Andrew Rondeau

Software Developer, Audio Enthusiast

Highlights:

  • Make sure your sound works within 3 minutes. If there are problems, switch to your phone immediately
  • Your background is more important than what you wear
  • A good computer often sounds better than a cheap headset. What's important is that you're in a quiet space.
  • Use good listening skills when performing tasks
  • If you have a thick accent, hearing issues, or certain learning disabilities, discuss these ahead of time. Otherwise, you may perform poorly over teleconference when you would do well face-to-face
  • Don't cheat

With many offices closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of interviews are moving to teleconference. I've interviewed many candidates through teleconference. Here is what I expected, as a software engineer, interviewing global software engineering candidates.

Other industries, locations, and interviewers, will have different expectations than I do. Finally, take all career advice with a grain of salt and use your best judgement.

Demonstrate that you can use teleconference software

On my team, we conducted all of our meetings through teleconference. This was necessary because we were a global team. It also meant that basic proficiency with teleconference software was a requirement for the job.

Frequently, candidates had difficulties with sound. In these situations, I would always suggest that the candidate call in with their phone. Still, many candidates were inconsiderate and forced me to wait while they debugged their computer.

In a teleconference, it is unprofessional to make someone wait longer than three minutes while you fix sound. Almost all teleconference software will call you on the phone if you have problems. Never make an interviewer wait while you try to fix your sound.

Some people suggest doing a test-run with teleconference software the night before. One staffing firm that we worked with started their teleconferences early so the candidate could fix technical problems before I joined the call.

Another infrequent mistake was a candidate joining the teleconference from their phone, and not having a computer ready. These candidates appeared unprepared. When an interview is by teleconference, assume that you will have to share your screen and perform a basic task, just like on a face-to-face interview.

Don't get obsessed with a headset

A good computer, like a Macbook, works extremely well without a headset. In my experience, the Macbook's speakers and microphone work better than headsets.

Furthermore, a problem with USB and Bluetooth headsets is that the teleconference software now needs to pick which speakers and microphone to use, which can be confusing, especially when a bluetooth headset shows up as “BT 543XYZ.”

In my opinion, the best way to do a teleconference is with a quality laptop, in a quiet room, without a headset.

Pay close attention to what's behind you

Software engineering is a casual field, so I never paid close attention to what candidates wore. What I did pay attention to was what was behind the candidate: Paint colors, furniture, cabinets, views out the window.

Candidates in a video teleconference interview should sit at a desk, with the camera aimed so their face is centered in the camera. Make sure the background is something you'd be comfortable showing a guest.

I've seen advice that candidates should stand for teleconference interviews, or wear a suit. I never saw candidates do that, and I personally think it would be awkward.

Anticipate and discuss teleconference format difficulties ahead of time (Like hearing loss)

Teleconferences are much harder for non-native language speakers, people with heavy accents, people with hearing difficulties, and people with some learning challenges. Someone who might be perfectly fine working in a face-to-face situation may do poorly on a teleconference for any variety of reasons.

In our case, where we worked through teleconference daily, the ability to handle teleconference was a basic requirement. In some cases, we wondered if a candidate who performed poorly would make a great employee in a face-to-face situation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, if you're interviewing for a job that's going to be primarily face-to-face, and the interview is through teleconference; and you have some kind of an issue where the teleconference will work against you, it's best to discuss this with HR before the interview. You might need to make other arrangements so you can "put your best foot forward." The last thing you want to do is lose a golden opportunity because you have a little bit of hearing loss that normally isn't an issue when you're with someone face-to-face.

Use Your Best Listening Skills

When I asked candidates to perform small coding tasks in a teleconference, I would bend over backwards to explain the task:

  • I'd show a written description of the task in the teleconference
  • I'd go through the task point-by-point
  • I'd give the candidate plenty of opportunity for questions
  • I'd paste the task into the chat window

Some candidates would just get stuck in a circular pattern of asking the same clarifications over and over again, as if they couldn't understand the premise of the question. These were the "I can explain it to you [the candidate], but I can't understand it for you [the candidate]" situations.

In most of these cases, the candidate demonstrated exceptionally poor listening skills. I never knew if these candidates were truly capable of doing the job in a face-to-face situation, but merely had trouble understanding me through the teleconference. It didn't matter, in this case, because the job required daily interaction through teleconference.

Now, you might wonder why I didn't give someone who needed a little extra attention a chance. I always did. To put it differently, there's only so many hours in the day. I can either work with one engineer who needs extensive handholding, or eight engineers who can work independently. Demonstrate that you don't need extensive handholding.

Finally: Don't Cheat

When I interviewed a candidate, I tried to fairly assess their ability to do the job.

Once, a candidate gave me a memorized, well-rehearsed answer to one of my questions. Their answer was almost sing-song, as if making it through my interview was a mere formality, or a speech they had to memorize in order to pass a class at school.

I then made up a short question on the spot and the candidate gave me the "this wasn't supposed to be on the test" tone of voice. Then the candidate couldn't answer the question, either because they panicked or just didn't know the answer.

I suspected that someone covertly recorded an interview with me and then sent it to their buddy. We rejected the candidate.

It's not worth cheating: Hires who do well on the interview, but poorly on the job, don't last long. You don't want to be the person on the team who can't do their part.

I’ve had my Telsa Model 3, dual motor, for a year. It’s a great car, and one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. The thing with the Tesla Model 3 is that, because it’s so groundbreaking, it’s hard to find honest discussions about its quirks. Specifically, discussing Tesla and the Model 3’s quirks shows what other automakers can do to gain marketshare back.

Disclaimer: I own a small amount of Tesla stock. I’m a bit of a Tesla fanboy, in addition to my Model 3, I have a Powerwall. And, yes, as a Tesla stock owner, I’d like to see the stock go up.

What Tesla got Right

Before I get into the quirks, it’s important to discuss what Tesla got right. Specifically, I’m going to focus on the details that I like.

Most coverage of the car discusses its performance, so there’s no need to give its performance a lot of space. It’s worth pointing out that the instant torque means that it’s effortless to pass, make left turns, pull into heavy traffic, and merge in tight situations.

The Tesla Model 3, dual motor, is fast enough, handles well enough, and has good enough traction, for all situations on public roads. I can’t say that about any other car that I’ve driven. Our older Leaf came close with its instant torque, but it had some issues with snow. The Model 3 sets a new standard for performance that all automakers will need to meet.

Another obvious detail is range. My Model 3 can go over 300 miles on a charge. This is a touchy subject, because batteries are the most expensive, and heaviest, part of an electric car, and increasing range directly increases cost and weight.

The computer screen in the Model 3 is the easiest car computer I’ve ever used. Every option is intuitively laid out and easy to find. I hope other auto manufacturers copy Tesla’s interface. Furthermore, the general lack of physical buttons leaves the rest of the interior neat and simple.

A minor detail I like is the door handles. I really like the way they’re flush with the doors until I open them. In contrast, I hate the door handles on the Model S. (The Model S’s door handles retract in a non-intuitive way.)

The phone key means that I no longer carry keys around!

The sound system is crystal-clear at all speeds. It also has a very powerful matrix surround-sound processor, so music mixed for surround sound comes from all directions.

The Supercharger network means that I’m able to take my Model 3 on road trips, instead of using my gas car. On one road trip, I charged while I bought groceries, and while I ate lunch. This saved me an additional stop for gas.

Autopilot is an impressive beginning for self-driving cars. One thing many people misunderstand is that it’s more like cruise control and the driver must constantly watch the road. A lot of the reported “problems” with Autopilot are just people avoiding responsibility for not paying attention.

Finally, and I shouldn’t have to say this: It’s not a hybrid. I don’t like handling gas, maintaining a gas motor, the vibrations that come from them, and the noise.

So what are the Quirks of the Tesla Model 3?

In the US, Tesla uses a non-standard charging connector. The Model 3 comes with a dongle for plugging into a standard car charger (J-1227) for 120V or 240V charging. J-1227 and is used on all electric cars and plugin hybrids sold in the US, except for Tesla.

Charging with a J-1227 connector on a 120V or 240V electrical supply can take many hours to fully recharge. Thus, it’s only useful for charging while parked for a long time, such as overnight, at work, or at a destination like an amusement park.

In the US, high-speed DC charging is available, but the story is similar to VHS versus Betamax. There are three high-speed charging standards available in the US: Chademo, CCS, and Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger. Tesla offers an adapter to plug into a Chademo charger, but none for CCS. Without going into much detail, CCS is going to win, Chademo will quickly be forgotten, and everyone will laugh at Tesla’s “Betamax” Supercharger network.

Furthermore: CCS is required by law in the EU, and Tesla committed to CCS in the EU. They are converting their EU Superchargers to CCS, and the EU version of the Model 3 uses a CCS connector without a dongle. I’d happily convert my Model 3 to J-1227 + CCS, and only have to use a dongle for the older Superchargers without CCS.

The automatic windshield wipers work very poorly and are a safety hazard. I honestly don’t understand this. My automatic windshield wipers work flawlessly in my other car. Windshield wipers are a safety feature, yet overriding the automatic windshield wipers is dangerous in the Model 3 because it must be done via the touchscreen instead of by touch on a stalk behind the steering wheel.

When I brought the car in for service, they (Tesla Service) refused to fix the problem with the windshield wipers. Tesla needs to do fix its automatic windshield wipers, even if it has to use a different mechanism for detecting when to run the wipers.

(I suspect the problem is that the windshield wipers are triggered by a video camera placed at the top of the windshield. Less water lands where the camera is, then on the rest of the windshield.)

The glass roof is a poor compromise and horrible execution. There is no pushbutton shade that is common in other luxury cars, instead, the shade is manually installed, which is an extremely awkward process. When I want the true sunroof experience, the glass roof is too tinted to really enjoy. There are some ways to fix this:

  • Make the glass roof completely optional. Perhaps the car will be cheaper, and lighter with a metal roof?
  • Include a power / pushbutton shade
  • Make tinting optional

The car needs a small speedometer in the normal location. Volkswagon’s ID3 concept car, and the Mustang Mach E do this perfectly. Both Ford and Volkswagon copied the large center screen and low dash from the Model 3, and then placed a mobile phone sized display where the traditional speedometer goes.

My phone disconnects from the car when I start driving, requiring that I manually reconnect it. Like the automatic windshield wipers, Tesla Service refuses to fix this problem.

The trunk is very high, resulting in poor visibility out the rear window. Tesla allows viewing through the giant backup camera screen while driving, but the picture is too distorted to clearly see what kind of car is following you.

Advanced autopilot features, like lane change and navigate on Autopilot, are extremely glitchy. At times, autopilot lane change swerves like a drunk driver. When driving with autopilot, the driver really must pay close attention and be ready to take over at any time.

Autopilot needs active driver monitoring, because it is too easy to get distracted by a phone or scenery, or fall asleep. In a normal car, when a driver gets distracted, the gradual drifting onto lane bumps and rumble strips act as a gentle reminder to pay attention. Autopilot rarely never hits a rumble strip or lane bumps.

Autopilot works poorly on winter roads that splash up lots of dirt and muck onto the car.

In my subjective judgement, the turning radius is larger than other cars I’ve owned.

What do avoid when building a Tesla Killer

When I think of a Tesla Killer, it’s not a “better Tesla,” it’s an entire lineup of electric cars that have wider mass market appeal than Tesla’s lineup. A “Tesla Killer” requires understanding what the general consumer wants in a car, thus beating Tesla on the entire car, not on a specific detail. Your entire electric car lineup needs to be on-par with every advantage that a Tesla has, and then improve over all of Tesla’s quirks. Only then will you have a true Tesla Killer.

Don’t get sidetracked by trying to build a car that’s faster than the Tesla. I very rarely drive the car as fast as it can go, and something that’s 90% as fast is still fast enough for me. Remember, most people don’t set out to buy the fastest car they can buy. If your car is faster then the Tesla, but overall sucks, no one is going to buy it.

Another critical thing, when building a Tesla Killer, is to make sure your electric car offers at least 250 miles of range. Yes, the average American might only drive 20-30 miles a day, but the average American also buys cars to take on long road trips. Short range electric cars were a minimum viable product for enthusiasts and early adopters. I suspect that there is a market for cars with less than 250 miles of range, but they may be such a niche that they are only economically viable as the base model.

Some people passionately argue that the average person drives about 30 miles a day, and thus doesn’t need an electric car with a lot of range. This is a poor understanding of how people use cars. The market spoke very loudly, and short range electric cars do not sell. (Look at how the Leaf lost marketshare to the Bolt and entry-level Model 3.) A successful electric car must offer a minimum of 250 miles of range. At this point, there are no model lineups that variants above and below 250 miles of range. Offering both a normal (250 miles) range, and a low (125 miles) range version of an electric car might make the appealing to fleet use.

Do not pretend that a plugin hybrid, range extender, or a hydrogen car is an electric car. It means that you fundamentally misunderstand the advantages of an electric car, and why people buy them. At this point, I see buying fuel, and oil changes, as an outdated chore. This is no different than changing tubes in old TVs, or buying CDs instead of streaming music.

In the EV world, I wake up with a full charge, or get a full charge on a road trip when I stop for a meal or bathroom break. If I need to, I’ll charge while on an errand, like buying groceries, or in the parking lot at a destination. Gasoline or hydrogen mean that I still need to go out of my way to buy fuel. It’s only a matter of time before the general public understands charging while parked is easier than buying fuel at a filling station.

Furthermore, if you want to beat Tesla, you will need to do a better job at educating the general public about things like charging while buying groceries instead of making a separate stop to buy gas.

(In the US) Don’t make me put up with a traditional auto dealer. Everyone knows the American dealer system is just supports useless middlemen who don’t add any value. (The arguments about comparison shopping among multiple dealers for the same manufacturer are absurd.)

Worth noting: A complicated entertainment system won’t make me switch from Tesla. My other car has a very nice entertainment system, but it’s so glitchy I wish I just bought my kids tablets.

In Summary

In Summary, the Tesla Model 3 is one of the best cars on the market today. Because of its drivetrain, the Tesla Model 3 sets the bar high for electric vehicles. The way to beat the car is to be on-par with its drivetrain and general ease-of-use; and then improve on its numerous quirks. A quick, well-handling electric car that also has a standard charger, correctly functioning windshield wipers, normal roof, and a normal speedometer will stand out in this new market.