We can do the hiring thing better

3 minute read

These are some pretty underdeveloped thoughts but I just wanted to get them out there - it’s been floating around in my head for a while now.

Interviews suck

Who likes job interviews? Specifically for the tech industry? If you’ve got your hand up right now, you either: work in human resources, are a masochist, or you’re a Delivery Manager (some may say that they’re same thing but that’s a misconception - maybe I’ll dive into how to differentiate them later on).

I think it’s fair to say that they can be pretty goddamn awful (the interviews - not DM’s), and likely we would not do them given the chance. Or would we? Should we, even?

I’ve had my fair share of interviews, and definitely interviewed enough developers to know that everyone seems to approach them in the same way.

Interviewers usually unknowingly present some arbitrary challenge - it’s subtle, unclear, and can change with their mood. The bigger the interviewers ego the harder and more subtle the challenge will be. It may be technical, it could be social, there could even be more than one. Should the interviewer fail to rise to this challenge, she’ll be given the thumbs down and be told that she “just wasn’t what [they were] looking for.”. Or, even worse, radio silence.

Interviewees, on the other hand, come in with that tired, worried look in their eyes. You just know that they were cramming the night prior and are probably sitting on a sleep-debt that would challenge me the night after I discovered House. There is also a fairly clean 50/50 split between developers that seem to understand that they are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them, and those that think you (the interviewer) has all the power. It can be tough (at least in this exchange) when you believe you are coming from a position of supreme disadvantage even though you typically and realistically aren’t. For any senior developers, I’ve seen the interviews become more of a sales pitch company than an actual technical screening of the candidate.

Does this need to change? I don’t really know. I think there are ways we can more clearly articulate the barrier to entry. Give candidates a chance to know what we want from them so they can adapt and grow.

Validating a candidate

I short while ago when my partner was looking for a new position, she had an interview lined up at a company with a great reputation for being a wonderful place to work. Not long after sending off her meticulously, handcrafted resume and custom-tailored cover letter for this specific job she received back an email. In the email: an invitation to participate in an automated screening interview where she would be interviewed by prerecorded messages with her responses recorded via her webcam.

Honestly, If you can’t be bothered to begin a working relationship on a foundation of mutual respect, that does not bode well at all for what the future of that position holds. She did not do the interview - their loss.

There are some things that you can only automate to the detriment of the actual process itself (I’m looking at you, Tinder). It seems that job interviews are one of those things that fall clearly in the arena of things we should not automate. It’s categorically inhuman and leaves new recruits with a sour impression of the company from the very beginning. There is a better, more human way to do this for goodness sake, figure it out.

So then, how do you validate candidates?

The old way works pretty well - other than that I have no idea. I just wanted to get that off my chest. We don’t need to put a computer between ourselves and every other person that we interface with. And we should in fact do it much, much less.

Conclusion

So, I’ll probably keep updating this as I get more and more cynical of the processes we’ve built up around hiring processes. It’s a pretty rough experience and the cost is high on both sides of the equation - which is funny because it’s the employer and the candidate that set the price. We should just both agree to lower it.

For now, that’ll do.