Interviews Stink

Update: Nah, it will never work. I still like the concept but Tom Calloway’s comment below is right. No one would share. I still think that if we replaced interviews with something else we’d be happier. But I have no answers.

I’ve had this nagging sense, for years, that there has to be a better way to find good programmers to work with. This article put words on my angst:

Computer programming job interviews are a disastrous waste.

1. What’s ROI stand for? Have you ever used this concept?

You’re interviewing for a management position, and you get that question. Do you really want to work there? I would not. Yet, that’s the state of the art for interviewing a developer.

What if we didn’t interview at all? What if I had to make a recommendation on my next new coworker, sight unseen? No interview. No phone call. No email. Cover letter, resume, references, decision.

You know what? I think I could do it.

If I had the power to run the next interview gauntlet, I’d try something new. I’d look at the resources spent by a normal interview. Probably about 6 people, 90 minutes each, studying resumes, waiting for their turn to interview, pontificating during the interview, blah blah blah. 6 people, 30 minutes, 3 days.

Here’s how it would roll.

Break into 3 sets of pairs. Make a few reference calls for 90 minutes. Find their old managers, try to get a coworker. Ask the impolite tough questions you wouldn’t dare ask an interviewee directly. Find out, does this clown blow smoke or does this clown get stuff done?

Supposing we put those kinds of resources on those kinds of tasks, and didn’t bother with an interview, what kind of person do you think we’d hire? Would they be better or worse than the average new hire

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2 Comments on “Interviews Stink”

  1. Tom Callaway Says:

    For what it is worth, the vast majority of companies will not give you the reference answers you’re looking for, for fear of lawsuits. They certainly won’t tell you anything negative, and at best, will be neutral. In Germany, all you can get out of them is that the person used to work there.

    As silly as some interviews might be, the solution you propose won’t really work.

    What does work is actually asking programmers to program. Find a bug in this code and fix it. Write some code to solve a specific problem, and do it in this language.

  2. Jennie Says:

    Maybe women should do this for a guy before they start dating them. They could ask all of his past girlfriends, current friends, past friends, parents and siblings. This would cut out much of the undesirables.


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