Hiring guide for LaTeX Engineers

LaTeX Developer Hiring Guide

LaTeX is a high-quality typesetting system, developed in 1985 by Leslie Lamport, that focuses on the content rather than the appearance of documents. It is widely used for medium-to-large technical or scientific documents but can be employed for almost any form of publishing. LaTeX uses the TeX typesetting program for formatting its output and is itself written in the TeX macro language. It's not a traditional programming language, but a markup language with a syntax closer to plain text. The source of this information is from "LaTeX: A Document Preparation System" by Leslie Lamport and various online resources.

Ask the right questions secure the right LaTeX talent among an increasingly shrinking pool of talent.

First 20 minutes

General LaTeX app knowledge and experience

The first 20 minutes of the interview should seek to understand the candidate's general background in LaTeX application development, including their experience with various programming languages, databases, and their approach to designing scalable and maintainable systems.

How would you create a simple document in LaTeX?
To create a simple document in LaTeX, you would start by declaring the document class with the \documentclass command, followed by the type of document. Then, you would begin the document with \begin{document} and end with \end{document}. The content of the document goes between these two commands.
What are the basic elements of a LaTeX document?
The basic elements of a LaTeX document include the document class, packages, preamble, sections, paragraphs, figures, tables, and mathematical expressions.
Describe the difference between \newcommand and \renewcommand in LaTeX.
\newcommand is used to define a new command, while \renewcommand is used to redefine an already existing command.
How would you create a table in LaTeX?
To create a table in LaTeX, you would use the tabular environment. The \begin{tabular} command is used to start the table, and \end{tabular} to end it. The columns are defined by the argument of the tabular environment, and the rows are separated by the \hline command.
What are the main differences between LaTeX and other typesetting systems?
The main differences between LaTeX and other typesetting systems include LaTeX's ability to handle complex mathematical formulas, its use of markup language to define the structure of a document, and its high quality typesetting output.
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What you’re looking for early on

Does the candidate demonstrate a deep understanding of LaTeX and its applications?
Has the candidate shown ability to problem solve?
Is the candidate able to communicate effectively about complex concepts?
How well does the candidate understand the specific needs of your project or company?

Next 20 minutes

Specific LaTeX development questions

The next 20 minutes of the interview should focus on the candidate's expertise with specific backend frameworks, their understanding of RESTful APIs, and their experience in handling data storage and retrieval efficiently.

How would you handle errors in LaTeX?
Handling errors in LaTeX typically involves checking the error message, finding the line where the error occurred, and correcting the mistake. If the error message is unclear, it may be helpful to comment out sections of the code to isolate the problem.
Describe the difference between the article, report, and book document classes in LaTeX.
The article class is used for short documents and journal articles, the report class is used for longer reports containing several chapters, and the book class is used for real books.
How would you create a custom page layout in LaTeX?
Creating a custom page layout in LaTeX involves modifying the page dimensions, margins, and header and footer styles. This can be done using the geometry and fancyhdr packages.
What are some common packages in LaTeX and what do they do?
Some common packages in LaTeX include geometry for page layout, graphicx for including graphics, biblatex for bibliography management, hyperref for creating hyperlinks, and amssymb and amsmath for mathematical symbols and environments.
How would you create a bibliography in LaTeX?
To create a bibliography in LaTeX, you would use the biblatex package. You would create a .bib file with your references, and then use the \cite command in your document to cite these references. The bibliography is printed with the \printbibliography command.
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The ideal back-end app developer

What you’re looking to see on the LaTeX engineer at this point.

At this point, a skilled LaTeX engineer should demonstrate strong problem-solving abilities, proficiency in LaTeX programming language, and knowledge of software development methodologies. Red flags include lack of hands-on experience, inability to articulate complex concepts, or unfamiliarity with standard coding practices.

Digging deeper

Code questions

These will help you see the candidate's real-world development capabilities with LaTeX.

What does this simple LaTeX code do?
Hello, World!
This code prints 'Hello, World!' on a document. It's a basic LaTeX document structure.
What will be the output of this LaTeX code?
This is the introduction.
This code creates a document with a section titled 'Introduction' and the text 'This is the introduction.' under it.
What does this LaTeX code do?
Cell1 & Cell2 \\
Cell3 & Cell4 \\
This code creates a table with two rows and two columns. The cells contain the texts 'Cell1', 'Cell2', 'Cell3', and 'Cell4'.
What does this LaTeX code do?
\caption{Sample image}
This code inserts an image named 'image.png' into the document. The image is centered and takes up half of the text's width. A caption 'Sample image' is also added under the image.

Wrap-up questions

Final candidate for LaTeX Developer role questions

The final few questions should evaluate the candidate's teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, assess their knowledge of microservices architecture, serverless computing, and how they handle LaTeX application deployments. Inquire about their experience in handling system failures and their approach to debugging and troubleshooting.

Describe the difference between inline and display math mode in LaTeX.
Inline math mode is used for mathematical expressions within a line of text, and is initiated with $...$. Display math mode is used for equations that appear on their own line, and is initiated with \[...\] or the equation environment.
How would you create a complex mathematical formula in LaTeX?
Creating a complex mathematical formula in LaTeX involves using the math mode and the appropriate mathematical symbols and commands. For example, fractions are created with the \frac command, integrals with the \int command, and so on.
What are the main differences between LaTeX and TeX?
TeX is a low-level markup and programming language, while LaTeX is a set of macros built on top of TeX that provides a high-level interface. LaTeX is easier to use and provides more features, but TeX gives more control over the typesetting process.

LaTeX application related

Product Perfect's LaTeX development capabilities

Beyond hiring for your LaTeX engineering team, you may be in the market for additional help. Product Perfect provides seasoned expertise in LaTeX projects, and can engage in multiple capacities.