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Doing Hiring Right πŸ”—
1636831995  

Most people make Interviewing programming candidates way too much work. I've setup (and taken) more HackerRank style puzzles than a person ought to have in a lifetime. One of the problems with this tool is that it's basically handing dynamite to children. Programmers are in general an over-specific lot that delight in secrets. This results in unnecessary grief and makes you miss out on otherwise good candidates.

The purpose of Job Descriptions, Programming Tests and Phone Screens are all the same. The trouble is that most people neither understand or acknowledge this on either side of the table. They're all just spam filters. The simplest path to success for candidates is to simply spam cold approaches and leverage social proof for everything it's worth.

Rather than allow negative feelings to build up and covert contracts to form, you should simply be up-front about the reality. An "Early Frame Announcement" of why you are doing the process the way you do, and what you expect out of it helps a lot. Managing Expectations will never stop being important in your relationships with those you work with, so you need to do this from the very beginning.

Sometimes you can be too explicit with your expectations. As with anything else measured, people bend over backwards to conform to them. This can be good, when what you measure actually matters. Unfortunately, very few things which get measured in this way actually do.

Employers allow themselves to get bullshitted into hiring people very good at telling them exactly what they want to hear. They then get blindsided when they inevitably find out the candidate, like everyone else, is in fact far from perfect. That said, people do manage to "fake it till they make it" more often than not so this isn't something to get too worried about. As long as they keep doing things you want, who cares if they were less than fully truthful during the interview process? You as the interviewer can't and won't be fully disclosing the facts of the situation on the ground either. What you actually want is a system that exposes the faults and strengths of candidates as quickly as possible.

First, you need to understand that nobody believes the posted requirements in public openings (nor should they). Accept that you will just get spammed. Then you need to tightly focus on your "Must Haves" rather than a laundry list of wants. If there are more than 4 technical skills you need for a given position, the solution you want someone to implement is probably ill-designed. You can't prove an optimal solution exists for anything with more than 3 variables and can't guarantee a closed form solution exists for systems with 5 variables, after all.

If you still have too many candidates to pick from (you will), you should then treat your "want" keyword list much like you would a digital ad campaign. Try and find people with at least a pair of them and that usually winnows you down to a list worth talking to. Don't get too excited here -- you won't be shocked to find maybe 10% of even these can get past a phone screen.

The phone screen's only purpose is to determine whether or not you are being catfished, and telling people this up-front tends to result in better outcomes. Most of the technical questions here should be softballs which can be googled as they talk to you. All you want to see is that they know and care enough at this point to actually get you the right answer. This is all to lull them into a false sense of security until you slip them the hilariously obvious false question. If they don't call you out on making an obviously false statement and try to bullshit you, just hang up.

Lots of people do tests and programming puzzles in lieu of the phone screen now. This is actually a bad idea. Online tests should only be employed in lieu of phone screens when you have too many candidates. Even then, they should be done similar to what the phone screen would have been.

I personally prefer to save tests as prelim for the in person interview. I like making the in-person basically a code review of the test, as this gets you into mind-meld with the candidate quite quickly. This also more closely mimics how they will actually be working, which is what you really want to know. Making this clear to candidates up-front tends to get the best results (which is what you actually want from candidates).

Nevertheless the online code test should consist of one straightforward question, another less so. The ultimate goal is that they should take more time than allotted for most people. This can be established by administering the test to a sample of your existing staff. Be up-front that this is the point, lest they get upset and corrupt the results with cheating and other such chicanery. You should end up seeing an 80% solution from the candidates at the very least.

From here the question remains what to do with the candidates you are on the fence about. Sometimes people just get a case of nerves, or aren't quite experienced enough yet but still can do the work. It's here that you need to understand that all deals can happen at the right price. Making it clear that you're willing to take a risk on a candidate during a probationary period with introductory rates can work out quite well. It's even better when you have a candidate offer this themselves, go-getters like that almost always turn out well.

At this point you should have a candidate and a price. Now you need to take them to lunch and fish for their victim puke. The last thing you need is a whipped dog ready to snap. This is unfortunately common thanks to widespread pathological behavior running rampant in corporate and public schools.

From there the problem is making sure they fit on a team. This means you have to figure out how to make the others invest in the candidate's success and vice versa. Too often things quickly turn adversarial, resulting in bad outcomes that were totally avoidable. That is a pretty in-depth topic which is worthy of it's own post.

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