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How to Hire (hbr.org)
274 points by devy 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 223 comments



Several years ago, right here on HN, a Google employee expressed shock that candidates wouldn't bother to open the "red book" and review before showing up for an interview at Google. I had no idea what the "red book" was. Turns out that it's a particular algorithms textbook used by several top universities. That poster was so wrapped up in a particular culture that he was using colloquial slang to refer to expectations.

That's about the same time I realized tech hiring is almost entirely about cultural bias. Watching coworkers talk about rejected candidates as if they were morons for simply having a slightly different approach to, say, OOP architecture, further convinced me of this.

In my experience, "culture fit", as cited in post-interview discussion, was almost purely code for ageism. Meanwhile, most of the supposedly technical stuff was really culture.


As a self taught software developer, I struggle with the intellectual aspect of culture fit. On one hand, I have been told that all the stuff I have showcased on sdegutis.com is amazing. But on the other hand, I don't know many algorithms, can't comprehend math more advanced than high school algebra, and what I do know about software took me twice as long to learn it than it normally takes others.

I have found that freelancing avoids even coming to the question of culture fit. Clients don't care what you know or what kind of books you read or where you went to school, they care what you can do. I have been turned down for jobs for not figuring out their algorithms, whereas the one client I have (I'm open to new clients btw) has told me that he's glad that he found me, because I get the job done fast and well and for cheap.

The downside of this is that you're expected to do a perfect job 100% of the time and have to bite every minute that you lose to yak shaving or other problems, whereas if you work for an employer, they are more understanding if it takes a day to solve some stupid Java XML configuration issue.


No offence, but googling your name yields some very questionable search results about events in Woodstock, IL. If it's true, then perhaps the true cause of cultural discrepancy comes from assumptions based on a Google search?

Perhaps I am the odd one out, but whenever a potential new hire is presented to the team, I do a quick Google search and investigation about whom that person might be and whether I'd like working with that person, regardless of his/her skills and knowledge. Every day interactions make up for a very large portion of work agenda.


Doing the same search, it appears that there are at least three people named Steven Degutis with different middle names: https://www.instantcheckmate.com/people/steven-degutis/

Searching for someone's name can at best give you suspicions, but name collisions are so common that you can't know whether the person you found mentioned online is the same you wanted to find out about.

Personally, I have almost no real-name presence on the internet, so the top result for my name is some other guy's Instagram account. You might spend a lot of time looking at his posts, but that won't help you learn anything about me.


Some suspicions can be clarified. Especially ones with clear photos available.

As per online presence - we do not hire people that we have never seen. We're a remote and distributed team, thus rarely any hires get to have a walk-in interview, but we do always see the person being interviewed. I wouldn't waste hours looking at posts of a person I can clearly see is not my potential colleague. Having no online presence is fine, most of us don't at my current job. However, if it's there, it is going to be examined. It's way harder to get to know to understand someone as a person if you've never had had a face-to-face interaction, therefore having a video call is a must.


Yes, that is the reason 99% of the jobs offered to me have been rescinded. I was originally talking about the other 1%, where I failed the whiteboard or algorithms tests.

You're right. Ultimately, people are uncomfortable with the idea of being around me based on what I did. Even if you take the huge exaggerations out of those articles, what I did was still enough that people just don't want to be around me.

There's no path for redemption for me. It doesn't matter how much I ever change, or how remorseful or sincerely sorry I was, or how hard I work to stay positive and struggle daily against letting the bitterness and pessimism in. But these are things I do for myself.

I really thought that this would show through in my character, and that people would see the good that I strive to always have in me and try to always be, and that this would override in their minds what I've done in the past. But apparently that's not how life works.


[flagged]


Personal attacks will get you banned here, regardless of how wrong someone else is. Please don't do it again.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I am in the process of interviewing a guy for a technical role that has the same name as the frontman for a very famous rock band. I am 99% certain I was not in contact with him... although googling this guy's name would come up with articles about "his" drug addictions...

Google is a wonderful tool but I would prefer to not search for the person online, as I am more concerned that false positives might unfairly bias my opinions on the applicant.


The top search for my name is a kid in England who is serving life in prison for murdering his girlfriend when he was 16 and she was 14. Obviously not me, but I always wonder how many potential employers have a visceral aversion to hiring me after a quick google search.


> The downside of this is that you're expected to do a perfect job 100% of the time and have to bite every minute that you lose to yak shaving or other problems, whereas if you work for an employer, they are more understanding if it takes a day to solve some stupid Java XML configuration issue.

The usual solution to this is to charge more. :)


I thought the usual solution is to make it very clear to the client that yak shaving is billable time. I even have a section in my invoice that goes into detail about how much they're paying me for that yak shaving time. The yak shaving stops pretty damned fast after they get that first invoice.


yak shaving is time the dev spends futzing around with tooling configuration, it has nothing to do with the client.

Sometimes yak shaving is necessary for a project (Java build config funtimes), in other cases not so much (fiddling with autocompletion plugins in your .vimrc)


Oh, right. I always get yak shaving confused with bike shedding.


I bill the client if what I’m doing for them is either (a) keeping from working on another clients project (example: driving from my office to their site) or (b) if they wouldn’t expect to dock their own employees for doing the same thing (example: updating software).

Even without knowing what you are charging I can tell you aren’t charging enough. :-)


> (I'm open to new clients btw)

I am not meaning to be offensive, but I really wish I could master the art of sales. I have some trouble adding in a sales pitch in an informative or casual setting. So you have any resources you would recommend for learning how to sell yourself?

[Sorry if this does not make much sense I am still learning English]


I looked it your profile, your profile pic matches the question searchable results on the 3rd link regarding a police report

There's nothing on yolur blog disputing any of the claims either. That's usually not a good sign either... its basically admitting that the story is the truth

Also while I like the blog its just information overload. There's no use of white space, no space to "rest". It feels like your throwing everything at me when I didn't ask for all of it. I just want to know a little bit about you as a person, not all your thought processes. It needs a gentler introduction imo, its too brutalist.

Also forces your brain to read left to right, most people naturally read straight downward / scroll down. The portfolio section is very well done though.

There's benefits in not throwing a single page portfolio as well. I spread mine across several pages. You can choose to find out what you want to know about me. I use a barebones simple template so I can throw my own uniqueness into it

The blog posts... they give me headaches reading it. The content is far too short and frequent, so I'm constantly seeing the footer move around too often. It gets really fatiguing. I get the general impression that the potential employer will feel you have too many random ideas tossed on the table.

The rule of thumb is have a 5min read or 750-1500 word count. There are some rules to that exception though, just be aware people have short attention spans, myself included.

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A blog represents you as a person. It gives the impression that you know how to build stuff efficiently, and can pickup any programming language quickly. However, your blog essentially states that you only love coding and not much else really. It also gives the impression that you like asserting yourself onto people, because there's no white space, the UX is too brutalist. The questionable 3rd google link fits the same persona (with photo verification), you don't dispute it either. This gives the impression while you might be great as a solo-developer, working in teams might have cultural fit issues.

It might not even be you, you might work really well in a team. Or an interesting person that people enjoy having around. However it might just be employees at the company who might outright not want to work with you based on social media stigmas.

I have been both on the hiring and interviewing side many times before. My impression is not unique, its probably what most recruiters assume as well. Some companies would rather have someone more rounded with interests across other spectrums. Your best interest would be hiring a firm specializing in SEO and pushing negative results downward. Something like this, I just googled around for you. https://www.abine.com/blog/2017/push-negative-search-results...

I have a generic firstName and lastName, in fact there's many more famous people with my name. I never have to worry about silly google searches, I get to control my branding however I like which is convenient. Your name on the other hand ... is very unique. This is both good and bad, if you become famous its easy for people to recognize your name. But for you its a bad thing.


Yes, those articles are the reason 99% of the jobs offered to me were rescinded. But I was speaking at first of the ones where I failed the whiteboard or algorithm test.

Despite the fact that the articles are highly exaggerated and contain much inaccurate information, what I actually did wrong was still enough to put it in people's minds that they will never be comfortable around me. There is no actual path for redemption for me in society. I have come to accept this.

It would be great if I could get those articles pushed off the google search for me, but it's never going to happen. Since I can't get work, we are consistently below negative in our bank account. Last month we passed -$700. We still have bills from July that haven't been paid yet, including electric and natural gas.

All your suggestions for improving my portfolio site are great, but at this point there's no reason to put any more time into that site. I built it to get me a job, and it's clear I won't get a job ever again. The only client I have, I have because he's a good person who looks at me as a human being and sees the good in me, and is excited to get my talent at this good of a deal.

I could lie. I could change my name and not tell companies about my past. Then I would be able to make 100-150k. I could make it if I choose to be unethical. But I won't. Because despite what everyone thinks of me, and despite whatever happens to me, I am trying to be a good person and do right. I was hoping that would show through in my character throughout all my blog posts and posts on HN and everywhere. I guess it did to some extend, because I do have that one client.


The algorithms test or whiteboards I struggle as well. Math is not my strong suit either.

I have never been on that side of the fence where I have been incarcerated or put on an offender list. This could happen to anyone, you could just be taking a piss in the woods after a long night of drinking and be placed on that list. You could just be working out in an open gym park, have your fly down, forget it was there and cause public indecency to minors. Everyone will just assume the same - that you are a pedophile regardless if it was true, or even intentional, or just a one off mistake

I can't relate to your bank account issues personally, I have been lucky in that I have not had to worry about finances in the negative. Dealing with paycheck by paycheck is very draining mentally, I do nonprofit work with people who are disadvantaged, low income, or are homeless. I imagine you don't have a lot of free time in your day either.

Portfolio is actually fine for what it is, I might have overexaggerated about fixes that needed to be made.

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I really think the "lie" part is a little opinionated though. I do not think there is such a thing as ethical marketing at all. I don't draw the lines between black and white either, its just a gray zone for me. I lived a lot of my life telling lies not because I wanted to, because I didn't have a choice in the matter. I still try to do good and live by a set of rules though, but I realize things don't work out that way. Sometimes life just sucks and you are just unlucky and were in the wrong place and wrong time.

You have all the skills a potential employer wants. My friend told me this same advice to me as well - You are limiting yourself. You are holding yourself back. I have had similar yet different problems, I am socially shy on social media, but I only recently started blogging and rebranding myself under one social media name (vincentntang). I have had a very complicated past, I have never been understood most of my life, I do see where you are coming from to some extent. I dumped it here if you are curious http://vincentmtang.com/2018/08/13/story-of-my-life/.

Throwing all your eggs in one basket, one client, is just a disaster waiting to happen, especially with your financial situation. He might be a good person at heart or just taking an economic advantage over your situation. You said it yourself, because I get the job done fast and well and for cheap.

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Changing your name and using social media branding is unethical, but I would argue what HR is doing to potential employees is even more unethical. I think its not fair either for someone to assume who you are based on one past incident either. I got sick of dealing with people assuming things about me so that's why I mostly blog, its to tell the stories from my perspective. I don't talk about webtechnologies half the time, many times its just snippets of stories from my life. Debatedly I want to start doing things on youtube again as well, so I can share more tidbits of things that interest me

Most of your articles are opinion pieces, but where are all the adventures and stories of how you learned XYZ or struggled with dealing with incarceration? People would love to hear your stories, and your struggles, it makes you more relateable. I wouldn't use HN as a means to this end though, I mostly use HN to hash out potential stories I want to write about.

You aren't the only person with incarceration problems though. There's a whole network of developers who have been incarcerated, here on this job search tool. https://www.70millionjobs.com/


> "where are all the adventures and stories of how you learned XYZ or struggled with dealing with incarceration?"

It would be a downer. People want to be uplifted and read stories about people's successes. My life isn't there yet.

> "what HR is doing to potential employees is even more unethical"

This comes back to culture fit. If my presence would make anyone uncomfortable, simply because of my past, then it's not a good fit for either them or me. Plain and simple.

> "Throwing all your eggs in one basket, one client, is just a disaster waiting to happen, especially with your financial situation"

Which is why I'm mentioning my availability and services in hopes of getting more work for when his runs out.


True you make good points.

I still think you should write something about your incarceration though on your blog. Your whole blog just seems to entirely ignore it. I think it would be best to directly address the concerns potential employers and prospects might have on things they find in a google search. You would probably get more prospects sympathsizing to your situation. It might seem like a downer, but the downer stories shows you've learned from your past mistake as well. That you can accept criticism thrown your way and openly accept events that transpired in your life good or bad. This can only be seen as a positive trait about you.

Dont let people draw assumptions about you, let your stories speak for themselves.

I wish you the best on your journey. You dont have it easy but im sure you will figure something out


Well I know fairly small company where people pretty much expected every candidate to be deeply familiar with The Art of Computer Programming Book by Donald Knuth. The even funnier part it was 100% PHP shop.


I bought the first volume of TAoCP when it came out. The number of people that I know that are "deeply familiar with The Art of Computer Programming" approaches zero. I have read some sections in great detail, but won't claim deep familiarity. I don't know of anyone who has read the whole thing. I am a bit skeptical of this claim.


That is exactly why this is funny :). You have to dif. expected and actually were able to find. From my understanding only the CTO would more or less actually fit the description.


I'm not sure why people still have problems with modern PHP. Why is that funny?


It's the shitty PHP projects they don't tell you about in the interview that people have a problem with that they then shovel on your plate.

But that really goes for any language.

The true extent of technical debt is almost never realized in an interview, but you can't really do much about it if you accept the job and they tell you to work on it.


> But that really goes for any language.

It goes so much more for php than any other language. PHP used to be so popular and even now with JS and other languages on top, there's still so many legacy php apps out there for maintenance. I deal with them regularly and most of them are really bad.

And no, I'm not shitting on the language. It's a decent language nowadays.


You know many people who are enough into CS to go through "The Art of Computer Programming" multiple times but yet use PHP a lot? Modern PHP is OK but I doubt it's a good default choice at present given all the alternatives.


If a company already has a large PHP codebase, then it's probably the right choice to stick with it. And it can scale just fine, easily as well as Python or Ruby if you dig into how to do it right.

But to manage scalable PHP (or any language, for that matter) you still need smart programmers, a lot of whom will have been through most of the serious academic works in the field. They won't love working with PHP (I never did), and it might mean greater flight risk (yup!), but they might join the job anyways (at least half a dozen people that I know with those creds that joined up with the last project I was on where we had no choice but to deal with PHP) because of other reasons, like liking the company, people, or goals.

I've worked with a dozen different languages over the last 20 years. PHP is not one that I'd pick for a new project, but TBH, it's not the worst I've had to deal with. My experiences with the Visual Basic, Perl, and R code that I've had to interact with were actually far worse (typically because the people that code them are not as solid in software engineering), but I wouldn't judge people that use them just based on having done so. Unless we're spinning up new prototypes, very few of us actually get to choose the technologies that we use.


I've learned to avoid vb.net shops not because of the language per se, but because of the culture that allows for sticking with something that has widely considered legacy for some time now.

I know this is painting with a broad brush, and I'm working from a sample size of 2 (or, 2 vb.net shops that I've worked with), and the software engineering culture as a whole was really bad on those teams.


>>> And it can scale just fine, easily as well as Python or Ruby if you dig into how to do it right.

The webserver is scaled by just adding more instances in parallel with a load balancer. It's the database that needs to scale and that's the challenge.


Absolutely, though I'd warn that if you naively use PHP and a default setup (Apache with default settings for PHP or something like that), you're probably not going to serve as much traffic per server as a naive Python or Ruby setup will get you. You have to tune your way there, and it can be a bit of a process, but it's definitely possible, and there's nothing very subtle about it.

One of the biggest problems with PHP, IMO, is that most of the code you'll find online is extremely old, and probably will give you terrible advice, using old deprecated mysql libraries, etc.


And don't you have to reopen database connections for each php request? Even that seems fairly difficult to scale, unless there's a way around it that I'm not aware of (I don't use php very often, definitely not at scale).


Of course not. Connection pooling is the most basic feature of any database library. It would be really shocking if PHP didn't do that.


Is there an easier way to make a CRUD-type app?

I started learning PHP/Laravel the other day and was able to make an item/data management system with a corresponding JSON API in about an hour.

It's bootstrap so the UI isn't unique or innovative, but it's definitely passable and it works really well.


Obviously Javascript, Ruby, Golang, Python.

Javascript has become a nice language. You can't avoid it in webdev. Rich ecosystem. Languages like Typescript, Elm, Purescript, etc. are close.

Ruby is very practical, has everything, very consistent and clean. PHP is not consistent and not clean.

Golang is fast and the simplest language that is actually used in the industry. It is dramatically simpler than C. It is the fastest.

Python is like Ruby, but even more practical because it has ML and math, whereas Ruby does not.

PHP has no place in this world.


PHP is very much like Java, only being dynamically interpreted. Symfony is a very high quality framework, with which can build serious applications.

Python is surely nice looking, but as it allows redefinition of everything at runtime, it is impossible to optimize at compile time. I think PHP, with the recent type strictness functionality, is better positioned for making way to new developments like meaningfull code analysis, (compile time) optimizations and performant JIT compilers. Python is too dynamic for that, unfortunately. The same holds for JavaScript.

I don't know Ruby well, but I know it is also slow.

The biggest problem with PHP is that it standards library has inconsistent naming. The syntax is very much Java-like. If PHP would shove the standard library into `LegacyPrelude` (and have it automatically loaded like Haskell) it could improve on that as well. This problem is not as fundamental as the other problems in my opinion, although still requiring a major effort to slowly turn to a new `Prelude`.


The biggest problem with PHP is that a lot of smart people don't want to work with it for whatever reason, and you really want these smart people. To succeed you have to have a good team. Difficult to assemble one with PHP as your language.

If you use PHP you are going to lose. The world has moved on. Remember that you are not the only game in town. Good engineers have opportunities in Python, Javascript, Ruby, Rust, Golang, whatever. These languages have better reputation, better communities, they are more exciting. PHP might have become better but it's too late. It wasn't late for Javascript, but it is late for PHP.


I have to say, I found his comment that it was a PHP shop funny, but your response asking 'why is that funny' is even more funny


Please don't turn this into some language flame war. This isn't the place for that type of mentality.


I find that impossible to believe :)


even more funny it was internal payment processor @ large porn conglomerate in Eastern Europe.


Why is it funny? That seems like exactly the high load, high availability requirements that would require software quality way higher than in a typical SV app that never gets above 1k DAU.


The payment processing side is not really high load


I feel like there's a pun in here somewhere... ಠ_ಠ


They did write a functional framework and used "only" immutable vars though.


Which is ironic, given the largely imperative approach taken by TAoCP.


I googled "red book" and found one by Jung, and one by Mao. I tried adding "computer science" and got one on relational databases, and one on OpenGL.

If knowing "the red book" were so important to Google, you'd think they would make sure their own search engine knew how to find it.

I have no idea which book they're referring to. For red computer science books, the only ones that come to mind are Numerical Recipes (probably not a Google favorite), one version of Appel's compiler book (not really an algorithms book), and perhaps the old edition of AIMA (though on further inspection, it's more brown).


I think the red book is the Robert Sedgewick book, but there are any number of well-known textbooks for intro to algorithms.


Huh - I would've guessed Algorithm Design Manual by Skienna. I have no idea which book the red book is supposed to be either, but I did read the Steve Yegge blog post about getting a job at Google in which he recommended reading it. Since that Yegge article is also used by Google recruiters as a resource for interview prep (according to Yegge), seemed natural to assume Skienna.


The Robert Sedgewick book. It is an excellent book. All the cool kids have a red one. Mine was blueish purple and in pascal. LOL, I'll never get a job at Google.


"red book algorithms" will get you there


While I agree with your sentiment about cultural bias, I don't necessarily feel that the red book thing is all that relevant. I live in Europe and I've heard of (and consequently read) the 'red book', though I wouldn't have necessarily called it that.


Indeed. The OpenGL Programming Guide[1] has been the "Red Book" since it was published in 1997. Everybody knows about the Red Book.

More seriously, I have no idea what book you're talking about. Whatever it is you're referring to, it was not the textbook used when I took Data Structures and Algorithms in undergrad (EE), nor when I TA'd the course while doing my master's (CS, Graphics) at another university.

It feels a little arbitrary. As an EE, I took many classes on the fundamental design and construction of computers and communication networks. That knowledge has been very useful in understanding how my software interacts with the world. I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of trees, graphs and other data structures are weaker than those who spent many courses on them. But the company needs a broad assortment of skills to succeed, so it seems like a bad idea to base hiring heavily on finding people that all have the same talents as the interviewer. Of course, if I need to conform to that mold to pass the interview, that's what I'll do.

[1]: http://www.opengl-redbook.com/


It's hard to glean from the information given whether the Googler was so intent in the red book (Skiena, Algorithm Design Manual) that he required interviewees to be able to quote verbatim or just expected a certain knowledge of algorithms (for which a number of books would suffice, but Skiena really is a great resource for).


Please be more sensitive about declaring something you know 'everyone knows.' Especially when in the same breath you admit to not knowing what red book parent and grandparent are talking about. While I don't match the example, folks born in 1997 when the book came out are just about graduating college in a couple of years, and expecting everyone to know all the nooks and crannies of computer science is not at all feasible. Relevant XKCD: https://www.xkcd.com/1053/


It's possible GP was trying to make a joke. One signifier of this is that he follows with "more seriously", suggesting what came before was less serious. You should be more sensitive before suggesting that someone isn't making a joke.


That's exactly the point I was trying to make. I agree entirely.


Current management training is that “Culture fit” is a minefield of unconscious bias. It will take time to roll out but you’ll hear this phrase less and less over time. Possibly not much better, a more vogue term is “culture add.”


I hear "culture fit" a lot from recruiters. They are just talking about it generally...but it is so vauge I have no idea what to say.


When I hear "Red book," I think of the OpenGL programming guide.


I would read that as the "red book in algorithms" this is probably because of the famous OpenGL red book, so now we refer to the "fundamental" book in an area as the red book.

In a sense yes its "wrapped up in a particular culture" I guess the culture that exposed me to this "red book" was a CS bachelors that included graphical programming as a course.

Edit: If someone from google said to read the red book as a helper for interviewing I would probably return with "wait you mean the OpenGL book?"


I'm curious what that "red book" is now. Wouldn't it be "Algorithm Design Manual" by Skiena?


In the context of a Google interview, I imagine it's whatever Stanford kids use.


Just to confirm, the “red book” is the one by sedgewick and Wayne?


Yes, in the context of algorithms - https://algs4.cs.princeton.edu/home/

However, at this point, I end up looking up that particular website instead of trying to remember anything about this book at all.


It’s one of these Borges moves: The book doesn’t really exist, outside of the remarks of elusive Google interviewers who, so legend has it, expect you to master it.



Since great-grandparent isn't responding, if anyone in the know could help out the rest of us on the outside, that would be awesome.


Readings in Database Systems by Joseph Hellerstein and Michael Stonebraker

https://www.amazon.com/Readings-Database-Systems-Joseph-Hell...


Problem is both are popular algorithms books and both are red...


Interviews for software engineers are the most nepotistic bullshit and full of every variant of petty bias and discrimination possible. It's absolutely horrible. If I start getting asked about my hobbies in an interview, I walk, and you should too. My personal time is none of your business, and if having to like my hobbies or have them resonate with your project in some completely esoteric way is essential to your hiring criteria, you need to rethink your goofy ass life. I look for a job for the same reasons as every other person: because I have subsistence needs that can only be fulfilled by money, not because my life is so completely harmonious with your company's bullshit mission, and frankly you're a weirdo for making candidates have to lie to you about this.

Another thing I'll add is that if you have any input into the hiring process PLEASE try to convince your employer to subsidize training and prioritize that over hiring to a bulleted list of particular technologies a candidate must be familiar with. I can't tell you how many engineers could very easily get up to speed with something new, or perhaps are inexperienced and just need a little guidance and could become incredibly better with the right investment in their training (including many long time employees at your company, I guarantee it). I was lucky enough to take a week course from some very knowledgable instructors at a previous job and everyone I know who took that course was bettered by it. Startups are frankly lying to themselves if they think they hire hyper-qualified people anyways, but the entire concept of professionalized industries that are unwilling to invest in the education and training of their employees is absurd and something we should all adamantly reject.


> If I start getting asked about my hobbies in an interview, I walk, and you should too

To be honest, if someone walked out of an interview with me because I asked them "So anything you like doing in your spare time?" I'd probably be glad that they'd saved me some time. A response of "Sorry, but I like to keep my work and personal life separate" is totally reasonable. I spend more time with my deskmates than my partner during the week. I don't care if they're into running/anime/videogames/heavy metal, I just want to know that if I ask them a question they're not going to get up and walk out of the room!


> I spend more time with my deskmates than my partner during the week

Why would anyone willingly work at a job like this. Why is this ever accepted to be a good thing. I've done this as well, I've worked 9-9 at a startup and have come to the conclusion that I was extremely wrong to ever accept this kind of thing.

> I just want to know that if I ask them a question they're not going to get up and walk out of the room!

lmao this is an amazingly stupid excuse that makes no sense


>Why would anyone willingly work at a job like this. Why is this ever accepted to be a good thing. I've done this as well, I've worked 9-9 at a startup and have come to the conclusion that I was extremely wrong to ever accept this kind of thing.

You don't need to work at a job for 12 hours a day to wind up spending more time with your coworkers than with your partner though. I work 9-5, my partner works 10-6. I leave before she is awake and when I get home we have about 6 hours before we go to bed. So yeah, people willingly work at jobs like that because they are...normal jobs.

>lmao this is an amazingly stupid excuse that makes no sense

Makes sense to me. Anyone who gets up and walks out of an interview because they were asked what they liked to do for fun is probably not someone you want to waste your time with.


> You don't need to work at a job for 12 hours a day to wind up spending more time with your coworkers than with your partner though. I work 9-5, my partner works 10-6. I leave before she is awake and when I get home we have about 6 hours before we go to bed. So yeah, people willingly work at jobs like that because they are...normal jobs.

Buddy there are at least 32 free non-sleep hours on the weekend. I think the 9-5 schedule is a ridiculous social phenomenon as well, but if you're saying "I spend more time with my deskmates than my partner during the week", you're working more than a 9-5. If you're using "during the week" to mean on weekdays, this seems like a pretty arbitrary point to make. We live in a capitalist society, most of our social relationships are determined by economics, frankly I think it's fucked up to think you're entitled to be best friends with your coworkers. I'm unhappy that economic decisions beyond my control mediate my personal relationships, but that affects my politics not my decision-making around whether someone is entitled to earn a living alongside me.

> Makes sense to me. Anyone who gets up and walks out of an interview because they were asked what they liked to do for fun is probably not someone you want to waste your time with.

That's not why you ask these questions for one, because you're basically just describing me and mostly no one else. But ask yourself why its important to know what my hobbies are and why I might be reluctant to answer this kind of question when every single little petty bias you have might prevent me from getting a job. Consider the position of power you have in this scenario. This is not a hypothetical either. This will sound like humblebragging, but I had an interview with a digital healthcare company in the bay area once and was told I didn't get the job because I "seemed too interested in CS topics" or something to that effect. Effectively saying they didn't want somebody who was interested in more than hacking javascript (which I did a code interview in and did well I thought). I had an interview where an interviewer was able to learn my politics from a github org I was a member of and didn't get the job (no idea if that affected the decision or not, they wouldn't explain their rationale). This kind of thing is why I don't consider these questions innocuous.


> If you're using "during the week" to mean on weekdays, this seems like a pretty arbitrary point to make

This is pretty much the universal understanding of during the week. I don't think it's arbitrary at all. I spend 40 hours a week in my office, and I spend 62 (32 on weekends and 6 per evening on a weekday), so 40% of my waking time is going to be spent with this person.

> frankly I think it's fucked up to think you're entitled to be best friends with your coworkers.

You're the only person who is talking about being best friends with your coworkers. I'm talking about having a working relationship with people which means being able to communicate with people. There is lots of gray area between being best friends and wanting to keep work and personal life separate.

> But ask yourself why its important to know what my hobbies are

I literally don't care. All I care is that you can communicate in some way. Saying "sorry I'd rather not discuss that" is fine. Saying "Why do you want to know about my hobbies, you're just going to use what I tell you to confirm your biases and not hire me" is antagonistic and makes me wonder "how are they going to react when I sit beside them".

> and was told I didn't get the job because...

that's awful, I'm sorry that happened to you.


> You're the only person who is talking about being best friends with your coworkers. I'm talking about having a working relationship with people which means being able to communicate with people. There is lots of gray area between being best friends and wanting to keep work and personal life separate.

Christ, you literally compared it to your relationship with your partner, forgive me if I'm just following your argument.

> I literally don't care. All I care is that you can communicate in some way. Saying "sorry I'd rather not discuss that" is fine. Saying "Why do you want to know about my hobbies, you're just going to use what I tell you to confirm your biases and not hire me" is antagonistic and makes me wonder "how are they going to react when I sit beside them".

Being an interview candidate who is under the microscope and being a coworker are two completely different experiences, and my relationship to you as a candidate will be extremely different than as a coworker. The communication I'm provided as a candidate is usually not frank and honest. I often won't even get feedback because companies are afraid of being sued, so the process is often a total black box. If we're drawing the analogy between an actual working relationship and the experience of an interview, everything about the latter is artificial because I need to work to live and am generally willing to jump through whatever hoops you need me to. Meanwhile you are going to conceal your actual thoughts until you have to make a yes/no decision about if I'll have to worry about not getting a paycheck at the end of the month to pay rent.

This entire experience is a lie. I get that there are difficult, arrogant people out there, but stop prying into the lives of your candidates to try to suss those out and have a little empathy for people in this experience.

> that's awful, I'm sorry that happened to you.

Look in the scheme of things my grievances are minor, tech has a much larger problem w/ racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc. and those biases are much more prevalent in interviews. I want tech workers to have some recognition of their position within the structure of society as workers with relative privilege who could make their jobs easily accessible for anyone instead of nickel and diming candidates over bullshit. Start seeing yourself as an actual worker with compatible interests to other workers and not as a gatekeeper or emissary for your boss.


True, not innocuous. An interview tests you. But walking out because of that question? Come up with a canned answer. You like spelunking.

After all this, I am genuinely curious of your hobbies.


Testing me about the things I enjoy in my personal life that are unrelated to how I perform my job is a gross practice that shouldn't be tolerated. I have pretty regular hobbies, I like reading, movies, board games, I play drums, I like seeing bands, I participate in some activist groups. Why is this any business of a prospective employer? I was asked recently what my favorite genre of music is and when I said punk rock I was asked "why do you like punk rock?". Do you understand why I might find this to be weird and invasive and cause me to question what aspects of myself are really being interrogated in an interview like that?


Why would anyone willingly work at a job like this. Why is this ever accepted to be a good thing. I've done this as well, I've worked 9-9 at a startup and have come to the conclusion that I was extremely wrong to ever accept this kind of thing.

I am a strong believer in work life balance. But it’s not about crazy hours that causes you to spend more waking hours with your coworkers than your spouse during the week.

My wife gets up at 5 and doesn’t get off work until around 6:30 everyday during the school year. She has a split shift. So she does have time to run errands, go to the gym etc.

I get off work around 6. She goes to bed around 9. We may have two to three good hours on weekdays. I come home, we spend a little time together, she goes to sleep and two or three days out of the week, I work out in our home gym.

We have to make up for that time on the weekend. Things were worse when she was doing support and was working nights and weekends.

The summers and extended Christmas breaks are awesome though....


Yours is a particularly bad example but even a normal 9 to 5 job means you spend about 8 hours away from home and maybe 6 hours at home a day.


> Why would anyone willingly work at a job like this.

I work 9 to 5, and commute 30 minutes each day. I spend 9 hours a day away from home (on average) and I'm at home from 5:30 til 11:30 before bed which is 6 hours.

> lmao this is an amazingly stupid excuse that makes no sense

Really? The guy I replied to said he would get up and leave the interview if he was asked about his hobbies.


I'm not sure exactly how I feel about talking about hobbies etc. in interviews, both from an interviewer and interviewee perspective.

As an interviewer, you're potentially going to be spending 40 hours a week with this person. You don't really want to hire a robot.

As an interviewee, my private life is none of my employers business. Maybe my hobby is some super kinky shit that I don't really want my employer to know about. There are certainly a lot of things that I do in my own time that I won't talk about at work, some of it because it's not exactly legal and some of it just because I don't really want to deal with my colleagues judging me.

It's useless to pretend though that our work life and private life are firewalled from each other. Our work life does leak into our private life, and vice versa.


Interviews for software engineers are the most nepotistic bullshit and full of every variant of petty bias and discrimination possible.

I'm no special snowflake and I am definitely not a White male and I can say with almost certainty that I haven't been discriminated against in all of the many interviews I've had. I know because I've always gone through recruiters, my resume never went down a "black hole", and my success rate from being submitted to a job to not being rejected (I've taken myself out of the running after getting an offer is high). I'm also not in Silicon Valley.

What training does the company need to provide software developers? All the training I've needed I taught myself. It was for my benefit.


> I'm no special snowflake and I am definitely not a White male and I can say with almost certainty that I haven't been discriminated against in all of the many interviews I've had. I know because I've always gone through recruiters, my resume never went down a "black hole", and my success rate from being submitted to a job to not being rejected (I've taken myself out of the running after getting an offer is high). I'm also not in Silicon Valley.

Sounds like you've had good luck, but you're saying you know it hasn't happened to you because of documented social phenomena in the industry.

> What training does the company need to provide software developers? All the training I've needed I taught myself. It was for my benefit.

If you have untempered interest in your profession, there's likely some overlap in who benefits from your training, but largely I think it makes more sense to consider your _employer_ to be the main benefactor of your skills, not you. After all, when you're hired you don't have agency to change the direction of the product with the other workers, you don't have total control over your working environment, the technologies you choose, your schedule, etc. You may have input into these things, but in a legal sense your employer is the arbiter of these conditions, and ultimately you develop skills not simply to build the things you like, but to make yourself marketable to people who set the terms for your ability to earn a living.


Sounds like you've had good luck, but you're saying you know it hasn't happened to you because of documented social phenomena in the industry.

It’s not luck, it’s focus....

1. Don’t randomly submit your resume to job boards. I have always used local recruiters who submit my resume and have a vested interest in staying in contact with both me and the hiring manager.

2. Don’t waste time having your resume submitted to jobs that you don’t have the must haves. I’ve been on both sides of dealing with recruiters - the candidate and the “hiring manager”. A good recruiter will talk to the hiring manager about what the must haves and the nice to haves are. You can also talk to the recruiter to see if you have the must have skills.

3. Keep in touch with recruiters even if you aren’t looking. They will usually put you on a mailing list with the job openings. You can find out what the market wants. I have a few recruiters that will give you a salary range in the mailing list.

Once you know what the in demand technologies are at the salary range for which you are looking, focus on those.

4. Make sure you live in a market where the jobs are. In over 20 years and 7 job changes, it’s never taken me over three weeks to get a job, usually with a bump in salary that I am looking for and the technology stack. I’ve sacrifuced major salary bumps when changing jobs for a better tech stack/shorter commute before.

Again,I’m no special snowflake. I’m just a “senior full stack enterprise developer”, Architect, or consultant depending on how the wind is blowing.

I’m not only not White I am not young (mid 40s).

If you have untempered interest in your profession, there's likely some overlap in who benefits from your training, but largely I think it makes more sense to consider your _employer_ to be the main benefactor of your skills, not you.

No, I’m just as much the benefactor of my skills as my employer. Increasing my skill set and staying marketable gives me the ability and optionality to change jobs - and usually for higher pay. I don’t have an “untempured interest in my profession”. It’s just a means to make money. But to continue to be competitive and to be able to ask for an increasing salary. I have to keep learning.

After all, when you're hired you don't have agency to change the direction of the product with the other workers, you don't have total control over your working environment, the technologies you choose, your schedule, etc. You may have input into these things, but in a legal sense your employer is the arbiter of these conditions, and ultimately you develop skills not simply to build the things you like, but to make yourself marketable to people who set the terms for your ability to earn a living.

The company I work for isn’t the main determining factor on me earning a living until I retire, my marketable skillset is. If my job closes its doors tomorrow and I have a marketable skillset and a healthy network, I can make calls and usually get another permant job or at least a contract gig in less than a month. Not bragging, anyone who has my not so rare skillset in my market can do it.

You do have agency if you have the skillset. I can’t choose the product I work on, but I chose the technology I wanted to work on by choosing the company I work for. I get to choose the how based on “expert power”. I haven’t been questioned about the how in four or five years across three companies. I’ve had to champion my position but if it made business sense, no one stopped me.

Once the technology I’m using starts getting out of step with what the market wants, it’s time for me to change jobs.

I also haven’t done but one “whiteboard coding interview” in the past 10 years, numerous interviews and 5 job changes.

I’ve done one pair programming in an IDE test and plenty of white boarding of architecture.

My last two jobs I was asked basically how would I go about solving thier real world architecture issues - yes I’m still 60-80% a hands on developer.


> If I start getting asked about my hobbies in an interview, I walk, and you should too.

Ok so, you're so scarred by bad interviews that an attempt at small talk makes you walk. Fine, your call. But I'll choose what I do when someone wants to talk about light material for a few minutes, thank you very much.


Oh give me a break, read my other comments below if you think I'm talking about "small talk". I recently had an interview with a 45 minute section for answering questions about my interests (with questions as trivial as what music I like, what all of my hobbies are, why I like my hobbies, etc.), and in my experience these type of questions are not uncommon and are often asked with a degree of interest that surpasses small talk. I'm the kind of person who talks w/ my barber and neighbors and I avoid writing code at home as much as possible. This idea that engineers have to prove they have interior lives that are harmonious w/ the goals of a company is sociopathic. If you're early in your career, let me give you some advice: employers are not your friend, and these kinds of questions are not innocuous.

EDIT: Nevermind, you're a founder of a company, so I dunno, it sounds like you're too deep in the kool aid or too disconnected from the position of a regular software engineer to understand why this is a problem


I'm sorry to read that you've had such a bad experience with employers, but frankly your experience sounds dysfunctional.

Additionally, your own personality raises caution, with a profile about reading, "Gonna stuff everyone on this website in a locker."

Consider the possibility that you've had bad experiences and have been shaped by them, but others have also not had these experiences and function differently in both the interview process and in day-to-day workplace life.


> Additionally, your own personality raises caution, with a profile about reading, "Gonna stuff everyone on this website in a locker."

It's a lightly prodding joke. Hacker news cultivates a particularly obnoxious set of reactionary libertarians and self-aggrieved nerds. I'm not the only software engineer to notice this and to find it fair fodder. I've never had complaints about my personality at work, and I think I work pretty well with most teams and am pretty easy going. Actually what scares me is people like you who think they have a good sense of other people based on brief encounters and their own unexamined biases.

> Consider the possibility that you've had bad experiences and have been shaped by them, but others have also not had these experiences and function differently in both the interview process and in day-to-day workplace life.

It's fairly obvious that different people are shaped by different experiences, but I've found that a lot of what I'm talking about has been frequent enough in my history of doing interviews that I'd be surprised if it was a unique experience. Certainly doesn't seem to be from the handful of likes this comment got. Of course that doesn't make it a universal experience.


> PLEASE try to convince your employer to subsidize training and prioritize that over hiring

I would add mentorship to this. Even an informal program would be fine, as long as it means hiring more junior candidates who are then mentored (i.e. internally trained) by the more senior staff who were hired partly for this purpose. Even the mentor tends to learn from this arrangement, so everyone benefits.

> Startups are frankly lying to themselves if they think they hire hyper-qualified people anyways

Whether or not that's the case for an early startup, the credibility of such a conceit wears thin as a company grows. Unfortunately, the attitude of "we don't have the resources for training or mentorship" doesn't seem to dissipate, even with dozens of engineers.


I actually wrote a whole article making a very similar point[0]. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks this!

[0] https://sdegutis.com/blog/2017-08-23-passion-in-your-field-i...


success drives passion


The only time when interviewing someone I ask about personal hobbies etc is when the decision was already made. At that point it was simply to get a better sense of the person I will be working with.

When I've been interviewed it was telling when the person didn't realize I was interviewing them also.


I just went through a slew of interviews where I got several questions early in the on-site technical interview about my hobbies. Actually had an interview a couple months ago where there was a dedicated part for a "cultural fit" interview. I think if I knew I was going to get hired it would likely be less of an issue for me, but I still think you should consider kind of what these kind of questions communicate in an interview context and how interviewees will be primed to answer them. "At will employment" generally means employers can choose to fire you or not hire you for an enormous number of petty reasons, and that knowledge is always shaping how I perform in an interview, and generally leads me to be pretty tight-lipped about anything about myself. I had an interview recently where an employee that was part of the hiring process was able to find out that I have left wing politics based on a github organization I was a part of. I didn't get that job and, like many companies, they weren't willing to provide their rationale, so I'll never know if that was an important factor.


By the point we start that aspect we have generally stated an offer will be made. You can generally tell if the person will be a culture fit during the real interview, if a person can't from just normal human conversation that person shouldn't be interviewing others.

The hobby etc questions were basically just shooting the shit getting to know a potential new member of the team if they accepted.


WTF is “culture fit”??!


In essence, will the existing team like working together with that person, ignoring all the purely professional aspects. Personality, communication, agreeability, compatibility (or conflict-avoidance) regarding various non-work opinions, alignment regarding subjective styles of work (e.g. 'move fast and break things' vs 'verify everything 3 times, even if it causes a delay' - you need to fit the organization's "style"), etc.


Frankly an organization's "style" is a bunch of unexamined, calcified social biases that companies screen in interviews for because they don't like to be challenged on them. Or in the more malevolent cases its outright bigotry that's given cover as something else. Heterogeneity of methodology is actually good (especially at startups, which often operate in ways purely driven by the whims of inexperienced founders), and the people you interview can often teach you a lot. "Culture" is a joke, there's nothing cultural about these things.


Microsoft in the 90s used to hire on talent and wall off anyone who "didn't get along". They could code in peace and their manager handled outside communication.


I've never been a hiring manager, but I would much rather work next to somebody that had broad experience in IT than one that happen to match the particular checklist of technologies that we happen to be using this month.


> entire concept of professionalized industries that are unwilling to invest in the education and training of their employees is absurd and something we should all adamantly reject

1. We're a professionalized industry? Really? I don't see any licensure outside Texas, any credentials that aren't sheerest fluff, any teeth whatsoever to the ACM's deontological ramblings^W^W Code of Ethics, any etc.

2. For reasons I don't know and which are another topic of discussion entirely, the CS industry is all about high turnover. Career advancement comes less from promotion and more from switching employers. Under these circumstances, if you are a company that employs software engineers, do you really want to make an investment whose returns will mostly be reaped by others, if not by your direct competitors?


1. I'm talking about professionalized in the sense of being an occupation that generally requires college credentials and specialized knowledge to participate in. Not always the case for software engineers, but often. Professionalized in the sense of being an occupation of the PMC.

2. There are probably many reasons for high turnover (especially among startups), but you kind of allude to a salient one (for this conversation) yourself. Leaving a job is a chance to get hired in a place where you'll learn something new, so if employers need a reason to train their people, that seems like a fairly good one for how it might benefit retention and experience of their employees. Ultimately I don't really care how it benefits employers, but software engineers tend to have a lot of leverage over who they hire so I see it as something we should do for our own sake


> employers

Unless you are the employer, or at least the hiring manager, the decision ultimately isn't yours, regardless of leverage, so you have to care about how a change would affect the employer or hiring manager, if you want them to make that change take-effect.


Yeah it sounds like we have different experiences w/ how this works and how much input engineers have into the hiring decision. This isn't really the main point of what I'm saying.


The article is great but the statement that most folks feel cultural fit is about "hiring people you'd want to have a beer with" doesn't resonate with what I have experienced. Is that how "most people" define "culture fit" in your experience?

For example, we do hire for culture fit, but we define culture fit along vectors such as:

+ How do you attack problems + How do you communicate and collaborate + How do you deal with rainy day scenarios + How do you learn and grow + How do you teach and mentor + What do you need (and not need) from your teammates + What type of work enviro do you thrive in


>Is that how "most people" define "culture fit" in your experience?

The issue is many companies that rely on "culture fit" don't objectively define what it is. So it often becomes a dumping ground for whatever dumb biases and subjective criteria folks involved in hiring might have.

If your company actually has a hard definition of your internal culture and uses that in comparable fashion across candidates, I don't think that's what the author means.


The same exact problem exists with technical skills, so I'm not sure why you're singling out culture fit.

And when companies do add objective metrics like whiteboard problems, everyone freaks out how it's not comparable "real world" (aka subjective)


Whiteboard problems are not objective. They have multiple solutions, and a human subjectively judges how good the given solution is and how good the thought process behind it was.


I've had countless number of times where I've had to sketch out an architectural design both during an interview and during my job with CxOs. Being able to communicate your ideas are important in the real world.

On the other hand, I had one whiteboard interview where I had to write psuedocode for a merge sort. I was offered the job but I turned it down.


While I do agree that the same problem exists with technical skills, I think it's a larger issue with the "culture fit" concept.


And even if it does, as an applicant I know to look up your "core values" and give examples of how I embody them. "Sure, I know how to work hard to hit goals, because this one time..."


well, if it gets me a job I otherwise wouldn't get (not enough experience etc.) I won't object.


Until you don’t get the job you would otherwise get based on your skills.


I had the impression, to get ahead in life you need to take on new challenges, which requires you to do things that is a bit above your skills.

If I would always get assesed based on my skills, I would now do the same things I did years ago.


As someone else commented, culture fit often seems to end up being a dog whistle.

The types of things you mention seem perfectly legitimate. For example, I've advised someone who I knew from a previous employer who I knew needed a lot of structure and direction to not apply to a company that I knew was considerably more... chaotic.

If you tell me your company culture is an open office and you do lots of get-togethers in the evening and focus on working together on everything rather than going off and working on problems individually for a while, I'll probably pass.


> The types of things you mention seem perfectly legitimate.

I certainly assume OP's team is well-intentioned, but I'm skeptical that hiring for uniformity of "how do you attack problems" or "how do you learn and grow" is a good idea.

My hope is that the OP meant that they test that people can attack problems, and can learn... rather than aiming for the team to do those things homogenously.

Personally I'd disassociate those things out of any umbrella assessment of "fit" and just assess them as independent skills during the broader hiring process.


Right. But the fact that you and your colleagues care that people can attack problems and can learn is what the culture is. You would be surprised, some cultures are built with a desire for 'follow the leader' mentality, and do not care if you can attack problems, as long as your willing to obey.


Unless you can quantify it, it doesn't really matter whether the criteria is "would enjoy drinking with" or some other subjective X-factor.

The big problem with "culture fit" in interviews is that it gives you an escape hatch to avoid the conclusions that concrete objective assessments provide.

Candidate did poorly technical qualification challenges, but man were they great to talk to at the interview! Fuck it let's hire! Candidate did great on the technical qualification but hrm they have a family and live out in the suburbs? Meh let's pass this time and maybe come back to them later.

You might as well not be hiring rigorously or objectively at all.

My experience running concrete work-sample-based resume hiring programs (we're hiring now!) is that every force in the institution you're working for is going to push you away from trusting your assessment results. And if you can't rely on those results and learn from them, you can't iterate and get better at hiring. And indeed, most organizations never do get better at hiring, and draw from the exact same pool of "conventionally hirable" candidates everyone else does, and it's a disaster.


Maybe they want to hire based on potential. If the candidate simply hadn't had exposure to the particular technical questions that were part of the standard interview, but did display a good general intelligence level and overall comprehension in related fields it might be worth hiring them and bringing them up to speed.


We hire based on potential. An older example: at Matasano, we built one of the industry's few crypto consulting practices --- it hosts Thomas Pornin now! --- off a team of people who had, prior to Matasano, never worked on any cryptography at all. Empirical hiring processes don't preclude aptitude assessment; in fact, I think they make it substantially easier, by creating measurable objective facts that you can rely on to take "flyers" on people whose resumes and interviewing skills don't do their talent justice.

If you want to hire based on "intelligence" (ick), create an assessment rubric that surfaces the kind of intelligence you're looking for. Don't rely on face-to-face meetings to do that; it doesn't work.


Really interesting, and congratulations.

Did you hire on any sort of "personality fit" at all? I.e. would you hire a technically brilliant asshole?

Personally, I really try to be objective, ask the same questions every time, etc.. but lately I realized that if you're going to be spending 40+ hours per week with a person, it's not just the matter of them getting their job done...you also need to be able to work together, and that does require some amount of congruency in personality styles


There are lots of non-technical reasons we wouldn't hire someone, but they're straightforward enough that we can list them up front before meeting a candidate, and they're mostly objective.


This is so refreshing to read! I was smh while reading the whole thread, got to your comment and was reminded there is some sanity left in the world after all.


right, that sounds like a great rule of thumb!


“Cultural fit” is just a marketing term for personal bias.

If the hiring manager doesn’t drink beer, they aren't looking to hire someone to drink beer with, they will tend to hire the person who also doesn’t drink beer...conforming to their personal bias. Of course that has nothing to do with qualifications, and it is to damning to admit personal bias...in comes “cultural fit” which sounds sophisticated and in the interest of the company.

Talk to the same people promoting “cultural fit” about diversity, and watch the mental gymnastics of them simultaneously claiming they want diversity of candidates, diversity of thought/experience...so long as the diversity falls within the scope of “cultural fit”. It’s a lot like university giving professors tenure, sure you can have tenure and be protected from termination based on individual opinion after you prove to the university your opinion conforms to the university’s way of thinking and “fit”.


How do you assess how someone attacks problems?

How do you assess communication and collaboration?

How do you assess handling of "rainy-day scenarios"?

How do you assess learning and growth ability? Just how long does your interview take?

How do you assess teaching and mentoring ability?

How do you assess whether someone thrives in your work environment?

Everybody says they assess for these things, push comes to shove. But most of the time, they're really covering for the fact that their final decisions are based on a collective gut-feel assessment.


In my experience ""hiring people you'd want to have a beer with" is exactly what many people on the business side mean by "cultural fit."

I think your definition is true for technical hires for tech firms. For everyone else, the "beer" definition is operative.


I feel like for most devs culture fit means somebody you'd like to write code with. We work in a fundamentally collaborative industry and I think people realize that. The only times I've been worried about somebody's "culture fit" were times when I worried they wouldn't be easy to collaborate with.


Your definition is the right way to do culture fit. However, many companies, especially startups, use culture fit as a catch-all for "do I like this person?" without any clear fit criteria.


Culture fit is about creating a group of people who like each other enough to be willing to work free overtime together, sometimes out of feelings of duty to "the team".


This has varied over time. I've found that it's definitely more about "who you'd like to have a beer with" at early-to-mid stage startups, and becomes more about actually being someone you'll both be effective working alongside, as well as being someone you'll enjoy* working with, as the company matures.

*enjoy here means that you'll be able to enjoy a non-toxic work atmosphere, will be able to provide and receive constructive criticism and comments about your contributions; the healthy working relationship does sometimes lead to enjoying having a beer with them from time to time, but the former is definitely the primary goal in trying to find a culture fit.


The beer thing happens at almost every job, it's just human nature.

People also seem forget that it goes both ways. For example, we had a candidate come in. He had good technical and communication skills, he could get along. I had zero doubts about his ability to perform the job well. I didn't hire him because I thought that he would would leave because due to the lack of cultural fit and to the fact that cultural fit was a deal breaker for him.

I didn't ask him about his interests. Instead I asked him questions about who he worked with, conflicts he had to solve with past co-workers, etc. He opened up and talked about close friendships at most jobs. He had two jobs where he didn't stay long. When he talked about those, you could tell that he got along but didn't have much in common with his co-workers. So I called his old bosses and one said "Oh, he was great, learned quickly. I wish he would've stayed." When I asked why he left, he said "Well, we're mostly in our late 40s-50, we have families, I don't know if it was the right fit. He wanted somebody to get a beer with after work and go camping on weekends."


“People I’d want to have a beer with” seems like a decent proxy for “people who aren’t assholes.” Nothing wrong with turning down a candidate because he seems like an asshole.


That itself begs definition. How do you define an asshole? Someone who is genuinely a true brute and awful person? Or someone who stands by their standards and does so firmly because they believe in their personal principles?

I ask that question that specifically because the latter I have been told point blank is definitely asshole behavior. To which I say "it depends". Standing up for your principles and not capitulating to someone arbitrarily projecting their expectations onto you? That's not asshole behavior. That's standing up for yourself. Some seem to think otherwise.

Letting your principles take place of basic tact, dignity and respect for others? Different story. Some still even in this regard...think otherwise.

So how are we defining "asshole" tendencies here? Seems to me just as abitrary as "culture fit"


I don't think anyone defines an asshole as:

>[...] someone who stands by their standards and does so firmly because they believe in their personal principles?

That's integrity. Being stubborn and abrasive about it, however, isn't the same thing as having integrity.

Paraphrasing something I heard on the point: 'most people interested in being brutally honest are more interested in being brutal than being honest.'


A subjective definition seems fine. If I’m the one who has to live with him, my definition controls.


Agree. Some of the most effective people can be "assholes" when they stick to their principles in the face of pressure.


Being an asshole about it is easier. But you don't have to be. Someone who can be principled without being an asshole is a true gem.


I agree with this also. Very rare


It's very difficult to judge a candidate during an interview on those vectors. It's much easier to tell whether they look/sound/act like the people you work with, whether you're doing it consciously or not.

At a recent job the engineers were asked to look for new candidates from their social networks at the same time as we were asked to look for more diverse candidates. I pointed out the inherent contradiction, and was met with effectively a shrug.


"hiring people you'd want to have a beer with"

In consulting it's "wouldn't go crazy if stuck in an airport for 12 hours with"


That seems like a strange standard, considering the airports in question are likely to be so large that one wouldn't be stuck with those colleagues any more than with any number of random travelers, which could vary minute to minute.


the airports in question are likely to be so large

You might be surprised. In my years as a consultant I would often be flying out of airfields that were little more than a shed near a runway. Not all the time but probably 30-40%.


I was thinking the airports in question would be large ones for connecting flights.

I would be very surprised if one were ever stuck at such a small one for 12 hours. Presumably one would just return to town and be stuck there, instead.


Ha I remember one client, the only thing open after dark was a roadside strip club. Never got stranded at that airstrip fortunately!


"+ How do you attack problems"

This is objectively not 'culture fit'


> + How do you attack problems + How do you communicate and collaborate + How do you deal with rainy day scenarios + How do you learn and grow + How do you teach and mentor + What do you need (and not need) from your teammates + What type of work enviro do you thrive in

This is exactly what I (and hiring managers in my company) mean when we say "cultural fit". The thought of having a beer with them or other social activities doesn't even cross my mind during the interviewing process.


I don't know if I'm just unlucky, but most of the (Seattle) startups I know have a heavy drinking culture, and have alcohol at the office, so it's literally true, and perhaps used as a proxy for "will this person regularly stay late at the office (because they want to drink, and will end up doing extra work, too)".


This seems to be quite hit and miss when I've looked around at work cultures in Seattle, free beer at work correlating with working much past 4pm is a weak sign at best.


So you have a list of specific character traits that you're hiring for. That's great! Everyone should have that. So just use that list as hiring criteria, and then you don't need to invoke "culture fit".


Patty brings a fresh perspective to hiring and compensation for software engineers. I think she has done a lot to move programmer pay away from "programmers are interchangeable cogs" to "pay based on value to the business".

I joined Netflix when Patty was the head of HR. Bethany, who she mentions, was the recruiter that reached out to me. Their recruiting process was masterful and it started with Bethany's first message - "They got you first, but they underestimate how valuable you are." I had joined Microsoft right out of college, worked there for 7 years and was feeling very under appreciated. She had taken the time to look at my LinkedIn profile and write a message tailored for me. She probably used that line on a lot of people in my situation, but it worked! So I opened her message.

The rest of the process was like staying at the Ritz Carlton. They treat you like a celebrity. It's a carefully crafted candidate experience. It's really impressive.

Side note: Anthony Park was my manager when I joined Netflix. He's hands down the best manager I've ever had and he's brilliant. You should try and work for him at Netflix if you can.


> "pay based on value to the business"

How is this computed? Since almost no programmers have collective bargaining agreements, in practice this seems to mean simply "who can negotiate the best".

Frankly, I think I'd rather the industry mature enough that we can be interchangeable cogs. Then we wouldn't spend so much time arguing about meaningless trivia like programming languages or coding style.


I think that at Netflix it just means "pay more than anyone else will".


Patty describes what this means in the article.


I feel like articles like this don’t actually say much. “Don’t hire for culture fit” doesn’t mean anything. The author basically says “don’t just hire people you’d want to have a beer with” and then goes on to say that they do hire for cultural fit by looking at their ability to solve problems and overcome challenges...which is culture fit. If your culture is “we hire people not who we like to drink beer with but those who solve problems” well then that’s culture fit isn’t it?

Obviously every company is going to hire for cultural fit. Every company has values that they build around to create successful teams. I would never hire anyone that I didn’t think fit in with our team...why would I do that?Some companies value different things than others. So don’t go around saying “we don’t do culture fit”, yes you do, you just define culture fit differently than other businesses because that’s your “culture”.


> I would never hire anyone that I didn’t think fit in with our team...why would I do that?

Because you might benefit from having someone with a different perspective in a professional environment.

An older parent might not "fit in" with a team of 22 year-old fresh grads, but still provide valuable experience and perspective in a way that an additional 22 year-old might not. You can probably extrapolate how this might also affect women and minorities.

Sure, in an ideal world "fit in" means simply "can coexist peacefully with", but in practice it can end up being a dog-whistle phrase (very similarly to "culture fit", which the article alludes to).


> An older parent might not "fit in" with a team of 22 year-old fresh grads, but still provide valuable experience and perspective in a way that an additional 22 year-old might not. You can probably extrapolate how this might also affect women and minorities.

And someone who doesn't do any work might not "fit in" with a team of people who are doing work, but I'm not going to hire them for the sake of !current_culture.

There's a reason it's a "culture fit" or "match" and not "culturally identical" or "culturally homogeneous." The phrase as it is is sufficient and can describe a healthy way of hiring people who are compatible with your current team. If we assume our current team has a healthy culture, finding people who are compatible with it, that can effectively perform their professional duties without disrupting the ability of other employees to do the same (and, ideally, improving the ability of others to do the same), is exactly what we're looking for when hiring someone (other than technical aptitude).

Sure, it can also be used to illegally or unethically discriminate, but so could any concept you could conceive of to describe "they won't perform well with our current team." Before "not a culture fit" was a popular it was "not a team player."


> There's a reason it's a "culture fit" or "match" and not "culturally identical" or "culturally homogeneous."

The problem, of course, being that they often end up being synonymous.

Similarly "family values" is a dog-whistle for "christian values" in US politics, despite them being different phrases.

> If we assume our current team has a healthy culture, finding people who are compatible with it, that can effectively perform their professional duties without disrupting the ability of other employees to do the same (and, ideally, improving the ability of others to do the same), is exactly what we're looking for when hiring someone (other than technical aptitude).

One can imagine myriad ways that this would be used to reject someone in a really awful manner.

To go back to the parent example: Parents often get up early (because their kids get up early) and need to be home at a reasonable hour to meet their kids. A group of fresh grads has no such requirement and might reasonably work from 11-7 every day, whereas the parent might need to work more 8-4.

The disruption of course being that they only overlap for 5 hours a day and this could certainly be used as an example of how the parent isn't a good fit for the team.

> Sure, it can also be used to illegally or unethically discriminate, but so could any concept you could conceive of to describe "they won't perform well with our current team." Before "not a culture fit" was a popular it was "not a team player."

Yes, and we should strive to eliminate them as much as possible.

I'm not suggesting that you should hire assholes who don't work, but that your hiring criteria should be much more explicit: "Were they abrasive during the interview?" instead of "do they fit in well at <x company>?" being a very contrived, simple example off the top of my head.


> And someone who doesn't do any work might not "fit in" with a team of people who are doing work, but I'm not going to hire them for the sake of !current_culture.

That's not poor culture fit, that's just being lazy.


"There's a reason it's a "culture fit" or "match" and not "culturally identical" or "culturally homogeneous." "

Because those others would be way too on the nose and not be defendable?


Frankly, most of the article was using dog-whistle phrases anyways. They seem to be advocating to hire based on random traits you dream actually mean something, rather than any sort of principled process using data.

Yelling "dog-whistle" and redefining the goal posts whenever anyone comments isn't constructive. I suspect that most people use "culture fit" to mean people that share company values, not that they have the same perspective. Where I work, on some teams we explicitly try to hire people with different perspectives, but they still need to "fit" with our company values. And they still need to work with others without causing disruption.


> I suspect that most people use "culture fit" to mean people that share company values

Ah, but there's the dog-whistle-rub: What are the company values?

My guess is that they're sufficiently vague, like "works well with others", or "communicates effectively". Sometimes they're not even that opaque, like "work hard, play hard" (I've seen that one repeatedly).

Those values are then often used to discredit people based on, frankly, illegal factors like age/race/gender.

A friend once shared a story with me from a company they were at where every single woman they interviewed for an open developer position was rejected after the in-person interview because they were "too quiet and wouldn't be a good communicator". The company was otherwise fairly progressive all things considered (I was shocked to hear the name of the company, at least), but biases like these crop up in really unexpected and subtle ways.

That's an anecdote obviously and not data, and of course maybe they just got all the quiet people by random chance. But I hope you see how vague criteria like "culture fit" do end up actually being dog-whistles sometimes.


What you cite isn't a problem with using communication as a value, it's a problem with sexism. Being a good communicator is a pretty uncontroversial positive trait in any employee. Can you use it as invalid justification for sexism? Sure you can, along with many other things.

I guarantee you that whatever special process you use, it can be used as a form of racism or sexism. E.g. do you think that article's "look for musicians to find data scientists" can't be used as an excuse for racism or sexism?

The problem of discrimination is way more nuanced than naively throwing some things you may not personally like into a bucket and putting a label on it like "dog-whistle."


You sound a bit defensive about this so I'm going to stop responding, but I'll leave you with a thought that I responded to a sibling comment with:

> I think this is actually why this conversation rubs people the wrong way: I'm not assuming bad faith at all, even though I'm calling "culture fit" out as a bad metric used to discriminate against people.

> A relatively modern view of gender/racial relations is that it's not exclusively people acting in bad faith - that is, a minority of people are being overtly racist or sexist (though they obviously dominate the headlines). Rather, there's a lot of subtle and unspoken biases that creep into society and result in discrimination even if that wasn't the intended purpose or goal.

> To go back to your own example, if our culture "expects women to be quiet", and then discriminates against quiet people for jobs, that kinda sucks doesn't it? What are women supposed to do in that scenario? Are they really forced to choose between gainful employment and acting in a societally-approved way?


About this story--was it that they prejudiced all the women they interviewed as quiet, or did they just happen to interview a bunch of women who happened to be quiet because that's what our culture expects of women?

I can't imagine Margaret Thatcher ever being called "too quiet and not a good communicator", but there were also a lot of other bad things people said about her. And yeah, if they interviewed a loud, well-spoken woman, and then rejected her because she was too "aggressive", that would definitely hint at bias to me.

How do you solve that problem, as an employer? If you're an assertive workplace and you don't want to hire quiet, passive people, do you hire less assertive women anyway and then train them to be more assertive? I can see some logic around that, but you have to actually dig in and reason your way to that idea, and then you have to test it, and if it turns out not working out, then what? These are some hard problems, and assuming bad faith isn't the be-all end-all of talking about it.


> About this story--was it that they prejudiced all the women they interviewed as quiet, or did they just happen to interview a bunch of women who happened to be quiet because that's what our culture expects of women?

I'm not sure that either scenario really paints a rosy picture. More on that below.

> And yeah, if they interviewed a loud, well-spoken woman, and then rejected her because she was too "aggressive", that would definitely hint at bias to me.

I'm sure you can find plenty of outspoken women to whom that's happened.

> These are some hard problems, and assuming bad faith isn't the be-all end-all of talking about it.

I think this is actually why this conversation rubs people the wrong way: I'm not assuming bad faith at all, even though I'm calling "culture fit" out as a bad metric used to discriminate against people.

A relatively modern view of gender/racial relations is that it's not exclusively people acting in bad faith - that is, a minority of people are being overtly racist or sexist (though they obviously dominate the headlines). Rather, there's a lot of subtle and unspoken biases that creep into society and result in discrimination even if that wasn't the intended purpose or goal.

To go back to your own example, if our culture "expects women to be quiet", and then discriminates against quiet people for jobs, that kinda sucks doesn't it? What are women supposed to do in that scenario? Are they really forced to choose between gainful employment and acting in a societally-approved way?


> To go back to your own example, if our culture "expects women to be quiet", and then discriminates against quiet people for jobs, that kinda sucks doesn't it?

Well, yeah. Except there's a ton of jobs out there for meek, quiet, agreeable people who don't rock the boat, to the point where sometimes it's even more of an impediment being boisterous, loud, and outspoken, even if you are male. They're not always the best and most respected jobs, just as meek and quiet people aren't always the best and most respected people, but they're out there.

And yeah...if you're conspiratorially minded, it's awful convenient if women are socially conditioned to have exactly the personality traits that make them easier to dominate, isn't it? Except, socially conditioned traits are a trailing indicator and not a leading indicator. Maybe it's easier for women to get away with being assertive now than it used to be, because we have tons of cultural countersignaling ("well-behaved women rarely make history") that seems to indicate that. I dunno; it's a hard problem to navigate, and I don't have the experience to advise what a woman should do in that situation.

What I can say is that--as an employer--you should definitely make a point of hiring assertive people, and particularly assertive women. I think it's the wrong move to say, "women tend to be quiet and agreeable, so we should try to hire quiet, agreeable people instead of loud, assertive people for diversity reasons". No, being quiet and agreeable is exactly how you get oppressed and stay oppressed. If you're an individual woman trying to survive a sexist and unjust system, you do what you can, but if you're part of the system, you fix the damned system. Go out of your way to hire "aggressive" women, and coach the women you have to become more assertive. At least that's my advice.


So you'd be completely fine hiring someone with a personality of Steve Jobs?

Can you explain it in a way you aren't using mental gymnastics and/or "dog whistles"?


This depends on your timeline tbh.

Short term goals, homogenous team.

Long term goals, heterogenous team.

The differences should be based on where they get information and inspiration from, not nessesarily their cultural or geographical background.


Peter Thiel refused to hire someone who liked to play "hoops":

"PayPal once rejected a candidate who aced all the engineering tests because for fun, the guy said that he liked to play hoops. That single sentence lost him the job. "

http://blakemasters.com/post/21437840885/peter-thiels-cs183-...

You seem to assume everyone agrees that making hiring decisions on factors with zero relevance to doing the work doesn't make sense. Sadly that's not the case.


Reading through that, is this kind of thing really popular in startup culture? I have only worked at medium-large companies, and this sort of thing would have been completely nutso.

> PayPal was a place where the younger engineers could and would sometimes wrestle with each other on the floor to solve disputes! If you didn’t get the odd mix of nerdiness + alpha maleness, you just stuck out.


By hoops do you mean basketball?


I can imagine Thiel being perturbed by that verbiage.


I don't understand. Please enlighten me?


Ah so using the term hoops disqualified him.

I can't say I disagree with the decision.


He wasn't hiring for an NBA franchise, so what the hell does someone's free time hobbies have to do with the hiring decision?


Basketball in someone's free time isn't the issue. Using the term hoops vs basketball is. This can show major cultural differences. Perhap the gap was too wide for Peter.


I feel like there is a presidential golf joke in there somewhere.


It's actually a pretty good article by someone with a lot of experience in the area.

>The author basically says “don’t just hire people you’d want to have a beer with” and then goes on to say that they do hire for cultural fit by looking at their ability to solve problems and overcome challenges

Those seem pretty different. One is someone I click with at a personal level. The other is someone who can do the sort of work the business needs. I've worked with plenty of people who I didn't especially like but who were clearly good at their jobs.

Sure, at some level, there are elements of culture in whether you're a process-driven organization, a let-the-best-idea win, etc. But the standard "not cultural fit" is more code for you're too old, too quiet, don't want to hang with the guys after work...


If you only hire people like you, then you have no diversity. Not having any diversity leads to a company that is less robust. You need dissenting ideas and different personalities to really find the best path forward. Monocultures are a good way to burn out fast.


I feel like rhetorical analysis should be a more common school topic and area of academic work. I want to spend more time talking about what a productive discussion looks like and what actually counts as evidence. You are describing a difference of definition. The solution is to define your terms better. When we agree on definitions, we can more on to discussing what our core disagreement is and people should be able to recognize what counts as evidence for that. I think this is well worn territory but seems culturally lost today.


Agreed. I feel it missing myself a lot when I'm communicating with people - I will often realize in retrospect that the problem was the definition of terms, not the facts at hand or opinions of the participants. It's galling, and I wish there were a better way to learn such skills.


Although you could argue that everything is culture and hence testing for anything is testing for cultural fit, that would be an unusually expansive definition of "culture fit" - so much so as to make it meaningless.


> “Don’t hire for culture fit” doesn’t mean anything.

People has such widely varying definitions of "culture fit" that "hire for culture fit" doesn't mean anything either.


No I will not.

Maybe the problem is everybody has a different definition for "culture fit." Mine has nothing to with age or personality style (or race or sex obviously). I've hired plenty of all types of those. But its whether a person will get along with our team, and will interact appropriately. They don't all need to be ongoing, or super talkative, or agree with everything we do, but they must have certain skills to mesh with our team.

I've been in situations where there were people who were not culture fits, and I've left jobs where people were brought on board who were not culture fits. I find whether a person fits is much better then their exact skill level or knowledge. Both those can be learned. Fitting in with a culture is harder to learn.

Edit: the rest of the article is really good though. Just wanted to address the one point I disagreed with.


One of the better hiring advice I got while working at a consulting company was to consider hiring a person for a skill or personality trait that does not yet exist within the company. If in doubt whether to hire or not, the existence of such skill/trait would move the decision towards hiring.

This way the overall capabilities and knowledge power of the organisation would increase over time - either by hiring top talent or by hiring candidates for their uniqueness.


Hiring is a cargo cult; there are very few people even attempting to be empirical. The cynic in me suggests that people hire based on the last blog post they read about hiring.


> We always tried to be creative about probing people and their résumés. Bethany once decided to analyze the résumés of our best data-science people for common features. She found that those people shared an avid interest in music. From then on she and her team looked for that quality. She recalls, “We’d get really excited and call out, ‘Hey, I found a guy who plays piano!’” She concluded that such people can easily toggle between their left and right brains—a great skill for data analysis.

Gee, it's like they aren't even trying. It's so unscientific I can't take the process seriously at all.


Totally agree, this bullshit makes me want to scream. People do the same thing with emails. Have a Hotmail account? People assume you're a Luddite even though, in 2018, Hotmail is basically office 365 Outlook, which is actually just as good, if not much better than Gmail.

A lot of 2004 attitudes persist long after they have any relevance or predictive power.


While I don't disagree that most of HR is cargo cult bullshit, the hotmail signal is real. Having worked in customer support hotmail users really are as dumb as a box of hammers [0].

0. The usual exceptions for anything human.


To avoid this I just use my @aol.com address when applying for technical positions.


If I may ask. Is AOL an internet provider in the US? Is it still alive and common?

I only remember it as the chat application before hotmail and MSN messenger. It's even more ancient and abandoned. Not a good signal.


I'm being sarcastic. The joke is that it would be the worst possible signal to send out.

AOL was an internet provider that mostly died out in the mid-2000s. Back then, "true nerds" scoffed at it -- it was for grandmas and total noobs.

So if you got an AOL email address (which you still can actually do, turns out), it not only is a relic of ancient technology, but it's a signal that you're a technology noob in like the 90s.

I just am amused at the idea of sending a resume to a trendy tech company with an AOL email address. They'd either laugh or flip out.


A keystroke saved is a keystroke earned! And passwords as your username? Genius ;)


I have to say, this article's thesis is not "Stop Hiring for Culture Fit" and more "These are good hiring practices have have worked for me." The title seems to be "How To Hire" with a broad focus.

"Culture fit" is mentioned literally once. I know that's the HBR pagename for it, but it's a terrible title.


"I've been successful in my career for various reasons, some of which I may have no control over. Here's an article I wrote as a way to bolster my reputation. Also, we like hiring people who are musicians, because it worked well with this one guy."


Have you ever read Moneyball by Michael Lewis? It's about how a baseball team in the early 2000's took a look at market inefficiencies and used it to put together a great team for real cheap. It's like, how is it possible that a multi-billion dollar league was so unable to figure out their hiring process/talent assessment? They have reams of performance data and just needed to apply analysts to it.

Whenever people start talking about the best ways to hire, I generally just start thinking about Moneyball and game theory and how most people are just making shit up with no clue why they're succeeding or failing. Every success story is equal parts "I worked real hard" and "There are far too many variables/luck for me to ever possibly be able to account for them objectively" but everyone like to put a narrative on it and be a hero (or cast someone as a villain).


Ego gets in the way of data. The hiring process is set up primarily to make the hiring party feel smart and powerful, so it's hard to break out of that and realize you don't really know much.

But it's incredible that it's so prevalent in tech, where people are supposedly so smart and data driven.


Not only ego. Other people too. Have you tried acting without ego? It might piss some people off, because it will expose them. Right in their smug faces. They will see how free you are and then look at themselves and become MAD.

Assuming you can act confident without ego. Most of the time you don't even have the social skills to put forth an opinion in a charismatic way. Weak voice, weak body language, stuttering, stumbling over your words, unsteady eye contact, failure to make people laugh and feel at ease. Bam, you lost. Made fool of youself. If you have no ego, you learn and carry on. It is difficult to do.


Acting with true humility rarely pisses anyone off.

Ego and insecurity are two separate things. You can mask insecurity with a big ego (and people often do that), but you can also be calm, confident and assertive sans ego if you're comfortable with yourself.


I'm not sure how many people here read the article. This article should be named, "Anecdotes about being chief talent officer at Netflix".


While I think hiring for "culture fit" is amorphous it is useful to understand what sort of cultural mismatches your managers can deal with and which ones they can't. One of the things that people sometimes miss when managing managers is that they all have their strengths and weaknesses in the management domain just like engineers have strengths and weaknesses in their technical domain. So if you have a manager who hasn't learned to prevent someone from always taking over the conversation and driving it, you want to fix that problem before you add someone to their team that tends to do that.

Now if you can fix your managers to be good at integrating diverse teams with a variety of interaction styles, then you can hire pretty much anybody into those teams and quality managers will empower them and make them effective. But when was the last time you had an executive that you knew was focused on improving the communications effectiveness of their line managers?

The trick is that they (the executives) have to know that the investment will pay off in better management but unless they have experienced it in action they won't have the internal understanding to value it versus the performance management goals they have used their whole career up to that point.

The end result is that when someone hires in that the manager can't handle they write it off to "bad culture fit" rather than figure out how to fix the manager and the cycle continues...


"What most people really mean when they say someone is a good fit culturally is that he or she is someone they’d like to have a beer with."

This is never how the companies I've been at treated culture fit interviews. Maybe I've only been at good companies, but typically we're only screening for dealbreakers and red flags, and the "culture fit" interview is little more than a chance to relax the interviewee between grueling tech interviews and have a low-pressure chance to sell them on the company; if they happen to offer up an offensive statement or shoot themselves in the foot, then that's on them.

The only situations where I've seen people cut based on culture fit questions, they've done something really odd. Comment on an interviewer's looks. Talk unreasonable shit about current company coworkers or policies, or spill confidential info. Indicate unwillingness to work with people of certain political persuasions. Outright racism or sexism. So on.

"Like to have a beer with" is a terrible hiring criteria, even if it might be useful when playing both internal and external politics. But "I'd never be willing to tolerate this personality in everyday work interactions" is a very valid reason to cut someone from consideration, and that should be considered in every interview.

Almost every toxic coworker I've come in contact with worked on a team that specifically did tech-only interviews, and didn't take culture into account. YMMV...


"Culture fit" to me is more of a "am I going to go nuts working with this person" rather than "would I get a beer with them"


> He came in for a day of interviews, and everyone loved him.

Is this not culture fit?


It is.


We definitely hire for affinity and wanting to work on specific technologies. I've been in a few environments where we get the odd man out and suddenly there is an Ocaml component that only one guy knows how to run...


I went through the Netflix hiring process in the summer of 2012. I can assure you that at that time, the hiring process was identical to nearly every tech company I’ve ever talked to.

If anything, the interview process for my first job in finance was the most intense and went on for about six months from introduction to offer.

The truth is that this article is more marketing and self-promotion than anything else.


Good luck trying to squeeze "how to hire" into 5 small sections like in the article. It's like "how to get rich in 5 sections" or "how to find your life partner in 5 sections".

Anybody who's hired for a decade or longer knows how much more nuanced the dance is.


> He was working at an Arizona bank, where he was a “programmer,” not a “software developer.”

That's an example of nightmarish bureaucracy getting in the way of hiring. Titles don't mean anything in software development. If you don't know that, your notions of what to do or not to do are suspect.

> Everyone was arguing until Anthony suddenly said, “Can I speak now?” The room went silent

VP or not (lots of software devs that aren't supervisors hold VP titles of Software Dev in various industry), this is an example of a terrible communicator who is less creative than autocratic, due to insecurity. Again, so common an archetype that, the rest of the article feels tainted.


Anthony was not a VP when he started. The story she's sharing occurred shortly after he was hired when he was just an individual contributor.

I worked for Anthony at Netflix. He's one of the smartest people I've met.

Also, Patty was making the exact same point as you on job titles. (Note the quotes.) Netflix didn't care about your title at all when they came recruiting.


I worked with Anthony for years. He's an excellent manager and communicator.

I think you're misinterpreting what the article said.


"Google shouldn’t decide the salaries for everybody just because they have more money than God!” - lol


If a candidate passes the fairly simple technical tests all I care about is culture fit. And it's a simple test. Would I want to work with them and would I think my coworkers would (the second being more of a judgement call). I am generally positive on people so that isn't exactly a high mountain to climb.


Yes.

A great company should have an eclectic mix of skin colors, backgrounds, sexes, etc. Diversity is power. But this also includes diversity of thought-- you should have complete liberals, staunch conservatives, atheists, the faithful, etc.

You'll need an HR department with a backbone, to ensure everybody understands the importance of being civil. With great diversity comes great (and wide) perspective.


Great diversity fosters great conflict as well. I heard some studies showed diversity increases productivity but reduces overall happiness.


misleadingly editorialized HN title, but otherwise a great article.


This is a bit of an annoying title since almost none of the article is about hiring for culture fit; the better title is the current H1 title from the article: "How To Hire".


OK!


We shouldn't neglect to mention If Carpenters Were Hired Like Programmers as at

http://www.jasonbock.net/jb/News/Item/7c334037d1a9437d9fa650...

And similarly we should not miss the paragraph in the OP:

> We always tried to be creative about probing people and their résumés. Bethany once decided to analyze the résumés of our best data-science people for common features. She found that those people shared an avid interest in music. From then on she and her team looked for that quality. She recalls, “We’d get really excited and call out, ‘Hey, I found a guy who plays piano!’” She concluded that such people can easily toggle between their left and right brains—a great skill for data analysis.

"Music"!!

WOW! On violin I got through the D-major section of the Bach Chaconne. Guess I should have applied to Netflix!!!

Then there is the:

> Say you need a software engineer. Do you want a senior programmer fluent in the best new techniques in search engine development?

Hmm .... My work "in search engine development" is based on some original applied math I derived in an infinite dimensional Hilbert space. So, can Netflix advise me if my work is "in the best new techniques"? Hmm. Who in Netflix can (A) give an example of an infinite dimensional Hilbert space, (B) say what the connection with search might be, and (C) review the "best new techniques"? Hmm ....

But (A) I've written some C code, but regarded it as like digging a ditch with a teaspoon, (B) never wrote any C++, (C) never touched PHP, (D) never wrote any JavaScript, (E) never used Linux, (F) used only a little, simple CSS, (G) never used an IDE (integrated development environment), (H) never used Python, R, Matlab, etc.

But I've done a LOT of scientific, engineering software with lots of algorithms, data structures, etc. I've done a lot in applied statistics and published peer-reviewed original research in mathematical statistics. I hold a Ph.D. in applied math from a world class research university.

But, no doubt, I couldn't be hired at Netflix!!!!

My one, short, telephone Google interview stopped when I gave the wrong answer to their question "What is your favorite programming language?"; apparently the only correct answer was C++; I said PL/I. I'd still say PL/I. How many recruiters at Google understood the pros and cons of PL/I versus other languages?

With all this nonsense, as in many posts in this thread, in hiring for computer programming, I gave up and am doing my own startup.

I picked Windows over Linux. On Windows I picked Visual Basic .NET (apparently essentially equivalent to C# but with a different flavor of syntactic sugar), type into my favorite text editor, KEdit with a few hundred macros instead of an IDE, used ASP.NET for the Web pages, used ADO.NET for the SQL Server access, etc. Works fine.

If I need Python, etc., then I'll learn it and use it. So far, I have all the software development tools I need.

For SPSS, SAS, R, Matlab, etc., my work in statistics has always been too advanced for those packages -- so I wrote my own code.

Yup, I wouldn't get hired!!!

Flip side: I should be able to compete well with the people Netflix, etc. do hire!!!!

If I need to hire for my startup, then I will emphasize first -- technical writing.


This. 100%. This is perfect. I just sent it to my CEO.


At the last place I worked, the interview process went like this:

Come up with a list of questions. Ask each person the same list in front of a committee, and the committee members individually scored their answers. Total the scores, and recommend the highest scoring person for hiring. Then Management took that recommendation and sometimes did a second round of interviews.

Did they hire the best people? Sometimes yes, possibly.

It was at least an attempt towards objectivity. Although there certainly was discussion that "we want to hire somebody that is going to fit on the team." Of course the problem with this attitude is that it caters to everybody's built-in biases, leading to exactly the all the gender and other discriminatory outcomes we typically see in IT.

I don't think anybody really knows how to do hiring.




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