I'll assume monotonic, but is it even linear?
September 4, 2011 7:33 AM   Subscribe

A Google recruiter has asked me to rate my Python skill on a ten-point scale. Can anyone calibrate this scale for me? At the moment, all I know is that ten is the better end, and since Google employs Guido van Rossum I don't want to overestimate. What's a three? a five? a seven? or is this some sneaky test of second-order knowledge and how I deal with bizarrely underspecified problems?
posted by d. z. wang to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
it's a recruiter, so don't overthink it :)

Don't say 10, but stay well north of 5 if you want the job. Scale is logarithmic.

Do you use PyPy? You're a 9.

Has another dev ever asked you to explain a line of code that had a lambda and/or a decorator in it? You're an 8 or higher

Have you built your own setup.py? 7 or higher

I've seen a lot of googler Python code. It's indistinguishable from most guys' who have a year or two of python experience.

Definitely read the Google Python Style Guide before you go to your first interview.
posted by neustile at 7:44 AM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I might also suggest becoming a little familiar with the different releases of Python. IIRC, one of Google's challenges is that a large part of their code base uses older (much older) versions of Python. So looking through the Python release notes might be helpful.
posted by SPrintF at 8:10 AM on September 4, 2011

The goal is really only to be appropriate for the job but not a target for a vengeful interviewer.
posted by kcm at 8:22 AM on September 4, 2011

Hihi. Google employee here.

The scale should have been explained to you, but here's a simplistic breakdown from memory.

10 - Guido will give you your next interview. Don't answer this.
9 - Core python developer or teach python at advanced levels.
8 - Wrote books on python, teach python.
7 - Very advanced programmer using python. Written large systems with it.

Write back to your recruiter and ask for a guide as to what numbers mean what if you want. It's all treated as relative anyway, you'll be interviewed on whatever you say your strengths are.
posted by Jerub at 8:25 AM on September 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

jerub, let me clarify that I'm a new grad, most of my "work experience" (one summer internship) has been in OCaml, most of my programming coursework (OS, networks, etc.) has been in C, and most of my Python experience is in fairly specialized contexts: Numpy and Cython because I'm a biochem major, ASTs because I had an internship building an embedded domain-specific language on top of Python.

So, could you continue your scale down to the 2-4 range? (or, better yet, is this scale documented anywhere?)
posted by d. z. wang at 8:33 AM on September 4, 2011

I would probably answer by referencing the programmer competency matrix in some way. I don't know that that's what Google would want, but at least it gives you somewhere to start.
posted by anaelith at 9:19 AM on September 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

Um. okay. So I don't remember the bottom end of it, and as I said, it's all relative, you're not going to be compared to other people; you will be interviewed on your technical strengths on the things that you rated higher than others. The scores you give at this stage aren't used except by the recruiters to discern who they will get to interview you in the next stages.

Definitely tell your recruiter you've got OCaml experience if that's where your core programming competency is. With any luck they'll give you an OCaml programming question or two.

As a rough guide, this feels right, but I'm really no expert:

5- Would be able to write software without a book.
4- Occasionally reference book to write a program from scratch.
3- Occasionally reference book to maintain a program.
2- Know basic concepts, can do simple things, but anything complicated requires the book.
1- No knowledge
posted by Jerub at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2011

Thanks for the quick reply, jerub! That helps a lot.

Incidentally, though,

"you will be interviewed on your technical strengths on the things that you rated higher than others"

I was only asked to rate my Python skill---should I have been asked to rate other areas?
posted by d. z. wang at 9:55 AM on September 4, 2011

I expect that part of what he wants to know is whether you can answer questions without getting flustered, and whether you're able to assess your own skill level. Also, unless he's expecting *just* a number it can't hurt to say "You guys employ Guido! He wrote Python! And lots of the world's best Python programmers work there. So in Google terms I think I'm a 6 at best - but anywhere else I'd be comfortable calling myself a 7".
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:42 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scribble the most advance Python you know for returning the number 7 in the box.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:51 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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