Q : I was once interviewed for a software developer role and was asked: “Can you tell us about a bug that was particularly hard to investigate?”
I gave an example and really dug into the detail. The interviewer seemed really impressed with the answer and asked, “Where were you working during that time?” I told him I was at university and that I was maintaining an open source project at the time.
The interviewer then asked if I had any examples from my professional life, saying that was going to be more relevant for the interview.
What was wrong with giving an example from outside of work? Computer programs all work the same, whether you are paid for them or not – why wasn’t the example good enough?
A : Technical work completed during your own time is different from work you get paid to do. It has nothing to do with the technical nature of the work, but rather the context it was completed in.
If you’re working on an open-source project and need to stop for whatever reason, you can with relatively minor consequences. This is very different from working in a professional environment, where there is a degree of responsibility and accountability for what you do.
That said, you shouldn’t shy away from using this example in future interviews. It provides an insight into your thought process and how you approach problems. With any example, it’s best to frame it in the right context. Be up front about the background and explain why it showcases your technical and problem-solving skills.
To finish, you might want to explain how you would adapt that thinking to a professional context.