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A Bad Litmus Test

By Steve Jones,

http://davidrossdale.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/litmus-test.jpgOne of the things that I think are a bad idea are litmus tests. It doesn't matter what you're working on, if there is one single thing that flips the "bozo bit" for you and makes you decide on an issue every time, I think you are being closed-minded.

When I read this quote recently, I was surprised: "If the next programmer you interview can't identify at least one of the programmers interviewed in Coders at Work and tell you roughly what they're famous for … I'd say that's an immediate no-hire. "

Wow, someone that can't identify a person famous for programming can't get hired? I suppose if that's your culture, and the history of programming is important, maybe this is a good test. But it also might cause you to miss out on good candidates. Even candidates that are outstanding programmers, but don't necessarily share your passion.

I had been writing for a few years when someone asked me who were some of the other writers I looked up to in the SQL Server world. It was surprising to me that I didn't know the names of many authors. I read for content, and I'd just drop something that didn't read well or teach me something. As I've gone along in my career I have started to notice who writes what, but that's because it's important for my business. For the average person, I wonder how much they care who the author, or even speaker, is.

Content rules, at least that's what I believe, and I think that the same thing goes for talent. You want to hire people that fit in, that work well with you, and can do the job. Finding people can be hard, and expensive. Using a litmus test might just eliminate some of the very people that you want to hire.

Steve Jones


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