Graduate Software Developer at TPP The Phoenix Partnership

The Phoenix Partnership
TPP

#1

When I applied to these guys I couldn’t find any info online about what to expect once I sent in my application. So I’m writing this in the hope of limiting the suffering these fuckers cause to unsuspecting graduates.

Basically, they go out of their way to be dicks, they may do it for a reason, to see how people cope, or they may just to be dicks, but to subject people to what I had to go through, without any indication what was going to be involved, was cold. If I’d have known I probably wouldn’t have applied- but what do they care right? They have what we want, and we are surplus atm so there it’s no benefit to them to be nice to us - they can treat us like cattle and we will kiss their ass if they offer us a job

Anyway, here’s the process:

If you get passed the initial screening then they call you up at some point for a phone interview, with no prior warning. If you pass that then they say they will send you an exercise to complete.

You get emailed an exercise, you get 2 weeks to complete at least 2 out of 3 exercises. They are to write a binary tree sort, hangman game, noughts and crosses game, in java. If you’ve read the job description then you know it states ‘No experience required!’.

If you succeed at this then they call you in for an interview at their office.

They say on the advert:

‘When we invite you to the interview you’ll also get the chance to meet the people you’ll be working with and experience our fantastic office environment.’

and elsewhere on their site they say:

‘Interviews at TPP are relatively informal, you will be interviewed by people who you would actually work with, not just an intimidating panel of anonymous faces. We’ll ask you a few questions about your suitability, and generally get to know you.’

This was my first interview, and the impression I got from this was that it would be an open honest interview, that theyd be friendly and relaxed and mature - I was wrong.

You get into the building and sat in the waiting room, 2 guys turn up, not friendly, no smiles, serious business - they tell you to follow them, they lead you into a cubicle in the interview room. They ask you questions about yourself - ones like I see you got a 2.1, why didn’t you get a first? How would you rate yourself in terms of intelligence, then go on to say why are you are not at the top in terms of intelligence? and it went on, each question designed to mess with you. Throughout the interview the guy who wasn’t asking the questions was being incredibly rude, I can only imagine on purpose, yawning, not looking at you, when I answered something he didnt like he pulled a face like ‘thats a shit answer’ kind of face. At one point he got up in the middle of me talking and left the room, and came back in a minute or so.They then drew a couple of brain teasers on the board and asked me to solve them. Throughout trying to solve them they kept on asking me to tell them what I was thinking, they do not leave you alone to think for a second, they keep hassling you. I was a bit fried from the initial set of questions, then the mention of the puzzles through me so I was totally shit at both of them, couldn’t think straight with them hassling me.

After that they asked if I had any questions, then lead me out and told me to wait in the waiting room again, no friendly goodbye, totally cold. A women came down in a couple of minutes and told me they would be in touch. They emailed me to let me know I was unsuccessful.

So, conclusions:

They mislead you by giving the impression of a friendly relaxed interview, then they subject you to the most stressful interview they can muster - no where in the job description does it say the role is stressful or anything of the sort

I got the impression the guys were enjoying it - not cool. Being an unemployed graduate atm trying to land a job so that we can get on with enjoying life is not fun, it can be fucking cold and depressing, the system is harsh and unfair and these guys were taking pleasure in it.

If this is the sort of thing they decide to do as a company, and if these are the sort of people who work there, then shit…

Hopefully people now know so they can a. decide if they even want to work for them or b. if they do, then will be prepared for this

Even before the interview I had my doubts, the website gave a feel like team spirit there is all too immature and freshers like, fancy dress and general urgh…

Anyway, thats it.

Good luck with finding a job (preferably not at this company. starve the beast!)


#2

Ephinii!!! I don’t know whether to be relieved or sad that someone else has had an ATROCIOUS interviewing experience with TPP. They actually made me cry at the end of it. :frowning:

They called me up too out of the blue for the impromptu phone interview. I did the exercises, but at the first interview, when I asked how I did, they told me they don’t really pay much attention to them, they just ask to see if “you’re serious about applying.” Nice to know all that effort was really wasted.

My first interview was exactly the same as yours. Two guys firing off pretty uncomfortable questions, the “Why a 2-1”, and yes, the intelligence question as well. Looks like they definitely use the same interviewing script. One of them left abruptly too for a few minutes!

I had the brain teasers, and the constant questions about them too. I think they really want to know how you think/reason out something. What I did was just ask for a couple of seconds, and then I “talked my thoughts through”. It wasn’t too bad.

What you’ve said confirms something I suspected about their interviewing policy. After that interview with the two guys, I was led back to reception to wait…and then the lady came back to escort me to “the next” interview. I thought this was odd, as it seemed clear it was just one interview that day.

Not an Assessment Centre/day. Nor did they didn’t say I’d progressed to the next round. So it seems they really do make the decision about you a couple of minutes after the interview. And they don’t admit this. If you pass the interview, you stay for the next 30 mins/hour. If you fail, they escort you out while lying that “they’ll be in touch when they make the decision.” They’ve already made it.

So I followed the lady to this “surprise” second interview, wondering why they hadn’t mentioned it before. It was a lot more relaxed/nicer than the previous one, and was mostly just a woman going through the contract with you. This is when they spring it on you that 1. you have to have a driving license and 2. you have to have your own car. Neither of which I had. Neither of which were in the job description/requirements.

After that, I was escorted back to the reception area and told someone would see me in 5 minutes. At this point, I started to realize what was going on: that they were deciding about me in these 5 minutes, and if I passed, yay, another unscheduled interview. And if I failed, they would show me the door as if they’d always intended to finish at this time.

5 minutes later, the woman comes down and escorts me to another interview, yet again as if it was always scheduled. With two people who are apparently “senior in HR”. At this point I am starting to SERIOUSLY worry about my train time going back, and how long this ever-lengthening pipeline process will last.

And then…well, trust me, I look back happily on the first interview with those two guys. The third interview murdered me. It started off okay-ish, although the male interviewer made an odd comment about my hair that made me a little uncomfortable.

Then another brain teaser. This one I seriously had trouble understanding and had to keep asking questions about how it worked.

A lot of questions, awkward moments, but as hard as it is to believe, the question that felled me was “What is your favourite book?”

Every book I’ve ever read went out of my head, and in my head I’m silently screaming “Why do you need to know this?!”. Then I think of one.

“What’s the plot about?”

“It’s an academic book, it’s kind of hard to explain.”

“Go on, explain it in three sentences.”

I explained it…but not in three sentences. I don’t know how many. I didn’t count. But he apparently did. Mood changes for the worse.

Him: unpleasantly “Do you know what that tells me about you?”

Me: … … … That I’m creatively reinterpreting the rules?

Female interview: small laugh

Him: unpleasantly No. That’s not what it tells me about you.

I didn’t know what to say. Concentrated not on getting upset by his tone.

After a very very very long while, he tells me that I have argued against him throughout the entire interview.

Me: stares

I frantically tried to think of times at all when I had done that. Obviously he counted the “not obeying the 3 sentence rule” as one. What else? Did he mean when I said I didn’t understand his solution of the brain teaser?? He couldn’t have meant that. It made no sense.

He sat there staring at me, waiting for my response. Panicking, I was about to deny it, saying I hadn’t argued against him at all during the meeting. Then suddenly I realize that making the very denial would be “arguing against him”!

Me: panics … … … says nothing

At that point, he very abruptly and very coldly announced the interview was at an end. He and the woman then walked off without waiting for me as if I ceased to exist.

As I hurried to catch up, he muttered something to her. I missed the words but the tone was unpleasant, again. I don’t know if he intended me to hear it or not.

Back in reception, same old story: told to wait for five minutes. I know what’s coming now. The woman arrives, and tells me they’ll “consider me and be in touch about the decision.” I know she’s lying. I just failed on the 3rd step. I wonder how many more hoops there were to jump through that day, if I’d managed to please Mister Nasty.

Barely got down the street before I had to cry. He had been so unpleasant. The way he terminated that interview, the manner, what he said, just made me feel like dirt. The coldness with which I was shown out. It ruined my confidence for a quite a long while in job interviews. Fortunately I’ve succeeded in my last 3, but I will always remember this guy and this company as my WORST EVER interview experience.

Thank you for posting yours. I’ve glad I read it. Every now and then, the interview with Mr Nasty whirls around in my head, and I try again to wonder what prompted him to suddenly attack me like that and say something that wasn’t true. Now I realize what they were doing: he wanted to test my reaction. Just as they were doing in the very first interview.

If anyone’s reading this, please stay away from this company. They are deceitful about the job requirements. The way they don’t tell you about the way the interview process really works on the day is just plain dodgy and dishonest. And they play mindgames in the interviews. I spent a lot of money coming down to Leeds for this, which seemed like a dream job for me. What a WASTE. Even if I had passed the Mr Nasty interview, the way they conduct themselves means I would have still run from this. Learn from mine and Ephinii’s experiences!


#3

No offence to both of you but you both sound completely ridiculous.
“You get into the building and sat in the waiting room, 2 guys turn up, not friendly, no smiles, serious business”
Do you know why it’s serious business? Because they’re running a business, and that’s serious. What did you expect? A party with balloons and candles and a clown to entertain you? Welcome to the real world.
“How would you rate yourself in terms of intelligence, then go on to say why are you are not at the top in terms of intelligence?”
That’s a perfectly legitimate question. They want to see how you assess your own ability. And I also think it’s perfectly legitimate to ask you why you didn’t get a first. They’re not saying “because you didn’t get a first we don’t want you”. If they meant that, they wouldn’t have invited you to interview in the first place. They’re testing how well you can cope under pressure, and whether you are going to cave and say “I know, I know, I’m awful, I can’t do anything!” or whether you can defend yourself calmly and explain rationally why you think you didn’t achieve a first. If you’re the kind of person that responds to pressure by throwing your toys out of the pram, how are you going to cope with the challenges of the job?
“A lot of questions, awkward moments, but as hard as it is to believe, the question that felled me was “What is your favourite book?”
Every book I’ve ever read went out of my head, and in my head I’m silently screaming “Why do you need to know this?!”. Then I think of one.”
This is probably one of the least demanding questions an interviewer could ask. Compared to “what would you say your weaknesses are?”, or “give an example of a time where you used initiative to help your team achieve its goals”, or “how would your friends describe you?”, I’d say that “what is your favourite book?” is pretty much a breeze. All you have to say is one book that you’ve read and why you like it. They just want to know that you’re a relatively normal person who is smart enough to have read a book, has understood it, and has formed your own opinions on it that you are able to defend from criticism. If you can’t do those things you’re almost certainly not the right person for the job. What are you going to do when people turn to you in meetings? “So, X, what do you think of Y? Should we go this way, or that?” Are you going to offer your opinion on the matter and justify it with reasoning and evidence? Or are you going to panic and let your mind go blank?

Seriously, if this is how you treat job interviews, it’s no wonder you’re unemployed.


#4

Wow, Jimmy, you’re really rude. I can only conclude you work for TPP!

Actually, I didn’t have any problem with the first two guys, who were both young software analysts. I found them very friendly. It was the senior, older HR man who was incredibly rude and unpleasant. Even so, I found the other commentator’s opinion quite valid - you can run a serious business while still smiling and putting your interviewee at ease. You don’t get the best out of people by deliberately scaring them.

As for the book question, what, you think my mind temporarily going blank was an excuse for them to be so rude? Did you even really bother to read what I wrote? If you’re one of those who were recently interviewed, I’m sure you’ll fit just in.

“No offence to both of you but you both sound completely ridiculous.”
A little tip: don’t use sentences with “No offence…but”.

And by the way, I’m not unemployed. And I always go into job interviews expecting to be treated with respect, and not have my interviewer abruptly end the interview and then stalk off, not even bothering to say goodbye or shake hands. And I expect them to be honest about their recruitment system and how many “interviews” you really have that day.


#5

Oh yes, and it is just ridiculous for them to suddenly announce additional job requirements that were in none of the descriptions they advertised. How hard is it to say in the advert: “Must have driving license and own car so you can come into office at a moment’s notice even in the middle of the night.”

Of course now after reading Ephinii’s post, I’m starting to wonder if that was just another one of their tricks to see how much you want the job.


#6

Back in the hoooouse… BOOM - this jimmyrussles character is clearly a prick - oozing prickishness with every keystroke, shirt neatly pressed, ready for a day at work to be a MAN URHG, men are hard, life is hard, URGH

But if your message was a masked attempt for some schooling: It wasnt so much the questions asked but the manner by which they were asked. Also you shouldnt trick people and waist their time - people are not toys an this is not a game. Like I said, I wouldn’t have bothered applying if I’d have known the sort of requirements your company commanded, which would in turn also have given an impression of the sort of people working their…

linneus, you sound like your on the track to a good life, kind and well meaning. This other chap though, hopefully his kind of scrappy mindset will fade away if we begin to evolve more as species

And to give my words more value rather than I being seen as some ‘looser’ or unemployed bum, I got job offers at BT, pwc and Thoughtworks but instead turned them down to work with a smaller more personal company

And a couple of words of advice for future potential candidates;

Your environment and the people you work with sculpt you as a person. Make sure to choose the people who will sculpt your mind wisely.

hand shakes lineus


#7

I’ve applied for the graduate business analyst position at TPP. I’m really shocked to hear of your bad experiences Ephinii and Linneus, TPP seem like such a friendly and relaxed small company from their website. Their website really made me want to work for them, but I’m beginning to doubt that after reading your accounts. However, I’m not really in a position to turn down opportunities, because I haven’t had many replies from grad schemes.

I have a phone interview with TPP this week, this will be my first ever interview, and reading the above has made me really nervous about it. Could you give me an idea of the questions they asked you at your impromptu phone interviews and how long it was? Any help would me much appreciated, thank you :slight_smile:


#8

I’m in the same boat as you ash. I was interested in applying but a few things have put me off, and this post has definitely made me think twice. It is also quite a way from where I’m currently located.

Can you let me know your experiences? I’m not interested in working for a dishonest company with poor working practices. I’m also perfectly aware that people are more likely to go on a message board to complain than they are to give praise, and that some people might have different experiences to the majority.

Can you let me know your honest opinion? Thanks!


#9

Hi Teddy. I had my phone interview this week, although they said at the beginning of it that it was really more of a conversation than an interview, and I found that to be the case. They just asked a few things about me and my skills, and general tickbox things like whether I’d be prepared to relocate around their office, whether I have a driving licence (I don’t), whether I’m prepared to travel, and whether I’m ok with the fact that sometimes you will have to work overtime beyond normal working hours.

So yeah, currently I don’t know whether the bad experiences stated above are the norm at TPP or whether they were exceptions. They said that it might take 6 weeks for them to get back to me on whether I am through to the next stage.

If I do get through, I’ll let you know about my experience with them, at the minute I’m just hoping I get through to the next stage and that they really are the company they portray themselves to be rather than the company that has the poor working practices mentioned above.


#10

Hi, Ash. sorry to reply too late. For anyone else reading waiting for your phone interview, that part was fine, other than the lack of warning. It was quite friendly, chatting just about your motivations for applying. If it’s no longer an impromptu interview, that’s probably a good sign they may be changing their ways. Sounds also good that they asked you re the driving license before dragging you over to Leeds, though they should really put that in the job advert, as it is a requirement, apparently.

Oddly enough, though, I was told at the end of the phone interview that they would send me the coding project to do, not that I’d have to wait six weeks to find out.


#11

Hi Linneus, I think the interview is still impromptu, it’s just that I wasn’t available the first time they called me, and so they left a message. I called them back at close to 5pm, and they said they wouldn’t be able to talk at that time and asked me when I would next be available.

Hmm yeah it’s weird that they don’t state whether or not you need a licence in the actual job description, I hope it isn’t a strict requirement because I don’t have one, and I clearly stated that in the interview. And the reason they didn’t tell me they’d send a coding project is because I’ve applied for the graduate business analyst position, rather than the software developer position. How long did it take them to send you the coding project after the interview? And how soon did they contact you after you had done the project? 6 weeks to get back to you after a phone interview seems like a ridiculous amount of time, so I think I probably didn’t make the best impression and they’re letting me down gently


#12

Hi, ash, they told me during the 2nd onsite interview that they expected their software developers to be on call 24/7 in case of an emergency - something else that wasn’t in the job description. That is the reason for needing a driving license, so if you’re going for a business post, it might not actually be needed.

I was told to expect the coding project within a couple of days; I can’t remember exactly, but I think they were true to their word on that one. I don’t remember waiting. Think when it arrived, they gave about 1 week to do it, but it was stressed you should actually only spend about a couple of hours or so on each exercise. Pretty hard if you have no/little coding experience, and it was gutting to hear at the onsite interview that they barely look at the code, it’s just a test to see if you’re keen enough to bother with it.

I think after the project, they contacted me with another surprise!phone interview maybe within a week? It wasn’t long.

Six weeks does sound long, I fear, but it may be because they have a lot of people applying this time? When I went for my onsite interview, it was just me by myself that entire day, no other applicants.


#13

I see, thanks for all the info linneus :slight_smile: shame they didn’t even bother to ask you about a driving license before they put you through all that. I’ll see what becomes of my application, and hopefully this thread will help others who are thinking about about applying.


#14

Since this thread’s become active again I’ll jump in with my experience. I applied for the software dev job a few months ago and wished I’d seen these comments before I went.

All in all my experience was very similar- reading what they say about the interview on their website led me to believe it would be friendly and mature, a standard “getting to know you” interview.

When I arrived I was directed to the waiting area and sat for about five minutes before a women arrived, indifferently shook my hand, and told me I’d first have a mental maths test. If you’ve read their website you’ll know that at no point is anything like this mentioned or even implied.

Anyway, I was given 15 minutes to complete 2 A4 sides of mental maths problems with the women sitting in a meeting room with me in silence. I only had time to answer about 3/4 of them. Looking back this could have purely been another mind game to knock your confidence before the interview making you think you had done badly already. Maybe it’s just like the coding projects and they pay very little attention to your actual performance?

After this I was sent back to the waiting area and about five minutes later the two guys arrived and directed me to a meeting room for the interview. Their manner was not downright rude but just cold and distant: you were just another face they’d probably never see again.

The interview began with standard why here questions and then moved on to the coding projects. Now I had put a lot of time and effort into these as I hadn’t programmed in Java before and had gone above and beyond what the brief for each project had specified. They asked me to explain decisions I had already rationalised in the “design document” you had to produce along with the code suggesting they hadn’t even read this. One of them then said I should have used this particular method to solve the problem as it was specified in the project brief. It wasn’t, again suggesting they barely knew what what they were asking us to do.

Next was to explain some unseen and unrelated code and then it was on to some classic “bizarre” interview brain teasers. I needed a fair bit of prompting to get the answers to these as I wasn’t really thinking clearly at this point.

Finally the interview finished with some “quick fire” questions starting out with what is your favourite movie and finishing with questions like “where would you rank yourself in your university class?”

Throughout I got the distinct impression they were somewhat enjoying lording their power over yet another unemployed graduate which is not what you expect from an interview panel and not very professional either.

So I was led back to the waiting room and told to wait again. Five minutes later a women arrived and abruptly told me they’d “be in touch once they had made a decision”. I suspected they had already done so at the time but reading the above comments confirmed it- this is simply a lie to get you out the door and you have already failed. I got an email on the Friday of that week to say I had been unsuccessful.

So to summarise their website is misleading about-

The nature of the job (no mention of the 24/7 on call and stressful nature of the job until the interview. It is euphemistically mentioned that you must live close to the office “because of the nature of the work we do” but that is all.)

The requirements for the job (no mention of having driving license and own car until the interview)

Their interview process.

All in all it makes me question what else the website says about what a fun and great place it is to work and leaves me thankful I’m starting work with another company next year.


#15

I’ve been asked to go in for an interview on tuesday, I guess the 6 weeks waiting time was vastly exaggerated. So now I’m in a weird position, seeing that Walker90 has also had a bad experience means that this might be their standard interview procedure. This thread has given me a bad impression about TPP, but again I’m not in a position to turn down opportunities- and having a job is better than being unemployed so I’m going to try and go into the interview and give it my best shot. I’m incredibly nervous about the interview though, this will be my first face-to-face interview, and it seems like it’ll be a very tough and unpleasant one.

Linneus, Walker90 and Ephinii would you be able to give me some more information about the interviews? I was just wondering what questions they ask, beyond those that you’ve already mentioned. It would be really helpful in giving me an idea of what to prepare for. Also, do you remember any of the details of the brain teasers and what you had to work out, were they maths based? I would appreciate any help, it would serve to calm my nerves! :confused:

I’ll let you guys know about my experience with them, hopefully they will have improved for this year, but I won’t hold my breath


#16

Hi Ash- try not to worry about it too much. For me the worst bit about it was how different it was from what I was expecting and how disappointed it left me feeling about the company. You will be going in with a good idea of what it’s really like so that should help.

As you’re going for the business analyst position I expect most of your interview will be very different to mine as much of it centred around coding. I can’t say whether you have the mental maths test for the other positions - certainly there were other people being interviewed at the same time as me and I didn’t see anyone else going for the maths test.

Some bits that may be the same were just standard interview questions such as why do you want to work here etc. and the quick fire questions at the end which consisted of simple ones like favourite movie, favourite food, favourite book and then ones like where would you rate yourself in your university class? They seem to be pretty common questions that they ask.


#17

Also don’t forget it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get it. Everyone here who had a bad experience has gone on to be employed elsewhere


#18

Hi, Ash, it may well be completely different questions, as I was going for the software position, but here you go. I’m copy pasting what I sent to one of the other interviewees who private messaged me with the same question several weeks ago:

Yikes, it’s hard to remember the specifics. I DO remember that during the 1st interview, I wished I had read that book about Google interviews. I remember seeing it on the shelves in bookstores a few years ago, and it had crazy questions which are designed to test how you think. I never bought that book, only skimming it in the store, but wished I had bought it, as a lot of the questions in the first interview were on that lines. You know questions like “If you were shrunk and put in a blender, how would you get out?” The one I had was something like how would you go about estimating how many petrol stations there are in the UK… in otherwords a crazy question with no real answer, but they’re watching you to see how you approach it. So definitely buy that book if you have time. Think it was called “So you want to work with google?”

The first interview also asked some standard questions, and there was also the nasty “Do you think you were the best in the year and if not, why not?” Also, if you didn’t get a 1st, why not?!

The second doesn’t really ask any questions, it’s simply someone going through the contract with you. Although there was nothing in the job description saying you needed a driving license, the woman told me I would have to learn to drive to get the job. They need their workers to be on call 24 hours. Again, this wasn’t in the advert I saw.

The third is with “senior HR people”, who wore suits as opposed to the techies from the 1st. They will look at your CV and ask you questions on it. There were no competency questions that I recall, but nothing too surprising at first…until then out of nowhere they gave me a probability problem! Then came the odd questions such as “What is your favourite book, describe it in 3 sentences”… and caught off guard, I pay attention to the 3 sentence bit.

I think by the time you get to the 3rd interview, they’re expecting to have a good chance of hiring you…which is maybe why the “senior HR” people were so rude to me. Hopefully they won’t be like that to you.

Good luck.


#19

I think a lot of you are misinterpreting the interviews at TPP. I too am interested in joining the company in the future and, quite frankly, am not surprised the interview process is how it is.

Think about the nature of the company. They provide database systems to the NHS and are looking to expand into other markets - internationally. Whether you’re a techy or a marketer, you’re going to be dealing with some pretty unpredictable situations. You’d be involved in meetings where the questions you’l be asked you can’t prepare for and the manner in which you’l be treated even less so. Shaking hands with people before a meeting isn’t necessarily something you’d expect in every culture. I think the interview is giving them an idea of how you’d respond in those sort of situations which employees come across, some more regularly then others.

They were rated the 2nd ‘best small company to work for’ by the times - so they must be doing something right! I’d encourage people to persevere and not take what they saw at the interview to be the way things are there. You may just be throwing away the opportunity of a life time.


#20

That’s ridiculous. What businesses in this climate aren’t facing challenges and need staff ready to cope with all sorts of situation?! Most investment banks and consultancy firms are even more high pressure but aren’t rude to their interviewees, have a dishonest process, and leave vital information out of the job description repeatedly to the point that it looks deliberate.

I for one really felt prepared to deal with all sorts of unpredictable situations after they turned their back on me in the interview and left without shaking hands or saying another word to me. Thanks, TPP, for toughening me up…

By the way, your post reads like an advert for them…if you do already work for TPP, you might want to tone down the “opportunity of a lifetime” stuff to make it a bit more subtle!