Database Engineer Pride and Prejudice or Interview for Russian Speakers

In the first, you will be more likely to find out if you are a conflicted person and whether you are obeying your superiors, and in the latter – how much you are able to work in a multicultural environment and convey your point of view as correctly as possible, while not bowing to the “high rank” of an argumentator.

So Russian-speaking candidates for DBE roles (I think that with SWE the picture has changed a little, because there, as I said, the preparation is no less standardized than the interview process) are completely unprepared to answer questions in the context of Situation / Task / Action / Results. For myself, I have identified several reasons why this happens:

  1. English – yes, interviews in Europe are conducted in English, sometimes it seems that for some candidates this is a surprise. Nobody looks at your pronunciation, but most candidates have it so bad that they can neither understand the question nor formulate the answer. What is there to formulate, even just say a set of words that would fit the answer. Against this background, our Indian friends, with their terrible pronunciation, look head and shoulders above their compatriots.

  2. Pride (self-confidence) – it’s amazing how often I heard in a review about Russian-speaking candidates “he is too self-confident” (overconfident), usually it sounds when you go wrong with your thoughts, the interviewer gives you a hint, but you ignore it (at best), and at worst, you insist on the wrong answer. I personally do not know of such cases when they would like to confuse a candidate with a hint and lead him astray, this is more likely an interviewer’s mistake and they are very rare, so you should always listen and accept prompts, and not continue to drown yourself. Failure to accept your mistake can also be a reason for rejection.

  3. Prejudice – most of the candidates are trying to get rid of behavioral questions as quickly as possible and show their hard skills, because “you are hiring a developer, so it is only important to write code.” By no means, communication in a team and between teams, the ability to convey expert opinion to managers and argued defense of one’s position is an important part of the work.

Can this be fixed?

I can say that by my example, I realized – yes, it can be fixed, and yes, it will not always be easy.

  • Learn English – this is more difficult than it seems at first glance, in Moscow / St. Petersburg the problem is not so acute and, if you wish, you can get on a project where the customers will be English-speaking, in any other city it can be very difficult. If there is no opportunity to constantly communicate with the customer in English, then most likely you will have to use the services of tutors, sites and applications for teaching the language and look for friends from other countries for language exchange (yes, there are those who want to learn Russian in exchange for English)

  • Story telling – learn to express your thoughts competently, prepare stories about your successes and tell, tell, tell everyone and everyone at work, at home, friends and passers-by :). It is important to lay out the story according to the STAR methodology:

    • How did you identify the problem, what was it?

    • What set of potential solutions did you find (and how it was discussed with the team, if such was the case)

    • How did you solve this problem (with technical details)

    • What is the result of solving the problem (better with metrics, they say there was a query that was executed for 1 hour, after optimization it began to be executed in 1 minute) and what did you do to prevent the appearance of this problem in the future, as well as what did you learn while solving it

As I mentioned at the beginning, when interviewing for a role like DBE, the range of questions on the technical side is incredibly huge, so I would not advise you to pull up something specific before the interview. I know teams that might ask about 3rd normal form, as well as teams that ask about the difference between Mutex and Latches in Oracle. In general it will very much depend on the team that hires you at the moment and it is very different from hiring Software Engineers.


In conclusion, I can say that in my experience, Russian-speaking candidates in most cases really have stronger hard skills than others. They solve the problem faster, write the code cleaner (you can see that they really write it day to day) and are often more tech-savvy, but they still don’t take them.

I cannot say with certainty the reason why this has become a kind of pattern in the Russian-speaking community, that only hard skills are important. For me personally, it was a toxic environment in Russian companies and manager-subordinate relations. Where to say that “your code is g $% # o” is normal, it means that a person just needs to rewrite this code, straightforwardness carved tough but strong specialists out of us, while those fragments that we lost in the process were there were our potential soft skills, which were lost in the depths of consciousness and which are now so needed in the world of developers …

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