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[flagged] Ask HN: Where can you apply for a programming job when you are a Class A asshole
62 points by calltrak 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments
Do you love tech but hate tech interviews with a burning passion?

It really rubs my fucking rhubarb the wrong way when I am in a technical interview and the interviewer starts asking me some random assed questions either technical or voodoo doodoo mumbo jumbo personality type questions.

I understand they have to ask something in a interview but its the questions in of themselves that they choose that has me hanging the phone up on their hot ear.

After years in the industry I have come to the conclusion I am actually no longer employable! I am crankier than bag of cats on their period!

Where can i get a job as a programmer where class A assholes can apply? I mean with all this diversity and inclusion woke culture surely they can include me in their inclusion diversity quota . Assholes need to eat too you knoe, and the garbage cans are slim pickings these days i'm only getting pure slope now with all the grabbing hands!

I don't understand why this is so hard for so many programmers. As the person frequently on the other side of the table, I can tell you this process is pretty easy to get right.

Engage with the question. I'm asking it for a reason; you might think it's stupid, but I wouldn't ask if I didn't care what your answer was. You can tell me you think it's stupid, but even better would be to _answer_ the question then _ask_ why I want to know.

If the technical problem is easy for you, then demonstrate that it's easy. I actually don't care if you solve the problem (and very few interviewers I've spoken with care either). I care that you can think through a problem, articulate your thought process, and then explain to me the solution you've arrived at.

Software development in a team setting is a collaborative process. That collaboration often manifests itself through answering stupid questions, writing pseudo-code on a whiteboard, explaining why your code does what it does, and asking others (politely) why their code is the way it is.

The longer I do this work, the more convinced I become that the software part of it represents less than 30% of what makes a good developer, and the interview is not to find the programming savants, rather to weed out people who will make working on a team a nightmare.

So you'll end up with team players but with nobody who will actually get the job done.

The better way is as the interviewer to do your homework and to engage on the level of the interviewee, so as not to start off with insulting their intelligence. Realize that your company is as much in the hot-seat as the candidate is.

> So you'll end up with team players but with nobody who will actually get the job done.

There are plenty of developers that are capable of writing code and explaining how and why they've done it. Your difficulty communicating ideas doesn't directly translate to being a better developer.

>The better way is as the interviewer to do your homework and to engage on the level of the interviewee

I'm not sure you've ever reviewed resumes, but they pretty frequently absolutely suck, targeted or not targeted, or otherwise not accurately representing skills. It can go from completely clueless "buzzword bingo" to "obviously I'm skilled enough to not need to mention the silly stuff like TCP"

>Realize that your company is as much in the hot-seat as the candidate is.

...and for those companies that do understand that?

Where is the substance to this comment? What stance are you taking or solutions you proposing?

You claim developers that are show skills of collaboration thru acts like vocalizing their thought processes, ensuring mutual understanding of a problem, brainstorming, and ability to approach and deconstruct a technical problem with another person are LESS likely to get things done?

I must say, that doesn't check out to me. Writing code is a small part of building apps, and while some organizations have ICs who implement a spec, and a whole team who builds that spec, I think it's clear most orgs would be better off with someone who doesn't require the spec in the first place to figure out what code to write, and doesn't need to be browbeaten to do it in a way that makes sense to their team.

No, I'm claiming that both interviewer and interviewee have a similar workload, and that usually only one party feels like they need to engage, the other is in a position of power and is the gatekeeper to 'the job' and so feels no need to engage. I've seen this numerous times and it never ceases to amaze me that these little pointy haired bosses / team leads / whatever you want to call that particular flavor of middle manager this week don't realize that they represent the company during contact with an outsider, which makes them an ambassador of sorts.

> I'm claiming that both interviewer and interviewee have a similar workload

I do not know what this means or what relevance it holds to our context.

> and that usually only one party feels like they need to engage, the other is in a position of power and is the gatekeeper to 'the job' and so feels no need to engage

Again, what are you saying? Recall, we are discussing the very silly claim that "you'll end up with team players but with nobody who will actually get the job done" based on an interview scenario where the interviewee is required to perform part of the problem-solving a job entails, just not a part which is not explicitly implementing a solution alone (coding).

This language about the interviewer not "engaging" and "[not realizing] they represent the company" seems like an entirely separate conversation. Additionally, your usage of "I've seen this numerous times" and initial assumption that the interviewing company would "start off with insulting [the interviewee's] intelligence" don't really make me feel like you're discussing a good-faith interview, instead pre-supposing all interviews are performed in bad faith and interviewees are right to be offended by what they are being ask.

I dislike this muchly, but indeed, the top of this comment tree addresses this attitude directly, something you entirely ignored:

> [As an interviewer], I'm asking [each question] for a reason; you might think it's stupid, but I wouldn't ask if I didn't care what your answer was

So I do not understand why you continued to go forward assuming the interviewing company is acting in bad faith. They are not, that attitude makes no sense, and the context has already directly been set for our conversation that the interviewer is asking this question in good faith because they believe it to be a signal wrt employee value.

Please understand, as someone who interviews, one of the critical filters we introduced was evaluating candidates on their interactivity & collaboration. Doing this explicitly has resulted in a marked uptick in the quality of our candidates. Of course, we still aggressively apply filters that ensure these candidates can code and have implemented solutions of similar complexity & domain as we expect them to architect & create, but introducing the collaboration filter has resulted in coworkers of remarkable ability to solve problems quickly and continuously, both as individuals and in direct collaboration. I would easily say you would fail this filter entirely, and you should take care to not allow your bitter attitude to calcify.

I have a few rules that have helped me land good jobs:

1. If they want me to napkin code, I call it quits immediately, even if I know the code they want me to write be heart. Watching me write code on a whiteboard or piece of paper has no demonstratable connection to how I work day-in and day-out. Places like this would be both a waste of their time to hire me, and a waste of my time to interview for. I always ask up front about this if I'm unsure how the interview goes.

2. I set myself up to control the interview. I bring my laptop, ready with a bunch of work I've done that I can show off. When I sit down, I ask "Hey, I brought a bunch of interesting projects that I can show off, is that alright?" If they aren't interested in seeing that, they are clearly not interested in the sort of work I do, and not interested to see how I can fit into their team.

3. Ask what their typical day is like. This includes asking what the most painful part of their day is.

4. I want to know specifically who I need to talk to and who would need to talk to me to finish my work. The higher the number of people I need to talk to, and the lower the number of people who talk to me is a real bad sign. Reporting to and trying to appease multiple bosses with completely different goals and timelines is bad. Also, if there is no one under me, then job clearly doesn't respect or desire mentorship.

Sometimes I skip some of these steps, and obviously your mileage will vary, but always ask the questions that give you answers to how you like to work. For instance, if you want a cubical and want to put on headphones, ask about the office layout, and what expectations the company has for your communication abilities.

Well the whiteboard is in my opinion not about technical correctness, and I don't appreciate companies that obsess on the technical aspect of it. It's about testing if it's the type of person you can sit down and work through a problem with. Some companies want all the programmers to meet up each day at stand ups, or sit them close to each other, and they can share problems and seek out help from each other. I get that. Working through a problem together on a whiteboard is a preview of that type of interaction.

Still that kind of coding environment can get annoying, so maybe you're trying to avoid those aspects too :) Personally now have enough money where I have zero interest to participate in those kind of employee environments, it's not something I'd choose to do and am happy to have exited it. Only want to work on own projects and ventures on own terms.

Anytime someone has given me a whiteboard and I ask questions, I usually get frustrating answers, like "I guess you could try that" and not actual concrete answers. I live near Waterloo, ON, which has a tech hub and big university that leans towards tech, so maybe it's a univeristy culture thing.

Anyway, that's why my policy is to just say no to whiteboarding during interviews. I'd rather sit at a computer with another human who wants to see me succeed over stand at a whiteboard with people that want to dissect how I think.

Who works with someone _through code_ using a whiteboard?!

Drawing an architecture diagram or so, sure, but code? I would definitely prefer to work with people who know how to do screensharing and work over a problem in the code using an actual editor.

Seriously, I've worked at companies where everyone loved whiteboards, and I've been doing this work for almost two decades, but doubt I've seen more than 100 total lines of even pseudocode written on whiteboards, outside lectures or interviews. I doubt I've written more than a dozen such lines myself (again, barring interviews). Maybe some places work very differently from what I'm used to? TV shows and movies, even ones that are relatively down-to-Earth (Silicon Valley) love having programmers write code on whiteboards, so maybe that is how lots of us operate, I've just managed to never be around that kind of culture, somehow.

[EDIT] of course there are other, practical reasons a show or movie might have their characters do that, but I'm just offering the possibility that that more closely reflects common programmer experience than what I've seen first-hand does.

How old are you?

> 3. Ask what their typical day is like. This includes asking what the most painful part of their day is.

If they do standups, see if you can sit (edit: er, stand?) in on a couple before you say "yes" to an offer. You can spot most of the worst agile pathologies pretty fast that way, and since those can reach "making me an anxious wreck 24/7" levels of bad, you definitely want to know.

Yeah, that's a solid plan. At my work, we've brought people in for the day, or for a smaller work session so they get a feel for how we work.

So where do you work now?

> Where can i get a job as a programmer where class A assholes can apply?

Only bad places, where you'll work with other miserable people. Most good places have a "No Assholes Allowed" rule.

> After years in the industry

If you're jumping through all these hoops after years, you might not be as good as you think you are. You make up for the ego hit by thinking interviews and the questions they ask are beneath you. When really, they're doing exactly what they're intended for. Weeding out asshole developers that think they're better than they are.

It hurts to face this fact but exactly. As an eng manager my interview focus is to find a good personality. We don't do this by asking questions about personality, but by watching how the interviewee responds to questions, how they handle themselves and so far it has proven as a good method.

I've worked with/under/managed tech gods who were dicks and I would work with normal people who aren't at that tech level 10/10 times. I am worried with the current direction towards remote work there will be more space for assholes.

> Only bad places, where you'll work with other miserable people.

blizzard, amazon, apple, facebook and to a certain extend microsoft are filled with assholes and foster that culture, yet are considered good places to work at (for a long time at least)

Are they? They're considered places that pay well and get you good credentials, but does anyone in 2021 think that a game studio is a good place to work? Or Amazon?

yeah working at those places basically means you're set for many people in college. The kinda shit ppl go through to try and get a job there is kinda self explanatory. I expected all the down votes from the people that work there plus the people I'm talking about.

As a recovering asshole myself, I can tell you from experience that life becomes significantly easier in many different ways if you at least improve yourself to the level of a class B or class C asshole.

Start with charging 150 credits an hour and call yourself a consultant, laugh all the way to the bank and consider being an asshole an asset: you're allowed to speak the truth as an outsider, and companies will happily pay for someone to tell them the things they technically already know but that nobody dares to be found out speaking aloud for fear of being called an asshole.

Annually raise your fee by 25%. You'll find better paying gigs with companies that appreciate you even more.

btw: since this post serves as a one-person who wants to be hired: your website is down.

I am a consultant (22 years running my own shop), and the fact that I am difficult is a big part of why. You are speaking the truth.

My brand is hard truths.

Unfortunately, not many people want that product. But just enough do to keep me employed.

I'm convinced that if you want a job, you don't have to be the person that its only being interviewed, you must sell your self as the programmer that they need, if you cant convince them that you are the one for the job, you should try to understand what are yours strengths or just to find people that have the same values as you.

> find people that have the same values as you.

That would be a very interesting startup.

Aw, I expected that "Being an asshole" would be a selectable value. Seems like there are no negative options there.

Finding the same values is a bad solution for anybody who is right of Biden and wants a high paying valley job.

As someone who has worked with a couple of Class A A##holes I guess even they have to pretend they are nice when interviewing.

These were both technically brilliant but would backstab, take credit for others work, deflect blame, even include customers on copy when scolding me etc, so I'd definitely classify them as Class A A##holes.

BTW: Are you sure you qualify as Class A? The kind of technical brilliance these guys had, combined with such utter lack of respect for others and also the galls to be totally open about not respecting others, that is quite rare...

The problem with “asshole” is that it is applied to people who are “disagreeable givers” (moral people who want to help but have abrasive personalities) as well as unethical psychopaths.

I live by a moral code, but many have called me an asshole, because I will say “you don’t know what the hell you are doing” to people I believe are incompetent (instead of smiling wanly). But I don’t steal credit or tell lies.

I'm in the funny position where - on multiple occasions every month I think - I can tell people that (think for example frontend, backend, evolving code over time, actually agile development) and on multiple occasions others can do the same to me (think infrastructure, project management).

I (try to at least) make sure that I praise in public and correct in private as far as possible, and I work on a team that does the same.

That said, even when I worked with certain Class A's mentioned above I was happy to take advice as long as it could go both ways.

When it turned out it was also "rules for thee, not for me" I got another job.

well said

I thought class A meant you can turn it off when it suits your needs. OP is at best class B and probably C since they don’t know how to apply their gifts.

I never "fit in the team". Became a freelancer

Consider starting your own business. "Assholishness" is a trait that can be channeled into something that is valuable to a startup, and you're probably going to be willing to hire yourself.

I'll take a contrarian approach and say that, as a Class A asshole, you can get a job almost anywhere. Every team I've been part of as a dev or team leader has had at least one. I've been in hiring cycles where management has overruled interviewer consensus to hire the one person we agreed we wouldn't want to work with. So don't discount your odds on landing a job.

You can only get away with being a Class A asshole if you are at least a Class A programmer.

Even then, there aren't many shops anymore which afford the closet & bucket o' fish heads approach. Maybe government contractors or smaller crypto projects.

Everywhere else, you need to at least get along with other people. Most shops have realized the 'rockstars' only look good on paper. https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/a-biologists-study-of-superc...


I know that many here despise Upwork, but they are wrong.

You will need to build a profile before you can earn higher hourly rates, but then it is great.

Better to invest a few months of your life in building a profile and then be free than to be dependent on others forever.

I would hire a self-described asshole if he were honest and smart and took his craftsmanship seriously.

I understand such a person might call himself an asshole, but I don’t find that a useful descriptor. I would use the word “difficult.”

You need to find tough people who like hearing the truth. Working with difficult people is okay in proportion to their value. Be valuable and you buy freedom in other dimensions.

Nice people can be bad at their jobs because people like being around them (this explains a lot of terrible managers).

I am pretty sure that the best course of action for those of us in this situation is to hide who we are and submit to other's will, or starve to death.

I am unironically thinking in stop trying to get into tech, move to the countryside and live of subsistence farming.

Sorry for the rant.

People skills are skills.

idk I think you have to think differently. It's a game that you play. No one cares about your problems or quirks on an interview. Think of what they want to make a decision and be that...respectful, courteous, helpful, excited...then slowly be yourself as appropriate AFTER you get in as they'll be invested in you to be more accommodating. They may even celebrate your unique personality after getting to know you, even if its a little darker than others.

You are clearly dealing with other issues you need to sort out.

You are clearly what he's complaining about.

When personalities are incompatible, neither side has the automatic right to claim being the correct one, not even the one that describes itself as nice or cooperative.

For all the insults they flung in this post, and as incorrect as that is on it's own and all else being equal, by calling theirself asshole, they exhibit more self-awareness and honesty that for instance this remark.

I don't know much of anything a out either you or the OP, but if I had nothing else to go on but the OP and your comment, and was forced to cboose who to work with based on only that info, I would choose the OP immediately and every time with no doubt.

Now, you can simply call me a asshole too, and like the OP I'll totally agree that to you I'm an asshole, but I think it would serve you (and everyone who has to work with you) to think about this a little.

are there actually any tech companies that don't require whiteboard coding interviews?

Yes, plenty, but they usually only pay "excellent by any normal standards" money, not "holy fucking shit, I going to retire well by age 45 while living like a king" money.

Confusingly, there are also some in that category that whiteboard non-fresh-grads. As if there aren't offers available practically for the asking, in the market we've had for several years now, from places that don't do that, for anyone who has a record & references to point to, paying the same kind of money.

The most annoying thing about this situation is that companies can be weirdly coy about offering any info about WTF their interview process is like. Except the actual big-boys (FAANG) who pretty much give you a study guide. Just a waste of everyone's time not to offer details about the kind of thing the interview will cover, up-front. "You'll be writing code on a whiteboard for three hours, and we're not going to tell you how we'll be judging what you write, or what we expect, or the sort of thing we'll ask you to do" OK, cool, bye, I'll use that day to interview with someone else then.

We don't whiteboard. Though we do have a pile of paper on hand so that people can draw diagrams to better explain their solutions to the problems we put forward. Simple ones like improve this one table database into something "better" (3fn would be nice or explain why you would not do it this way)

Ur own

You sound like an exec who got born into the programmers caste for sins in your past life.

Edit. I'd hire you just because I'm tired of this sassy bs that takes place in a typical software firm.

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