Counterproductive Hiring Practices

by Krishna on December 15, 2009

I am agnostic about pair programming. I believe that having strong programmers and a good code review process offers at least as much benefit as (if not more than) full-fledged pair programming, but if it is working for someone, I don’t see any reason to object. Researching which brought me to Obie Fernandez’s strange self-congratulatory article on pair programming.

Apart from the evidence-less accusations about what “most” software developers, managers and firms seem to do, it also has some silly ideas about hiring good developers. Read:

The best way to hire talent is to drop them in actual work situations for at least a week and see what happens. […] Our candidates spend their interview week rotating on actual production code, pairing with the same people they’ll be working with if they’re hired. Everyone gets a say in whether to hire a new recruit, and hesitance from a developer that actually paired with them means they do not get hired.

I don’t understand in what universe a talented programmer is going to take a week’s worth of leave to work as part of an interviewing process for an obscure company. Maybe a desperate, unemployed programmer? Since the best programmers are already attracted and hired by the big firms (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.), is this any way to recruit them away?

This is simply a case of “don’t know what is missing“. The company simply doesn’t realize how drastically it has shrunk the pool from which it can hire and assumes that it has the best possible developers.  There is some benefit to doing your homework before hiring someone, but this is a practice that has gone too far into the other direction.


Mike Marshall December 15, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Yeah, I agree. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that. A week-long interview? Most of the good devs that I know don’t spend a week (total) unemployed between gigs. They get snapped up. So, take from that what you will.

As far as pair programming is concerned, I think this post has a lot of merit.

sensei December 16, 2009 at 9:57 am

In Turkey , instead of that , Companies give some work to the candidate to deliver before a predetermined deadline, and if the programmer finishes the job well on time , then they will ask some questions about the work done , and in the end they will reach a verdict.

Best Regards.

yaro May 13, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Easy way to get work done for free, for the companies? One Russian/Israeli company in the US tried that on me when I was naive, and got an efficient version of the rucksack algorithm done (those bas**ds). In the end they gave me an offer I was sure to reject.

To candidates: Do not *EVER* answer the question asking how you will solve a particular problem, their problem. Tell them to hire you and you will demonstrate. Or pay hourly and you will be glad to work on it.

Krishna May 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Sorry to hear about your experience, Yaro. I guess there are a lot of companies out there trying to skirt the labor laws. Employee beware!

Kevin December 16, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I’ve actually had something like this excluding the pair programming bit. But that was when I was fresh out of college. I had to spend two days on actual development for the organization before I got selected for an interview. Apparently, the selection was based on how well I wrote the application and how much of the requirements I could complete. I was selected and worked there for about a year. It was a relatively unknown organization but the skill levels of many of the developers over there was pretty good. Maybe because we had a Japanese boss.

Hire programmer February 15, 2010 at 3:30 am

Hire a skilled programmer requires great effort. instead of that one week in actual work should prepare some cases which they have to face in the industry and ask them to solve it.

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