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We only hire the best means we only hire the trendiest (2016) (danluu.com)
910 points by indy on Oct 31, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 625 comments




So here's the thing... hiring at larger, growing companies often means weeding through a stack of a hundred resumes, for one or two or five roles. Most of those resumes need to go away. The interview process, for competent candidates, is going to cost you at bare minimum a half hour of one person's time for initial screening. A quality interview is going to take a couple of hours each for a few important people - managers and senior/lead tech staff, for engineering jobs. Considering pg's maximum about maker schedules, the hiring process is very disruptive for the productivity of some of your most valuable tech staff.

So you want to get rid of 19 resumes out of 20, without ever interviewing them. And for that, you need heuristics. And those heuristics are, in all likelihood, going to be biased and stupid in some ways.

For example, I will automatically reject any resume that has more than two typos. I consider it evidence of carelessness - I don't care if you can't spell, but I do care if you don't bother to run it past someone else who can for editing.

The danger is that a heuristic - any heuristic - for filtering out resumes will inevitably lead to missing some candidates who would excel in the role. Oh well. I'm not going to waste time interviewing every possible candidate, just hoping to catch that magic person. It's irresponsible.


I'm a web developer who has been thinking about engineering hiring and culture a LOT over the last 6 months. I'm confused about employers' desire to cast a wide net, only to filter through applicants thoughtlessly. Instead, why don't engineering teams save time and energy by articulating their specific engineering values, and sharing that information up front? Be honest. Say divisive things. This will allow job-seekers to self-filter. Your goal is not to attract every software engineer. Your goal is to attract the people you are most likely to hire. (Career pages can be fluff, and job descriptions are dry and uninformative beyond a list of technologies.)

I've been working on Key Values (https://www.keyvalues.io) for many months now trying to do just this: surface details about actual team members, day-to-day processes, and a team's engineering culture. At least this way, we as engineers can be more informed when deciding where to apply, where we'll devote hours/energy interviewing. Of course engineers might be skeptical or have questions, but at least we have something to respond to.

Ultimately, neither job-seekers nor employers want to waste time and energy interviewing people they aren't culturally aligned w/. Maybe the lesson here is that engineers should seek out the teams that care about what they care about, whether it's mentorship, high quality code, or work/life balance. I know it's controversial (especially here in HN), but is salary really more important than doing work that is exciting/challenging/energizing/stimulating or feeling valued/appreciated/respected/passionate?


I'm confused about employers' desire to cast a wide net, only to filter through applicants thoughtlessly.

What's to be confused about?

They don't give a fuck - about you, or your time.

Why? Because they perceive (rightly or wrongly) that there's no business incentive for them to do so.

Either way... if they leave you dangling, or make you answer just a few silly questions too many, and/or sign up for (nearly) unlimited numbers of whiteboarding or hacker ranks sessions, or "take-home projects" they never (or at best only barely) look at, it's because... look, do you think these people have time to think about what they're doing, let alone how it affects the time and patience of those candidates they don't necessarily want to hire... or even, in some abstract sense, their long-term reputation as a company that makes at least some kind of effort to create a not entirely-unpleasant interview process?

Of course not. It's much easier to just throw shit at the wall -- or as it were, at the whiteboard -- and see what sticks.

So that's what they do.


there's no business incentive for them to do so.

But there is one: to save the precious time of valuable people. I think it's an interesting suggestion.


Even more important than that is to get people who really are aligned with what the company actually is, instead of just the standard bullshit that everybody says.

I, too, really like the idea, but I wonder if, in practice, it wouldn't work because companies don't introspect deeply enough to understand what makes them distinct? For instance, if what's remarkable about your company is that you have a great culture where people goof off a lot and have a lot of fun, and still manage to get a passable amount of work done, would anyone dare to self-identify that way?


You're so spot on. Some companies do not introspect deeply enough, nor do they have the desire! I've met some of them and guess what –– they don't end up creating a profile on Key Values. Honestly, I think it says a lot about team who put in the time and care to create a profile. The exercise of selecting 8 values and qualifying them signals a real desire to invest in people, culture, and to make sure values actually translate into behaviors.

Re: your example, I see it as my job to encourage them to communicate who they are loudly and proudly! There's pressure on both sides (job-seekers and employers) to check all of the boxes. It doesn't make sense to do that at all though.


I think there are a couple of confounding problems. One is the "Astrology" problem. Well-written horoscopes are written in such a way that people want to believe these things about themselves- and they are nebulous enough that they can. Who doesn't want to think of themselves as being a great friend when someone really needs you? In the case of your website, I think you should consider giving scenarios and force people to make choices between options on a Likert scale.

The other issue is that companies may truly be trying to find the most intelligent (for whatever that word means) person as long as she or he isn't malignant- someone who will be successful in future endeavors after the one they are hiring for is finished. In that case they are just dragging a wide net and trying to get the biggest fish. This is all throw out the window, of course, when some of their screeners have ad-hoc and very personal criteria for rejection (two typos, or not being gender-inclusive, or whatever). Then the process becomes ipso facto a cultural screening process.


the other side of the coin. who would invest in such a company? a few people maybe but most probably not.


If it turns out to be a truly better idea then plenty.


Applicants do not self-filter. If you've ever read resumes for a job listing that haven't been prescreened, you'll be blown away by how many people refuse to self-filter even for basic fitness for the job. Put out a job listing asking for a college degree, and you'll get applicants who are still in school with their graduation date two years in the future looking for an internship. That's an extreme, but people will apply for jobs they are very much not fit for. Frustrated job seekers will often submit things under the assumption that "the worst they can do is tell me no" (they're not wrong). If someone is receiving unemployment benefits, they may have to apply to X number of jobs every week/month in order to qualify. The incentive of the applicant is to apply to as many jobs as possible and get one.


As an applicant, I don't self-filter from positions I think are interesting, because I've gotten several offers from companies after to applying to jobs I wasn't technically qualified for.

Some companies are pretty strict about their qualifications. For some, the qualifications are more like guidelines. But if the position is interesting, I'll take that chance.


and for some, they're just nonsensical. Like when you see 5 years min. experience with Swift


Applicants don't self filter because they are conditioned by job postings that bear little relation, if any, to the actual job.


Applicants don't self-filter because they need a job. They like to eat, they like to wear clothes, they like to sleep indoors. They often have other people in their lives that also like to do those things and rely on the income of the applicant to do so. They also aren't very able to pool risk. Most people have between one and two wageearners paying towards "household" expenses. There's not a lot of redundancy here. Contrast that with the average amount of employees at an employer. When you're hiring, having a position vacant for weeks or months is something you can work around much, much easier than you can work around being unemployed for weeks or months.


Most people are told to apply anyway, because most employers are setting the requirements ridiculously too high.


That's why job descriptions should not be authored by hiring managers alone. Most of the time, it's not the employer, it's the hiring manager who has unreal expectations. This is driven in my opinion by multiple factors including but not limited to:

Unreasonable expectations created by hyperspecialization and role blending as part of corporate restructuring, or as pushed by the investors/stakeholders that follows economic recessions.

The expansionary period that follows provide people opportunity to leave, providing more liquidity in the labor market.

So talent leaves for greener pastures and now you have a hiring manager who's direct report has left them with a gaping hole and finance dictates that you have 1:1 for this spot.

So you type of the list of roles and responsibilities and send your requisition to HR to help find candidates. Meanwhile you assign out duties to remaining team members because work must get done.

The search lingers because the hiring manager looking for the proverbial purple squirrel, meanwhile the team seems to be handling the workload with no measurable impact on quality.

This then just repeats itself over and over, at companies large and small.

This is only one use case, there are many, but I think one that plays a big part in the problem of job search and matching talent with opportunity.


You're not wrong. Hiring has just become a numbers game and I think this is part of the problem. Recruiters blast a thousand engineers with the same dry email. Engineers apply to a hundred different companies. A lot of companies don't consider applications without a personalized note or cover letter, and for good reason. They too want a personalized message.

Let's compare it to dating. A lot of people like dating apps where you can rifle through hundreds of options within minutes. But most people would agree that a matching process that is more personal and human leads to longer lasting relationships.

Despite how many people play the numbers game, there are tons of people who don't, myself included. (And I happen to mean that for both my personal and professional relationships.)


recruiters even suggest apply to even things that are close to a fit. To me that's the difference between required and preferred skills.


> Be honest. Say divisive things

... get sued or prosecuted by the EEOC. There are reasons things are stated in a certain way and the net has to be cast wider than necessary. First fix the landscape of U.S. labor law, and then a discussion of efficiency and values can be productive


Mmmm not quite sure what you're thinking of, but I'm talking about starting w/ baby steps.

"Do exciting work that has real impact, learn a lot, and have fun doing it."

Do you know how many companies say that on their job descriptions?! All of them.

Here are some examples of being (mildly) divisive and using strong language:

- "We consider it a disqualifier if a candidate does not value our mission to grow and sustain local food systems" (Good Eggs)

- "All of our communications are out in the open, and we have a rule that you cannot send emails to a fellow Remixer and instead must communicate over Slack where everyone can see. (Emails are only used for people externally.)" (Remix)

- "We advocate that everyone leans towards releasing and reverting. It is better to revert small changes than to spend time perfecting code. While this might rub some people the wrong way, we believe that the best way to learn is by doing." (Amplitude)

All of these things will either resonate w/ an individual and make them really excited about applying/joining, or turn them off because it doesn't quite align w/ their personal values/preferences/goals.


""We advocate that everyone leans towards releasing and reverting. It is better to revert small changes than to spend time perfecting code. While this might rub some people the wrong way, we believe that the best way to learn is by doing." - Amplitude"

I must say, this would give me pause. That kind of language tells me that they don't value testing, and likely don't value quality requirements capturing either.


Good! It sounds like you wouldn't be a good match for their engineering culture - both you and they would be unhappy. Everybody wins when they put that out there clearly.


It seems that your example will filter candidates based on how much they like the company, not how good they are. The distribution of candidates will largely be the same or even worse, because a few good candidates may be put off by such rhetoric ("Why do I have to believe in local food systems, when they want me to write an Android app?"), but mediocre candidates will apply anyway.

So you still have to go through the same number of candidates until you can find a good one.


I like your examples - it helps you understand the culture of the company more. Esp if there are some strict rules or preferences. I found that I ended up learning most of these things in an in-person interview. I could tell other aspects of the culture too - if they expected late hours, or had better work/life balance in person and that has helped me.


This is exactly what motivated me to build Key Values!! These are things people end up learning during the in-person interview (or during the first week). I don't see why we have to write cover letters, do phone screens, do take home tests, or go through coding challenges before learning this information. My goal is to reorder the steps and give job-seekers insight to a team's values before making the decision to apply/interview. If anything, it allows us to ask better questions when we first speak to or meet with interviewers.


You're basically implying that all your controversial opinions are borderline racist/sexist/ageist.

There are lots of things that would attract/repel a candidate from a company that aren't discriminatory. "At our current stage of growth, we value speed over reliability," "we measure employee productivity," "we work early/late," "people here do/don't wear suits," "we do/don't do code reviews," "we do/don't do Scrum," just to name a few.


I think they mean stuff like, "If you want the latest and greatest framework, you won't find it here. We use spaces and not tabs. Our stack is locked down."


This sounds nice, but is very far away from actual reality. Sadly, almost 25%-30% of applicants, in my experience, don't even read the full job description or ignore key parts that are listed in bold text, some examples based on actual real life:

- "You need to be based in <European country>, we don't do remote" -- applies from US/Pakistan/Russia, wants remote work. - "Make clear what attracts you in our business/industry" -- ignores any mention of industry, business or such. - "Don't repeat your CV in the cover letter" -- guess what? Cover letter is repetition of his/her CV...

I wish I was lying, but this is daily routine when hiring.


The first example because they hope your desperate enough.

For the second example, because most engineers value honesty because a lack of complete transparency cost time/money or worst kills people. And frankly, most engineers like technology and could care less about the company and/or the industry. And that's why they are horrible at sales. And what your asking for is a kind of sales.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772

http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/10/news/companies/gm-recall-ign...

Btw, I'm not saying you shouldn't look for engineers that have people skills, just why your having a hard time finding them... :)


> This will allow job-seekers to self-filter

?? The problem is not employers casting a wide net, but everyone applying for the job.


There are two problems:

For employers, it's casting a wide net and then struggling to filter out "noise" quickly. Employers will use pass on great engineers and interview not-so great ones (see parent comment). Instead of saying, "Work for us, we're the best!" why don't engineering teams say, "We prioritize speed over quality, are great for individual contributors, and prefer asynchronous comms over lots of meetings. Work for us if this sounds like you."

For job-seekers, the problem is applying to dozens to companies that you don't even want to work for (and just don't know it yet). If I value quality over speed, prefer working in teams rather than independently, and believe in-person meetings are incredibly valuable, then I would know not to even both applying to the company above.


Again, I think the problem is bad devs that will apply for any job regardless of your stated values.


Better framed as, hungry devs who want to start working so they can eat.


A bigger problem in many cases isn't casting too wide a net in terms of corporate culture... it's big companies that need to hire quickly, using cheap mass-market recruiting companies that aren't picky about what they're sending over.

And, in the enterprise, the elaborate rules for recruiters, created by too many layers of HR (process is the scar tissue of organizations), means that small, boutique recruiters that are more careful about fit can't even get in the door.

A large pile of crap resumes is the result.


This is quite cool. I'm adding this to Gonzaga University's CS student career guide: https://github.com/gu-app-club/lets-learn-jobs/blob/master/R...


I support this ;) Thanks!


About that heuristic, when hiring for sysadmins in the early 2000s, I found there to be an inverse relationship between résumé quality and candidate quality (with one notable exception — résumés written in LaTeX were usually of high quality and almost always indicated a quality candidate).

Originally I had a similar conception about résumés — they should be one or two pages max, should look nice, and should contain no errors. For obviously this indicated a candidate who cared about how they represented themselves. How could a candidate with a slap dash résumé be any good?

But time and again the better candidates had the worse résumés ... résumés that were pages long, or completely unformatted, or filled with errors. Perhaps these candidates with poor résumés have simply prioritized their time on their work, not tending their résumé. Or perhaps they feel that they should be judged on the content of their résumé and not its presentation.

Regardless, I no longer put any stock in how a résumé looks, only wheter it indicates an appropriate background for the job.


IMO, the root cause of this is companies pre-filter leaving high quality individuals to search longer. If you look at a random sample of all people to look for a job in a given year then say a long absence may be a bad sign.

However, you get a biased sample with obvious rock-stars quickly finding a job. Thus, negative signs on a resume are positively correlated with candidate quality. On the other hand resumes that look great are likely linked to people who regularly fail interviews.

PS: This is less common with collage job fairs where you get closer to a random candidate selection.


How do you determine that? I wrote mine in LaTeX but submit a PDF. Usually that default LaTeX font is a dead giveaway, but I find it to be pretty ugly so I switched it out.


It’s part of the metadata. Look for content creator and PDF producer fields.

Or even more simply, just use your eyes. The superior line breaking algorithm is extremely obvious, with or without microtype. Then less obviously, look at ligatures, kerning etc.


The internal HR tools at some BigCo's may convert your PDF to plain text, so it's possible that a hiring manager will never even see your superior formatting. The interview tracking system at Amazon was doing this at couple of years back.


Doesn't mean much since tooling like Sphinx will generate Latex as an intermediary for PDF generation.

I don't care for the rigidity of Latex and don't want to hand craft my own TeX documents. I once had a resume generation system that would convert ReST to Docbook and from there used XSLT to produce plain text, docx, and PDF output using XSL-FO. Sadly the code was on a failed Seagate drive and is lost. And yes I had a backup, also on a Seagate drive that also failed due to a firmware bug around the same time.


Honestly I've never understood people's problem with LaTeX, where everyone says it si "hand crafted". Honestly just grab a template. Maybe modify it a little and tweak it, but then save that skeleton. Have one for a resume, research papers, other docs, etc and you're golden. You have to do the same thing in Word too, the difference is in LaTeX it looks like code. But IMO LaTeX looks nicer than Word every time. I can usually spot a paper written in LaTeX vs Word and there definitely is a correlation to quality.

You CAN get fancy with LaTeX, but I doubt most people will be doing those things. For every day research papers or resumes, just pick up an online template and make whatever minor tweaks you want. Then fill with text.


also you can always use lyx if you don't want to write a whole bunch of raw LaTeX


I just use the moderncv package[1] included with most LaTeX distributions. It produces beautiful output while needing only minimal LaTeX customization from your end.

[1]: https://github.com/xdanaux/moderncv


I remember those, I had one of those fail too. Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 c. 2008. Found all the stuff on the Internet about the bad firmware after it failed.


At the time, the default font, that there were a few common LaTeX résumé templates, and the superior formatting compared to alternatives. If I wasn't sure, I'd just ask.


Besides metadata, the word spacing algorithm in LaTeX tends to give a certain feel that you learn to recognize once you have seen it enough times.


> But time and again the better candidates had the worse résumés

Perhaps this is selection bias?

Their resume being bad caused them to not be able to get a job at other companies, even though they are good. The only reason the resume ended up on your desk was because nobody else wanted to spend 30 minutes of their time interviewing them, therefore they were passed up.


> I consider it evidence of carelessness - I don't care if you can't spell, but I do care if you don't bother to run it past someone else who can for editing.

Getting someone to look over your stuff and looking for spelling errors sounds like a simple and easy fix doesn’t it? But in my experience that doesn't work as well as one would think, prof reading is a lot harder than it looks. After all it's isn't enough to catch some of the errors, you need to catch them all.

As someone that has close family members with dyslexia, and have struggled with spelling all my life. I have to say that seeing those challenges characterised as carelessness is infuriating. For a lot of people getting spelling right is easy, and that is great. But for some of us it is not, while prof reading and spell checkers might help, they are not a magical fix all. Some errors often sneak through, no matter what you do.


To be clear here - being a poor speller, due to dyslexia or any other reason, is not the problem. But if you know you are a poor speller, you should have someone who is a good speller edit your resume, looking for spelling errors.

If you know a misspelled resume can cost you a job, and you don't take additional steps to make sure it's spelled correctly, that's careless.


As I said earlier, getting someone to prof read your text, and catch all the problems is not as easy as you would think. Nor is getting a spell checker to catch all your errors.

I have to admit I thought I was done with getting graded on spelling in high school. I haven't seen anything on either side of the fence, in my carer to indicate that some spelling mistakes is enough to cost people an opportunity. But I'm sure your right and there are companies out there that does that. But I don't need to work in every company, only the good ones. So it hasn't been a problem for me so far.


One of my best friends has a MD and an MBA degree. He currently manages a $100M investment portfolio. We chat online almost daily.

He is, by far, the worst speller I know. Even after 20+ years of online conversation, I can barely understand what he's saying sometimes.

He also passes bits of professional writing past me for validation, usually to check his intent. His professional writing is always perfectly spelled, with impeccable grammar. He relies heavily on both software and human checks (secretaries and copywriters) to insure the basic quality of his writing. That's one reason why a truly wretched speller makes more in bonuses alone than I make in salary.

So yes, I have a hard time forgiving a misspelled resume. If he can do it, you can do it, too.


I don't mean to challenge you, but I think your assumptions about how easy it is for others to do something you consider rudimentary are based in an undeclared set of privileges and fortune. A few possible scenarios where getting help might not be as easy as asking a partner, friend, or colleague to help review things.

A first-generation college grad paying their way through school by working full time in a new town.

A single parent trying to get into a field while working and caring for their family.

A non-native English speaker who perhaps understands the general structure of the English language, but not the nuances of grammar (or what is expected in a Western CV/Resume).

I hope you could see that your earnest appreciation for proper spelling is unfair to apply in such a black/white dichotomy. I kindly ask you to reconsider your approach.


The college grad is surrounded by other college grads who can review his writings.

The parent is surrounded by family who can review his writings.

The non native English speaker with poor spelling knows first hand that he needs his resume to get reviewed. And he should not expect to easily find a highly qualified job that requires to write English in an English speaking country if he can't read and write English.

So far, your examples only manage to show that people could manage just fine and if they can't they were not qualified for the job.

English is not a rare skill. There is no shortage of people who can write decently.


But that leaves me with a problem - I still need to turn this stack of 100 resumes into something I can be expected to work through, given the limited availability of my most expensive resource - time. I don't want to interview 100 candidates. I want to interview five. That means 19 out of 20 need to be eliminated before it even gets to the interview process.

The spelling heuristic gets rid of between 5 and 20%, right away. A lot of those resumes would also be caught by other heuristics (no ten page resumes, etc). Most of your concern cases would also fall to my other filters as well. And quite frankly, if a resume jumped out at me in a positive way, but it had three or four or five typos? I'd interview. It's not a hard and fast rule.

It's not as black and white as you think it is.


Between us, you should try to introduce automated Hacker Rank testing in your company.

It's a relevant filter and it's a terrific value for time.

A good old exercise to print number from 1 to 100 and then 100 to 1. That's the sort of things that get rid of half the candidates.


So your argument is that your rich friend can hire people to prof read his writing. So everyone else can do that to?

That does sound like a solution that will work, but maybe not practical for everyone?


Back when we were college students, he wasn't rich. Yet he got through med school (med school!). He asked friends like me to check things, when they mattered.

You keep looking for excuses, not solutions. He knew, and knows, he has a problem with spelling. So he does everything he can to get the help he needs to keep his spelling from limiting his career. He did it when he was a poor college student. Now, he can get secretaries to check, because he has a successful career built around his strengths, rather than letting his limitations define him.


>>> As I said earlier, getting someone to prof read your text, and catch all the problems is not as easy as you would think.

Careless and bad at collaboration. Noted.


Isn't that rather circular? You need to ensure you don't have spelling mistakes, otherwise that indicates carelessness because it could cost you a job. Why would it cost you a non-spelling-related job? Because it indicates carelessness!

If we criticize job applicants for mistakes which are unrelated to their field, why shouldn't we do the same for employers? Rejecting applicants for spelling mistakes is not in and of itself a problem, but it indicates carelessness in the hiring process so maybe it's not a good place to work.

It's interesting to think about crafting a resume, not only to get a favorable response from places you'd want to work, but to deliberately create an unfavorable response from places you wouldn't


> but it indicates carelessness in the hiring process

Perhaps we are using the word careless differently, but I don't see how using heuristics like this implies carelessness on behalf of the employer. If anything, it seems to indicate that the employer is making a well-reasoned choice to balance economic constraints with company values.

I run a small software consulting firm and have now hired three people (not too many). I believe that attention to detail and pride in how you present yourself, either via your resume or your code quality, is essential. For this reason, I think applicants should spell-check their resume (or use Grammarly).

In fact, we even mention this in our company values page:

> We value correct grammar and a strong grasp of the English language.

> We write with a clear and professional tone in our external communication.

> We try not to send vague or confusing emails.

> We invest in improving our writing, presentation, and conversational skills.

http://innolitics.com/about/#communicate-clearly


Do you have other people proofread and spellcheck all of your external communication?


I couldn't care less if I make a typo in HN; But an email to my professor, I'll review several times without even thinking about it. Probably won't get someone else to proofread it, but that's because I trust my own competence in reviewing my own short texts, and in writing English.

But my friends from India, they'll send me emails to proofread if its important, because, y'know, it's sensible, correct and most importantly, it's polite to do so.

It seems absurd to me that the significance of typos needs to be defended; Maybe the treatment of resumes as any more important than a text message, but if we assume it's important, then why the hell would you let something as simple as typos through easily?


I can see that it's good to avoid typos. But at the same time, why the hell are you judging the suitability of a professional in a complex technical field based on typos in something they only write once every few years?

The argument for the latter seems to be circular: we reject people on that basis because typos indicate a broader lack of care, which they indicate because we reject people on that basis.


Its mostly a question of where to spend effort; In the same way I'm probably not going to read a paper with a shoddily written abstract, unless external reasons apply (ie the paper was recommended to me by someone trustworthy), it doesn't make sense for me to try to parse a shoddily written resume.

It takes more effort to do so, and its nonsensical for the person not to put effort into it, because its only written once ebery few years, and because its the first point of contact.

If you're going to operate at the level of a tenth grader, why would I assume you have anything more to offer than what a tenth grader might?

Of course the metric might fail, but hey, there's a hundred other resumes to have to go through too, and you managed to imply you're incompetent right off the bat, so I'm probably better off looking elsewhere.

Theres also the aspect that I personally don't want to put up with shoddy writing, and also the fact that these are not long documents. Its like 1-3 pages half-sentences and spacing everywhere; I'm hardly asking the world of you by requiring you bother verifying what you write.

>But at the same time, why the hell are you judging the suitability of a professional in a complex technical field based on typos in something they only write once every few years

Because, with the exception of some rare positions, there are a lot of people suitable for the job. There are also a lot of people who will apply without being suitable. And a lot of the people who apply at random, aka sloppily, are presumably also sloppy about the rest of the process.

So filtering on sloppiness is probably a decent utility; of course it'll remove the sloppy suitable candidates, and it won't remove the non-sloppy unsuitable candidates, but hey.

Alternatively we can do modern hr stuff like filtering resumes on key-word searches, so if you're an expert in Oracle 11d but not Oracle 11e....

Every filter is fucked somehow; but typos seem to me one of the least fucked, precisely because its so easy to avoid. You only write it once every few years.


I too have close family members with dyslexia. If they asked whether they'd make good programmers, I'd honestly tell them that their disability would make it very challenging and frustrating. They could still do it, but their passion would have to be enough to drive them to work much harder than their colleagues to achieve the same results.

I'd also recommend that they go to whatever lengths necessary to eliminate typos in their resume because it's a prime opportunity to demonstrate that they can achieve exacting precision when necessary.

That being said, they are all happy in careers where character-for-character precision is not as important.

Re: typos in resumes, I'm less strict than I used to be and try to focus more on work experience or other real world metrics than using typos as a proxy for programming productivity.


So I'm really really biased here. But as a programer with (mild) dyslexia, I have to say I think it's one of the best professional fields for this. We have linters, syntax highlighting editors, pretty printers, compilers and a whole suite of tools to make sure typos never go live.

No other other field has these tools, and high paying professional work does in fact require "typo free work" to make it anywhere, in almost any field.° Sure in plenty of fields you can try to paper over this with process - but this just means as a dyslexic your promotions are limited by the caliber of your secretary, PA, MA, editor or whatever person fixes your work in your field. You get a good one you flourish and bad one your career dies.

As I've moved to management I've had to delegate every piece of writing which is a frustrating experience, and that writing I end up doing usually ends up passing before multiple peoples eyes before being sent -- even for a simple email. This is not easier than coding - it's way harder.

° Spelling and grammar checkers help, but really are no where near as good as linters and all the other tooling.


Wow, I never thought about it that way. You have single-handedly changed the advice I'd give to my family on the issue. (Except for the resume advice above, which I think still holds.)


> but I do care if you don't bother to run it past someone else who can for editing.

Even Chrome has a spell checker. Not sure the distinction here between code typos and English typos is a valid one.

The OP is saying not bothering to check is the issue, not the specific errors. And this is, by definition, careless. This is a lack of caring for correctness and a lack of awareness of mistakes. It could even be considered a lack of respect, which would be a lack of professionalism, but the OP did not go there.

If you have dyslexia, then a perfect resume that includes your challenges as a dyslexic would be most impressive.

Employers are looking to be impressed.

Don't be an unimpressive bag of excuses.


Screening is all about finding good proxies for the skills you need for the position. Typos on resumes might be a good proxy for something, but not necessarily attention to detail (since you don't know the process the resume went through to get into its error-free state). At the extremes, the proofing could have been forced on them unwillingly by an overbearing parent or partner -or- the applicant could have painstakingly run the resume through every checker out there and begged for lots of feedback from others.

It's more accurately a proxy for the applicant understanding the context of various processes and the relative importance of a task. That may or may not be a skill you need in the job.

Finally, if the resume error rate is higher or lower than what you observe in the candidate's live, observed writing/coding then you should take note assuming such errors are a proxy for what you're looking for.


Typos could be anything, period. As could anything else.

Bring a resume with typos and your rebuttal and see what happens. The trouble you go through to defend typos will be far more work than fixing your typos. It's mostly automatic.

Reasoning doesn't excuse you from making mistakes, because excused don't make up for those mistakes. In any professional work environment, your mistakes are someone else's paid job to fix.

OP is talking about attitude and mindset. The "I can reason away typos" mindset is not appealing. The "I will do anything to not make mistakes" mindset is.

I mean, that is still what we are talking about here right? Being attractive to employers.


Not to mention people with dyslexia objectify words differently. This is why the exact token representation of words are less relevant in our brains than those without it. Given that in programming words are just symbols for values or conditions, we view the words of code very differently than the words that convey linguistically meaning. The structure of words in a sentence is very different than the structure of words and symbols in code. It has never presented a problem for me when coding.


You're biased, of course, but exactly in the right way in my opinion. Personally this is a beautiful example of why representation matters. People without dyslexia (myself included) simply cannot know what people with dyslexia can and cannot do. Many thanks for sharing such an important point that I hadn't thought about before.


Nothing to say, just wanted to chime in: Awesome comment, thanks for sharing.


This is an extremely well written post, did you delegate it?


Your right about dyslexia adding challenges to being a programmer. I've worked with a couple of developers with dyslexia, and it is clear that being a slow reader is sometimes a challenge for them. But on the other hand, both of them are respected for their skills, doing well, and seem to be happy. So it is absolutely possible to succeed as a developer even if you have dyslexia.

I do know someone that works as a high school teacher and has dyslexia. You would think that, that would be a horror show. But as far as I know, that is actually a success story. Where it works well both for her, and the school.

We also have the Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg, which is dyslectic.

So I would be careful about telling people what they can and can't succeed at, even if they have dyslexia.


Honest question: Would you toy with the idea of adding a small blurb right at the start of your resume stating this?

I'm thinking a box that acknowledges up-front that you have diagnosed dyslexia, which would explain any spelling mistakes, but that you're still highly competent as an engineer.

Not sure about others, but if I were hiring, I would welcome the honesty and instantly stop caring about any errors.

Note: I'm not an employer, but I have been asked to interview candidates.


It'd shave N% off your salary. The best time to admit something like that is after negotiation.


I used to work with a friend who has pretty severe dyslexia. As far as I could tell, it was never an impediment. He was phenomenally productive. Aside from the occasional misspelled variable name, you would never have known about his dyslexia.


Did you misspell prof(sic) to make a point, or was that a happy accident?


I would never misspell on purpose. That was a "something" accident. But I do see it now, after you pointed it out.

Oh well, 20 years ago I would have been horrified being caught out posting something with spelling errors in public. Actually, I would probably not have posted in public at all. But at some point you just have to stop caring about trivialities like that.


The prof is in the pudding.


Speaking of correctness...

This has always bothered me because I grew up understanding the correct phrase to be "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" and assumed that the shorter form arose because of people who simply didn't know what it really meant.

So I googled it and it turns out that the short form, "the proof is in the pudding," has been around since the 1920's (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/the_proof_of_the_pudding_is_i...). So, it's got some legs! I still don't think the short form makes any sense, but at least it's not a recent phenomenon caused by clueless hipsters :-)


Most idioms don't make sense when taken literally. There is an understood meaning beyond the literal words. Monkey business, pull the wool over your eyes, cost an arm and a leg, chip on his shoulder, break a leg, raining cats and dogs.


And some idioms might make sense, but they're used in a way which deprives them of sense.

For example: "Well, that's the exception that proves the rule!"

There are a number of ways to make that make sense, such as the use of "prove" to mean "test", as in "proving grounds", so that's the exception which tests the rule, or, alternatively, the fact it is an exception is proof the rule exists in the first place. Both sensical interpretations.

Of course, it isn't used like that. It's used more like this:

A: "Women can't program!"

B: "Wrong. Look at Grace Hopper, to begin with."

A: "Well, that's the exception that proves the rule! Women can't program."

B: facepalm


> Getting someone to look over your stuff and looking for spelling errors sounds like a simple and easy fix doesn’t it?

There are a lot of people who don't speak English as native language. I, as a non-native speaker learn about very subtle rules of the English language all the time, where the author often explains that even many native speakers are often not aware of these rules and thus write in their own native wrongly. It already occurred multiple times to me that I asked, say, 5 people at the floor of the institute where I work at, about some subtle grammar details in English. All of the persons who I asked were much more fluent in English than me (though not native speakers), but nobody could answer me the questions. I even sometimes confuse English native speakers with my questions about subtle details of English spelling, grammar, or word usage (side remark: it is my impression that native speakers of German are often much more aware of all the subtleties in their native tongue than native speakers of English).

So it is really not easy (even if you have English native speakers to ask) to find someone to proofread your English texts.


There is generally a recognizable difference between native-speaker-incompetence and foreigner-learning grammar errors/typos


Yes, I pointedly confine my filter to spelling errors, not grammar, out of respect for non-native English speakers (or even native English speakers who grew up with other dialects). English grammar can be terribly difficult, even for well educated native speakers. Spelling, on the other hand, has a consistent reference.


I'm curious, do you expect everyone to use American spelling, or would you also accept British variations like -ise, colour, etc?


Hopefully, the reviewers are smart enough to know that color/colour is not a typo. ^^


The rules of language are simple to learn. Culture and Idioms must be lived and experienced.


What is "simple" is a matter of opinion, but in this case I think your opinion is pretty incorrect. The fact that the "rules" vary with region, generation, level of formality, and so on seems to fly in the face of your claim. Not to mention, most native speakers may speak correctly but cannot articulate a correct list of rules.


What I referred to with 'rules of the language' was the national standard version of the language. Those are publicly well known and promoted by a majority body. I argue that these rules are much easier to learn than rules of dialects.


First of all, in numerous cases, the "national standard" (whatever that means) dialect is not the dialect spoken by the majority.

Can you give an example of rules of "standard English" being easier to learn than some rule of non-standard English?

Also note that English as far as I know doesn't even have an official codification of its rules and usage: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_language_regulators


I'll argue that Korean spoken in Seoul, South Korea is vastly different from one in Pyong Yang, North Korea, and arguably harder to learn because one can trace some of the phrasing to old way Korean was spoken which is a mix of Chinese-derived words with Korean. This is due to the language having been invented by King Sejong circa 400(?) years ago when most written language was Chinese in Korea. It's harder because you have to trace the origins of these words to Chinese characters and it's not just learning one language anymore--language rules and meanings cross over across regions and boundaries that exist or existed in the past.


The language was not "invented" at all, you may be misremembering the invention of the Korean alphabet by Sejong. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Korean


I think you're mostly talking about orthography (writing), and not language itself. You might be saying that because of the different writing systems, the spoken language is different today, which seems plausible. In any case, no matter how "mixed" a language's history is, I bet that for its native speakers, it is acquired as one language and feels like one language. When people learn and acquire language, they don't have to trace any origins of any words.

Anyway, we migrated from arguing about the claim "The rules of language are simple" to arguing that some language rules are simpler than other, which to me makes room for the claim that language is, generally speaking, complicated and its rules are complicated.


> I think you're mostly talking about orthography (writing), and not language itself. You might be saying that because of the different writing systems, the spoken language is different today, which seems plausible. In any case, no matter how "mixed" a language's history is, I bet that for its native speakers, it is acquired as one language and feels like one language. When people learn and acquire language, they don't have to trace any origins of any words.

I don't know how native speakers of other languages think about this, but for German (my mother tongue) I don't think this is true. The reason is that in German loanwords often keep their spelling. So if you want to know how to pronounce a loanword you better have a good intuition from which language it might come from and how it is pronounced in this language. By some "language nerds" in Germany it is even considered as a sign of education to apply the correct rules of the source language to form the "correct number" instead of the "Germanized number" when declining the word.

An example: The commonly used German word for "the courgette/zucchini" is "die Zucchini (singular)". And it is common usage to use "die Zucchinis" to form the plural.

Language nerds will disagree: In Italian, from which this word is loaned "zucchini" is already the plural, so the "correct" German word for this vegetable has to be "die Zucchino" and "die Zucchini" must only be used to refer to the plural. And then even more hardcore language nerds will come and and point out that "zucchino" is male in Italian, so it is wrong to make it female in German, so "der Zucchino" is the "ultimately correct" German noun for this vegetable.

I am really not kidding.

OK, for more sane examples:

You better know that "Giro" (as in "das Girokonto") or "das Cello" come from Italian - otherwise you will pronounce these German words wrongly. The same holds for "das Trottoir" (an old-fashioned German word for "the sidewalk"; the common German word is "der Bürgersteig") - you better know that this word comes from French and how French words are pronounced. I don't even want to start with English loanwords...


Awesome reply!

The beginning of your comment is still talking about the writing system. If you are a kid learning to speak (or in the rarer case that you never learn the writing system of the language) then you don't notice that the orthography is inconsistent. Furthermore, if you are a literate native speaker of a language whose orthography is very inconsistent to begin with, due to an extreme liberal use of loan words, introduced at different times, and pronunciation shifts (I'd say English is a good example), where technically knowing the origin of a word (and when English borrowed it) can help you match its spelling to its pronunciation, you still feel like you're only speaking and writing one language. I'd say an even a stronger example is writing systems that aren't phonetic at all, where no matter what you do you can't figure out the pronunciation from the orthography alone.

Your point about language nerds making up rules about how load words should behave is interesting and true I'd say in most modern languages whose societies contain... academics. That's why you "can't" split infinitives in English, end sentences with prepositions, or say "pendulums" and "octopuses". Unlike German, English doesn't have gendered nouns (pronouns excluded), but still people will try. See "alumnus". The argument about "Zucchini" might exist literally in English, but an analogous one for "Cannoli" certainly exists.

So I'd say your statements about German apply just as equally in English, and so perhaps other people can chime in whether they actually feel like they're speaking a "mixed" language, and at what point they felt like that. In a way, inevitably, almost all modern languages are "mixed".

I think you'll find with all your examples that there is contention. Aren't there German speakers who say "Pommes Frites" the German way and to hell with who ever says that's technically not correct? In the cases that it's not exactly contentious, there's still a funny feeling. Why do people want to say "Computer mouses" so much, even though they utter it and think afterwards "wait, computer mice??". When you take a suppletive form (irregular form) and put it in another context, it s up for debate (academic and probably inside your brain) what you do with it. Not exactly the same as what happens with loan words, but this demonstrates that when you look at language, you'll arrive at multiple answers for how things "should" be, and which one you actually say depends on some decision, by language nerds, or by youself consciously or unconsciously. Language rules are anything but simple!!


> Aren't there German speakers who say "Pommes Frites" the German way and to hell with who ever says that's technically not correct?

As far as I am aware, "Pommes Frites" is pronounced in German nearly the same way as in French. So this is clearly not true.

What is true, is that if you appreciate it to "Pommes" (which is rather colloquial; at least when I hear "Bitte ein mal Pommes mit Mayo", I intuitively think of uneducated, fat (because of bad eating habits) people), this word is pronounced "German". But, as I said, this contraction with German pronunciation is rather associated with uneducated people.


thanks for the correction. I certainly intended just "Pommes". Glad you understood my meaning.

Of course language that deviates from what's spoken by the educated (and powerful) people in the country is considered uneducated. I think you'll also find that in many languages. That's the same principle behind the people who think you are stupid for not saying "der Zucchino". I won't get into the stereotypes about fat people...


Especially with industry terms, tools, software and naming that is often intentionally wrongly spelled words.


First, there may not be a tech shortage if teams are “weeding through a stack of a hundred resumes, for one or two or five roles....”

But, if there is, I’m assuming that candidates are just applying randomly to any positions that are available. The ‘Tinder’ strategy is probably a good one if the goal is to maximize earnings. However, if one is a ‘5’ it makes sense to spam all of the positions. But, if one is a ‘10’, it makes sense to avoid interviewing all together because there is diminishing returns: too much work for too little potential gain.

So, the other question is if the hiring process is so ineffective, why aren’t companies innovating? There must be lack of competition in the market if companies are willing to wait several months and spend thousands of dollars to fill a role while also missing out on the best candidates.


The shortage is an imaginary bi-product of two actual problems. One problem is bias and the second is talent gaps.

Bias is a factor in that many interviewers have no idea what they want from a technical perspective, or simply lack confidence themselves. When in doubt hire somebody exactly like yourself. This isn't objective or a valid representation of competence, but it is common.

Talent gaps apply when there are a surplus, plethora is a better term, of new developers and senior developers are purple unicorns. It takes time and lots of practice to transform a newb into a rockstar. Throwing money at the problem isn't a magic formula for providing extra time and practice. Years of employment experience isn't an indicator of quality either as that doesn't necessarily mean practice solving hard problems.

When you solve for bias suddenly there are a lot more competent candidates available. If you realize a single senior paired with several newbs accounts for the talent gap more quickly suddenly you can hire functional teams without false expectations.


I think google did a good job of this in the early days. They got the word out on the street that their interviews were notoriously difficult. That probably dissuaded a lot of the random applicants.

I also read somewhere that some big bank (Goldman) just has a very circuitous, lengthy application process and the main point of it is to weed out the spray and pray applicants.


i’m pretty certain google is the most applied to company in the world so not sure if that holds up


I think that really started around 2005 when they made a concerted effort to ramp up college hiring (and by extension, started advertising among the general public).

I knew someone who worked there in 2002. (Well, now having worked there, I know lots of people who worked there in 2002, but in 2002 I knew someone who worked there.) At the time, they were a small startup with a reputation for hiring only the best, the way you might think of Medallion or D.E Shaw now. There wasn't a perception that you could just walk in off the street and get a job like in The Internship movie.


It helps to keep the illusion of exclusivity the more people you turn away.


I think there probably is a tech shortage in terms of strong candidates. I've worked with some companies where there are people that are employed as "developers", but they can't tell you the simplest of basics; I don't consider myself a developer, yet my meager knowledge and understanding far exceeds the skills of some of these people. I see more of these types than you'd think could survive for long (much of my work is outside of SV and with non-tech companies). When these types enter the job market, the local maximum they've been in for some time tells them that they're developers and they think they can apply to some of these more sophisticated gigs. But there's a clear distinction between these people that mostly copied code from SO and elsewhere in the code base and got it to work vs. those that actually devised the methods they're using... and I think there are many more at this lower end of the spectrum than there are at the higher end: just the bar is so much lower.

As for companies innovating in this regard, it's kinda funny to think about it. When it first got started, I think LinkedIn was trying to be exactly this. Rather than encouraging people to add any and every person they ever thought about (or that asked), the idea was that you should only add those people that you know and trust. In this way, you could use your LinkedIn network as a network of trust for things like hiring or looking for work. That's changed I think both by LinkedIn wanting to have a large network of data to mine and by any number of participants that will add connections since they're really after a bulk network rather than a trusted network. In both cases the business case for such a network of trust doesn't seem to work well for the company providing the service and doesn't work well for the participants... so it breaks. Naturally, that's just one approach and there could be others, but I do think there have been efforts here.


> I've worked with some companies where there are people that are employed as "developers", but they can't tell you the simplest of basics; I don't consider myself a developer, yet my meager knowledge and understanding far exceeds the skills of some of these people.

Hypothesis: these people might not have knowledge, but they're very willing to schlep, and so—with enough effort and iteration—they can take a plan and turn it into working code.

And on the other hand, some people who are very "talented" on paper are nigh-unemployable because they just can't get things done. (They can easily tell someone else how to get the job done, but they have no drive or desire to schlep for themselves.)


Sure. I would agree, though at some point this approach runs out of steam. Larger problems tend to lead to failure and the technical debt eventually demands to be paid. A not insignificant portion of my work comes from sorting out the messes when such failures happens; I have a solid understanding of the business domains and the application types (I basically have a good product management type knowledge, what the applications -should- do).

The other side of this is that, at this level of developer, these are exactly the positions where offshoring makes sense. If you're going to get people whose primary talent is a willingness to schlep just adequately enough to be employable... well, I can find those kinds all over the world, and can probably do better in the skills category, for much less cash. So if I'm looking for domestic (I'm in the US) technical talent, I'm usually looking for those that are worth the higher pay commanded in the US... which means I am absolutely trying to sort out the schlepers for the most part. Naturally, offshoring has its own difficulties regardless of why you're doing it; so there are times when schleppers (I like that term :-) ) are sufficient, but at some point that strategy changes (growth, etc.)


And adding on to this, these people are understandably most of the people looking for work.

I've literally seen engineers with 20 years of experience grind for 45 minutes on FizzBuzz, not able to make any progress.


> I’m assuming that candidates are just applying randomly to any positions that are available

Yep, that's it. The same cost-benefits dynamics as spam mail.


I don't even disagree with this. It's just also an admission that you don't hire the best.

We can argue about whether there are 10x developers or not, but it doesn't matter for this discussion. If you assume that a developer is going to be with you for a year or more, then it starts to be worth a week or more of your (collective) time to improve the expected productivity of the people you hire by 10%. Not 2x, not 10x, just 10%.

If you aren't spending that time, then you're tacitly either admitting that you're not good at accurately assessing talent, or that you think any warm body will do equally well at your job. Either way, I don't think you're really disagreeing with the core of Dan's post.


If you have 100 candidates for a job, then doing a half-hour phone screen for all 100 of them is 50 hours of work -- a bit more than one whole work-week.

And if you're committed to not missing a candidate who might be really good but your heuristics would lead to a false negative on, how much does a half-hour phone screen really tell you? I mean, can you really reject more than half of the candidates based on a half-hour phone screen if you're committed to a very low false-negative rate?

What are you going to do, bring 50 candidates into the office for half-day interviews? You've now brought your sunk cost of interviewing from one person-week to 6 person-weeks. And you've also actually probably spent 3 months doing this process, so you've probably also delayed actually hiring someone for at least a month. 10 person-weeks worth of productivity starts looking a lot less good compared to a 10% productivity bonus.


Given how unreliable interviews can be (both phone and in person), you'd have to solve it with another mechanism.

At my last company, we "screened" ~200-500 candidates per job with a work sample. It was really hard to put together, and worked amazingly well once we had it going. We did a structured interview everyone who passed the work samples and it never felt like a waste of time.


The first round of filtering is one of the jobs HR is supposed to do.


If you use a technique that cuts a lot of people, but cuts more bad people than good people, you'll still end up with plenty of good people. The difference in comparison isn't between the average and the good person who was cut, but between the good person who was cut and the good person who wasn't cut. What is the chance of the heuristic cutting someone 10% better than the best person not cut?


BTW, this is a 'solved' problem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_problem


The optimal solution only picks the best candidate 37% of the time.


That was not my reading of it. To me, given a large enough pool (~20+), you can statistically assume you'll get a top 10% candidate with this method, at least that is what i read.

Still, this method at least has some structure to it. As opposed to the anecdotes that the rest of the thread is.


I've never worked at an organization that hired the best. Hiring the best is a myth.


(Disclosure: I'm one of the engineers and technical interviewers at Triplebyte.)

This comment is spot on: most companies are forced to create cheap heuristics for filtering engineering applicants, and most of these quick-to-evaluate rules will have surprisingly high false positive and false negative rates. You'll miss out on great engineers you auto-reject, and spend hours interviewing people you shouldn't.

Part of the reason for unfairness is that everyone doing hiring is creating these heuristics independently.

Better filters are possible -- we've found that it's even better when you avoid resumes entirely and go background-blind! But these are no longer simple "if typos >= 2 then reject" or "if GPA > 3.x" heuristics, and are of sufficient complexity that they're beyond the scope of each individual company or hiring manager to develop independently.


If these heuristics are terrible, shouldn't these companies just throw away applications at random? At least this way you don't delude yourself in believing your heuristics are rational.


i overheard this in an elevator,

"our HR department tosses the bottom half of resumes in the pile into the trash because we refuse to hire unlucky people"


You joke, but this is very similar to the Secretary Problem's optimal solution [0] [1]:

> The optimal cutoff tends to n/e as n increases, and the best applicant is selected with probability 1/e.

So, you deliberately reject a first cohort of applicants, and then pick the first person you encounter that's better than the best one you rejected. Obviously, in the joke that's not possible as they are neglecting to interview them, so I think the sibling comments are correct about it being a skewering of the hiring process, but it's neat that there's such a close parallel.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_problem 1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15567307


And recruiters and managers wonder why applicants spam hundreds of cookie cutter resumes and cover letters instead of painstakingly crafting each one. Or why they get annoyed at 'job portal' applications where we have to retype our resume into the various little text boxes the web application provides.

Its just a numbers game if you don't have a relationship with someone who can get you a new job.

> refuse to hire unlucky people

Not getting hired there seems to be the 'lucky' move. Arbitrary hiring guarantees, over time, some pretty terrible characters that a proper hiring process would filter out. If you're pissing away 50% of your potential and, say, there's a 20% chance of getting a 'good' person, now there's a 10% chance of that. Over time, a place with such hiring standards would most likely build out a corporate culture that's subpar. The rare 'good' hires would probably take off much earlier than need be because there's so many more 'bad' hires. Eventually the 'bad' hires rule the roost and then people act surprised at gross incompetence as the norm in many companies, shameless dishonesty, and various forms of harassment being normalized.

I worked at a place that didn't take hiring very seriously and this is exactly what ended up happening.


Except that isn't how statistics work. If you have 100 applications, 20% of which are good, and drop 50% of them, you get 50 applications, but you still have the 20% good application/bad application rate.

Of course, you still get 50% less total good applications, but ratios != total.


If there are 10 'good' hires in the initial pile, then cutting out 5 arbitrarily lowers your chance of getting any one of those 10 by half instantly.

This is what I was trying to express. At the end of the day there are only so many 'good' applicants.


Sure, but usually you don't want to hire _all_ of the good applicants - the reason you get bad hires is the false positive rate, not because there aren't enough total good hires in the pile.


It's a joke from the British version of the Office.


Poe's Law I suppose.


Perhaps, don't take it too literally. I suspect that comment must have been out of desperation, a satirical comment meant to criticize their woefully inadequate hiring process.


From what I've seen in academia, this is a surprisingly adequate process. I've seen them do phone interviews, Skype interviews, divinations, psychometrical testings, on-sites - and then none of their unicorns is right colour. The commitee declares a failed search and tries again the following semester.

You'd think that many, if not most of the people in the applicant pile could do an adequate job, perhaps with some training, considering what the job market looks like in the life sciences. Instead they play precious and then they have to make do with some last-minute lecturer, and that at times plays out really bad.


ha. except perhaps they're the unlucky ones because they chucked out a great engineers resume and the engineer is actually the lucky one ;)


or, "the lucky engineers had their resumes tossed in the trash so they didn't have to waist their time at that company"


that's what i was implying



Have you ever seen a pile of one thousand resumes that you have to go through?

I will give you a tip. You can't read them all. Don't even bother trying.


If you get a thousand resumes for a few jobs, then reading/analyzing/grading resumes are useless indicator of talent. You have to resort to some other process.


You could probably do just as well with random selection as relying on a heuristic. Most people with relevant training and experience are capable of doing the job, most of those are capable of doing it extremely well when supported with training - probably better than "the best", because their cup is not full.

I've yet to see a resume screening process or interview process that reliably weeds out the 1-5% of bad picks. I have seen screening processes reject perfectly good candidates.

A company could probably do very well by letting go of the idea that you need to find the best candidate in a stack of 100 resumes, and instead just pick anyone with the needed qualifications and support them with training. As the article mentions, the current approach performs poorly and wastes time and money.


We can recognize that hiring is a noisy process, and still seek to raise the noise:signal ratio. As long as management doesn't excuse existing heuristics as good enough because all 'heuristics are going to be biased and stupid in some ways'. Like half of engineering is designing new & improved heuristics.

Dan's point is largely that for each new & shiny technology you add to your stack, and then add to your hiring filter, you shrink your hiring pool substantially. You can do new & shiny, or you can hire day 1 productive staff experienced in your tech stack. Many firms look at their budgets and choose the latter, but if you don't have budget to train staff, you probably don't have budget to hire experienced staff either. So while the recruiting slogan is 'we only the best', in practice you get 'we only hire the tiny fraction of new grads who've been researching our exact tech stack in their spare time'.


This reminds me of a story about hiring (from a book which name I can't remember offhand). The author was hiring a team in India, and facing an onslaught of thousands of basically identical resumes. How to filter them? So he added "Ruby" as a requirement - not because it was required by the project, but because at that time, only programmers who really cared about their craft learned Ruby. This got rid of 99% of the junk resumes.


So, I think we need to discuss the legal concept of 'disparate impact.' We've decided that, as an employer of 15 or more people, it's your duty to avoid even accidental racial bias without justification.

Normally this isn't a problem as screening criteria like experience in language X is a bona fide job requirement, so even if such criterion filtered out minorities disproportionately, it's not a liability. Tacking on filters like 'must know programming language not used at this company' is going to be a huge stretch, and if your African American candidate pool is filtered out more regularly, that's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

So yes, crafting heuristics is hard, but manager's paychecks are larger for a reason.


If I ever get to the point where I'm in charge of a large-scale hiring process, I absolutely want to use name-free resumes, to reduce gender and racial bias, plus other steps that are effective as I learn them.

That said, the African-American candidate pool in America is so vanishingly small that subtle tech bias at hiring time isn't the issue - the heuristics to filter them out started before they ever finished high school. (This has actually been a point of interest for me for a long time. I mentioned elsewhere a friend who has terrible spelling but a very successful career. He also happens to be black, which has been something else to overcome. We've talked for years about ways to encourage more black students to go into IT, which we both believe is a route to middle-class success with substantially less racial animosity than they'll face in other fields.)


I 100% understand and I was doing the same.

Your approach is ctually the problem. Hiring should be very very important - maybe even the top priority. The two most important things in the company should be: hiring and sales.

In that respect, you need to invest into hiring in same was as you invest into sales. For example, sales have much much better heuristics algorithms while hiring is all about weird and random rules.


Hiring is the most important thing a company ever does. Bad hiring means you'll get a bad company. In the US you can partly balance this by firing diligently, but that has its own problems.

Tech staff shouldn't waste their time in hopeless cases, but assuming your applicants aren't all about the same the return on hiring the best one could be huge.


I don't like resumes as 98% of each is probably bullshit unless the candidate is a truly amazing rockstar with 10+ years of valid experience. As a result any heuristic applied to resumes is just as worthless as most candidates.

When I have interviewed in the past I literally stopped reading once I see contact information and save reading it for during the interview. If the contact information is not the first thing on the resume it goes in the trash.

For valid heuristics I start by telling candidates something they don't want to hear. If that means they drop out then good riddance as I have 30 other people who are more interested in the position.

Examples:

* When I did this years ago I would email JavaScript candidates to set up an interview time and I would tell them jQuery isn't available in this job. Half would immediately drop out. Good.

* For modern JavaScript candidates tell them the DOM will feature heavily in the interview and there will be no MVC framework. Half will drop out.

* A rough equivalent for Java is Spring MVC or forcing architecture considerations.

You can filter people pretty fast just by focusing on foundational simple vanilla code questions. It is astonishing how many unqualified people apply for jobs whose resumes are a complete waste of paper.

The current employer would only take contractors for new hires (let agencies find the people) and would give out some interview questions to the contract agencies so that candidates knew what to study for before showing up for the interview. Even still only 9 out of 73 interviewed candidates were selected (who knows how many resumes were filtered out).


You've mentioned several ways to reduce the number of candidates that you consider for each role, but I don't see how any of it leads to better quality hires.


When you have hundreds of people to interview, the quantity is a huge problem. You can't interview the majority of them.

His question takes away the people who are not interested. It's useful.


It also seems to remove the people who may or may not actually understand the fundamentals of the language they claim to have experience in, rather only knowing how to cobble together frameworks and/or copypasta code.


Candidates that need a coding crutch are less valuable than candidates that don't. Likewise candidates they are so petty or so completely lacking of confidence to perform without their preferred toy are less valuable and less flexible than those candidates who can perform in the actual technologies.

If this is a measure to eliminate candidates who are ultimately less interested in doing the work then so be it.


I fail to see what's good about your approach. I suppose if your company has a lot of pointless bullshit that doesn't apply to the actual problem, then yeah, you're selecting for people who either are willing or have no other alternative.


> I fail to see what's good about your approach.

It was pretty clear in that the primary motivation was to eliminate candidates who either lack confidence or competence so that you can spend more quality time with those candidates who care more about the respective skills.

I don't know you, but I am guessing from your highly defensive tone that you likely fall into one of the categories I described in the previous paragraph. If this means of candidate elimination is emotionally offensive you should ask yourself why. When candidates exceed the number of openings somebody must be eliminated.


I highly disagree. And no, I don't fall into one of those categories; I'm just not willing to put up with random and arbitrary bullshit. Which is what those things are. Yes, I could operate under all those conditions. I choose not to, because those conditions suck ass.

While someone must be eliminated, you need to ask yourself why you're selecting for those who would opt to work under random and arbitrary bullshit when they don't have to.


>I would tell them jQuery isn't available in this job. Half would immediately drop out. Good.

Unless the job description made clear why it wasn't available, I would take this as a sign of a toxic workplace and avoid it. It isn't about jQuery being banned, it is about the type of workplace where jQuery is not only banned, but such a ban is mentioned early in the interview process. I guess if you want people who are okay with such a workplace, then you are using an appropriate heuristic.


> I would take this as a sign of a toxic workplace and avoid it.

You avoided explaining this. If eliminating unnecessary abstraction is offensive to you then I would be more happy to eliminate you from employment consideration at the earliest possible moment so that I don't waste your time.


Good way to filter out candidates that understand tradeoffs or are willing to question potential fallacies. Technically no abstraction is necessary. But it's often useful.


>If eliminating unnecessary abstraction is offensive to you

If the hiring individual dictates what trade offs are made so far in advance that it happens in the interview, it means they aren't just eliminating unnecessary abstractions. Premature optimization isn't generally a good thing. Premature optimization showing up in an interview as a way to get people to quit is even less likely to be a good thing.


>As a result any heuristic applied to resumes is just as worthless as most candidates.

Disrespect permeating the industry. A candidate is either a rock star 2% or worthless the rest. And everybody does successfully hires only rockstars. Mathematical paradox. Though seeing how you mention 10 years experience as something important I'd guess you're young, and that would explain your gimmicky and capricious approaches to candidates selecting and interviewing.


Old enough to have earned a pension in one industry.


Have you tried recursively applying your own statement about heuristics to your own heuristics? The only thing you are doing is declaring that your own simplified view of the world is truer than other people's simplified view of the world. At least most people are self conscious enough to know that the simplifications lose information but is somewhat unavoidable due to amount.


Actually, I have. It isn't about my opinions. It is about the underlying technologies and languages more directly. It is about understanding why things work the way they do and how large applications come together and how to organize things.

I am less interested in copy-paste coders.


Yes, but: Being hand-delivered a resume from a trusted colleague is a filtering mechanism. It won't guarantee a phone call, but it's a better recommendation than a recruiter trying to gain a commission on this week's "really awesome superstar."


A hand-delivered resume from someone I trust is almost guaranteed an interview, regardless of typos!


If you are so flooded by resumes, you really should be more specific in your job ad. By that, I mean you should describe the position you look to fill I details, including uncomfortable parts.

People will self select way more. As is now, many job ads work as something attempting to sell position - but you are flooded by people you don't want (else you would just pick 5 random to interview).


When I've been in this situation, I wasn't the one making the job description.

In general, I feel the hiring process focuses on the wrong things. Buzzword compliance is a major problem. Experience in problem spaces is much harder to capture in a resume than a list of technologies that can be software-grepped for the benefit of technically clueless recruiters and HR.

Similarly, I'm not a fan of most technical reviews. They tend to focus on gotcha questions and think-on-your-feet trivial programming exercises that have virtually no bearing on real life as an engineer. To be fair, they can help, but they often exclude excellent engineers who aren't as good at the on-your-feet game as they are at the big picture game.

When interviewing candidates, I tend to pick up on an interesting experience on their resume, and ask them to talk about it. What went right? What went wrong? What was your role in the solution?

Heuristic: Candidates who blame others for failures, especially when they don't praise others for success, get a big black mark. I don't usually like working with people who are looking for someone to blame, regardless of their skill.

Heuristic: When someone starts talking about some project and really geeks out about it, getting into the details of how the solution worked and why it delighted them, gets a huge plus. First, it means they were actually at the core and understood what was going on. Second, it says what they care about.

Sometimes, I'll get them talking about their best experiences as an engineer, or their worst, just to hear the geek come out. It's very telling.

And I have usually decided on a candidate in the first five to ten minutes of an interview. If it's no, it's no. If it's yes, the rest of the interview is mostly about validating my initial impression.


I think that asking overly hard technical questions is bad for reasons you said, but if an engineer gets offended over simple "implement linked list" or other basic exercise, something is wrong with that engineer. Either it is that he/she masks some lack of basic knowledge or he/she is too much of primadona. It is perfectly ok for interviewer to check on basic skills, since all interviewer goes by is what you say about yourself.

But, if I had enough social skills to tone down "geeking" withing 10 minutes of interview with stranger, you would not hire me? That is just side note through. The older I am, the less I like to frame myself as "geek", there are some cultural aspects I have grown to dislike. A lot of "geekinesss" is actually trying to be cool rather then anything else.


I deliberately put 3-4 typos on my resume to weeed ouut the carelesss screeners.


This is fine if it's how you want to handle it, but you can not ever complain about a shortage of qualified candidates.


People learn about and optimize for those heuristics. Those resumes will on average get better and better over time until half of them are almost perfect. Those people all spent considerable time and energy on optimizing their resume. You get people who look good on paper. They will continue to excel in your company (on paper). If your job is to look good on paper. Yes, go on.


You should at least look good on paper. I'll not hire you because you have a wonderful resume, but I'll interview you. And I'll not interview you if your resume looks bad.

(truth be said, I'm not the one selecting resumes right now, and sometimes I get garbage that I wouldn't even interview)


I think it's fair to keep in mind that the developers you want don't have a lot of experience interviewing (they tend to get snatched up as soon as they're on the market, if not before), and the ones you definitely don't want might have more experience interviewing than doing their actual job.


To be perfectly honest, I can't see proofreading your resume to be that big of a burden. And if you can't bother to do that, what else can't you bother to do while on the job?


"Let me randomly filter these and hope for the best" is the essence of your suggestion for screening candidates.

It doesn't sound very good. It sounds like you should be investing more time into interviewing more people instead of throwing away folks who could excel, but fail an arbitrary heuristic.

That is to say, instead of throwing away 19 out of 20... don't throw away so many. Obviously you don't need to call in all 20 people, that would be a huge waste of time. But your approach seems too sensitive to the heuristic for the tradeoff of saving a few hours of time to find a person whom you'd hopefully employ for years. I wouldn't take that decision lightly, especially with a small company, though I suppose you can always let them go if it doesn't work out.


The thing is, it's not "random". I have a good reason for my filter - it represents attention to detail. And yes, it will exclude the occasional good candidate, but it will exclude far more bad candidates.

If I have 100 resumes for two roles, and I can, through heuristics, knock it down to five, then I'm starting with enough "good" resumes to stand at least a chance of filling the two roles. Mind you, we're now about a day's worth of work for a manager, and five interrupted afternoons for the senior/lead engineers doing the interviews.

On top of that, the good candidates are going to have other companies competing for them. If my response is "Well, we like this candidate, but let's spend two weeks interviewing another twenty people, just to be sure", my odds of missing the good candidate are pretty high.


Why is that people don't run a spellcheck? It's rare for me to see even official internal documents without several spelling mistakes even after they have been approved for publication. Just turning on the spelling checker in your favourite word processor, editor, or even web browser will go a long way toward catching most typos.

The grammar checker in Word is also worth a try. Did you mean "P. G.'s maxim" when you typed "pg's maximum"? :-)


I noticed that even these little HN checkboxes have a grammar checker. Earlier, I carelessly wrote "the the", and it underlined the second "the" as incorrect.

And yet, the comments in response to my OP are full of easily detected errors. It's like you have to make an effort to screw it up.


That's your browser doing the checking, not anything that's part of the HN page.


In my experience, spellcheck leaves a lot to be desired. Even on a finished document that I've manually verified as being perfect in terms of spelling and grammar, there's usually still a sea of red and green underlines offering incoherent suggestions in English as dictated by Google Translate.

If the authors of the documents you mention are anything like me, we're so used to ignoring false positives that the net result now permits minor errors to slip through.


As someone who does a huge amount of writing, it's always surprising how many errors still end up slipping through even though I do at least one re-read when I write something. It's basically impossible to do a good proof-reading job on your own work, especially if it's something you've gone through and reworked multiple times like (presumably) a resume.


If you're going to filter on typos, you may as well put a hackerrank/leetcode question as the initial filter, or invent your own question. That will save you and your team more time since you will only get respondents that pass and you don't need to review every resume yourself for typos.


I don't know about the original poster, but I'll immediately spot every error in spelling, punctuation, and usage in a ten-second skim of a page. My eyes just go right to them.

And yes, I consider that it's difficult to write correct English. But if you're willing to send out an erroneous resume without getting it competently reviewed, I have to suspect the depth of your commitment to quality overall.


> And yes, I consider that it's difficult to write correct English. But if you're willing to send out an erroneous resume without getting it competently reviewed, I have to suspect the depth of your commitment to quality overall.

Is this theory or practice?

People who individually craft CVs and cover letters (I do) go through a very resource consuming process.

Having all the CVs and cover letters externally reviewed makes the process even more resource consuming.

It's crucial to differentiate spell-checking from proofreading.

The parent specified spell-checking; there is a reason to be strict on this, and it's that spell-checking a document takes less than a minute with a word processor, so one really needs to be careless to leave more than a couple of spelling mistakes.

Proofreading on the other hand, is much more demanding (finding people, coordinating, reviewing and applying changes), and often, gives feedback that may not be very useful or even conflictual between reviewers.

I don't think proofreading for more than a handful of CVs/CLs is realistic (expect for the CV-maniacs).


You meant "except".


If someone ever ships a bug, I'd have to suspect their commitment to quality overall too, and that's way more relevant than a typo.

I wouldn't want anyone to pay for a resume review because the advice you get from that can be quackery or even conflict with other articles about resume writing (apart from 'no typos', they can pretty much agree on that).

Really, the point was if you're going to use a superficial filter like that, you may as well automate it to something like a code test so you can save yourself even something as small as 10 seconds x N resumes per year.


It is obvious that you did not scan your comment for any errors for 10 seconds before you submitted it. Try a little game and find the error you have made.


I don't want to be too critical, but you have a number of grammatical errors in your comment. I believe this shows how easy it can be to get at least 2 typographical errors in even a short piece of communication. I am sure that this comment will infringe on someone's standard.


really? you don't think its evidence that we invest varying levels of effort into things we care about? thusly, a candidate with typographical errors is closer internet-comment-level interested effort-wise in the position.


Claiming something is easy to do and then making the same errors simply diminished the strength of the argument presented. The comment comes across as "do as I say, not do as I do."


it's fun for text-based debate, but aren't you just ignoring the greater contextual situation for the sake of argument? the distance between anonymous internet comments and professional discourse is wider than what you're implying


Why should the distance between between anonymous internet comments and professional discourse be wide? If your comment is about professional matters then you should have enough professionalism to make you point appropriately.


i mean, from my understanding of the english language, these kinds of things are usually contextual based on the medium, not the content of the message. i suppose everyone has their different interpretations, though


I'm focusing on spelling, not grammar (I consciously exclude grammar from my heuristic, out of respect for non-native English speakers). Are there any misspellings in the OP?


Your use of the term "typos" includes all typographical mistakes, spelling, punctuation, etc.

You don't appear to have spelt any of the words incorrectly. However, you did make a couple of typographical errors. A close look will show them up.

In regards to spelling errors, do you distinguish between the American and the more correct non-American spelling of words?


This would be https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry%27s_law in action. :P


A throwaway comment on a website and the thing that is your first impression to a hiring manager are two completely different things.


Eh. The grammar of my OP is conversational, not formal. If I were writing formally, I'd write differently.


I took it as conversational and the errors are in that vein. When speaking there is a specific flow in the words used. When writing that same conversation, specific typographical conventions are used to exhibit the spoken word flow.


> It's irresponsible.

While I agree, it would be irresponsible to exhaustively interview isn't a key metric for a _good_ hiring process how efficiently you can find/place candidates who _do_ excel in the role?

By that turn, shouldn't a responsible hiring manager constantly be evaluating and improving their heuristics so that their front-line filtering is less biased and stupid in the ways that materially affect the quality of hires?

I don't think the point is that we can remove heuristic filtering from the process. Heuristics are necessary in hiring but this doesn't justify being dismissive of a discussion about whether a certain class of heuristics is really serving the needs of the organization.


So optimizing for making resumes go away, and resigning yourself to shouldering the long-term burdens the article describes. That's what you're describing and that's certainly one way to do it.


Honest question - how does this relate to some of the anecdotes in the OP - where someone referred to recruiter/HR as a desirable hire by a current employee gets denied because <some clueless resume scan criteria fail>?

That's the real kicker in the whole article... when "We want this person!" doesn't work because crustimoney proseedcake.


I'm trying to explain why heuristics start getting applied in the first place.


In my experience recruitment consultants will often try and "improve" the CVs they submit, even if it's just to fit into a template. I've seen many spelling mistake sneak in here.

You may well be rejecting candidates based on their recruiter.


no, your filtering mechanism is irresponsible. I'd recommend relying less on resumes and more on referrals from a trusted network.


Now you're promoting "who you know", which is irresponsible as it can pass up many qualified candidates who don't happen to be in the same circles as you.

Does "trusted network" mean alumni clubs? Church groups? Gym friends? What would be an un-biased trusted network to filter candidates with?


The thing is you can't avoid bias. Even filtering based on resumes is a form of bias.

Networks and referral are the way many folks find jobs and they're especially important for candidates who have educational pedigrees and career trajectories that are different enough to cause HR drones to reject them in less than 2 seconds.


> Church groups?

Now you have a defacto "If you're not in the boss's religion or congregation you can just piss right off" thing going on which is toxic for the workplace. Even if you were, say the same Christian denomination as him, are you willing to drive to the boss's wealthy suburb to go to the wealthy suburban church every Sunday solely for your career?

Nothing says the organization doesn't care about merit or diversity than church hiring.


What about having to drive to the wealthy suburb and pay an initiation fee and an expensive monthly membership to join the gym your boss goes to? How is that any different?


In my experience, too much of that easily brings in existing biases, too much "this is just how X and I did things at our last company", and sometimes toxicity from previous companies too.

Where I work, interviewers are sent candidates without knowing who is and isn't an employee referral (except for a couple of cases where the candidate has told me or something), and employees who were recommended by another employee statistically perform much better. But we intake a lot of people who just applied too. Referrals are good, but they can't be everything.


The downside of hiring only from "trusted networks" is that you are building an echo chamber.

If you care about diversity (as most companies like TrendCo claim to) then hiring only referrals from your trusted network is likely to lead to entire teams of people that ARE JUST LIKE EACHOTHER. When I talk about diversity I refer more to diversity in viewpoints and experiences, than I do to race, gender orientation, sex, etc.. Whether we like it or not, our friends and networks are made up of people who think and work exactly like we do, that is just how humans are.

So hiring only from networks like that can lead to a huge disservice to the company, especially a growing startup company that usually tends to already suffer with the "diversity of thoughts" problem.

In addition, you are back to the original problem of potentially missing on valuable candidates because you narrowed your search to only people inside of your network. Who is to say that your network is best engineers in the world? By narrowing the search within the network you are missing out on likely better candidates that might come from a normal resume search.

From a pure statistical perspective, lets say you get 300 resumes the first week after posting a job (that's about what I would get depending on the jobs I was posting when I was last hiring). To make your life easy you cut it off after only a week. Well you have 300 potential candidates here that we can assume have self-qualified themselves based on your amazing job posting you wrote. So let's assume at least 80% of them are qualified for the job. That's 240 qualified candidates of which you need to choose 1. How many people are realistically in your network that are available for new jobs when you have an opening? Most of the time I was getting 2-3 at most for any given job coming in as referrals. Compare that to the 240 other candidates you had and you are MORE LIKELY STATISTICALLY speaking to find a better candidate out of the resume pool than the referral pool.It contains a large sample size, simple as that.

Hiring only from trusted networks is really a cop-out for the hiring manager. It makes their job easier because they can blindly narrow down the search to a handful of people without truly inspecting other talent out there. I would argue its more irresponsible than what the original comment suggested.

Plus in my experience I have hired some great people that came in as referrals. But if I also look at my top 5 worst hires I have ever made, all of them have been referral candidates. The truth is that most of the time the friend that referred them will prep them for the interview to coast through the interview. Telling them not to mention certain things and focus on things that our company is looking for in new hires. It creates an extremely biased job hiring process.

Tl;dr - Don't pat yourself on the back for only hiring from your network. You are likely missing out on the best talent by doing so, and creating an echo chamber in the process. Plus you stunt the future growth of your own personal network.


Also, vetting process needs to be immune from incumbents helping candidates pass..


Trusted network is even worse for bias; at least from my experience with shops that have tried both.

It's how you kill diversity, arrest your growth, and let fallow the connections to recruiting pipelines that might help you escape once you realize how deep you've gotten.


Exactly, i argue that trusted networks are the easiest way to build bias in a company, kill diversity, and establish an echo chamber.


You also tend to reconstruct failed teams. I've worked at places where people hired all their old friends who (collectively) failed to deliver on the last big promise, or executed poorly. You end up spending your referral bonus money on rebuilding cliques and their biases toward failure.


This was the most depressing part to me: "Another person I know is in a similar situation because his group won’t talk to people who aren’t already employed."

It's a long story, but both my wife and I have most recently been at places, in a small-medium city, that have had huge turnover in the last several years due to mismanagement (her entire unit, except for her, left twice while she was working with them; we've lost about 30% of our employees in the last few years). She was pressured to resign after returning from her maternity leave because, as far as I can tell, they figured out they could cut her position and offload the work onto others while she was gone. So she's stayed home to raise our child. I haven't lost my position, but every week brings a new clusterfuck of horrors that I'm running out of ways of coping with.

The problem is, now she's wanting to return to work, and has a job offer, but it's in another state, and it's created a situation where basically I have to give up a job and probably career, or she has to run the risk of her career dying off because of lack of opportunities in the area.

So if I take time off to watch our child while my wife rebuilds her career, and maybe move to a different career myself, somehow I'm penalized? Pardon my language, but fuck that.

I'm also in my early 40s, so there's that.

I'm starting to feel like my life is ending, really, like opportunities are just vanishing left and right. It's odd because up until this point I always felt optimistic, like there was always something out there for us. My wife comes from an elite school, we both graduated with Ph.D.s from a program in the top 5 in our field (according to dubious rankings), if you're into that. I don't mean this narcissistically, but I just feel like there's this huge discrepancy between what I know my wife and I are, in terms of work ethic and competency, and what our opportunities are.


There's not a lot of empathy in these comments, so I just wanted to say that I've been there and I know it's scary. It's a shame that hard-working people with an education can't find opportunities outside of a handful of metro areas. I moved to the Bay Area for the job density, but I understand why people with families aren't eager to do the same -- I'm single and childless and most days I wonder why I keep living here.

Best of luck with everything. If you don't want to freelance and don't mind travel, DM me for an opportunity.


> "Another person I know is in a similar situation because his group won’t talk to people who aren’t already employed."

This point alarms me a bit. It doesn't even have to be a family circumstance. What about departures for your own mental health, or sabbatical?

So if I take some time off to learn a new stack (I'm leaning toward Elixir), and build a few projects with it in my free time, I'm a lesser candidate?

This being said, I do have a friend who did take a year off to pursue music. However, he's what they'd call a "rockstar" and has freedoms most of us don't.


Wait, so let me get this right: 1) Your wife gave up her career to take care of the kid 2) Now she's found a job and is asking you to do the same 3) Additionally, you consider your job a clusterfuck with incompetent management

Seems like a clear decision


You missed a few numbers: 4) may not be able to get another job after an extended gap 5) would have to move out of town

Those types of choices aren't usually clear.


OP also mentions that the new position for the spouse is in a location with sparse opportunities for job shopping.


I hope you and your wife get what you are looking for, something just as good, or something better. I don't have any advice for you beyond trying to find opportunities in your hardship, and taking good care of yourself and your family. Even though I know that the former may ring hollow, distant, and lacking in empathy, doing that (and probably more) helped me persevere onward to a new opportunity.

Hang in there.


Is there a possibility for remote work? Even part time or lower paid would help to ease the stress of long term outlook. And frankly, as someone who have been and done that, being at home spouse can be frustrating/isolating/etc and having something outside, some goals and duties to focus on, helps a lot. I mean, if you are frustrated from discrepancy now, it will got only worst. So having a goal, part time job, small business (even if it earns no money) helps really a lot to deal with all those frustrations.


"So if I take time off to watch our child while my wife rebuilds her career, and maybe move to a different career myself, somehow I'm penalized? Pardon my language, but fuck that."

Agreed. Anyone who wants to implement some kind of asinine policy like that should instantly be forced to spend the next 6 months unemployed, and then try to find a new job.


I don’t think it’s a policy as much as it is common sense. Unless the OP was producing output during that time (which he doesn’t suggest he would be doing), he _will_ be less attractive to hiring managers. Why would someone want to hire somebody who is letting their skills atrophy when they can hire somebody who’s been growing their skills actively?

There are a lot of candidates out there and to ignore your competition for employment is to do yourself a great disservice.


No, it's an asinine policy that screams "We only hire guys right out of college with no other life."

It's the kind of thing that only comes up with people who have never been in such a situation, and can't imagine that such a situation would exist.


Again, it’s not a policy (you keep using that word). Are you a hiring manager? If so, would you really hire a person who hasn’t done anything work related for over a year over someone who has?

At the end of the day employment is a mutually beneficial deal for the employer and employee. It’s not some sort of social safety net. Performance counts.


If it's something that a hiring manager uses to make a determination, it's a policy.


By that logic every decision made during the hiring is a policy. Too vague to be useful imo.

Semantics aside, my point stands: it’s reasonable to hire the best person for the job. A person’s personal problems are just that, personal.


I'm sorry, but that just tells me you've never been in that kind of situation. Which tells me that you lack empathy for other people.


And your response tells me that you’re not a hiring manager and have never been responsible for building a team.


Raise the child, build a business from home.

I would sign for it in a heartbeat.


Small kids are a lot more work than many people realize. Ditto building a business. Trying to do both at once without being financially independent first is not a choice anyone should make if they can help it.


Building a business, particularly a consulting business, is pretty easy and doesn't take financial independence, especially if it's IT related. Incorporating is easy, you can do it online. Then call up ye olde consulting firms and have them find business for you until you build up a customer base that calls you directly when they need work done. Do this enough and soon you'll have so much work you'll have to farm it out to acquaintances (your first employees).


That is sometimes good advice for developers. But only sometimes — it's not work that interests mosts people.

For most careers, it's not very reasonable to quit a job and try to build a company.


Not everyone wants to build a business.


Typically if you have an organization that only talks to people with current jobs, that rule is for people sending in cold resumes. On the other hand, if they know who you are, you probably won't have the same filters applied.

Let's say you go ahead and move and take time off to watch your child. Two years down the road you want to start looking for work. What you've done with those two years is going to really matter. If you've invested time in activities like writing about your field, speaking about your field at conferences/meetups, creating an online course about your field, contributing to related open source projects, teaching a class at a university, etc. you are going to be in a very different place than someone who just checked out for 24 months.

Being currently employed sends certain signals to a prospective employer, but there are other things that can send much stronger signals. The unknown is still going to be scary and I don't know your field, but your Ph.D. can probably open a lot of doors to make yourself visible to market.


> What you've done with those two years is going to really matter.

Caring for their child is what he'll have done with those two years. It's an exhausting full-time job. These suggestions are great for someone who's unemployed, but unrealistic for a full-time caregiver.


Well there were a lot of suggestions and there are plenty of other things one could do that I didn't suggest. Your chances of getting a job after 24 months having done absolutely nothing related to your career are much lower than if you do some things like I mentioned--even if you are only spending 10-15 hours or so a month on it.

I'm not downplaying how much work it takes to care for a child, but I don't think it is helpful to downplay the need to stay at least somewhat active in your field if you want to back to the workforce someday.


God, what a terribly insensitive comment. Leaving the workforce to care for family is not "check[ing] out for 24 months."


No. But he is right that if you do some activities in the meantime, you will be in very very different position then if you don't. Maybe the biggest difference is level of confidence, bit it such a huge difference that it is worth mentioning.


I'm in no way implying that taking care of your children is less important than your career. I think it is great what he is talking about doing and is a great investment to make in his child.

Leaving the workforce to take care of family and not doing anything to keep yourself marketable is "checking out" when it comes to your career. You are going to have to be proactive in making sure that you are doing things each week that will put you in a good place to return to the workforce IF that is what you eventually want to do.


Look for large fortune 100 companies and if this is in tech you mostly can get to work remote


> So if I take time off to watch our child while my wife rebuilds her career, and maybe move to a different career myself, somehow I'm penalized? Pardon my language, but fuck that.

No offense but this reads as fairly entitled. Why would your value continue to rise as an employee if you take time out of your career? You will be competing against people who are bettering themselves without taking > 1 year breaks.

It’s not any employer’s responsibility to plan your life, you must do that yourself.


Your premise seems to be that people taking one-year breaks aren't doing something to sharpen the saw. I don't know about you, but I've added more to my skills during some times that I wasn't full-time employed doing study and personal projects than during some times that I was (and yes, that's a sign you should leave a position you're in, but this doesn't always happen immediately).


It's really unfortunate to see how common it is to look down on people who spend their time differently. There are some tasks I wish to undertake that likely mean I would have to leave the office job experience for about a year.

Given how this may affect my future hire-ability, I doubt I will pursue it. I can't really afford to have my resume thrown in the trash because I felt something else was worth devoting my limited time to, even if only temporarily.


Very true. He doesn’t mention anything about personal projects or self-directed study though. Only that it’s unfair that leaving his career would be unattractive to future employers.


Because they are not. This is a competition with a set of rules, like it or not. If you think those rules are silly and arbitrary, then you can start a company that does not have those rules and hire people who do not want to follow them.

Would your company succeed because it does not have such silly rules? I have no idea.


Dubious claim.

15 hr/week while unemployed working on your own app may be far more beneficial than 60 hr/week working on a trivial CRUD app.


He didn’t say anything about working on his own app. He said he was going to take care of his child. I’m not saying he won’t be doing that but it wasn’t in the OP.


You've got a PHD, your probably very specialized. This definitely closes alot of doors for you, but it's you closing the doors.

I don't envy the years I could look through the want ads and say to myself, I can do that, I can do that, I can do that. I prefer now, even though it's a bit a crap shoot whether someone is looking to fill a position with my skill set.


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