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Interviewing Experienced IT People? 835

Posted by timothy
from the experience-is-not-just-a-euphemism dept.
thricenightly writes "After more than 20 years in IT I've learned that the most valuable people in a team are frequently the old timers. Young pups straight out of college might (think they) know all the latest buzzwords and techniques, but in the real world, where getting working products delivered on time and on budget is of paramount importance, people who have been doing the job for a decade or two tend to be the people I'd rather be working alongside. I've recently been elevated to a position where I get to interview and choose those who get hired in my department. Although I'm very much focused on choosing the right person for the role regardless of age, experience or whatever, it's probably fair to say the more mature applicants will get a more sympathetic hearing from me than they might from most other interviewers for IT roles. The question is, what do I ask older applicants to get them to demonstrate the value of their experience? My current gambit is something like 'IT is seen as a young man's game. My next applicant after you is 23 years old. What do you know that he doesn't?' This gets responses ranging from the vague to the truly enlightened. All next week I'm interviewing for a number of senior software designer and developer roles. What should I be asking of the more experienced applicants, and what responses should I be looking out for?"
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Interviewing Experienced IT People?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:21PM (#25823723)
    You insensitive clod! [youthrights.org]
  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SparkleMotion88 (1013083) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:23PM (#25823757)
    Are you looking for ways to justify hiring more experienced candidates instead of less experienced candidates? Are you worried that the older folks you interview won't outshine the younger folks like you want them to? If you want to build a successful team, you should probably just make hiring decisions based on who you think will be more successful. Your pre-interview biases can only hurt your company and the industry.
  • by ronys (166557) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:24PM (#25823777) Journal

    And what have you learned from them?

  • Re:What they bring (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cillian (1003268) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:26PM (#25823803) Homepage
    It's very easy to suddenly whip out the discrimination card, but it's perfectly valid in this case to prefer older applicants who have more experience in the job. Obviously, if there is a preference for older applicants even if they don't have more experience, something is up, but it doesn't sound like that's the case. (The original poster wasn't entirely clear about this, I'll accept).
  • by spydum (828400) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:28PM (#25823825)
    I think I've found that hiring passionate people, whether loaded with experience, or fresh out of college is the key. Someone who is passionate about technology and their job will ultimately lead you to a better work place, and will continually strive to improve on their work. Some people may be good because they've been doing it for a long time, but if they don't particularly care about the job, you can't expect them to continually want to do great things for your company, nor stick around all that long.
  • by scarpa (105251) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:29PM (#25823847) Homepage

    Ask them to talk about the mistakes they've made or project failures they've been a part of.

    If they claim it's never happened, or it wasn't their fault, etc, then they probably are lying or stupid.

    If they can explain the failure, why it happened and how they've avoided the same thing in subsequent projects you've probably got a good one.

  • no! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:30PM (#25823865) Homepage

    Don't mention age! Don't mention you are discriminating applications based on age (even if you phrase it as being "more sympathetic"). You are setting yourself up to get sued bigtime!

    I consider it to be a major problem that nobody in IT is willing to train junior-level employees up, anyway. But if you are convinced you need gray hair to do the job, ask them to give examples of projects they have lead in the past. That will give you a legal, meritocratic approach to being a discriminatory bastard.

  • ... and describes he's having the following problems delivering a product out the door to a customer site that's overseas with engineer support staff that have been up and traveling for 24 hours to get there.

    Do you

    A) Tell him "Call tomorrow- it's quitting time"
    B) Bend over backwards to help.
    C) Grouch about it
    D) Solve it in 6 key strokes or less.

    We have quite a few 'old timers' around our organizations. They think they 'know' it all, too, and they don't. In fact they're much more of a hindrance. We just, after a 3 months of complaining, got one to agree to replace the motherboard in a sun station- we had gone so far as to SCOPE the signal lines on the ports to point out there was a voltage issue... and that didn't even phase them.

    A newer younger engineer would have simply yanked the board and dropped a new one in- which, btw, worked perfectly.

    There are no right or wrong questions- it's the attitude towards helping out your fellow coworkers that's important. They don't teach it in school but the industry does burn it out. If they're older and they still have the right attitude (including how to help skunk work a project that doesn't have funding through leftover hardware) then they're the right choice.

    If they don't have the helpful attitude, they're the wrong choice- age independent.

    I work with a multitude of qualified and unqualified IT folks through the military and other contractor sites. All in all it's all about the attitude- that is the one thing I can recall about every single site. Most of the young ones are better with that... but I'm open minded.

  • by juuri (7678) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#25823909) Homepage

    oh and ...

    IT interviewers tend to be terrible as the person who is interviewing proceeds to treat the applicant like auditing a software application. The same terms, styles and such simply don't apply. They are people just like everyone else, only with less showering and better toys.

    You interview IT people much like you would interview anyone else:

    You ask them deep questions, that require more than a few words to answer.

    You put them in problem situations they would normally face and find out their process for working through them.

    Get a feel for how comfortable they are with you and other interviewers, culture fit is incredibly important for small organization sizes.

    Actually have READ their resume and ask them questions on some of the more small or trivial things.

    Ask questions about where they want to be in 5 years, how are they with shifting priorities, what's their work goal for the next two months. Get a feeling for how they deal with change over time.

    Ask them what they dislike most about their field. What they LOVE about what they do.

    Get them to describe any long term projects they may have been part of and what they feel was their ultimate contribution to it being a success.

    Ask them about their worst fuck up, everyone has one. This says a lot about a person when they can easily tell you one and how they learned from it. ... and for fuck's sake don't ask lots of stupid little nit picky questions unless you are sure they are embellishing on their field knowledge. Asking someone about the different arguments to a specific command or sub call shows that *you* don't get it. There's more in IT than anyone person can know, find out instead how they go about learning new things and how actively they do so.

  • Im young (Score:1, Insightful)

    by greatfool66 (1409367) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#25823911)
    I'm young and I'd rather work with young people because I find they learn new things more quickly and are easier to teach. OP is older and would rather work with people his own age because of their experience and wisdom and reliability or whatever. Admit that your preference has to do with your own age and move on.
  • Experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Foofoobar (318279) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#25823913)
    As a classic example, I often point to a database design and a zipcode field. A newbie (and for that matter most people) would declare that zip codes need to be stored as integers and should they need to be formatted with a dash, that can be handled in the application layer. Now this is true in a general sense except for one thing... east code zip codes start with a zero. What will happen when you cast that zip code starting with a zero into an integer field? It's going to trim that leading zero.

    Now an old timer will know this and set the zipcode field as a varchar.

    The newcomer will not understand how to create objects as well as an old timer will generally as well. An old timer has alot of experience in creating objects and relationships and they have an easier time duplicating real life scenarios into a program or database.
  • by Ringl (895323) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:33PM (#25823929)

    Passion is good. But the ability to learn and problem solve is better.

    Passionate people go all out on everything. Successes are huge successes and mistakes are huge mistakes.

  • by haystor (102186) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:34PM (#25823955)

    That good GPA indicates you passed up a lot of opportunities that you'll regret later.

  • Re:Slashdot ID (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qoncept (599709) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:35PM (#25823985) Homepage
    I think this is exactly what the OP was talking about. Sure, you're a huge computer nerd and can code anything and make it work, but that's a very small part of a software dev job. Collaborating with others, sharing ideas, designing, working with customers, leveraging your position to gain resources, convincing management why you're right, scheduling, so on and so on.. you don't get that coding at home and you don't get that at school.

    I was fortunate enough to be thrown in to it and gain the experience in the Air Force, and how anyone "gets their foot in the door" blows my mind. I have some very smart friends who are very capable, but in an actual work environment, they'd be completely lost, and that goes for most everyone fresh out of college with a computer science degree. Experience is what makes you useful. An experienced programmer doesn't need experience in a particular language to be at least servicable, but a hotshot young gun could know a language like the back of his hand and be worthless.

    I'm not saying I don't think you are capable or even that I don't think you have the experience. But whereas you (I'm assuming semi-jokingly) refer to how long you've been on slashdot as evidence that you know what you're doing, I would refer to the projects I've worked on and not only the work I've done, but how I've affected the team working on them as a whole and how they've affected me.

    Which brings me to the OP's question. Some of the important things I listen for in interviews is how people have dealt with adversity. Name a problem you had on a project and how it was overcome. Name a time your solution was wrong and how you dealt with it. Tell me about a time you had a problem with someone on your team and how you overcame it. The technical stuff is a given -- look at their resume. I want to know how this guy will make us successful.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yiddishkite (525633) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:35PM (#25823989)
    I'd check with HR first on your interview language. Essentially, asking a candidate "Why should I hire someone old over someone young?" certainly could be interpretted as illegal.
  • A lawsuit? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trojan35 (910785) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:36PM (#25824013)

    My current gambit is something like 'IT is seen as a young man's game. My next applicant after you is 23 years old. What do you know that he doesn't?' This gets responses ranging from the vague to the truly enlightened. All next week I'm interviewing for a number of senior software designer and developer roles. What should I be asking of the more experienced applicants, and what responses should I be looking out for?

    I think what you're doing is probably a worker's rights violation (disclosing others candidates' ages, asking candidates to make a case for a job based on their relative age). Even if it isn't or you don't get sued, no good employee would want to work for someone who interviews like that.

    You should not be a manager. Nor should you be interviewing anyone. You represent your company extremely poorly and open them up to legal action. Or did I (and the editors) just get trolled?

  • Experience Ageism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:38PM (#25824029)

    While I'm sure your heart is in the right place, you're looking for something specific and are labeling it in a very unfortunate way.

    There's nothing wrong with wanting experience. Try to bear in mind, though, that this experience COULD be obtained in other ways. Fill in whatever examples you want, but YEARS OF LIFE are not necessarily at all what you are looking for - instead you want to know what was learned in that time.

    So, by that metric, "My next applicant after you is 23 years old" is a horrible lead-in. You're just begging for an old-coot response, and that kind of environment certainly doesn't make HR Directors smile.

    Try something more like, "Tell me something about your work experience that qualifies you for a 'senior level' position". Or, "Give me an example of a time where your work experience really worked in your favor."

    Again, replace the desire to find age with finding experience instead. It really, mostly means the same thing, and it doesn't have to be IT-related experience either. One of my best employees used to drive trucks, and I consider him very experienced indeed.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:38PM (#25824037) Journal

    There was a trend to hire young IT people because certifications were the thing to have, and younger people work longer hours for less money. The problems with those types of qualifications are starting to bite the IT industry on it's collective ass.

    If you want qualified personnel, ask questions that quantify them as a good technical and social fit. Pick some script language they don't know. Ask them if they would take a few minutes to create a 'hello world' script. If all they know is one programming language as seen via one particular IDE... well, it's something you want to know.

    It's odd, but hobbies can tell you a lot or nothing about an individual. If they skydive twice a month on average, it says something. If they are working on an OSS project and can show you the sourceforge page... that says something.

    There are other considerations; There are not many young Cobol programmers. If an applicant was invovled with the team that implemented X.25 for a large IT company back in the 90s, he's probably a better fit for X.25 network systems than a 23 year old would be.

    If all you need is a [name your language here] monkey... you can find that in any age.

    Look at your requirements, find a good match to that. Age does not dictate value, but experience can. Anyone of any age 'can' have the right experience, but statistically, it usually works out a bit lopsided.

  • Re:What they bring (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Techguy666 (759128) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:39PM (#25824047)
    I don't have mod points but I would agree with the previous post. Even implying that age is a consideration in any way would just invite a lawsuit. When you say the old timers are more capable of "getting working products delivered on time and on budget", how do you measure this? Ask questions that might flesh out whether your measure of deliverables is the same as your potential hiree's measure of deliverables.

    What you want is not so much an employee that is necessarily older but an employee with predictable skills, attitude, and way of thinking (or at least tolerable) in your eyes. As a bonus, you end up with the most compatible person for the role, regardless of age.

  • by RotateLeftByte (797477) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:43PM (#25824115)

    Don't ask the old guys
    "about where they want to be in 5 years"

    They don't give a toss as long as they are coding/testing etc.
    Take it from me, once you get to a certain age, you don't give a shit about the greasy pole.
    They know their limitations and thus can work within them and get on with the job.
    And yes, I have called an old boss of mine a dipstick.
    He didn't give me the sack. He just labelled me as an awkward bastard as what I told him about the project was true and it saved his ass.

    I'm 55 and happlily desiging complex systems. I don't want to be a manager or team leader. I'm a Designer/coder/Architect/General Dogsbody who will tell you whats what with a proposal/project. Once my new boss understands that, we generally get along fine. Which is why I am a contractor and not a permie. I'm no threat to their job.

  • by GuyverDH (232921) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:48PM (#25824221)

    You don't get rights just because you're young, old, black, white, yellow, pink, blue, male, female, etc...

    Yes, all people are created equal, that does not imply that all people ARE equal.

    Experience matters, as does intelligence, attitude and aptitude.

    If you can say you have the experience that someone older has, as well as the attitude and aptitude of the older applicant, then you are equal, if you don't have that experience, attitude or aptitude, then you aren't, it's as simple as that.

    It's not age discrimination, it's making a decision weighted on key factors that mean more than any education.

    I'd rather hire someone with years of experience, a can-do attitude and the technical aptitude that enables them to almost intuitively understand a system or troubleshoot a problem, than someone with only a few years of experience, a PHD and a "I'm too good for your job" attitude any day.

  • Way To Get Sued (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nick_davison (217681) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:49PM (#25824231)

    My current gambit is something like 'IT is seen as a young man's game. My next applicant after you is 23 years old. What do you know that he doesn't?'

    It is illegal to discriminate against anyone over the age of 40. (For the US. Differs elsewhere.)

    A question like that demonstrates, clearly, that you see age as a factor.

    You see it in terms of encouraging older applicants.

    People who don't get what they want are often somewhat bitter and tend to remember things differently.

    They are going to simply see, "He openly voiced an issue with age. I'm over 40. I didn't get it. I'm suing."

    Lawsuits aren't about who's right and wrong. They're about how much it costs you to defend yourself even when you are right. Your company may settle, even though you know you're in the right, to avoid court costs. They may win but still be out the tens of thousands it cost to defend themselves. Either way, you're the idiot who asked a stupid question and cost them a fortune.

    Don't put age in to any question. Don't put gender in. Don't put marital status in. Don't put sexuality in. Don't put race in. Just leave them alone.

    If you really want to give older people a chance, ask a question that's so removed from "age", no one can sue you over it. Try, "We've talked about specific experiences. What do you think the benefit of your culmulative experience is?" Then the guy who's got 20 years of it can be guided to what you're looking for.

    But mention age, sex, race, sexuality, marital status, etc. and you're begging to get hurt.

    You'd never ask, "I've got a male coming in next. Tell me how your being a female gives you an advantage he doesn't." or "I've got a white guy coming in next, tell me how the experience of growing up black in America helps give you the edge." Don't be stupid enough to do the same thing with age.

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:55PM (#25824345)

    Try this one: "if we paid for additional training, or gave on-the-job support for it, what skills would you pursue"? And since you want experience, but you won't want to hire people who've reached their level of incompetence, ask them how much higher up the skills list they think they can go, and what they're doing to pursue that.

    And do ask "what documentation you've written is still in use, and where"? Then go read it, if you can.

  • Re:Wrong idea! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fuckinshitmotherfuck (1400835) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:57PM (#25824383)
    Ask the exact same questions to both age groups. Simple. If the age group with more experience cannot use it adiquately in an interview, the experience does them no good. I consider people in two types, learners and those who I will not give a job.
  • by SuurMyy (1003853) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:57PM (#25824397) Homepage
    People are different. Some people can do the same things for decades and not learn a thing. I know a 60-yo developer who still says that X is going to take two weeks, when I can say instantly that it's more likely to take 6 months.

    Then again there are those who live and also learn. From these people you should expect to see e.g. some of the following:

    1. Ability to see what's relevant and what is not. Experienced people should be able to prioritize well, and see the forest from the trees. Junior people often pay attention to things that aren't all that relevant, i.e. miss the big picture.

    2. More practical, less idealistic. Experienced people accept that the purpose of most companies is to make money, not to use emacs where it doesn't fit.

    3. Better w/people. Experience helps w/dealing w/people. Many find the correct balance between hard and soft w/time. You should know when to push things, and when not to.

    4. More experience means more experience in many areas. People who have lived for long tend to have better understanding of a wide variety of issues ranging from history to psychology to business and politics. More knowledge and more experience means that they can see things more clearly and come up w/stuff the young ones cannot, because they don't have the equal processed information databased between their ears.

    5. They have made many mistakes from which they have had the chance to learn. I know I have already done my share of mistakes, and I have worked very hard to not to repeat them. Within this process of self-perfection lies the potential for true greatness.

    There' surely are many more things, but here's my quick 2 cents.
  • which are like Burger Flippers.

    They will write code for near minimum wage or under $25,000 a year with a comp sci degree or Microsoft certification. Usually aged 22-30, no spouse, lives at home with parents, and works 80 hour weeks with no extra pay.

    But does a sloppy job and systems crash 12 times a day or more, but good enough to get work done.

    The 35 to 65 aged IT workers will draw too much salary via their experience and will be worth $45,000 to $150,000 a year as Master Programmers. They will do quality work and the computer system never crashes because they close every object they use and free up memory and other advanced programming techniques. But since quality takes longer to code that sloppiness the Bit Flipper is usually hired over the Master Programmer as most managers don't understand how computers or programming works and hires and keeps the ones that can code the fastest. Not the best at the job, not the higher quality work, and not the more experienced or professional either.

    Bit Flippers are usually narcissistic and selfish, or more like egomaniacs, but they tend to keep to themselves and write code most of the day while cussing out coworkers and managers under their breath.

  • by Lanthis1 (827320) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:59PM (#25824425)
    Obviously your age and experience have not prepared you for management. If you insist upon being a manager, develop an innate ability to read people, and pick them for their skills as well as their potential. This is why managers are not hardcore code monkeys, but instead people handlers.
  • by JoeFromPhilly (792856) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:01PM (#25824459)
    I think I would be unsatisfied with any candidate that didn't recognize that it depends on the project. But what do I make of the wrong answers? Do they really not understand the idea of requirements? Did they recognize it but didn't want to argue with someone they were interviewing with? It's still an interesting question, although it might be a little more interesting if they were given an example system to prioritize for.
  • by Rastl (955935) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:01PM (#25824465) Journal

    One common thing I noticed on resumes of younger IT candidates was the '18 month bounce'. The string of jobs they list all had right around 18 month durations. Which is just enough time to get familiar enough with a technology/process and put it on your resume before hunting for a new job.

    The older candidates had longer stretchs of time at companies unless there was reorganizations/acquisitions or other events outside of their control.

    I think it's a mindset thing. I don't know if younger candidates understand that a pattern of leaving just when you should be starting to add real value is a very bad thing to do to the company that hired you. It may be a 'what can you do for me' mindset.

    Yes, I'm a bit of a codger myself in the IT field. When I was interviewing I would always ask what the candidate could do for the company. It's amazing how many of the candidates had no idea how to answer that but had plenty of statements of what the company could do for them.

    If an interviewer asked me what you did I would thank them for their time and stand up to leave. If they don't know the difference between almost two decades of relevant work experience and a newly minted college degree then I don't want to work there much less spend the time explaining it to them.

  • Re:Experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ma8thew (861741) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:03PM (#25824489)
    This seems such a trivial question as to be laughable. In my sixth form computing course (high school level) we were taught not to use integers for things like phone numbers. Anyone who's spent five minutes with a database would know this.
  • by vilain (127070) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:04PM (#25824515)

    Especially when the candidate says with a smile "These things must be done carefully or you hurt the spell".

    Yes, it actually happened in a job interview in the early 90's for a programming manager position. I expressed concern that I've never managed people, only coded. They took that to heart and hired a manager.

    Then again, a friend asked a company what they use for their code repository. The interviewer was mystified when my friend excused himself from the interview after the interviewer replied "Clearcase". My friend's position was that any company who's been sold useless crap at the CIO level rather than using ones that actually work isn't a place where he'd want to work. Seems he's had to deal with 30-minute Clearcase check-in times over VPN. Subversion and CVS "just work" but they weren't the corporate standard in the newly acquired company.

    Yes, I've been around for 20+ years but that doesn't give me the edge on a 20-somthing kid who will work long hours and weekends. Been there. Done that. Lost a couple toes. Hire for the job. If you want people to swap war stories with, go to the bar at a LISA meeting.

  • by Old97 (1341297) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:04PM (#25824537)
    Regardless of the age of my interviewee, I ask "why" a lot. I have the person describe what they did in this or that position or job and what decisions they made or contributed to. When they finish telling me about some decision, I always follow up with "why". Their answer will generally tell me whether or not the person is lying or exaggerating their role, but it also tells me a lot about their reasoning process. I'm not much concerned about whether or not I agree with their decision as much as how they arrived at it. As for old geezer (like me) oriented questions, you could ask about what they know from 20 years ago that still applies today. Make them be specific though. I'd also ask them to talk about how they learn and how they help their colleagues learn and grow. When I interview the "young 'uns" I ask questions about the aspects of development that aren't as much fun or as glamorous to see if they are serious. I put them into decision making mode and when they give me an answer, I ask them why. From my perspective, oneâ(TM)s abilities to reason, learn and share knowledge trump expertise in some technology. Technology changes all the time.
  • The Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:06PM (#25824557) Journal
    Our interviews always feature "The Question".

    The question is this:

    Given a software project such as (briefly describe a project the candidate might typically be asked to handle), how would you do it? What steps would you take?

    We then let them speak. Everytime they stop speaking, we say "And then what would you do?"

    The Question is terrific for evaluating a person's approach to software development. For example:
    • Do they question the necessity of the project, or do they assume that managment is always right?
    • What software engineering practices do they mention?
    • To what extend do they involve the user?
    • Do they think that once the software is released, the project is over?

    and so on.

  • by pushf popf (741049) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:06PM (#25824563)
    I don't want to generalize much, but there is a tendency for older IT folks to fall behind, often far behind, the tech curve. You know, as we get older, we have other priorities which is OK, but you want that experience they have, but you also want someone who can take your company forward. But older IT folks are also very capable to get upto speed on newer tech often quite quickly.

    You may require a specific skill set or technology, but the reality is that math and customer service hasn't changed all that much.

    The servers need to work, the apps need to run and the customers and users need to be happy. If you need someone to twiddle something in the Next Hot New thing, hire the old guy and get him a code monkey.

    Additionally, what the employee doesn't do is likely to be as valuable as what they will do. By the time someone hits their 40's or better, they're unlikely to say "screw the company" and fly off for week long drunken orgy with your secretary. They're also unlikely to do socially inappropriate things in front of customers or do really stupid things with your hardware like yanking good drives on a production machine "to see if the RAID works".

    If you hire the right person, he's also likely to know how to cover your butt when something bad happens, where the young guy with nothing to lose would be just as happy to throw you under the bus.
  • by internerdj (1319281) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:08PM (#25824595)
    Yep experience matters and some times in a bad way. A can-do attitude? Yes. Technical aptitude? Yes. Experience? Maybe. If a person isn't willing to work with the team then you don't want them on your team. I've met plenty of people that are unwilling to listen to a good answer from a young person because the young person is young and by extension inexperienced. But that young person is closer to school, meaning they learned from not just your mistakes but the mistakes of the industry over the past 30 years and very likely the youngsters were playing with real-world code long before they ever could have counted it experience. Not that that is all there is to experience but don't ignore the youngsters.
    I've been writing software for nearly 15 years and real world stuff for almost 10 and I was supporting friends and relatives with IT stuff long before that. On my resume you see 5 years professional employment. Plenty of kids getting out of school now have been writing stuff since I started, have no "professional" experience, but have been cutting their teeth on open source for years.
  • by demi (17616) * on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:10PM (#25824627) Homepage Journal

    Funnily enough, I've had the opposite experience: people who are younger, in terms of experience or age, are a lot more positive in their opinions and close-minded than older or more experienced people. I don't have a lot of theory around this, except that a more experienced person has had a lot more opportunity to be proven wrong about their preconceptions.

    This matches my own personal experience. I can really only compare my "old" self with my "young" self, but I would say that the young me was more confrontational and irritatingly positive (you can use Perl for everything!), and more willing to do a lot of pointless after-hours work and be oncall. He was a lot less reflective and somewhat less rational regarding his decisionmaking. He had little broad perspective and familiarity with a few technologies that looked to him like all there was to know.

    The older me is more knowledgeable, certainly, and more familiar with lots of "allied" tasks associated with programming. I'm a lot better at handling people. I'm a lot more willing to experiment or investigate new technologies for something rather than relay what's already in my toolbox.

    This might seem paradoxical, but it makes sense to me. An inexperienced person has probably had few revelations like the hg example you give or using a functional programming language on a real project. An experienced person has a good feel for what kinds of tasks are no big deal and what takes a lot of time.

    All that said, I dislike very much the idea that programmers are characterizable by their languages, their age or experience or their domain. Frankly I would leave that out of it and just do a straight interview (though you may be interested in analyzing differences after the fact).

  • by cortesoft (1150075) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:12PM (#25824663)

    You are creating a false dichotomy there.. of COURSE you would prefer the a can-do experienced person over someone with an "I'm too good for your job" attitude. You are absolutely wrong, however, to categorize all old people in the first group and all young people in the second group. There are many young people who are experienced and have a can-do attitude, while there are older workers who feel they are too good for their job.

  • by jepaton (662235) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:14PM (#25824697)

    I would drop unimportant items from my inventory on the floor as I go from room to room. I would not assume that the maze layout made any sense whatsoever. And I would pay careful attention to any variances in the textual descriptions.

    As for the punch-cards the sieve of Erastothenes method sounds like a great way to solve the problem. Do I get a hole-punch? A computer? Or the bits to make my own computer? Since those are the items YOU have could I not just write a short program on my RPN calculator instead?

    Given that I'm only two and a half decades old either: (a) these screening questions aren't hard enough; or (b) I know more than the average for my age.

    If I was interviewing I would want to know that the person understands version control. I would expect them to demonstrate that they could understand the user's needs (e.g. interface design). And I would want to know that they weren't hostile to development processes (e.g. code reviews).

  • by mooingyak (720677) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:24PM (#25824853)

    Honestly, the question doesn't make much sense. I don't mean the one you ask your applicants, I mean the one you asked us.

    Is your salary range wide open? Most positions I know of that might attract qualified senior people are completely out of range for someone who's 23. If I were asked this (and I'm not THAT far past 23, though I started professionally at 21) I'd be surprised. No one that young has really had a chance to accumulate the experience required for the positions I interview for.

    So if your salary range is low, you actually might want to discard your more experienced candidates. They should all hold better positions, and the ones that don't you don't want. There will be exceptions of course, but finding them might be rough.

    But let's assume it is wide open, or at least a large range. What are you actually looking for? It sounds like you want people who are 'good'. That's pretty vague. Are certain skillsets required? Are you willing to let them learn on the job if they show promise (my current position uses a language I was unfamiliar with, but I made it obvious during the interview that I knew how to program)?

    If you're looking for generic questions, then ask them how they would go about solving a variety of problems, from simple to complex. While what they consider a good or not so great solution is important, far more useful is the decision making process that made them arrive at the answer they gave you.

    Also, a fun interview question I like to throw at people: I'll look at something they list multiple types of on their resume (usually OS and Database). Let's say they've listed MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, and MSSQL. I'll ask which is their preference. I don't actually care. It's a setup for the following question, which is why? Many candidates will pick one and not have a reason.

    Me: What about Oracle do you prefer?
    Candidate: It's the best database.
    Me: In what way?
    Candidate: ummmm

    in contrast, I was perfectly okay with:
    Me: Why do you prefer Solaris?
    Candidate: It's the one I'm most familiar with.

    Bottom line, figure out what you want. It'll make it much easier to know when you find it.

  • Re:Experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by demi (17616) * on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:24PM (#25824871) Homepage Journal

    The question's not bad but the evaluation is busted. What you want is someone who can have an intelligent conversation on the subject, and who understands that what type you need for a zip code is a more subtle question than it might seem at first.

    For one thing, it's certainly a compound type: the zip and the +4, even just in the USA; and I can't imagine an application that stores addresses that would never need to store an international one. About this time I'd be online looking around for post code standards.

    I can tell more experienced people a lot by their reactions to things like time zone handling or unicode. If you grimace and start mentally listing a lot of thorny complications and considerations, then it's something you have probably thought about before. If you start saying something glib that starts with "All you need to do is..." then you haven't.

  • Re:Wrong idea! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:26PM (#25824925)

    I agree to an extent. I've found the younger ones are quicker to learn something new and more motivated to do so. On the other hand, the older people have the experience to anticipate the bumps in the road, which can be invaluable.

    I've seen allot of young developers write great projects that just were not sustainable/maintainable. I've also seen the old guys write solid projects that feel like using an abacus.

    If you are saying one is better than the other, I think that's just wrong either way - you definitely need a balance of both.

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:30PM (#25824979)

    My next applicant after you is 23 years old.

    This is a great way to create liability for your company. Age discrimination is against federal law and simply mentioning it is cause to be sued. Simply put, don't!

    My next application after you has a penis. What do you and your vagina know that he and his penis doesn't? Obviously that sounds bizarre but hopefully it make my point. Asking questions which imply age is part of the equation is simply asking each applicant to sue as they leave the interview room.

    Simply put, don't!

     

  • Re:Experience (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:45PM (#25825233)

    This is one of those crazy "gotcha" questions that has no relevance. You're just testing people on their knowledge of zip codes, not on their knowledge of DB design. If your "newbie" said to use an integer, and then you said, "Did you know some zip codes have a leading zero?" He would say, "No, I didn't. I guess it doesn't make since to use an integer in that case."
    It would be like if you knew of a city in Alaska that had the zipcode 3.1415 and asked the same question.

  • by jacobsm (661831) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:49PM (#25825297)
    I'm 51 years old and have been a MVS, OS/390, z/OS systems programmer for going on 30 years now. Outside of the usual mainframe system administration duties I've picked up; Unix - Unix System Services under MVS. BSD, Linux Security and Encryption knowledge and experience Disaster recovery requirements. Networking at home and work. In short the job that I'm doing now I couldn't have done just a few years ago and I expect the same will be true in the future. Anyone who is still in the field for twenty or so years has to have the ability to adapt and grow.
  • Re:What they bring (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rm999 (775449) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:02PM (#25825537)

    True, but the solution is simple:
    'IT is seen as a young man's game. My next applicant after you is straight out of a top 5 university CS program. What do you know that he doesn't?'

  • Re:Slashdot ID (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:02PM (#25825539) Homepage Journal

    I think this is exactly what the OP was talking about. Sure, you're a huge computer nerd and can code anything and make it work, but that's a very small part of a software dev job. Collaborating with others, sharing ideas, designing, working with customers, leveraging your position to gain resources, convincing management why you're right, scheduling, so on and so on.. you don't get that coding at home and you don't get that at school.

    Don't forget that coding consists of 80% programming and 80% troubleshooting. You don't learn that at school. Sure, you learn how to use a debugger, but that won't help you figure out why good code doesn't work in an environment. Experience will allow people to home in on the area where the problem really is, and apply workarounds that are too rare to make it to textbooks.

    What I see time and time again are young people who don't know why something is done a particular way, so they do what to them seems obvious. And break things by doing so. They may not make the same mistake a second time, but they will make it the first time. The oldtimers have already made most of their blunders, and learned the hard way why you don't do things like renaming a library to avoid it from being loaded, or putting echo/stty/tset statements in /etc/profile, or any of the pitfalls too numerous to make it into a school book.

    Yes, you pay for that experience. As you should.
    If you have a micro-managed environment where you can make sure that no-one is given enough rope to hang themselves (and the company) with, young IT people can be just what you need, because they are cheaper and often work hard. But if you need to give some responsibility, you might want someone who has already burnt himself and learned from it, every time.
    There is no fast-track to experience or wisdom. Knowledge, yes, but that's not always a viable substitute.

  • by cortesoft (1150075) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:04PM (#25825571)

    Perhaps I was going too far to imply that you were categorizing all young people into the one group and older people into the other. However, both your original post and your response to my post are clearly meant to make an association between youth and a poor work ethic.

    Now what is your purpose in making this association? In the given context, it is clearly indicating that you believe it is a good practice to use age as a proxy for easily judging a person's work ethic. I believe this is wrong to do, and by assuming that a young prospect is going to have a poor work ethic because of their youth is unfair, unwise, and discriminatory, even if you are granting the possibility of exceptions.

  • by Miguelito (13307) <mm-slashdot AT miguelito DOT org> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:15PM (#25825743) Homepage

    By the same token, young people often have things older people lack. Drive, ambition, flexibility, curiosity, and a lot more hours they're willing to work on salary.

    I'm curious what your definition of "often" is in this case. While I find people across age groups that are lazy, I'm finding it far more likely with younger people these days being the worst in that they want things handed to them and want to minimize what they actually put into the job. I've gotten to the point where I'll take a person with base knowledge and a drive (and ability) to learn over someone with a wealth of knowledge and no such drive any day.

    I see this especially with fresh out of college grads and my teen aged sister's kids (and their friends). These people have, basically out of the gate, access to vast amounts of knowledge and great search tools that I would've killed for when I was starting out in computers and barely calling BBSes.. but so many of them aren't even willing to take 2 seconds to search google for an answer and want others to hand them the solution.

    I've found that in the last few years, apparently the definition of the word "help" has changed to mean "do this entire thing for me and hand it back so I can take credit." Not to mention that "training" seems to mean "Give the final steps without explaining why any of this is required."

    Though one of the worst offenders for both of the above ideas was a couple years older then me. Thankfully he's gone now.

    The real issue, I think, is that too many people suck at learning on their own.

    I agree completely.

    I've known plenty that just have no drive to learn.. and if you want to work in IT and don't like continually learning the new stuff, leave the field now, you're in the wrong one. But I have known a few that just can't get beyond a very basic level. They're just as bad in the long run and have no read future career path.

  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:18PM (#25825779)
    In my experience, age itself doesn't matter. I have dealt with young people who are hopeless and old people who are hopeless. I have also dealt with amazing older folks, and just as amazing younger "fresh" kids. The skills/traits that I look for in people these days are (Pretty much in order):

    1) Common Sense - It goes so much further than anything else.
    2) Ability to comprehend tasks - I don't want to have to explain things over and over for one. Secondly, if they understand what they are doing, there is a good chance they might have a good input to make it even better.
    3) Communication skills - If they can't talk, articulate and be precise in asking questions or listening to answers, they won't do point 2 well.
    4) Programming ability - Yes, it's way down on the list. Most programmers can program well enough. The value in good software/development isn't purely in scratching two seconds off an operation that takes three minutes. It's in making an application/solution that the customer wants to have - which isn't always exactly what they ask for.

    As developers I look for people that COULD possibly be in the business role that they are developing for had they wanted to, but chose developing instead. People who can understand what the business/customer is doing will ALWAYS make better software than people who follow requirements to the letter. The four points above in that order will help you find people who will do the best work.
  • Re:What they bring (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:27PM (#25825927)

    I second this. I was told by my HR dept not to ask age or bring it up at all (not that I ever intended to)

    Just figure out what job role you're trying to fill and dig deep into the answers you're given. Ask them their processes for debugging problems, think of issues you've had to undertake that were difficult and pose them hypothetically to figure out what the candidate would do.

    Ask them a couple personality questions 'What would you old co-workers say about you?', and give them a very difficult or impossible problem to solve and see how quickly they flip out (or hopefully, not at all)

    I'm 33 and I definitely think that I've got an 'edge on the younger guys who don't have the experience I do, but I know lots of people my age who shouldn't have ever been hired in IT, yet, there they are, drawing a paycheck and being worthless.

    I also have known some brilliant younger people who will likely be my bosses in the future if I'm lucky.

    If you start basing your decision on age, you might as well pick something just as arbitrary like skin color.

  • by Lershac (240419) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:44PM (#25826149) Homepage

    I've met plenty of people that are unwilling to listen to a good answer from a young person because the young person is young and by extension inexperienced.

    That is the killer right there. Most older successful people know that everyone is a resource, and LISTEN to everything. Anyone that refuses to listen to someone because of some preconceived notion fails the test.

    Usually what older folks bring to the team is the experience of their own mistakes, not just in their chosen field, but in life. People skills that successful people develop over time are super-valuable and can be the glue that holds a team together.

  • well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:48PM (#25826201) Homepage

    I guess what I'd say is that when I encounter someone manifestly lacking in ambition or curiosity, someone who wants to "get by", they skew distinctly older.

    But it's not as if my sample size is huge. I have speculated in the past that the reason IT doesn't have a ton of really strong older workers is because they all got rich and retired, and I'm only partially kidding. Of the tip top people I know, a significant percentage have a lot of money and no longer work by choice. There has been such a boom of opportunity that all the things you want in a person - smart, communicates well, understands business, gets things done, ambitious - translate directly into real dollars, even in side projects.

  • by kelnos (564113) <bjt23.cornell@edu> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:57PM (#25826319) Homepage

    They want time off to be with their families.

    But they potentially compensate for that by being more "loyal" employees. People who have dependents tend to be less likely to quit their job to go looking for something else on a whim. A single twenty-something with minimal expenses might not bat an eye at jumping between jobs every year or so.

    They want more time off because they've been around longer (2 weeks for new hires don't cut it).

    Wow. I wouldn't take a job fresh out of college that only gave 2 weeks of vacation. When I started, 3 weeks was standard, and I thought that was merely 'acceptable'.

  • by merreborn (853723) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @08:07PM (#25826435) Journal

    Experience matters, as does intelligence, attitude and aptitude.

    If you can say you have the experience that someone older has, as well as the attitude and aptitude of the older applicant, then you are equal, if you don't have that experience, attitude or aptitude, then you aren't, it's as simple as that.

    It's not age discrimination, it's making a decision weighted on key factors that mean more than any education.

    That's all good and fine. The problem is that the OP expressed all of this in terms of age, not experience:

    it's probably fair to say the more mature applicants will get a more sympathetic hearing from me than they might from most other interviewers for IT roles. The question is, what do I ask older applicants to get them to demonstrate the value of their experience? My current gambit is something like 'IT is seen as a young man's game. My next applicant after you is 23 years old. What do you know that he doesn't?'

    Replace that with "more experienced", "more experienced applicants", and "has 15 years less experience than you", and we're fine. But the repeated emphasis on age is illegal, and immoral.

    Honestly, I think the OP has his heart in the right place, he just needs to mentally divorce the concepts of experience and age.

  • Re:What they bring (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @08:11PM (#25826497)

    'IT is seen as a young man's game.

    Good job not bringing up age. Might I suggest, "IT is a field that requires constant learning to remain effective. My next applicant after you is straight out of a top 5 university CS program. What do you know that he doesn't?"

  • by GuyverDH (232921) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @08:34PM (#25826759)

    I'm sorry you feel that way, as nothing could be further from the truth, as I myself started working professionally in the field at the ripe young age of 16, while still in high-school.

    There was no *age* context given. There was, however, an experience context. It's unfortunate that the only way to get 'n' years of experience is to be 'n' years older than you were when you started.
    Currently, there's no way to time-compress experience, if there were, it would be wonderful for all.

  • by pushf popf (741049) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @08:36PM (#25826795)
    I'm 51 years old and have been a MVS, OS/390, z/OS systems programmer for going on 30 years now. Outside of the usual mainframe system administration duties I've picked up; Unix - Unix System Services under MVS. BSD, Linux Security and Encryption knowledge and experience Disaster recovery requirements. Networking at home and work. In short the job that I'm doing now I couldn't have done just a few years ago and I expect the same will be true in the future. Anyone who is still in the field for twenty or so years has to have the ability to adapt and grow.

    Wow! There are a lot of us old bastards around! 8-)

    It's hard to get into a monoculture shop (like head to the grindstone ), however the good part is that I no longer want to work in those places. The really interesting jobs are actually pretty easy to get when no matter what they ask about, you can say "Yeah, I did " to almost anything they want (and not be lying).

    Another advantage is that even if you pay a guy twice what you could get a grad for, if he understands a half-dozen or more of your systems, and you can skip hiring more warm bodies, you're still money ahead.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @09:29PM (#25827245)

    That's an interesting notion. I've been directly involved with a project that's been running for several months and which will be running for at least two more (probably quite a bit longer). It is, by pretty much every measure, a total failure; it's vastly over time, moderately over budget (but, of course, we're nowhere near done yet, so just give it time), is suffering from a nasty case of scope creep, and will ultimately result in a substandard customer experience, while failing to achieve most of its stated goals. So yes, I'd call it an abject failure.

    Now, since the project began (or, rather, before it began), I've been trying to advise the people who are actually making the decisions, and by and large my suggestions are falling on deaf ears. In that sense, the project failure is very much *not* my fault (I have no problem taking blame when I screw up).

    I'm neither stupid nor lying; in an interview, shouldn't I be given credit for being able to accurately analyze the project's architects' failures (poor, late or no planning; failure to elicit user requirements; inadequate investigation of possible equipment vendors; the list goes on)? Isn't that the sort of person you want on your team--one who can recognize and learn from failures in order to prevent them from happening again? Or, more specifically, what I would've done differently in order to have a successful project? I know that comes off as 'well, they screwed up and here's how *I* would've done it because I'm so much smarter'...but what if that's true?

  • Re:well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Miguelito (13307) <mm-slashdot AT miguelito DOT org> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @09:30PM (#25827265) Homepage

    But it's not as if my sample size is huge. I have speculated in the past that the reason IT doesn't have a ton of really strong older workers is because they all got rich and retired, and I'm only partially kidding.

    Actually, I think you're close, but there's a part you missed: people who have been in the job for awhile and are happy where they are. Clearly you're not going to be interviewing such people as they're not out there looking.

    I know of quite a few people here where I work that have a decade+ as sysadmins, are very smart and driven, and have zero desire to move elsewhere because they're very happy here. I'm in that boat myself. Sure, there're gripes now and then, but nothing near enough to drive one to leave. There are even a subset in this group that left at some point and then came back when they found that other places were far worse.

    A lot of time at a company can mean you've risen up in the ranks (and pay scales) and getting a position in another company that isn't a step down (in either or both) or a big change in career, might not be worth it at this point.

    There's also the built up trust and ability to do a lot more remote work and less office time.

  • by repapetilto (1219852) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @09:41PM (#25827393)
    So you worked really hard, beyond expectations, etc. Where did that get you? I mean in terms of eventual success with work, accomplishments, happiness with life, etc. I'm not trying to be cynical, it's just that I'm in grad school (biomed. not CS so not quite the same but still) and have been coming across alot of different attitudes towards how much time/effort one's job needs to take up in order to do something that contributes to society and leaves you satisfied with your effort without wasting your life away working for someone who benefits more from your effort than you do yourself.
  • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @09:53PM (#25827473)

    When I graduated college 10 years ago, I was one of those ambitious people... I often stayed at work till 10pm to insure our products/projects met their milestones etc... Recently we hired new hires that are of the new generation. So far, many of these people are out the door as soon as the clock hits 5, regardless the status of their projects and when the milestones were... Even when I'm travelling on business and am halfway across the world, they don't want to take any personal time to give me a hand (even if it's to upload a project they are past due on). They didn't even bother taking their work laptops home, because they don't want to "work" outside of work.

    I happen to be one of those people - I don't mind helping out with a few reasonable things and putting in a few extra hours on rare occasions, but many companies expect you to work 60+ hours a week, and if you don't you are not a "team player". Well I say fuck that. You pay me - I work. When you don't pay me - I don't work.

    I don't consider my life goal to help some company achieve X business goals. I know the company is not loyal to me - they will fire me if they need to - so how can they expect loyalty from me??

  • by asylumx (881307) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @09:58PM (#25827513)

    Mod parent up? please? Why haven't you done it yet?

    Seriously, there's a REASON the older folks don't tend to show the drive and ambition that the younger folks do. You can only work through so many nights without sleep before you finally realize you're not compensated enough (in pay, recognition, or even lack of complaints -- which == recognition in our field often). Sorry to be a whiny IT wonk, but pay alone doesn't cut it. You watch the person you made that app for take all the credit for it and you might get a ** mention in the fine print. They get promoted over and over and you get... another project. Let's face it, people good in IT are not often good with people, and there's not a lot of vertical headroom in tech-only positions in most companies.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @10:20PM (#25827699) Journal

    Trust me, the REAL world is nothing like those annoying tests. If you can pick up a scripting language or other and write a hello world program and keep going, there is nothing lacking in your qualities, only in your experience... if that.

    The tests they do seem to often have nothing to do with reality, even if slightly related to the job applied for. The truth of the matter is that most people do not know how to interview. A great candidate knows how to run the interview if the interviewer is failing. Resume's only get you on the short list, and unfortunately that is often a poor way to make the list.

    I have interviewed several hundred people for technical and IT related positions in my career. It is the hands-on tests that actually tell you what skill levels a candidate has. Everything else is just talk. I've done the 'hello world' test and an electronics equivalent of it. For one IT position, I handed them a pot of coffee and all the parts needed to build a PC and timed applicants on build/install of OS. That hands on part saves lots of questions that have dodgey answers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:46AM (#25828703)

    You learned something applicable to actual programming in school? All I learned about was Turing machines...While I was in college, I learned that everything I knew about programming was wrong, that I was an idiot for using BASIC, and that everything I really needed to know was in Maths...I graduated with less applicable programming knowledge than when I went in, couldn't get a programming job anywhere, and I've actually applied my college knowledge exactly once in the last eight years since.

    Two points: the first is that a computer science degree isn't a "programming" degree. It doesn't take four years of school to be a programmer, it's just not that challenging.

    The second is that it takes a computer science degree to manage a programming team and DESIGN efficient algorithms. So you're not using your theory knowledge in your work. Either someone above you is making the decisions, or the place you work for is creating half-assed garage quality software.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @01:11AM (#25828859)

    Sorry you were so stupid when you were younger.

    I'm paid to work a 40 hour week. I work a 40 hour week, and I do good work in that time. If you want me to work more, there's a method for that- it's called paying me overtime. Offer it and I'll consider it. Probably not though- I don't really need the money.

    Life is short. Free time is far too valuable to be wasted by doing extra work. When you're older you'll never hear any of your coworkers say "Damn I wish I had spent more time at the office". You will hear them say more time with the kids, wife, etc. My father's passed on, and if I could trade a year I spent working for a year flipping burgers for minimum wage but spending time with him, I'd do it in a fucking heartbeat. We're just smart enough in this generation to know this now, rather than waiting til we have a stress related breakdown in our middle age.

  • by dintech (998802) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @06:34AM (#25830345)
    Exactly. Also dear readers, watch out for low/high IDs in relation to the content of each post. I bet you can judge which side of the fence they'll be on before reading.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2008 @07:07AM (#25830473)

    well a will give you a compiler error if you only type
    if(true=$variable)
    but b is more readable

    I usually do a so that I get a compiler error if I cock up.

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @08:39AM (#25830891) Homepage Journal

    You are just playing games with the interviewees by showing them how clever you are.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @09:37AM (#25831307)

    I've met plenty of people that are unwilling to listen to a good answer from a young person because the young person is young and by extension inexperienced.

    There are such people around, and yes, they are fools.

    But that young person is closer to school, meaning they learned from not just your mistakes but the mistakes of the industry over the past 30 years and very likely the youngsters were playing with real-world code long before they ever could have counted it experience. [...] Plenty of kids getting out of school now have been writing stuff since I started, have no "professional" experience, but have been cutting their teeth on open source for years.

    You've made several interesting (but bad) assumptions there. You have assumed that theoretical knowledge from school is more valuable than practical knowledge from industry; this is not necessarily so, particularly in a field such as programming. You also implicitly assume that the youngsters had real-world experience playing with code from before their formal careers started — but for some reason the older, more experienced programmers didn't? Finally, you have assumed that experience gained working on an OSS project directly translates to value in a workplace, though each requires different skills beyond the basic programming stuff. Ironically, as someone who was like you a few years ago but is older and hopefully a little wiser now, I would say these sorts of assumptions are typical of the mistakes caused by a lack of professional experience. :-)

    See also the psychology of assessing your own ability: almost everyone would think they are better than they really are in the absence of more objective data from other sources, and worse, the more confident you are in your own superiority, the more likely it is that you are mistaken. You might also like to look up the old paper from IBM about how productive software developers of certain ages typically are when considered on merit. It makes painful reading, whatever your age, but it's an eye-opener.

  • by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [esidarap.cram]> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @09:50AM (#25831425) Homepage Journal

    If a person isn't willing to work with the team then you don't want them on your team. I've met plenty of people that are unwilling to listen to a good answer from a young person because the young person is young and by extension inexperienced.

    Conversely, I've met plenty of young people who aren't willing to listen to someone older because someone older can't possibly have an understanding of all these fresh, new ideas that they're bringing to the table. (Hell, just a few years ago, I was /one/ of those young people - back before I lacked the experience to know that there are things I don't know. ) Nevermind that the 'fresh new ideas' are variations on the same themes that have been playing through the industry for decades.

    The point I'm trying to make is that it's just as easy to get a young recruit with a bad attitude than an older recruit. That's part of what the interview process is for, to weed out the people not compatible with your organization. INterviewing people with the assumption that "older = stuck in their ways" and "younger = innovative and yet willing to learn" is a mistake that can cost you some potentially good hires.

  • by Sj0 (472011) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:01AM (#25831541) Homepage Journal

    You don't need to be old to do that.

    I'm an engineer almost right out of school, and it's a little crazy how often a task can be automated for insane time savings. In the time I've been in industry, I've probably saved a man-year of time by taking a task involving a billion little tasks and asking myself "How can I automate this? What decisions do I personally need to make?"

    They pay me because I've got the skills to solve problems and design solutions to effectively make use of company resources. Why would I assume they want me to stop doing that when it comes to doing my own work?

  • by ccccc (888353) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:46AM (#25831985)
    b, because you can get a compiler or checking tool to warn you about assignments in if statements, and a is harder to read.

    Of course, YMMV. This is more of a personal preference thing, and strikes me as only slightly more relevant than asking to justify the ideal tab length.
  • this scares me (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nemesiswish (1357543) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:55AM (#25832091)
    having been on both sides of the interviewing process, some of the statements here seriously scare me: What is this discussion about? Support on how to conduct interviews and hire appropriate people? fair enough, bring it on. But hey, does no-one find some of those thoughts at least a little bit strange? "Although I'm very much focused on choosing the right person for the role regardless of age, experience or whatever..." what is this supposed to mean? Of course experience is a major factor. Amongst others. And most likely there is a correlation of some kind between age and maturity and experience. Generally speaking. But lets not focus on age. Focus on experience. But that, of course is far harder to detect. "probably fair to say the more mature applicants will get a more sympathetic hearing from me than they might from most other interviewers" Why should they? That is as saying I give women, Chinese, disabled a more sympathetic hearing. Why? Just treat them all equally. "I ask older applicants to get them to demonstrate the value of their experience?" Why would they have to prove that they are more valuable than younger ones? I dont get it. "What should I be asking of the more experienced applicants, and what responses should I be looking out for?" Ok, this is the only valid question in the entire paragraph. And even this - by the way it is asked - seems to suggest you have no idea what you are talking about. Why this makes me scared is that clearly people who have no idea about recruitment and judging someones fit for a role - in an interview process - are tasked with the role. Can we please educate those people better? For the sake of potential employees and companies. Sorry if I am being hard here, have just seen too many such situations go wrong to mutual disadvantage.
  • by Cruciform (42896) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:34AM (#25832541) Homepage

    "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike...what do you do?"

    My answer to that is: Take off all my clothes and start doing jumping jacks while singing Barry Manilow.

    If someone else comes along, they're going to take one look at that and run for the exit. All I need to do is follow the scent of fear.

  • vi or emacs? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chriswaco (37809) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:05PM (#25833071)

    My favorite IT question is "vi or emacs?"

    If they look at you funny or don't have an answer, they should not be hired.

    It doesn't really matter which they prefer, just that they prefer one or the other. I would even accept "BBEdit over NFS or AFS", but if the person can't edit a text file on a remote system, they are all but worthless.

    I also like to always ask one question that nobody can answer. If they lie and make up an answer, don't hire them. If they say "I don't know" or "Here's where I'd find the answer to that", they can probably be trusted.

  • How to tell... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GreenTom (1352587) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @01:08PM (#25834075)

    Amaturs talk about languages, noobs talk about algrothims, pros talk about version control.

  • by DarthJohn (1160097) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @04:44PM (#25837197)

    Let A = "All dogs are mammals."
    Let B = "Golden Retriever is a dog."
    Let C = "Golden Retriever is a mammal."

    If A is true and B is true, then C is true.

    Or would you rather phrase that as:

    If true is A and true is B, then true is C.

    What was that about dyslexia? Which English speaking, left-to-right reading culture are you from where the second is preferred?

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