Hiring in software is broken, the internet reminds us on an hourly basis. Here’s an article, updated a few days ago, on the subject. It quotes a tweet from a month ago:
Technical Hiring is broken. We are hiring for a developer on my team and I have a chance to make this process better. Please let me know what and how you have made it better on your teams, I would love to learn from your experiences.
— Jinsy Oommen (@thegoodoommen) August 19, 2019
I found that with precisely 3 seconds of hard-hitting, investigative googling.
Of course, I’m hardly a neutral bystander in this conversation, having weighed in with my own “hiring is broken” post. And, I take it further than most, holding the opinion that the job interview itself is a highly questionable institution. (If you’re more interested in my rationale, check out this video segment).
But today I’d like to not only lay out the problem, but spend some serious time laying out my own stab at a grassroots solution. To do that, I’ll walk through what I perceive to be the core, underlying problem with the hiring process, and talk about what we’re doing differently, and how we can scale that out to more of the software industry.
You’re an Incompetent Liar
Let’s take off the gloves and be completely honest about the undertones of a job interview.
Come on in and sit down, please, candidate. Now, as you’re obviously aware, the majority of people who come through that door are incompetent liars, looking to trick us into hiring them so that they can goldbrick indefinitely.
Luckily, we’ve developed a series of riddles, questions, homework assignments, and snap judgments that will allow you the generous opportunity to prove that you aren’t human garbage, like the rest of the people in the lobby. Can I get you a bottled water or a coffee before we get started, %&$#er?
At its core, the job interview assumes some combination of incompetence and deceit.
Don’t believe me?
Ask yourself why, then, so much interview question wisdom involves self-congratulatory rhetorical chess games. Ask if they have any questions for you because, GOTCHA, the REAL purpose is not to answer their questions, but to see if they’ve prepared! Or, maybe ask them about their basic math skills. Not because you want to know, but because you want to trip them up and see if they’ll admit error.
This is, at its core, not really a dignified process. It doesn’t treat the company and candidate as two professional adults assessing mutual fit. Instead, it casts them as patient teacher and problem child, respectively.
So, let’s fix that, shall we?