[nycphp-talk] Oh... Interviewing

Steve Manes smanes at
Sun Aug 5 19:55:55 EDT 2007

tedd wrote:
> I think your method is excellent, more hr people should practice it.
> The only problem is that the interviewer has to know what they are 
> talking about, in many of the interviews I have taken, that's sadly not 
> true.

And there's the potential problem.  The people doing the tech hiring may 
not be technical enough to maintain a meaningful discussion about the 
finer points of OOP and stored procedures.  Of course, they could pull 
an overworked senior developer off the line and into the conference room 
to tech the candidate.  But my experience here is that too many bit 
jockeys lack the personal skills to interview an applicant.

Anecdote: at a former job (an agency) the CTO was confounded about why 
promising applicants would make it all the way through the process only 
to turn the job offer down.  The package and working conditions were, 
after all, competitive.  She brought me in to handle the tech management 
side of her job.  For my first gig, she wanted me to sit in on the 
engineering interviews happening that morning.  She always left this to 
the most senior developer in the company, who had been there Forever.

He started by asking a couple of standard "how would you do this" 
questions.  Then he suddenly got obnoxious and defensive in a sort of 
Comic Book Guy way.  After watching several of these interviews over the 
next few days I saw a common MO.  The techie was paranoid about losing 
his stature as top dog.  The better the applicant the more contentious 
the interview became, even to the point where he'd ask the applicant 
arcane Java architecture questions when the job was for a Perl 
developer.  No wonder the company was only finding junior developers 
willing to work there.

Job interviews are information sharing events.  The applicant is selling 
himself to you but you're also selling the company to him.  In a 
seller's market like this, the better the applicant, the more the onus 
falls on the interviewer to make the candidate want to work there. 
After all, a really good developer usually knows he's really good and 
s/he probably won't have much patience with an interviewing process that 
feels like a grilling by homicide detectives.

Relevant to nothing, I used to work for a company founded by the former 
head of HR at Cisco.  One of his favorite interview ice-breaker 
questions was, "do you like dogs?"

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