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How not to conduct an interview

I came across this interview question site and it drove me to fits. Anyone who would use this site, it's questions, develop or use interview questions like it is just stupid and lazy. The site represents 4 years of college and two years of ACM competitions.  At the time they were fun but they are meaningless in the context of the work I have performed over 35 years.

In my professional programming career I've only had to implement or model against a standard deviation once. And never once had I specifically answered an interview question that was remotely related to any higher level math. Let's face it... these questions are all derivatives from university studies and while that was 25 years ago I wouldn't remember any of these the day after graduation.

The frustration is that while I was in college we bumped chests and high-fived with the idea that university was teaching us to research and think critically. The specifics of maths, physical sciences or humanities were actually unimportant.

And now that we are on the outside looking for work it has changed from that to can you fit the packages on a truck. Of course it's important to FedEx and UPS but if you are building an email client or text editor where is the parity? Looking at that site I have no particular favorites or raspberries ... I know I hate them all.

When I interview a candidate I'm looking for just a few things:

  • aptitude - does the candidate like the field and are they likely to stick with it
  • are they arrogant to excel but not enough to disrupt the team or quit prematurely
  • focus - watch out for the butterflies and shiny new tech.
  • lazy enough to be efficient

(**) it's better if the candidate is smarter than me too. And I favor individuals who have changed their primary language at least once.

The difficulty, every time, is trying to customize the interview so that I can make an intuitive score on these attributes. I'm not perfect but in my career and hiring 100+ candidates I have only made 3-4 sub par hires and 2 of the four were under duress from management.


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