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It's Not Just A Programming Problem.

It's Not Just A Programming Problem.

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Over at CodingHorror, Jeff riffs on problems hiring for development positions, when many interviewees aren't able to answer the most basic of code questions.

Well, I'm sure this is a common story in any skills-or-knowledge-driven industry where there's a minimum bar. For example, we have similar issues when hiring infrastructure support people. We typically advertise for senior staff with 5+ years experience.

The resumes we see are often filled with excitement-inducing hyperbole: "25 years experience on Windows NT-based systems!""Wrote the book on TCP/IP!"; "I like computers!"

In my experience, it's statistically likely that if someone lists strong-to-godlike TCP/IP skills, chances are they won't be able to describe a 3-way handshake.

One of my colleagues developed a pretty good canary question for people wanting to support Windows and claiming years of AD experience: "What tool do you use to manage Users and Computers in Active Directory?" He estimates 75% of interviewees fall at that hurdle.

In my last job, when it was more topical, we'd open by asking NT Domain candidates to name a couple of NetBIOS node types (yes, I was employed there a long time ago now), and for bonus points, how they were different. Anyone getting that question right was basically technically OK'd and breezed through the other questions; they just needed to impress us more than the other (two from thirty) people that got it right.

As a quick suggestion to prospective employees at any firm where I'm an inteviewer: a good portion of the interview is likely to involve going through your resume (this isn't a marketing job, you know!), so if you've put something in there, please do expect to be asked questions about it!

This post brought to you by the numbers 3 and 5, and the word "fizbuzz". Weird.

  • Actually I seem to remember it was "What is WINS?" as the canary question.  When they didn't know what WINS was, you STILL asked the NetBIOS node types question.

    I also remember when you were going through somebody's resume and they had put as one of their hobbies "Producing high quality midi music files", to which you were commented: "I think I'll be the judge of that".  

    I'm sure they felt even more at ease after that.

  • Hey Jodee, it's my soapbox, I can misremember what I want!

    And if you're right, well, that's just sticking to the plan, isn't it?

    There was still a chance that someone might have forgotten the WINS acronym but.... nah, you're right, it probably was a bit OTT.

  • "Producing high quality midi music files"

    I am adding that to my resume today.

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