Darth Reed

Now that I have a place to put my quasi-technical babble over at MSDN, the space is reserved for me to spew my political bile and enjoy all things sci-fi. Heh.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Interview & Hiring Practices: The Quiz

I'm just wondering how many other companies out there use a hands-on approach to screening developer candidates. I mean actually taking the candidate and putting him or her in front of Visual Studio or Eclipse to see if they're as cool under fire as they claim. I've never interviewed with a company that takes the approach that I do, but I haven't interviewed with every software shop out there, yet. Heh.

I put every candidate in front of a computer with Visual Studio .NET 2003, MSDN Library, SQL Server Developer Edition and everything else they're likely to need (including internet access for the budding Sith Lords who can sneak out to Google for quick answers during the test) for an hour with a single sheet of paper that has better requirements on it than they are ever likely to get "on the job" in order to see what they do with it. I want to know about:

  1. the kind of code they write,
  2. the assumptions they make without further guidance, and
  3. whether they can sling ASP.NET, C#, XML and T-SQL with the skill that their resumes claim.

The Quiz is then reviewed by me and peer-reviewed by the team to make sure that:

  1. they write code we think we can maintain, and
  2. they will understand the code we write.

In the four years that I've been doing this, I have had to continually revise The Quiz (there are several different versions) to provide a variety of options for returning candidates (some people really want to work here) and to make it easier because so few people have been able to hack it. All the codeslingers here can do the whole thing, quick and dirty, in an hour, so I know that it's possible...

I have discovered that many .NET jedi simply can't hack this real world screening mechanism. I've even had candidates read over The Quiz and simply hand it back to me and leave without further ado.

But we've also had candidates who did well on The Quiz be exposed as complete non-hackers later in the process, so The Quiz (like reading a resume) isn't foolproof. Fortunately, the interrogation droid is.

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