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I am a recruiter and always ask this question - "Is programming just a job for you to get the bills paid, or do you have a broader interest?"

The thing to understand, and what the author of this post has wrong, is that I am not looking to hear about how much TIME a developer spends on programming. I am wanting to hear the STORY of their personal interest. Because the truth is that if software development is a personal interest to you, then you will find a way to pursue that interest, within the time that you have. You'll find a nook or a cranny in which to dig about learning things and finding out new stuff - maybe for 30 minutes before you go to sleep, or on the train, or somewhere.

The point is that employers want people who are INTERESTED - they are not necessarily looking for people who spend all available personal time pursuing an interest in software development.

And I can tell you with certainty that if you claim to have a person interest in software development but you cannot find any time outside work to pursue that interest, then you are lying. Perhaps to both yourself and the recruiter, but certainly you are lying. If you have a personal interest then you are DRIVEN to pursue that interest. If you claim a personal interest but also say "I'm just too busy these days to do anything.", then you have failed to admit that in fact you do not have a personl interest, you just go to work to do your job and go home.

So no, recruiters - at least this recruiter - are not looking for people who spend all non work time pursuing an interest in software, but are looking for people who can effectively articulate their passion and can explain how they DO fit it into their life.

Talk to me, engage me in a conversation, explain in some depth the things that you do find interesting. This has nothing to do with spending hour up endless hour writing code, it has to do with connecting directly to your personal interest, to the thinking that you have done.




So, is recruiting a passion for you? Did you find yourself driven to do it whatever the cost? What personal recruiting projects have you done recently that you're proud of? Do you connect your recruiting with a personal interest? What kind of recruiting do you do outside of work hours?

I would implore you to re-read what you wrote but instead of making it about software engineering make it about recruiting. Then tell me that it's not a double standard.


He's reading and commenting on a Hacker News post about jobs on the weekend. Seems like that answers at least part of your question.


If I were hiring recruiters then I would absolutely look for this kind of passion. The point is, if you have the option to hire someone who works just for the money, or someone who has a personal interest in their work, usually you want the latter. Not all companies have that option, and not all developers fit that definition. There is room for everyone in this profession. But let's not pretend that those who practice less because they don't have a personal interest will magically end up as skilled as those who love it and put in the hours to become great.


Most recruiters I've met never stop recruiting and spend a great deal of "social" time talking to people in relevant areas and trying to figure out how to get them a job. It's usually quite obnoxious, but definitely doesn't speak to thinking of recruiting as a 9-5 job


I do projects that interest me but they aren't recruiting related.


In all fairness, do you ask marketers if they go to networking events to gauge their interest in developing business relationships, or would you count that as a negative, because they're also exposing themselves to being scooped up by your competitors?

Do you ask sales people if they have independent side commissions, or would you consider that as cutting into the time spent chasing the deals your company looks after?

Do you ask strategic account managers if they take the time to visit their clients beyond an employers' requirements, or do you see that as a liability for having them poached as in-house talent?

I get that you want developers who show an intrinsic interest in staying current, because the field often requires training in deeper levels or new technologies. But that's different than avoiding someone who's obstinate about always doing things the old way: no one wants that in any role. The real question I think you're missing is this: is it the employee's job to do this on his/her own time, or should the company be providing the time and resources into it as normal staff development?


Whether an employer should select employees who have a personal interest in their field of work very much depends on what the job is. In some cases a personal interest matters, in some cases it does not. To address your specific scenario, yes I would select marketing people who have some evidence of a personal interest in the field. Marketing is something that is done better when the practitioner thinks about it. For other jobs, personal interest might matter less.

As for software developers, I think most employers do not expect to provide employees with learning time. Larger employers do so, typically through formal training programs.

But if you are a software developer then you need to understand that the industry as a whole expects that you do your own learning. What do I think? I think that is fine, it's no great burden to put a little attention towards software development outside work hours. Doesn't need to be all your available time.

And if you want to be a software developer and resent learning and the time it takes then matey boy, you are in the wrong game.


At the same time, programming isn't some noble rigorous science. Computer science is. Most jobs require slapjack programming. Physics, mathematics, chemistry, those jobs could benefit from the employee having an academic interest. But your 10 year+ experienced programmer is not going to benefit from having a "blazing passion." The best they'll do is learn how to use a new framework to make the code less arduous - they already know design patterns. Think about what you are saying.. Most programming jobs require very little actual rigor, it's more experience than anything.


>> it's more experience than anything.

I don't buy this at all. I have encountered hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who have a very large amount of experience but really can't be said to be any good at their job. Experience is important in making a great programmer but experience does not make a great programmer.

And equally I know great programmers who are very experienced who do themselves a great disservice by resting on their laurels and not actively pursuing new and fresh interests in the latest software technology.

>> 10 year+ experienced programmer is not going to benefit from having a "blazing passion."

Could not be more wrong on this point. Both highly experienced and juniors all need to work extremely hard to learn - if you want to be extremely good at programming - then you have to be driven by a blazing passion to learn more. The field is rapidly evolving and there are constantly entirely new ways of thinking about programming being developed. If you sit around and think "I've got 10 years experience and there's nothing new under the sun" then you are falling behind.

What is true is that if you have 10 years experience then yes you can probably ride that to the end of your career. You know an adequate amount - enough to bluff your way through most new situations. But if you want to be good - really good - at programming, then 1, 10, 20 or 30 years experience all need to work equally hard at learning and advancing their expertise.


Yeah but that's the rub. Having passion for something that isn't even rigorous is a catch 22. Passion for computer science makes a hell of a lot more sense than passion for learning node.js specific APIs like the back of your hand, or whatever flavor tool is hot that year.

I never said there's nothing new under the sun -- I said what is valuable use of time for a junior dev is going to be quite the bore for someone who's been programming for 20 years. Learning new frameworks is somewhat like worshipping an actor because you love the art of cinema. The art is computer science. The paintbrush is engineering. And well, having a passion for one doesn't translate to the other.

I'm not saying that building apps in the newest and greatest frameworks is a waste of time. I'm saying that it takes a naive individual to spend all their time mastering eclectic knowledge rather than formless knowledge.

A smart individual is going to want knowledge that has permanence. As a recruiter you should just go for the sheep, so stick to what you're doing.


The field isn't rapidly evolving. It's about cramming new pointless APIs and frameworks that are pushed by $company in order to dominate some market segment.


Not evolving? Maybe you're just not learning enough to know what the newest evolutions are. Are you one of the people who see new technology as pointless fashion?


Maybe you are a recruiter who does not know the history of computer science.

But you seem to have voting backup here, which, given your opinions, looks a bit odd.


Care to elaborate on what some of these "newest evolutions" are?

I studied cs as an undergrad and in grad school and have worked professionally as a software developer for ten years, so I feel qualified to weigh in on this. I can count on one hand the core principles someone really needs to understand to be a great developer and valuable employee and few of those have changed in my career. Once you know those things, picking up the latest flavor of the month is not all that difficult. Sure there are specific applications that require a lot of specialized experience. I'm talking about the other 95% of programming jobs that one could find today.

Give me someone who is smart, has a fundamental understanding of oo programming principles, database design, and perhaps a bit of server architecture knowledge and I'll take that over somebody who doesn't but obsessively attends meet ups on the latest front end js framework.

Everyone is different. I've worked with great developers who coded outside work because they wanted to and they could. I've worked with others who didn't but we're just very, very smart.

The best developer I ever worked with was over 40, had a wife and two kids and rarely coded outside work. He just had different priorities. It didn't hold him back in his career I can assure you and if you had the chance to hire him you'd be making a mistake by just applying some arbitrary measurement of your judgement of his passion for his work. Perhaps your theory should be revisited.


One of the very best developers I know rarely if ever did anything outside work hours.

BUT I have known some of the best developers there are, and the guy I mention above is the definite exception to the rule.

And I never said that there are no great developers who only work during office hours - there are - but the strongest indicators of how good a developer is are their level of interest and this is typically expressed outside of working hours.

And I also did not ever say that the only people to employ are obsessives.

And I fully accept that as a recruiter I will routinely make judgements calls that are wrong - but I have to have some approach to finding great people. How do you suggest your over 40 family man genius programmer could be identified as a genius programmer by someone who does not know him? Recruiting is far from perfect - it is about people and is not a science, but having said that, there must be some method to choosing people.

As a recruiter I represent the interests of the employers - I'm just looking for what they are looking for. If I was building a development team then my criteria would be quite different - for the most part I am from the school of Joel Spolsky - employ people who are smart and get stuff done.

And let me make a point that I have tried to make when I participate in these discussions - what EXACTLY is a "great developer"? In hard, definable, quantifiable terms? Everyone talks about finding them, identifying them, employing them, but it's very rare that people are able to quantify in any clearly definable terms what that means precisely. And if you don't know precisely what you are looking for then how do you know you found it?


How do you suggest your over 40 family man genius programmer could be identified as a genius programmer by someone who does not know him?

As a recruiter you may not like this answer, but you'd have to ask him questions that require him to demonstrate ability rather than interest. You may not like that because it requires you to possess a lot of the skills the jobs you are looking to fill require, and there's not a shortcut to that. In my experience recruiters tend to be heavy on buzz words but light on actual understanding of programming itself. In an earlier response you made a statement that suggested that because you're in recruiting you don't need to have the same passion as a programmer would. If passion does in fact determine interest and ability, then you really should be studying programming outside working hours, as it will only help you as a tech recruiter to better understand the skills required to program.

There's nothing wrong with asking somebody about what they do outside work in and of itself, but its just a single data point and certainly not the most important one. I've interviewed and hired many, many programmers and my typical routine is to look at their resume to get a baseline of what their experience is. I have never, not once, looked for a specific language or framework. The reason is that experience tells me that if somebody is a great C++ programmer, they will be a great Java developer, a great Ruby developer, and so on. If they claim to have experience in C++, I may ask C++ specific questions, but I'm really only interested in knowing whether they really have an expert level understanding of object oriented programming principles and use good design practices. On the other hand if somebody has a cursory amount of experience in ten different frameworks but are only mediocre in each, they will be mediocre at every task until they gain a deep understanding of the fundamentals.

And let me make a point that I have tried to make when I participate in these discussions - what EXACTLY is a "great developer"? In hard, definable, quantifiable terms?

That's like asking "what makes a great auto mechanic?" It's some combination of experience and a fundamental understanding of the inner-workings of an automobile. Hearing a strange noise coming from the engine on your car? Drawing on his experience, a great mechanic can better diagnose and fix it than a bad one. Is there a score to measure that skill? No. You'd have to be an experienced mechanic yourself and observe a mechanic working in order to make that determination. It's not quantifiable. If it were, you'd be out of a job.

I don't know anything about your experience, so I'll certainly not make assumptions about you specifically, but in my experience most recruiters don't have any experience at all in programming. They haven't built a single Rails app, made a commit on Github, and couldn't explain what object relational mapping is. What a curious thing then that they are attempting to measure a person's ability in those skills. That's why developers tend to resent recruiters. They spam people indiscriminately and often clearly demonstrate that they have no understanding of what they are asking. This shows a lack of respect for people's time. David Heinemeier Hansson, the inventor of Ruby on Rails, has famously tweeted on several occasions solicitations from recruiters asking for more years of experience in Ruby on Rails than the language has existed.


You already told us you were a recruiter. Now you are just making yourself look vindictive and naive. Most new frameworks aren't grand high tech innovation. The most significant thing in web dev in the last 5 years has been creating GUIs with dependency trees or chains to have elegant interfaces that update instantly. There are a ton of different interpretations of this single idea, that's why React, Angular, Ember, Knockout, etc.. all exist. But they individually don't do much more than the others - just differences in heaviness of the framework and how opinionated the defaults / options are.

I wouldn't want you to be my recruiter with the attitude you're showing here in this open forum...


>The field isn't rapidly evolving.

web/mobile from only 5 years ago was so different from what we have now.


Web/Mobile is still as broken as it ever was.


How much of your free time do you spend recruiting?


Not much, but recruiting is not a craft that particularly benefits from being honed with long hours of practice and learning - software development is.


Long hours of software development leads to burnout and depression. People need to exercise and see their friends.


Does anyone really care about a recruiter thinks? You can read a few paragraphs to understand how you get recruiters interested (even though they spam everyone on linkedin anyways). It can take years of effort to land the kind of jobs you want.


Is recruiting just a job for you to get the bills paid, or do you have a broader interests?


I have broader interests.


When I need a plumber, I don't choose one based on his fiery passion for plumbing or because he fixes toilets for free in his spare time.


The analogy runs out of steam pretty quick.

Would you prefer your heart surgeon be one who has a personal interest in the field, or one who after ten years experience felt that they had "learned enough", and that new techniques are just fashions.

Would you prefer your pilot to be one who has a personal interest and really understands the dizzying array of knobs and dials in a cockpit along with understanding how the plane works, all the checklists and procedures and things to do when something goes wrong? Or would you prefer a pilot who felt that they had learned enough and really just want to know enough to get the plane up and down in good weather conditions?


Honestly, when it comes to pilots I want one that has a burning desire to live.


I agree with the point you are making but would still continue to pay a little extra for someone that I knew enjoyed looking after the details while they were doing plumbing (or whatever trade).


Of course. Look for competence, not obsession.


>fiery passion for plumbing or because he fixes toilets for free in his spare time.

My sides went into orbit after reading that.




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