of you. By this, we simply mean that we want you to come into the process knowing what to expect, what to prepare, and therefore with every opportunity to perform as well as possible.

To help with this, we’ve provided some general guidance points and some more specific and detailed walk-throughs depending on the team or role.

General guidance

  1. Be yourself! Don’t try to guess what we want to hear, or what you think we want you to be. You’re great! Be comfortable with who you are.
  2. Be yourself! This is so important it’s in here twice! 🙂
  3. Read the job description again to ensure you have a good idea of what the role will involve.
  4. Think about why you want to join Synthace - we’ll ask. You may wish to read more about us on our website, Glassdoor, Stackoverflow, or other relevant sources.
  5. Make a note of 3-5 questions to ask in the interview. We’ll expect you to be curious. These could be related to the role, team, or Synthace more widely; tying them in contextually with your research will be more impressive and useful for you than asking generic questions.
  6. Read through the information below that is specific to the team or role for which you’re interviewing. Act on the recommendations where appropriate. (If you’re not sure, ask the Talent team).
  7. Let us know if you have any further questions or have any special requirements before your interview.

 

What to wear

We recommend wearing whatever you’re most comfortable in; we have a relaxed dress code as we’re more about what people can do than what they wear.

For customer-facing roles we would suggest keeping to what you would normally wear to work.

One important note: If you have an on-site lab tour booked as part of the session and you’d like to take part in this, you’ll need to wear enclosed shoes as well as trousers (or something similar that covers your legs) for safety reasons.

 

Video interviews

We're currently running most of our interviews remotely. Before your video interview, we recommend running through the following quick checklist:

  • Does the meeting link work? Please check this as soon as you receive the invitation. If you haven't received the invitation, or if there are issues with the link, please let us know right away.
  • Choosing the right place. Try to ensure you will be somewhere with a stable connection, and where you are unlikely to be disturbed. (Although we appreciate that this may not always be possible, and we understand if there is background noise if you share a house with family or housemates).
  • Sound and vision. If possible, we recommend using a laptop rather than a phone. These sessions usually work better if we can see each other, so please set up your webcam to focus on you directly (if you don't have access to a webcam please let us know). If you have a headset you can use we tend to find that they help a lot with clarity (please test it before the interview to make sure the settings are configured properly though). If you have any special requirements please let us know beforehand.

Feedback from us

Your experience is important to us, and we try to give feedback quickly at each stage.

After your final interview we aim to make a decision on whether to make an offer within five working days whenever possible (exceptions to this will be discussed with you when booking the session).

If you have any questions at any point in the process, please reach out to the recruitment team.

Feedback from you

We value your feedback and actively encourage you to let us know about your experience interviewing with us. We take every comment seriously and make every effort to act on what you tell us so that we can continue to improve.

We have a very high technical bar, which is reflected in our thorough interview process.

Each of the stages mentioned below will focus on a different knowledge set or skill.

For example, if you're interviewing for a role in our Product Engineering team (Full Stack or Front End), the interviews may cover anything across the ‘Front End’ / ‘Full Stack’ spectrum at different stages throughout the process, from HTML & CSS to recursion and data structures.

We don’t expect everyone to do perfectly in every single session - we include them so that we can build up a picture of your existing and potential strengths in order to understand where you would best fit in the team.

Expand the sections below to find out more about what to expect and how to prepare for each stage.

Quote from Adam Vartanian - Senior Software Engineer
Initial screening call (30 mins)

This call is usually with our internal Talent team, and is mainly a ‘getting to know you’ exercise for both of us - you won’t be asked anything too tricky at this stage.

We want to know why you applied to Synthace, what you know about us, and what sort of challenges you’re interested in, while also answering any questions you might have about us.

We value your time, so our tests are short and straight to the point.

For back end roles our coding test involves solving a two algorithmic problems and should only require 1-2 hours. We set this up so that you can choose when to start an 8 hour window, to remove the pressure that comes from false deadlines and more accurately represent a working day.

Meanwhile, the Product Engineer take home task can potentially be completed within a couple of hours and we allow you to do so in your own time without a tight deadline.

We look for READABILITY, CORRECTNESS/ACCURACY, EFFICIENCY and CONSIDERATION OF EDGE CASES, while keeping things as simple as possible - we’re more impressed by this approach than by trying to over-complicate things.

This is with a member of our engineering team (sometimes two of them, as we’re constantly training new interviewers).

You’ll be given a coding problem to work through using whichever language you’re most comfortable with (we currently use HackerRank CodePair for this).

You can ask as many questions as you like to clarify the problem. As with the technical test, we're looking out for READABILITY, CORRECTNESS/ACCURACY, EFFICIENCY and CONSIDERATION OF EDGE CASES, while keeping things as simple as possible. 

There will also be some broader questions about your technical experience, so please be prepared to discuss specific projects you’ve worked on, especially when you’ve been involved in technical decisions.

You might also want to use this as a chance to find out more about our engineering culture and the kinds of problems the team is solving - direct from the engineers themselves.

  • Practise:

    • Decide on a programming language (we keep an open mind, so use whatever you feel most comfortable with, although please keep in mind that if you’re interviewing for a Product/Full Stack/Front End role we’d really like to see you use Javascript/Typescript).

    • Study CS fundamentals.

    • Practise solving algorithmic / data structure questions (for Product roles we understand you won’t necessarily use algorithms as much as you would in a Back End role, but it’s worth reminding yourself of the basics).

    • Learn and understand the time and space complexities of the common operations in your chosen language.

    • Read up on the recommended coding style for your language so that you know it fluently, and stick to it.

    • Find out and be familiar with the common pitfalls and caveats of the language so you can point them out while avoiding them.

    • Practise thinking out loud - we want to hear how you go through the process of understanding the problem and working through the solution, and all the decisions you make along the way. This includes sharing your reasoning, noticing bugs, etc.

  • Prepare:

    • We can’t stress this enough - please ensure you are somewhere with a stable internet connection, with minimal background noise, and where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Sitting in your local cafe is not advised.

    • Check that you have a good headset or earphones with an in-built microphone and test the sound setup before the call. Try avoiding using your laptop speakers.

This interview will be led by a senior engineer.

Prepare:

  • Improving upon a design: Reflect on any complex systems you’ve previously designed. Is there anything that you’d change if you had the chance to start again? What did you learn - think about positives and negatives.

  • Designing from the ground up: How would you design any of the complicated, high-scale systems that you may use day to day? How would you personally design the architecture from the ground up?

  • Research: Keep a look out for interesting engineering blogs about new/different/useful approaches that work, as well as potential false starts big companies have had along the way.

  • Requirements gathering: Always ensure you have the details you need before you start answering the question. Be prepared to ask questions yourself.

  • Q&A: We try to keep 5-10 minutes at the end of the interview for questions. This is the best opportunity to ask an engineer what it’s like working here, what challenges they enjoy working on, what the engineering culture is like, why Antha makes such a difference to scientists, how the engineers collaborate with the lab scientists, etc. Ask anything - we want you to have all the info you need to know that this is the right move for you, and that you’ll enjoy working with us.

Practise:

  • How will you describe your high-level approach? Be ready to outline it and work out how it can be broken down into subparts.

  • Find the most appropriate focus area: There may not be enough time to discuss every detail of the design, so zoom in on the most interesting and hardest problems initially and state why you’ve chosen them.

  • Zoom in and out: You should be able to change focus effortlessly from the requirements/goals, to the high-level approach, and down to the precise details and back again. Accurate estimation will play a part.

  • Talk through issues & trade-offs: We want to understand what decisions you’re making and why - you should compare and contrast different approaches.

  • Drive the discussion: You’re the one solving the problem. What information do you need? Can you build on your existing experience and/or use logic to work your way through? We want to see how you anticipate and work around typical issues and challenges.

In this session you will speak with one of our back end engineers.

This interview replicates a code review session, and is designed to assess your ability to spot weaknesses and make improvements to existing code.

At the start of the session we'll give you an example implementation of a coding problem and you will have 5 to 10 minutes to read through it and understand it. You will be able to select your preferred language in advance from a list of options.

Although correct, the implementation will have a number of weaknesses. In the interview we'd like you to discuss those weaknesses and suggest improvements, as if you were providing code review feedback for a colleague.

By default we will set up the session to run on HackerRank CodePair, but if you would like to use your preferred IDE please prepare for the interview by setting up a blank project ready to paste in the code.

We are looking for you to notice and correct issues relating to CORRECTNESS (are there edge cases which aren’t covered), READABILITY (how easy can it be understood), and MAINTAINABILITY (making it easy to change, removing assumptions, etc.).

Covering your motivations, interests, learning points, etc. throughout your career and looking forward, this interview is usually with two senior members of the team.

The most important point here is to be open with us and honest with yourself - we want to see what really makes you tick.

You should be able to…

  • Discuss anything written on your CV in depth

  • Provide specific examples about what you did and the resulting impact

  • Critique yourself - we actively encourage you to admit past mistakes and what you learned from them

  • Talk about what you like about your current or previous roles, and how this has shaped you

  • Discuss any changes or areas of improvement you would like to address and why

  • Describe the way that you work, what you need to thrive, and how others might perceive you
  • Discuss your professional interests - the areas you’d be excited to work in

  • Importantly, you should be able to provide an explanation around why would you like to join Synthace based on what you know about us and how this fits with your own personal motivations

 

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