Ever since I struck out on my own, I have done far more job
interviews and storytelling than my entire carrer thus far.
Most of the interviews for development and testing contracts are
talking through problems.
tell a story, as this is how people internalize
your attributes and form emotional investments.
I can talk about the lessons I have learned or the design
of a thing
until I am blue in the face, but it won't matter
unless people know where they come from.
This is because people don't engage the predictive engine in
if you don't tell a story. People don't
get into camshaft thinking
(imagination) without emotionally investing in knowing how it works,
and as such are in "internal monologue" mode. A story is the
only thing this mode of thought can comprehend or output, and is a necessary
to get into the mode of thinking where
imagination "fills in the blanks". By the time they get there,
diagrams and so forth are unnecessary unless you are interested in
mass production which comes for free with software.
When you tell a story, people "think past the sale", and start to
see themselves doing business with you unconsciously.
If you don't tell a story, people default to their lower
consciousness which is stimulus-response.
In this case, if you aren't attractive from a "mode 1" (judging a
book by it's cover) point of view, good luck.
For knowledge work, this is only the case for established
intellectuals with some degree of fame.
This is why everyone has to do this "online brand" thing; eventually
somebody fishing will see you in the net and haul you in.
That said, your online brand can only get you in the door.
From there people in the knowledge trades have an innate skepticism
beaten into them via the scientific method.
This has to be overcome, and the way this is usually done is by
telling stories which the interlocutor identifies with.
The whole goal is for both the interviewer and evaluator to be
congruent with what each expects from the other.
This is why it always ends up being the senior development staff
that does the heavy lifting here.
They've heard this story enough times to sniff out the little
details that break them out of their suspension of disbelief (also
known as "benefit of the doubt").
This has a high rate of success, as it is difficult to fake having
reasoning skills, and being able to practically apply them.
It's also difficult to fake the little details which we encounter in
the course of our daily toil.
Difficult, but not impossible.
I remember setting up those little programming puzzles on hackerrank
for the candidates to chew through.
My colleague who was working on this with me on it at the time had
some anxiety as to whether they were being specific enough in the
description of the problems.
I thought of how the application process ought to feel both to the
applicant and evaluator in order to maximize the potential they can
show and give ample opportunity to display their deficiencies.
The job-seeker's story is supposed to be a gauntlet of increasing
difficulty, hopefully revealing the core qualities needed in our
In that vein, I suggested we nail down problem 1 as well as
possible, while leaving the second vague.
This gives people the ability to show both how efficiently they
operate when things are concrete and how quickly they pick up on our
"trick" question which is ill-defined and start giving us options.
The two hardest problems in software are choosing optimal algorithms
and reducing vague requirements into concrete, testable execution
Everything else is straightforward testing, investigation and annealing
This is not to say that software organizations don't have other
(mostly logistical and marketing) problems to solve, but that these
are the core ones of interest to engineering.
As an interviewer you have to lead the horse to water and see if
The interviewer should focus on getting them interested enough in
their stories that the evaluator shares some back.
Reciprocity is the best sign of developing emotional investment.
You may have noticed I'm telling a story right now.
It's uncanny how well this works on you even when you know how
the sausage is made
I've been on both sides of the table when it's clear that "they know
you know, and you know they know" based on the responses.
In these cases breaking
the fourth wall
is even more convincing of a story as it too is
This is unfortunately a rarity on both sides.
All the world's a stage, and we are merely players.
A performance cannot truly be great unless both sides can believe
it and find more significance therein than their reality
This is despite
foreknowledge that it's a performance
and not a demonstration
To succeed, one has to get fully sheep-dipped
into the hyperreality
you want to hop into.
On that note, I will be putting out a series of war stories soon
both as practice for upcoming contracts and for your enjoyment.