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Appropriate Interviewing For a Worldwide Search? 440

jellomizer writes 'I am a manager of a small Software Development department, looking to hire some more developers. By edict of the CEO, the search must be made globally, so we are dealing with different cultures and different ideas of truth and embellishment, etc. To try to counteract this, we give the potential employees tests where I watch what they do, to see if they actually know what they say they know. However, it seems a lot of applicants drop out when I mention that this test is mandatory. Is this a sign that we caught them in a lie, or are we weeding out good people where we shouldn't be? Would you be willing to take a test as part of an interview? If so, is there any type of heads up you would like to know beforehand to make the decision of whether to take the test easier?' What other difficulties have people seen while trying to hire from many different cultures?
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Appropriate Interviewing For a Worldwide Search?

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  • A good test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:17PM (#29318063)
    would be to give them a real life problem, ask them to solve it, and tell them that they can ask you whatever they want to, because that's the way it works in real life. If they know the answer immediately, well ok, but really what you want to see is their problem-solving strategy. I firmly believe that it's not about what someone knows that makes them a valuable employee, it's how they figure it out. How they solve the problem. People who rely on the resources around them, generally speaking, are better to have around then people who think they have to have learned the answer in a textbook somewhere. If the nature of your job is such that answers are already known, then you don't need smart people. You just need workers. Such a test doesn't need to concern itself with being culturally sensitive.

    I'm starting to think that our interviews here should literally be: give them a day's work and see how they do.
    • Re:A good test (Score:4, Interesting)

      by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:24PM (#29318137) Homepage Journal

      hire them as a contractor for 30 days.

      I've been hired into bigger projects many times that way.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sodul ( 833177 )

        Remember that the recruiting is Worldwide: how do you hire someone with no work authorization for 30 days ? Would you relocate to a foreign country for 30 days ? If I get similar offers the one where they say "you're hired, when can you start" and the one "we'll try you for thirty day, then if we don't like you return to your country" it's pretty obvious which one I will pick: a little bit more potential money is not worth a much bigger risk. How do you know the company is not hiring 3 candidates for 30 day

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Make them do the "Which feminine hygiene product are you?" quiz on blogsbook.

    • by NoYob ( 1630681 )
      I would like to add to the parent who is spot on. Do not give those "programmer" tests that are basically tests on how well you can act as a manual compiler. I took one of those for an interview in Ft. Lauderdale many years ago for a large video rental chain and it was just testing some made up logical problems and then decoding some made up "computer" language - it was a bunch of alphanumeric symbols that you had to look up the directions and exceptions for each symbol and come up with numeric codes. After
    • Re:A good test (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:36PM (#29318275)

      it is a good point about tests.. there are 3 kinds of people in the world when it comes to puzzles, those who havn't a clue how to solve it, those who figure it out slowly by thinking it through, and those who read the answer while they were surfing the web when they should have been working.

      Trouble is CEOs tend to hire the latter ones. The reality is that the former group can be as good, if not better workers that the other 2 groups, when they're not asked stupid arbitrary tests, and apply themselves to real world problems.

      I went to an interview a few years ago, the boss gave the test, on a flipchart. It was a 'write code' type test, unfortunately he asked relatively open ended questions ("how would you implement a stream class") but the answer had to be the one he expected or wanted, and as I did it differently, I was obviously a useless candidate.

      So the problem is how to make your tests applicable to real people, in the real world. I would suggest you give them a large problem to solve, one that has no 'right' or 'wrong' answer, and make sure they explain what they're doing and why. The why matters more than anything.

      If you're still thinking about this, why not post your test to a slashdot comment. Then I guarantee you'll get a load more candidates who pass your test with flying colours, I'm sure none of them will be the kind who surf the web during their work hours....

      • Re:A good test (Score:4, Interesting)

        by richlv ( 778496 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:19PM (#29318753)

        so somebody who is actually learning outside of their everyday requirements, somebody who is raising their qualification and is able to apply this knowledge when it is needed... is the worst candidate for you ?
        you would be more interested in somebody so narrowly focused and unwilling to learn new things unless forced, only because he doesn't "browse the internet" ?

        i would say that an employee that has the desire to learn, has learned something outside their primary work requirements AND knows how to apply that in real world scenario is the most valuable one of those 3 generalised categories.

        • Re:A good test (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:43PM (#29319001)

          so somebody who is actually learning outside of their everyday requirements, somebody who is raising their qualification and is able to apply this knowledge when it is needed... is the worst candidate for you ?

          I've hired one of them - he did brilliantly at interview. Unfortunately, he could recite the words from the web, but had difficulty applying it. Also, he continued to 'raise his qualifications' during work time. We had to let him go.

          I've known others like him, people who always want to apply a new or different technology to work problems, always because the boring work of work is not fun enough or too difficult and the 'grass always seems greener'. They don't *do* anything but chase the latest technology craze, I suppose continually dropping things when they get difficult is a nice alternative to working, wish I could do it!

          That's the trouble, when hiring you need someone who has done the stuff you want, not a theoretician. If he knew how to apply his knowledge, by doing some of it, he'd be significantly more desirable as a candidate. Web surfing is not a qualification for a job.

    • 90 day probey (Score:3, Interesting)

      ... I say hire them on a 90 day probational period ... if you don't like them then fire them and try try again. I think that works across all industries. You get to see them at work, you get familiar with their attitudes and working habits, and you always have a scapegoat that if you just don't like them, you can fire them.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by rfuilrez ( 1213562 )
        I work for Siemens Energy and Automation. Mechanical work. Our current policy is to hire all employees through a temp service, through which they must complete 90 days before being considered for permanent employment. This works out in the companies advantage because they basically have 90 days no obligation, or responsibility if some one gets hurt to the employee. They can dismiss them at any point they feel necessary. It also let's you really see how the employee works on a day to day basis, not just an i
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Maniacal ( 12626 )

          My company does this too. It's 4 months and through a temp agency. I hated it but I needed the job. From the employers standpoint it's a great way to go. The headhunter does all the work finding people who "qualify". You interview those who rose to the top and bring them on. Since it's through an agency you don't have to incur all the expense of hiring someone and all the HR work. If they work out we bring them on.

          The agency we use provides some benefits at a reasonable cost but it's certainly not li

    • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:49PM (#29318421)

      I knew a guy once who, when he got a large fungible job in, would put out a want ad and "interview" people exactly as you describe. He'd literally get hundreds of hours of free labor this way, and the bastard knew he'd never be called on it.

      It is for exactly this reason that I don't work for free during interviews. If my prospective boss isn't sharp enough to know that I know my stuff after a brief conversation and a look at my credentials, then I'll happily work for his competition.

    • Re:A good test (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SoCalChris ( 573049 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:57PM (#29318517) Journal

      I'm starting to think that our interviews here should literally be: give them a day's work and see how they do.

      At my current job (Which required relocating out of state), I was basically given something like this. After the initial round of phone interviews, I signed an NDA, and was given a design specification for part of the product that I would be working on. I was told to ask whatever I needed clarification with, and to keep track of my hours so they could pay me when I was finished, regardless of whether I was hired or not. After I thought I was done, I submitted my project. They had a few revisions that they wanted, so they sent it back to me to see what I did with it, and presumably see how I handled needing to make changes.

      Once they approved my work, I was flown on-site for the final interviews. During those, they asked about my project, why I had done things certain ways, and different ways that I had considered completing it. The project took me about 25 hours of work to complete. The day after the interview, I was offered the position.

      In the end, the project that I had worked on was incorporated into the software that we released. From what I've heard, all new-hires go through this process, all with a different project to complete. It seems to work well for the company, we've got a very high retention rate.

    • Re:A good test (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JordanL ( 886154 ) <jordan,ledoux&gmail,com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:13PM (#29318695) Homepage
      I worked with a guy who had interviewed with Creative (the cound card guys). He came in for the interview and they gave him a sampel of code from one fo their drivers, and asked him to spot the problem. He asked for one of the linked libraries, and they had an engineer come in and bring it up for him. It was about this time that he realized he must be looking at production code.

      He spent another hour debugging the problem then turned to his interviewer and said "I figured out what the problem was, but if you want to know, this will be my first day." They hired him on the spot and payed him eight hours for the interview.
    • The question (Score:3, Insightful)

      Rather similar to this, but shorter, is "the question". We describe a fairly simple (but not trivial) software project to the candidate. We then ask "What steps would you go through to carry out this project?" Every time the candidate stops talking, we ask "And then what would you do?"

      The answer to this question is extremely useful in assessing the candidate's knowledge of and maturity in software development. For example:
      • Do they question the objectives of the project? Do they question whether the pr
    • This is a good point. I certainly don't have a problem in principle with taking tests (in fact I usually do fairly well on them if I have some knowledge of the subject - in high school I was on the math team, and I would routinely place well above other kids who were just as smart as I was but who just weren't as good at taking tests), but it does seem reminiscent of the typing pool: Your value as an employee is directly related to how many words/min you can type. If the position has even a whiff of bein

  • The problem you're going to run into is that developers in high demand are well, in high demand. Their time is valuable. Every hoop you make them jump through is fewer jobs they can apply to (if they even bother to apply anymore, they aren't just thrown job opportunities like cans of free beer), so that makes your job less attractive. Unless you can hire 1000 people, why are a large number of people going to waste their time taking these tests? Perhaps you could do the test, but only after you've narrow
    • Most people don't do testing until the 2nd or 3rd interview. Such candidates have a pretty good idea if this is a company they'd like to work for, and if not, they refuse the interview. They don't have to spend that much time taking tests, because presumably they only end up in a few final-round interviews before they find a job (unless the testing outs them as a fraudster).

      • by slarrg ( 931336 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:44PM (#29318375)
        I've never taken a job at a company that requires a second or third interview. If I have to make more than one trip to your campus I'll take another job before you get a chance to make an offer. Likewise, if you have any testing that requires more than a trivial amount of time on my part, I'll pass on the "opportunity" to waste my time at your company for free. If you want me to spend my time you'd better be paying me for it.
      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:51PM (#29318461)

        You've got to be kidding me. If I have to come to a location multiple times for a job interview, I'm probably wasting my time. The only way I'd bother is if we start discussing salary right away, so I don't find out at the very end that this employer is a low-baller.

        In my 11 years of experience and many, many job interviews, I've never had to come back to a place for a second interview. If the employer can't tell if I'm a good fit in one visit, they're doing something very wrong.

    • by Jherico ( 39763 ) *
      Bullshit. If you want the job, you do whatever the employer asks to prove you have the qualifications. Unless you work is universally known, like John Carmack, or Linus Torvalds, you're never too good to take an entrance exam.
      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Or maybe since you are not planning on being their slave you go work for someone else?

        You want me to work during the interview? You can pay me.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darinbob ( 1142669 )
          But the interviewer doesn't know that you're divinely inspired. If you are in such high demand that you can get any job you want, even in today's economy, then you don't need to even interview as everyone will be calling you instead.

          In the real world though, most people have encountered people that sounded great on paper and who had great recommendations, but were lousy in practice. People will lie and embellish, and prior bosses will lie because often company policy is to never geed bad references. This
      • by dintech ( 998802 )

        Exactly. Anyone who "refuses" to take a test for something as important as a career change is probably going to "refuse" a lot of other stuff once he actually gets in the door. Someone who is "too good for tests" is generally trouble in the making.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          I would have 0 problem taking a test, but too many times I have seen interview "tests" that are nothing more than a quest for free labor.

          Unless a serious offer is being made I am not taking a test.

          • by dintech ( 998802 )

            You mean like a free consulting day for the company? That's a half empty glass. Maybe you should look at it as another company you can put on your resume. :)

            • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:48PM (#29318417)

              I have been put in such situations and I just politely end the interview process.

              I don't work for free, and anyone that would expect me too is not going to be an employer I want to do business with.

              If a serious offer has been made and you want me to write on a whiteboard, great. If you want me to email you a finished project that you get to keep, you are going to have to pay.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by networkBoy ( 774728 )

                I do a software test for my candidates.
                I hand them a small (40 line) program that is broken. Since most of my work involves code maintenance it's real world enough.

                I tell them up front that the object is not to fix the code per-se, but rather to walk me through them debugging it. I've hired guys who couldn't solve the problem because they showed enough promise that I wasn't worried that I could train them, and it was obvious that they could think well.

                We have a total of 4 hands on tests. Three on hardwar

          • by Jherico ( 39763 ) *
            Exactly how much productivity do you think is possible to get out of an interview candidate? In the world of interns and off shore labor, if you think a company is going to get a positive net gain in work done by 'stealing' work from interview candidates, you're retarded.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tsm_sf ( 545316 )
            One of my first programming jobs had a logic test as part of the application process. That seems like a good way to weed out the people who can't think on their feet or are too important to jump through a hoop or two, without insulting anyone with a VB quiz or free labor.

            Even though aptitude tests are pretty annoying, I really see them becoming more important since it's getting harder and harder to judge a person by their resume.
    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:49PM (#29318423)

      One thing employers should do more often is talk about salary up-front, so prospective employees don't waste a lot of time with testing and interviewing just to get an insulting low-ball offer. This has happened to me several times, and it's annoying. This doesn't mean testing is bad; I had some simple tests in the interview for my current position, and they gave me a very generous offer unlike other firms in the area.

      I've found too many companies are tight-lipped when it comes to salary; they want to waste a LOT of your time in interviewing and such (and their own employees' time too), but then when the hiring manager says "he's great! hire him!", the HR person wants to give a lowball offer, and refuses to bring it up to anything reasonable even when you have a much better offer in-hand. If these companies would just state up front what their salary range is, we wouldn't waste all this time and effort.

      Meanwhile, these tests do NOT need to be difficult or long. I had to help phone-interview some contractors at one job, and I came up with some very simple questions to ask them. One was, "In C++, can you tell me what a 'class' is?". Several contractors who stated "expert-level C++ knowledge" on their resumes couldn't answer that basic question. So you don't need to give them a 2-hour test; just some simple questions, maybe some short code samples with errors in them, etc. to see if they're completely lying about their credentials or not. So many people lie on their resumes (and this is definitely cultural; I saw this mainly in people from India), it's really important that you screen out the liars from the people who can actually do the job.

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:57PM (#29318539)

        Totally, if you are offering less than current_income + 10%, why should the interviewee waste his time?

      • by kiore ( 734594 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:34PM (#29319439) Homepage Journal

        One C++ shop I worked in we used to have a short sample C++ program (~~ 2 pages long) that was deliberately written to contain a large number of problems, many obvious and some quite subtle. It was an "Animals" style example program so manifestly not production code. We asked candidates to examine the program and find as many of these problems as they could then suggest better ways of achieving the same thing.

        We weren't terribly interested in how many problems they actually found but were vitally interested in how they approached the analysis and how deeply they understood object orientated design and the C++ version of that paradigm.

        It was great fun to write and we eliminated quite a few posers with this tool.

    • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:09PM (#29318651) Journal
      I do like your solution though of actually watching them write the code though, because that does prevent them just copying and pasting other code and sending it to you.

      Copying and pasting code amounts to 90% of even the best programmers' jobs. Other than some aspects of GUI design and input validation (which even then just means "tweak the conditionals of what you have", not "write an input handler from scratch"), if you sit down at a blank editor on anything but a toy project, you either work in academia or need a much tighter deadline.

      And there, I have my biggest objection to "testing" applicant, particularly in a vacuum. In the real world, I program with access to huge libraries of functions and at least half the time, a web browser open to look random things up as I need them. Yeah, I could rewrite Windows from scratch if you give me 500 man-years to do it, but do you want to see if I can really do the job, or do you want to see if I happen to know the prototype for some particularly obscure network calls off the top of my head?

      People pay me to solve problems efficiently, not because I've memorized the latest edition of K&R.

      (and for the record - Yeah, I pretty much do have the prototypes for the entire standard ANSI C library memorized, but would prove just as valuable if you wanted me to program in any language, including one I've never used before)
  • It's mandatory here. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:19PM (#29318077) Homepage

    I know there are definitely people who refuse to take a test out of principle. I'm not really sure what principle this is; maybe it's that they do poorly on testing in general. But we have been burned too many times by people who know how to talk the talk but turn out to have very little real skill. Sometimes too, there are multiple similarly skilled candidates to choose from. Giving them a coding test; especially an open-ended one can give you some insight into the sort of developer they are. Some people will be a better fit for the team just out of the approaches they tend to take toward problem solving.

    Also, tests must be taken in-person. We do not allow phone or otherwise remote test taking. There are a lot of really unscrupulous agencies and individuals out there. Some of them have you interview with a different person than who they claim to be, including the person who will take the tests if any. The guy completely aces your questions and really knocks your sock off with his knowledge. Then he shows up, and his voice sounds different. You put him in front of a keyboard, and he asks you which key is the "Any" key.

    The thing is, it's no offense meant to the interviewee. Indeed, just as it protects our interests to be certain that we hire a qualified developer, it's in your interests too (if you are a qualified developer) - the fewer and more quickly we sort through the deadbeats, the faster we get a job to a person who deserves it. It's not that you'll necessarily lie to us, it's that there are plenty of people out there who will, and until we really get to know you, the only way to tell the difference is to require you to answer questions that only a qualified individual is able to.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:22PM (#29318117) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, but when I did I saw them go screwy so many times. almost always of you didn't do it the predetermined way you were wrong, or if you answered with an answer someone didn't know, you were wrong..

    Plus after 15 years I find it a tad insulting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      You find it insulting that a total stranger doesn't take your word for how good you are? You must get insulted very often.

      I mean, what's there to be insulted about? They asked you to do a beginner's test? Well, if it's clearly below your level, then that's a good thing for you -- now you know that you're not the one they are looking for.

      Now, if I came strongly recommended by somebody, and they give me a test, maybe the guy who recommended me should be insulted. Me? Never.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        It's no different then hiring an electrician and then asking him take a test on Ohm's law, it's insulting and not professional.

        I ahve references, I have letters of recommendations, I can talk about a subject intelligently.

        Tests are out.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Dr_Harm ( 529148 )
          Electricians have to be licensed by a State agency which guarantees a minimum skill level. To get that licensing, they needed to pass a test. They also need to carry insurance, in case they screw up.
        • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:02PM (#29318585)

          References are mostly useless unless you also know the reference person. Anyone can find some lackey to put in a good word for them. And lots of people can bullshit about a subject and sound knowledgeable while not being really qualified to work in it.

        • by richlv ( 778496 )

          except if the electrician suspiciously refuses to talk about anything specific regarding the planned installation, which makes you question whether he really is electrician, whether his references, letters & sertificates are just fake, and whether the intelligent talk is just scripted.

          now, some extensive testing for a job isn't sensible, i believe. that belongs to certification process. on the other hand, few simple tasks or questions with an absolute maximal time spent being some 30 minutes - that migh

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RileyBryan ( 1475681 )
      The passage of time is definitely the only attribute that makes you a good programmer. Thats why I don't take tests, either- Because I've been around for almost 30 years and I would just blow the competition away so bad that it wouldn't be fair. Unless, of course, I want my potential employer to know that I can actually program and that I'm not just lying my ass off about my skills.
    • I would think taking such a test would also be a good test of your potential new employer. If they are rigid and unreceptive to new ideas as in your examples, you probably don't want to work there anyway. If they appreciate that you solved the problem even when it wasn't necessarily the way they would do it, that says (to me) that they're probably pretty easy to get along with.

    • by Jherico ( 39763 ) *
      I know devs with more than 15 years experience who couldn't write a class to save their life.
      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        I know devs with more than 15 years experience who couldn't write a class to save their life.

        That's to be expected. Not all programming languages have the concept of a "class".

        • by Jherico ( 39763 ) *
          That's my point. 15 years of experience doesn't mean shit if it doesn't mean you have the skills we need.
      • I've been developing software for longer than that, the majority of which has been Perl code in recent years. I've written a heck of a lot of modules, but haven't had the need to use C++, Java, etc in a long time. Without bragging too much, I've got a nice track record of coming up with elegant solutions to complex problems on a wide variety of platforms (mostly UNIX-based, with the odd Windows server thrown in here and there). I have a pretty deep understanding of commonly implemented algorithms for a dive
    • Gotta say I agree. Some tests I took used outdated methods/functions or approaches and when I answered using more up to date versions of the language or taking into consideration corrections or work-arounds that only a seasoned pro would know, it was considered wrong. The best way to have someone 'tested' is the have them solve a problem in front of another developer; have them step through it, explain themselves, answers questions, etc. A test does not answer what I need to know about that person nor does
      • That's a bad test, and if the interviewer is your possible boss, then it shows that maybe this isn't the company you want to work for if he's so out-of-touch.

        The good tests I've seen (and made up myself when I had to do some interviewing) are short and simple, and serve mainly to see if someone is lying about their experience. My own example: for a job requiring C++, explain briefly what a "class" is. I've had people with "expert-level knowledge of C++" not be able to answer that one. Or, show some small

    • Plus after 15 years I find it a tad insulting.

      More insulting than seeing the job go to a younger, less experienced, less capable candidate?

      In five years or ten will you even make it to the interview?

    • As a matter of principle, you'll never work for me. If you are too prissy to do the dance when interviewing, then what are you too gonna be to prissy to do when I'm paying you?

      You'd be sHoCkEd at how many people who supposedly have made a living writing C code cannot write a simple program from scratch in a couple of hours. These are people who I would have hired if I only looked at their resume, talking to references, and interview. Then they sit down AND CAN'T WRITE A SIMPLE PROGRAM FROM SCRATCH?

      The f

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:22PM (#29318119)
    The business owner was looking for a new receptionist, and couldn't decide which of they applicants to hire, so he decided to do a test. He accidentally "dropped" a $100 bill in front of each of them. The first just handed the money back to him. The second took the money, then came back later saying "I invested that $100 you dropped in oil futures. Here's your $100, plus $50 profit." The last slyly pocketed the money and didn't say anything about it.

    Which one did he hire?
    The one with the biggest tits, of course!
  • Global search? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mollog ( 841386 )
    Jeepers, this chaps my ass. Is it really so hard to find good help locally? Foreign workers are seldom the bargain that they seem to be.

    Companies claim that they can't find good help domestically, but what they're really saying is that they don't want to pay for home-grown talent.

    Sorry for the rant.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by dintech ( 998802 )

      this chap's my ass.

      That's better...

      • by IANAAC ( 692242 )
        Try again.

        To mollog's point, I agree with him, and I actually work globally (freelance translator for various agencies).

        My experience has been that the less accessible an agency is, or another freelancer I've subcontracted, for that matter, the shoddier the work. My best agencies are ones where I can actually go into their office if I need to and speak face-to-face with someone.

        In other words, local. It's not that hard to find local talent, really. Unfortunately, many companies still use the non-lo

      • this chap's my ass.

        That's better...

        Umm... Unless your chaps are so tight that your ass actually becomes part of them, no, it's not better.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )

      but what they're really saying is that they don't want to pay for home-grown talent.

            Usually it's not the home grown talent but all the other crap/paperwork/regulations that go with it.

            Much easier to "hire" someone in India, wire them the money every week, and not have to worry about little details like the Labor Code.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:30PM (#29318213) Homepage Journal

    I am a manger of a small Software Development department

    Good luck with eating the department.

    • by treeves ( 963993 )

      Actually, if he's a manger, isn't he rather likely to be eaten out of by livestock?
      Or perhaps have a ceramic baby Jesus put in him at Christmas-time.
      Either option doesn't sound enjoyable to me.

  • If you want to test just capacity for solving problems, don't make it depend on fine language understanding, some good foreign developers could be fluent in english technical written language and dont do so well on full language, or spoken one. Test as possible what you really want to know, not putting limitations on things that could or could not matter in the job.
  • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:35PM (#29318267)

    No, I wouldn't be willing to take a test, and I actually flat walked out on an interview in 2003 when I showed up and was told - by surprised - that I was going to be taking an exam. I was also then informed that the open position was for a junior position. When I expressed surprise at this, the HR flack's response was "Oh, didn't I mention that in my email?" She hadn't. Either of those would be sufficient for me to end the interview process, which I did.

    Why would I refuse to take a test? Simple: if you're giving me a test, the usual reason is that I'm being interviewed by someone who does not possess the ability to discern whether I know what I'm doing/talking about or not. If that person is the hiring manager, then I certainly don't want to work there. Working for people who cannot identify competence or incompetence is not pleasant. If that person is not the hiring manager, I still don't want to work there: it shows they would waste my time by having me interview with such a person rather than with the hiring manager or any other person who can tell if I'm competent or not.

    • by mevets ( 322601 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:06PM (#29318627)

      Was it at a systems company? I worked at one where the HR flak would ask stupid technical questions if s?he couldn't follow the conversation. Something to do with adding value or some such nonsense. Her favourite was "what is the difference between a union and a structure?". I was always hoping somebody would give a dissertation on the effects of organized labour vs bureaucratic incompetence on innovative organizations.

    • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:38PM (#29319481) Homepage Journal

      Speaking as someone who interviewed 30+ people over the last year: I can ask you a whole bunch of questions and listen to your answers, or I can sit you in a room and have you write down the answers and spend a 1/4 of the time going over those answers to see if they are right. Given that, in my estimation, 3/4s of the people I've interviewed were almost entirely incompetent at the technical skills claimed on their resume, I've been increasingly tempted to take the later route to save myself the time.

      Given the number of people claiming to be ubergurus who know jack shit, some sort of test, either in person in an interview session or with some kind of test is a requirement. The way to identify competence is to ask questions taht require it to be displayed. This can be done verbally in an interview or with pen and paper.

      Personally, I prefer interviews that include tests, because it means that the company is more interested in knowledge and skill than ability to bullshit in an interview. I've met plenty of people in interviews who could talk a mile a minute about any buzzword you could name but got the deer in the headlights look if you asked them to solve the simplest problem with code.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:36PM (#29318271)

    In our company, we work with offshore programmers.

    Our selection process includes a mandatory test, during which we assess the candidate on several points, mostly: IT Skills, ability to understand requirements, motivation. In order to avoid cultural issues, we tend to focus on facts and we try to avoid questions which may lead to a culturally biased answer. For instance, we would ask: "please explain me how you will implement such feature" instead of "did you understand what I mean".

    The test is a simple project, and the candidate can work on it at his/her own pace. They are followed by a project manager as in a real work environment. Its duration is normally one week as candidates usually have a day job. We renumerate the candidates for the test they take with us.

    The recruitment process has been found to be effective in most cases, allowing to effectively select quality programmers. We found that there are enough programmers ready to go through our selection process for us not to worry about the one refusing to take a test.

  • Yay for tests! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kirby ( 19886 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:53PM (#29318475) Homepage

    I've worked several places that had some sort of practical skills test for programmers.

    I consider them a strong success.

    There's a surprising number of people that can talk a really good game, but fall apart when asked the most basic actual questions. And, conversely, people who aren't extroverts or for whatever reason aren't stars in the verbal part of the interview, but clearly know their stuff when given a written test. It's a really good way to fairly judge technical skills across candidates, and weed out the fakers before you have to fire them later.

    And as an employee, I like working with smart, competent people. I know how much, from experience, a bad hire wastes my time and ruins morale, so I'm happy to work for places that put out effort one way or another to not enter into this trap.

    Anyone who'd refuse on principal, I'd worry is either a) faking it, or b) too arrogant to work well with others. A good candidate is happy to prove that they're a good candidate, and won't have to work with idiots.

    A test isn't the _only_ way to do this. Any sort of nice, concrete technical grilling will do. But for a programmer, it _must_ involve actually writing code of a non-trivial nature. You can't believe resumes - even if people aren't lying, a Senior Programmer at one shop may only be barely competent at another, and not even realize that the bar is set differently.

    Of course, the quality of a test can vary just like the quality of an interview question, but the goal is good for the company _and_ the employees, and in my experience it works better than most techniques.

    Now, if your shop isn't terribly compelling based on product, and you're desperate to not turn people away... well, you probably should be looking for places that feel like they need a test to screen out unqualified candidates, so you can stop hating your job, and not worry about fixing this particular problem. :)

    • And some people are just very good at taking tests, and fall apart when you ask them to actually write any code.

      Do you have any actual evidence that tests improve your selection of candidates, or are you just blindly believing in tests?

  • When so many of the job postings today want you to have PhD in their field as well as 10 years experience using programs that have only existed for 5 years you have to lie. The honest non-lying people simply don't apply. And if you're willing to lie on one thing, you're willing to lie on another. I'm confident that if you auditted all the resumes and then verified the claims the majority would contain lies. The first step to fix this is to post realistic job requirements.
    • I saw a job posting recently that asked for 18 years of web development experience. I guess Al Gore would be the only qualified candidate.

      Personally, I won't lie on a resume or in an interview though. I don't want to hire weasels, and I don't want to work for them either. If they can't formulate reasonable job requirements, how are they going to be able to give me reasonable work requirements after I'm hired? Granted, sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the sake of having a job, but working for idi

  • by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @06:56PM (#29318507)

    Knowing this, having interviewed a lot of people and having known a lot of interviewees, I wouldn't be insulted to take a test. However, its also true that a lot of the gimmicky kinds of questions that are asked on tests don't show very much about a candidate's depth. Certainly a test shouldn't be a primary criteria.

  • If someone doesn't interview (or worse, complete an interview) because of a test I don't care how smart they are. They're too much of a prima donna. I've been in situations where an interview had tests that were way beneath my skill level, and in those cases I've either known immediately that the job I was interviewing for wasn't for me, asked the interviewer if there were more high level jobs available, or helped them fix their test. (In one case the test had questions that helped answer previous questions, so I helped them fix it.) In all cases I impressed the interviewer enough to get the job.

  • by bcwright ( 871193 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:10PM (#29318653)

    Testing isn't necessarily a bad idea, but it can create problems as well as solve them. In most software development environments, any testing should usually be used to weed out unsuitable candidates rather than to produce a single number that will be used as the primary hiring guide. Other things like interpersonal dynamics can also be important, for example. Multiple-choice tests are probably the least useful, because they test specific bits of knowledge rather than broader concepts; that may be useful in a classroom where you're testing the student's knowledge of a specific curriculum, but most real-world software development positions (other than perhaps the very most entry-level jobs) are more about design and problem solving and not so much about things like the details of a specific computer language. Essay tests of whatever sort would usually be the most useful, but also the hardest to design and grade.

    Even worse, if you aren't careful, in many places and depending on whether you are a public or a private entity, you can potentially open yourself up to things like discrimination lawsuits if you don't end up hiring whatever person received the highest score on the test even if they don't fit some of your other criteria very well.

    I would certainly not want to give a test that wasn't in person - there are far too many ways to get scammed: For example I've had someone ask if I could "help them out" with an online employment test - not just asking me for one or two bits of information, but essentially asking me to take the whole test for them! If you are doing a "worldwide" search, that creates problems for a small software group - the cost of flying a number of candidates to your location can be astronomical.


  • by SmoothTom ( 455688 ) <> on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:13PM (#29318703) Homepage

    I'm now retired, but all the way back to my first tech job interview in the '60s, the interviews have included tests of my ability to perform as needed.

    If one cannot test an applicant one is seriously handicapped in making valid hiring decisions.

    University Place, WA

  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:23PM (#29318793)

    You will lose some good people who do not want to take the test. But without the test, you might hire an incompetent employee. Which is worse?

    Personally I'd take the former failure mode. In that case your job search just takes longer. I'd rather that, than hire a bad employee.

  • Yes! TEST! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:24PM (#29318811) Homepage

    If more employers were able to test their employees adequately during screening, there would be a lot fewer bullshitters out there trying to claim they can do what they can't. Burn in hell you cert-chasers who don't know what you are doing!

    Every employer who gave me such a test, I always got an offer -- usually a good offer. Some of us are actually good at working through IT related problems and solving them. Some of use are not and just want to coast through on bullshit.

    There are very few people who feel that they are "above the test" and the eager ones actually say "bring it on!" Those are the ones you want.

    As for setting up a "practical" part of a test? Absolutely! If you have the skills to build a nice one, do it.

    Nothing gets under my skin more than HR people screening resumes of really good people because the right set of words didn't appear on a page. Every successful hire I have ever had was when another IT person was involved in the screening and interviewing.

  • A test is only as good as it was designed. The question is, how do you know if you're measuring what you think you're measuring?

    One time when I was applying for a job I was told I was going to be tested on writing fast SQL code, so I should be sure to be up on it. I heard from one person at the company that this was something they deeply valued. I bought a book on optimizing SQL and started reading it. After a few days of reading I decided fuck it, why should I be ALREADY be spending my own time doing wh

  • Dropouts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:31PM (#29318865) Homepage

    However, it seems a lot of applicants drop out when I mention that this test is mandatory. Is this a sign that we caught them in a lie, or are we weeding out good people where we shouldn't be?

    I won't venture a guess as to whether you've caught them in a lie but unless your test is seriously overbearing, you're not weeding out anybody you shouldn't be. Competent developers serious about finding a job won't balk at an interview merely because you ask for a demonstration.

    I will say this though: be honest, be open and be brief. Tell them that the point of the test is to eliminate folks who talk the talk without walking the walk. Encourage them to take a copy of the test with them so they can use it to improve on any issues they weren't prepared for. And don't ask 100 boring questions. Something as simple as, "write a function in C to reverse the characters in a string," can be surprisingly revealing.


  • 'I am a manger of a small Software Development department, looking to hire some more developers. By edict of the CEO, the search must be made globally, so we are dealing with different cultures and different ideas of truth and embellishment, etc. To try to counteract this, we give the potential employees tests where I watch what they do, to see if they actually know what they say they know.

    So you are already changing tests to account for different backgrounds, yadda, yadda, yadda. Exactly how much of the company is also going to change just to accommodate someone? I assume you are making the ability to speak and write in English mandatory? Are you going to make any concessions considering you are going international with your search? Sounds like management just wants an excuse to pay less for the same work, not to say it doesn't happen for other reasons but work done by foreigners isn't alway

  • The reason is I've been through a lot of interviews that consisted simply of a few questions like "open a connection to an SQL database in C++". Now, what's the answer to that? Perhaps "Okay, right after you tell me what library you're using and give me its API." or maybe "Do you really expect a good developer to remember functions they used just once? If you coded opening connections to databases more than a couple times per project, you're very likely doing something wrong."

    I'm not very good with people
  • by darkwing_bmf ( 178021 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:04PM (#29319185)

    Stay away from pure code tests. Asking a person how they would solve a given problem or a puzzle is a great idea. But have them explain to you in their own words how they would solve it and don't focus on a particular programming language. The reasons are:

    A) Programming languages can be learned. You don't want to rule out people who are great problem solvers just because they don't know your favorite language yet. And don't let them pick their favorite language because you may not know it well enough to judge their effort.

    B) You want them to demonstrate good communication skills. In the real world good programmers have to deal with people (Customers, Mathematicians, Human Factors Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Safety Engineers, etc...) who aren't coders.

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:08PM (#29319219) Homepage

    Many moons ago when I was doing coding jobs I had a series of interviews that required me to code stuff to demonstrate what I knew. I was looking to move away from my current job into new areas and didn't know how they worked but they all seemed to ask the same thing

    1) Code something
    2) Take a coding test

    What I learnt very quickly was that lots of people are really looking to hire people not quite as smart as they are. I knew this because I had three interviews where the following happened

    Interview 1:

    Set an "impossible" task to code (in C) an address book and calendar solution with a GUI (this is the mid-90s) in 6 hours. No internet connection and no reference books.

    3 hours later I set off to find the interviewer in the pub.

    Interview 2:

    Set a series of questions around "write the most effective code to do X".

    There were 10 questions and I answered them in 10 different programming languages (Ada, C, Prolog, C++, Eiffel, 68k assembler, LISP, SQL, COBOL, Fortran) and the chap interviewing me didn't have a clue if I was right or wrong.

    Interview 3:

    They had a major bug in a current release, my job was to find the bug and explain why it happened. I knew free work when I saw it. It was a big C programme and it took me 4 hours to find the bug (pointer referencing problem). I wandered into the office of the person setting the "test" and said...

    "How much to tell you the answer"

    I didn't go for any of these. What I went for, and what I have done since, is go for the company that set me an abstract test that asked me to design a system which had a number of constraints. They didn't want code, just to see the conceptual model that I would create. When I joined I asked why they did it this way and the answer was enlightening....

    "Because we want to hire smarter people than we are. If you talk code then its just about optimising, but if you talk about the abstract then its about thinking. We want people who give us answers we think are wrong and then they explain why we are wrong."

    The key point was to give people a limited time (15-30 minutes) to understand the problem and propose the solution. You want people who are agile and quick, not people who can sit on their arses for 6 hours doing a troll job.

    If you want to hire people dumber than you, set complex long tests that "only you" know the answers to. If you want to hire smart thinking people set very short tests that challenge their abstract thinking.

    • Bingo. (Score:3, Funny)

      by coryking ( 104614 ) *

      Hell if I know how to reverse a string in place. I'll freeze if you get me to even try. I'm 1) left handed 2) a poor handwriter and 3) sometimes easy to frazzle. Get me in front of a whiteboard and ask me a stupid question like that and I'll freeze.

      It is a stupid question anyway. What does solving it really mean? That you are good at writing bit-twiddling code? Screw that. Ask me to solve a problem. Ask me to sketch out a high-level view of the solution. Maybe a couple traces of code tossed in.


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