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Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 9:45 AM
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FunkyDexter (8/9/2012)

...I have an unusual interview technique I use which some here might find unreasonable but I'd defend it to the hilt. I get two sets of lego containing exactly the same pieces. I sit in one room with a pretty random shape pre-built out of one set of lego and have the interviewee sit in another room with the other set - connected by hands free telephones. The interviewee can ask any questions they like and they've got 20 minutes to build the shape I pre-built, which is waaay too short a period for them to actually complete the task (it takes alot longer than you might think). This is actually a great test because it reveals so much about the interviewee that I believe is crucial to a good programmer. Particularly around the "softer" skills I'm typically looking for. Do they panic? Do they give up? How do they communicate? Do they ask open and closed question to understand the problem? Do they make assumptions or fully clarify the goals up front? Do they take a methodical aproach? Do they think logically and try to break the problem into smaller chunks? I'm not cruel, I lay the basic premise out in front of the interviewee before hand and what my expectations are. I tell them they probably won't finish and I just want them to get as close as possible...


Maybe you are really just testing their willingness to work on pointless tasks in order to get a job.







Post #1342783
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 9:47 AM


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FunkyDexter (8/9/2012)
Wierdest interview I ever has was only about my second job after finishing my degree. The boss turned up an hour late and the only thing he seemed interested in was whether I liked Frank Zappa. I did, so I got the job. In hindsight I wish I hadn't accepted it as it turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Still, you live and learn.

I have an unusual interview technique I use which some here might find unreasonable but I'd defend it to the hilt. I get two sets of lego containing exactly the same pieces. I sit in one room with a pretty random shape pre-built out of one set of lego and have the interviewee sit in another room with the other set - connected by hands free telephones. The interviewee can ask any questions they like and they've got 20 minutes to build the shape I pre-built, which is waaay too short a period for them to actually complete the task (it takes alot longer than you might think). This is actually a great test because it reveals so much about the interviewee that I believe is crucial to a good programmer. Particularly around the "softer" skills I'm typically looking for. Do they panic? Do they give up? How do they communicate? Do they ask open and closed question to understand the problem? Do they make assumptions or fully clarify the goals up front? Do they take a methodical aproach? Do they think logically and try to break the problem into smaller chunks? I'm not cruel, I lay the basic premise out in front of the interviewee before hand and what my expectations are. I tell them they probably won't finish and I just want them to get as close as possible.

Technical skills are pretty easy to test for, you just ask some technical questions. And knowing your syntax off by heart isn't really what makes a good programmer, it's about having a flair for problem solving. Those soft skills can be damn hard to test for and this is the most effective way I've ever found to do it.


Sounds like a reasonable technique to me. Assumes 3D mental imaging skills that some people might not have, and which probably aren't applicable to most DBA/dev tasks, but that itself as a barrier would be easy enough to false-negative out of the test.


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Post #1342784
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 9:56 AM


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FunkyDexter (8/9/2012)

I have an unusual interview technique I use which some here might find unreasonable but I'd defend it to the hilt. I get two sets of lego containing exactly the same pieces. I sit in one room with a pretty random shape pre-built out of one set of lego and have the interviewee sit in another room with the other set - connected by hands free telephones. The interviewee can ask any questions they like and they've got 20 minutes to build the shape I pre-built, which is waaay too short a period for them to actually complete the task (it takes alot longer than you might think).


That's really interesting. A good amount of this depends on how good a communicator you are, but you need this person to communicate with you, so this is actually a good test. 20min seems long to me, I might try to get this down to 10 minutes to see how they work with you, but I like it.







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Post #1342790
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 9:58 AM


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I had a strange interview back in the Novell 3.11 days where a guy kept asking me questions about digging into a particular problem scenario. As I'd answer with things to check or look at, he'd provide the results and explain what didn't work and we'd go on. I asked questions, and some he answered, some he couldn't.

Eventually I tried something that made him stop. He told me they'd had this problem and couldn't solve it, going through almost everything I'd done until that last thing. Was an interesting experience.








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Post #1342794
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 11:19 AM


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Steve Jones - SSC Editor (8/9/2012)
I had a strange interview back in the Novell 3.11 days where a guy kept asking me questions about digging into a particular problem scenario. As I'd answer with things to check or look at, he'd provide the results and explain what didn't work and we'd go on. I asked questions, and some he answered, some he couldn't.

Eventually I tried something that made him stop. He told me they'd had this problem and couldn't solve it, going through almost everything I'd done until that last thing. Was an interesting experience.



So they did this: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2006-05-06/
to you?
Post #1342869
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 11:38 AM
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FunkyDexter (8/9/2012)
Wierdest interview I ever has was only about my second job after finishing my degree. The boss turned up an hour late and the only thing he seemed interested in was whether I liked Frank Zappa. I did, so I got the job. In hindsight I wish I hadn't accepted it as it turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Still, you live and learn.

I have an unusual interview technique I use which some here might find unreasonable but I'd defend it to the hilt. I get two sets of lego containing exactly the same pieces. I sit in one room with a pretty random shape pre-built out of one set of lego and have the interviewee sit in another room with the other set - connected by hands free telephones. The interviewee can ask any questions they like and they've got 20 minutes to build the shape I pre-built, which is waaay too short a period for them to actually complete the task (it takes alot longer than you might think). This is actually a great test because it reveals so much about the interviewee that I believe is crucial to a good programmer. Particularly around the "softer" skills I'm typically looking for. Do they panic? Do they give up? How do they communicate? Do they ask open and closed question to understand the problem? Do they make assumptions or fully clarify the goals up front? Do they take a methodical aproach? Do they think logically and try to break the problem into smaller chunks? I'm not cruel, I lay the basic premise out in front of the interviewee before hand and what my expectations are. I tell them they probably won't finish and I just want them to get as close as possible.

Technical skills are pretty easy to test for, you just ask some technical questions. And knowing your syntax off by heart isn't really what makes a good programmer, it's about having a flair for problem solving. Those soft skills can be damn hard to test for and this is the most effective way I've ever found to do it.


The first thing I'd do is ask for specs. If there were no specs, I would ask if you always require developers to work without specs. Depending on that answer, I may stay and play the game, or, I'd walk out. If I stayed, I would then ask you to take a pic of the lego and email it to me. I am interviewing you as much as you are interviewing me.
Post #1342889
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 11:53 AM
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Sounds like a reasonable technique to me. Assumes 3D mental imaging skills that some people might not have, and which probably aren't applicable to most DBA/dev tasks, but that itself as a barrier would be easy enough to false-negative out of the test.
Just to be clear, I'm looking for a successful completion of the task or even how close they get. I'm looking at how they aproach it it. To be honest, I always thought it was impossible to complete in the timescale although one guy did get awfully close once. He completed a model but a couple of the bricks were miss-orientated. Damn close though. I put him forward but the budget got cut back just before we made an offer. I think that sucked and I hope he found something else decent.

20min seems long to me
I'd have thought so too if I hadn't tried it out on one of my team members first with no duration to see how long was reasonable. It took him over an hour but he did end up getting it exactly right. At the 10 minute stage most people are still establishing which bricks have actually been used. 20 is actually surprisingly tight.

Eventually I tried something that made him stop. He told me they'd had this problem and couldn't solve it, going through almost everything I'd done until that last thing. Was an interesting experience
That does sound like you got fleeced for some free consultancy. By the way, I've got a position available for a particularly talented c# programmer with a deep understanding of the data binding model. It's imperitive that you know how to implement the iBindingList interface to give a source that will remember the persistance state of it's members, allow filtering and sorting and handle any generic type. This question will be purely to test your knowledge at interview and is in no way connected to the fact that I've been banging away at this for weeks now! There's definitely be a job at the end of it. Honest. You can trust me.


The first thing I'd do is ask for specs.
That would definitely win you points as would asking for a picture. An insistence on ALWAYS having a spec (not sure you're saying you always need one though) would lose you points. To me a good developer needs to be able to investigate a problem themselves when the situation demands it. As often as not the customer genuinely cannot spec what they want because they don't fully understand the problem themselves and on those occassions I want someone with a much more rounded skill set than just the ability to follow a set of instructions. Any developer who ever tells me they don't feel they should ever have to speak to a user gets counted out immediately. Specs when possible, flexibilty when not.
Post #1342898
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 12:39 PM


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jasona.work (8/9/2012)
Steve Jones - SSC Editor (8/9/2012)
I had a strange interview back in the Novell 3.11 days where a guy kept asking me questions about digging into a particular problem scenario. As I'd answer with things to check or look at, he'd provide the results and explain what didn't work and we'd go on. I asked questions, and some he answered, some he couldn't.

Eventually I tried something that made him stop. He told me they'd had this problem and couldn't solve it, going through almost everything I'd done until that last thing. Was an interesting experience.



So they did this: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2006-05-06/
to you?


Almost. They'd worked around the issue, but it always bugged the guy, so he kept the scenario as an interview question.







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Post #1342936
Posted Monday, August 13, 2012 2:46 AM


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Lowell (8/7/2012)
I had a similar interview like laurie had years ago; they were interested in whether I knew vb6, ADO and whether i knew javascript; the questions had a couple of techy questions, but the end of the interview was "can you start tomorrow".


I took the same interview as Laurie, two or three weeks' before, with the same two interviewers. "Do you know the difference between an inner join and an outer join", "Yes", was the interview. We spent the rest of the allotted time talking about photography. That was the second gig Laurie and I worked. The first was Bravissimo about 4 years ago. Oh, and this is the third, he sits on the same run of desks. The interview wasn't particularly interesting for this one. A fairly rigorous online test followed up a week later by a phone chat about hobbies. Prior to the phone chat, I'd attended an interview with a DM company only a half-hour walk from home. That one was offerred too but the offer came through a day after the offer for this job. Here's the unusual bit - the agent said they'd like me aboard but wanted to haggle over the quoted rate, even though I was putting more on the table than the list of requirements. I'm hoping to discover if it was the client, or the agency scrabbling for a bigger percentage.


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Post #1344024
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2012 6:49 AM


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I just don't get the "shock" interview mentality. My boss did this to one of my co-workers. He brought him in for an interview and about half way through spun around in his chair (he was sideways to the guy) and started bouncing a ball of the wall and catching it. He did this for about 10 minutes.


That shows a complete lack of respect. I would have (politely) told him so and ended the interview. I would not be comfortable working for someone who can't look me in the eye and gives the appearance of being bored.
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