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I've been on both sides of this. As an applicant, sometimes it's a crapshoot in terms of getting lucky that they asked me the right question. On the other hand, as a hiring manager or interviewer, I see lots and lots of candidates who can't write out a fizzbuzz solution, and it wastes a lot of my time (I'm a sucker and will take a lot of time guiding interviewees to the right solution, even on a simple problem when I know the interview is over, but I don't want to bruise their ego too much).

I don't have a silver bullet solution to this, but I think a few things go in the right direction:

1) Candidates should have to write code in interviews. But they shouldn't have to solve puzzle problems with "gotcha" solutions. If there's a specific trick that requires an "aha" moment, you are really testing how well a candidate solves puzzles under pressure, not how they code.

2) Test candidates on what they are best at. If someone has been working in C# for the last 5 years, don't ask them to whiteboard in Python, which they used in college. Picking up new languages/frameworks is quick for someone who knows what they are doing [0].

3) Offer candidates a choice between an in person interview or a take home coding test, the latter of which would take more time. Some candidates don't want to deal with doing a 6 hour take-home coding problem [1]. Other candidates suck at whiteboarding under pressure. So more options seems better.

[0] There are exceptions to this. You might have a unique problem and the budget/resources to hire a rockstar for a specific role. Desirable companies willing to dole out big salaries do this all the time. But much more often, I see companies offering average salaries for very very specific roles. One company near me told me that I was one of the best candidates they've seen, but they are looking specifically for someone with 1+ years of Java experience. I could have picked up the basics of Java in a month, and been fairly proficient in 2-4 months. Meanwhile, they are still looking to fill that role and it's been over 2 years.

[1] I've had a few companies that insist on this, but I haven't had a period of unemployment where I have the time for this. Good developers tend to be/stay employed, so if you are looking to hire senior devs, you probably need to consider their schedules. Unless I'm desperate to leave a job, I can only make so much time for interviews.




> they shouldn't have to solve puzzle problems with "gotcha" solutions.

I’ve never come across this myself, but I always figured that sort of interviewing would correct itself over time - if you ask questions that nobody is going to know the answer to, eventually when three years have gone by and you still haven’t hired anybody, you’re going to have to adjust your tactics.


There are different philosophies, but it comes down to how you want to balance type I and type II error, where:

Type I error == false positive == hiring someone who isn't qualified

Type II error == false negative == failing to hire someone who is qualified

I think a lot of companies are obsessed with minimizing Type I error. They really don't want to hire bad developers. As a hiring manager, your ass is on the line if you make too many of these mistakes (when your own manager asks, why are we paying 100k/year for someone who you are telling me isn't very good?). And perhaps you'll have to fire someone, which is painful for most people to do [0].

On the other hand, the costs of Type II error fly under the radar. Your manager comes to you and asks why haven't you hired anyone yet? "Well, I haven't found someone qualified yet" is the only answer you need to give. So it's easy to avoid culpability and it's harder to measure the costs associated with the work not getting done (generally, it's easy to measure a developer's cost, which is their salary + benefits + time they spend using others' time multiplied by those employees compensation. It's much harder to measure the value of their output in most cases, unless they are working alone on a revenue generating project.

I think there's a problem (at many companies) of people being held accountable for Type I but not Type II error. And so naturally, people worry more about Type I.

[0] On a tangential note, I had a boss once who made a good point to me. He encouraged me to take risks in hiring, but he said tgat the worst person to hire is someone who is mediocre. If someone is really bad, it's easier to fire them. If someone is really good, then everyone is happy. But if someone is bad, but not bad enough to fire, then they stick around and cause the most damage.


You would think that. But there's that saying about how "the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." It's true.

I've seen many places sit on job reqs for a year or two after I applied and would have done quite well. Sure, I may have needed to study a week or two. Then they'd have a solution ~11 months earlier.




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