> Most startups take the building of their culture very seriously, especially when the culture is still new and quite fragile.
If your culture is so fucking fragile that a guy wearing a suit (as opposed to a T-shirt and jeans) poses an existential threat to it, you need to re-evaluate whether you are actually building a company 'culture', or just some random agglomeration of the personality traits of the company's earliest employees.
> My friend Shawn just brought organic heirloom carrots and a 6-pack of Sightglass coffee to an interview as a gift. That’s awesome.
If I were a founder and you were a candidate who tried to bribe me like this, I'd politely show you the door. Why does the gift need to come before the interview? If it's a token of appreciation, why not after the acceptance or rejection? Are you hiring candidates based on their technical credentials, or their hipster credentials?
Yeah we're not going to penalize you if you don't have your schedule completely open. Like if you have kids or commitments or something. It's cool! But it's also sort of a strong signal that you're just not going to be a good fit here.
If you want to improve your chances of getting hired just bring some awesome gifts along. Also it helps a lot if you're already a friend of someone here, which totally isn't insularity it's just having a strong network and connections.
You have entered exceedingly dangerous territory, and I don't think you realize it. Morally and legally. What you're essentially saying is, "We want people like us."
Honestly, I'm running into a bit of Poe's Law. I can't tell if what you wrote is serious or satire.
"Very nice, Bateman," Bryce replies. "When did a dork like you get so tasteful?"
It's all going well, and then Van Patten places his carrot on the table. It's fucking magnificent.
"This," he says, "Is a Pioneer Ridge carrot, in deep ochre with leaves in a color called 'hazy forest.' The seed stock is heritage, and the planting was organic."
"Amazing," says Bryce. "This is the best carrot I've seen all day."
I can't believe Bryce prefers Van Patten's carrot to mine.
I'd like to think that the interviewee responded along those lines when the issue of his clothing was pointed out. Were I in his position, I'd be concerned I was being interviewed by a group of amateurs.
What's amazing is not that 42floors dinged a candidate with "strong experience leasing SF office space" for wearing a nice suit to an interview (real estate professionals tend to dress well for obvious reasons). It's that such a candidate actually gave 42floors the time of day.
I have no idea how they avoid legal trouble.
Which, for all the nonsense this post points out, might end up being a net negative for our industry. I'd like these jokers to at least worry a little bit about it in order to stop us from entering that world.
Once a company gets bigger, the stakes change and they have to be much more careful in their hiring practices lest they tempt the flock of lawyers circling overhead.
It seems it has been taken down (http://blog.42floors.com/interviewing-at-a-startup/), or is someone getting content?
Best thing you can do is just avoid those places like the plague. There are places that are run by grown ups and I don't mean people older than 20-something but people that are mature enough to understand what diversity and culture really mean. Places where there is a balance between work and personal life and where people don't pretend to be in a frat house because it is the only way they know how to handle themselves.
I think the only reason those cultures persist is because they are extremely cheap to maintain from a capital perspective and you can have 10 of them running in parallel to increase your odds of hitting a jackpot and getting acquired by google or facebook and raking in some nice returns for your investors which by the way are way older than 20-something. So if you look at it from that perspective it is all about maximizing returns from an investor's perspective and the rest of it is just-so story to keep the pipeline of 20 year olds churning. I think there are some nice parallels between virgins waiting in heaven and million dollar acquisitions. The tactics being used to exploit the minds of the impressionable are the same in both scenarios. The insular cultures that result from those tactics is just a natural byproduct.
I'm no teetotaler, but bars can be uncomfortable to downright hostile places for the majority of people (women + people who don't drink for religious or health reasons). It's absolutely inappropriate and unprofessional to incorporate one into an interview. This is typical "old boy's club" shit, just with hipster glasses and organic carrots.
I think the article argues that it's not at all 'clear' (as evidenced by the 'interviewee' who didn't realise what was going on - and probably the company as they never articulated what they were looking for).
It is quite amazing how many people are completely oblivious to their own biases.
It certainly shows where on the spectrum they lie, between "wants to hire people to do a job" and "wants to hire people to hang out with".
Personally, I've got plenty of friends I care deeply about and want to go drinking with, and while I'm not opposed to grabbing a beer with coworkers from time to time, my primary reason for showing up is to do good work, not play developmentally-delayed fraternity grabass. A company that places "drinkbuddyability" before "workability" is a place that's toxic to me.
I feel that there is a growing disconnect in the industry, and a growing contingent of the industry that has reinterpreted tech's historical desire to be easy-going and not-uptight into some sort of frat-like organization.
We're not hiring friends, we're hiring competent people we can get on with. Of all my workmates I'd only really call three of them friends outside of work.
It is really inefficient to pick IT, UX, Sysadmin, etc. talent based on whether they drink or not. So I'm assuming they are oblivious.
Edit: re "religious" argument: surely you can get some non-alcoholic drink at a bar? Water, if nothing else?
Yes, and surely you can socialize in a brothel without actually engaging in their primary service, but that doesn't mean that holding part of a job interview there wouldn't create a differentially hostile environment to (among others) people who have religious objections to prostitution.
Seems like a real problem to me: either you discriminate against the religious person, or you discriminate against the homosexual, can't have them both.
In fact if you think requiring drinking is discriminating, your are discriminating against the people who drink. There is just no way to get it right. What if the company owner is religious and doesn't want to hire people who drink for religious reasons - would that be better/OK?
Sounds like a lot of bullshit to me - better to discard all the PC bullshit and go for what you really want. Honestly, personally I'd prefer to have colleagues who are not very religious. Maybe the law forbids screening for that, but I still think it is a sensible preference to have. (I am not currently hiring anybody, so I hope I am allowed to say that...).
I'm a Christian, but I have no problem working for or with practising Muslims, as long as regular attendance at the Mosque is not a job requirement. I don't drink, but I have no problem working for or with people who like to drink, as long as regular attendance at the bar is not a job requirement.
Edit To speak to your examples: the religious person should have the professionalism to keep their views of homosexuality out of their attitude at work. Similarly, the homosexual should keep their views of religion out of work. Tolerance does not mean agreement. It means we agree to disagree and get along with each other despite the disagreements.
A differentially-hostile work environment created by legal requirements of the job, e.g., working alongside people who you disapprove of because the employer is prohibited against discriminating against them to suit you, is not illegal discrimination.
> In fact if you think requiring drinking is discriminating, your are discriminating against the people who drink.
No, you wouldn't be, because not requiring drinking isn't discriminating against people who drink. (Not permitting drinking might be, but given alcohol's demonstrable effect on cognitive function, and the fact that a preference for drinking isn't a presumptively-illegal basis for discrimination in the first place, there are all kinds of reasons it almost certainly wouldn't be illegal discrimination in most cases.)
> What if the company owner is religious and doesn't want to hire people who drink for religious reasons - would that be better/OK?
Unless the "company" is a bona fide religious institution hiring people for a religious function, discrimination against employees (or potential employees) because they don't fit the company's (or owner's) religious preferences is textbook illegal discrimination, so, no, it wouldn't be "better".
Neither is going to a bar, because you are not obliged to drink alcohol at a bar.
Again I think this whole thing is ridiculous. Why shouldn't people allowed to do what they enjoy in their company? What if you quit a job to found a company, precisely because you want a company where colleagues go to a bar together occasionally? Why should you not be allowed to do that?
Also: bars are places that people go to socialize while drinking. You are not obliged to drink at a bar, but you are expected to. People who do not drink are likely to feel some social pressure about their decision while in a bar. That is not okay for a job interview. I have friends who do not drink. I consider it rude to ask them out to a bar because then we are going to an establishment that is clearly not for them.
Same thing with sexual orientation, or any other protected status. In a professional work environment, these things aren't factors.
Surely there's a way to test for "cultural fit" that doesn't involve directly, or indirectly, testing for protected status. And if your company's culture can't find a way to test for fit without testing for protected status, then your culture needs serious work.
I'm not sure that's the case -- a major part of "cultural fit" in many cases seems to be selecting along protected axis of discrimination by other names. (Heck, phrases very similar to that have been used to cover covert discrimination on protected axis since legal protections against discrimination were first adopted.)
That said, company culture can very real and very potent, provided it's founded on professional and non-discriminatory criteria. That's why the burden of non-discrimination is on the company and its culture, not on the candidate.
What are valid forms of cultural-fit tests? ESPN, for example, gives candidates for many of its positions a sports-trivia test. This makes sense. If you're going to work for a sports network, you should probably enjoy sports and be generally knowledgeable about the subject. And ESPN, for its part, probably notices an empirical correlation between people who love sports and people who succeed in sports-related television.
Now, this sort of thing would be discriminatory if it involved any aspect that tested for status. Holding evaluative games of pickup basketball or touch football would discriminate against the physically disabled, pregnant women, and heck, just about any woman placed on or against a mostly male team. ESPN is welcome to participate in intramural sports game, or to hold weekend sports outings. But those activities cannot be used to evaluate employment status or candidacy, and an employee who doesn't want to participate should not feel pressured to do so.
I didn't enter religion - somebody else started mentioning it as a reason to not go to a bar. I don't think there should be a rule that companies should never go out for drinks just because somebodies religious feelings might be offended.
Ok: You invite everyone out for drinks.
Questionable: You make someone's ability to hang at a bar an explicit or implicit criterion for hiring them.
Not ok: You determine that you are going to use the bar as a direct "test" for religious affiliation, sexual orientation, personal beliefs about alcohol, etc. (Extreme example: "I don't want to hire any Muslims or Mormons here. I'm going to ask all candidates to a bar as part of the interview process and offer them a drink, to suss out their religious affiliation.")
Obviously this isn't a binary situation. There is a spectrum of acceptable and unacceptable practices to be navigated. Some of it comes down to personal judgment, some of it comes down to common sense, and some of it comes down to the law.
Right now, IT is a strong labor environment [e.g. Programmers get multiple offers if they look for a job and pick the best/highest one].
If you are so foolish as to make "drinking" a requirement, that means you are reducing the pool and raising the cost of the employee.
You are free to do that. Your competitor who is more sensible is going to have more breathing room financially because of your poor choices. That tends to be a feedback cycle that causes them to slowly and inevitably beat you in a capitalist society.
Exactly! That's how it should be. Saying you should do this or that is rather pointless. The hard evidence is success and failure.
I'm not sure why we need to talk this long about it to go back to the parent post?
I really don't think that handling this on a "free to do that" basis is practically useful. If you don't feel like excluding non-drinkers is an issue, feel free to entertain that opinion. I just don't think that capitalism is a viable solution.
Personal aside: my daughter isn't job searching any time soon (she's a toddler), but the idea of her having to do a job interview at a bar makes me want to sue someone. "Scorched earth" wouldn't even begin to describe it.
People checking you out would also be a problem you could just as easily encounter at starbucks or indeed in the office.
And yes, you can encounter unwanted attention anywhere, but at a bar at night, certain sorts of advances are acceptable and expected. Indeed, I'd raise an eyebrow if someone complained about getting unwanted but otherwise harmless attention at a bar. Those advances aren't what is inappropriate--it's holding a job interview in that setting that's inappropriate.
Most socialisation in western culture seems to be based around alcohol, not saying that is good or bad but it's doesn't really apply to one gender over the other. I've probably been to just as many drinking events organised by women as I have men.
Typically, one does not refer to a gastropub or other restaurant (even one which, as most do and as a gastropub does by definition, includes a bar) as "a bar". When one refers to an institution as "a bar", that generally implies that one is referring to an institution that is solely a bar, not a restaurant with a bar.
Having part of an interview at a restaurant (even one which serves drinks) is a very different environment than doing so at a bar.
I think people commenting and downvoting me have too much prejudice. You have a certain image of a company in mind, and judge by that. What about people who quit their jobs to run a company the way they like. Maybe they quit their job so that they can run their company from a bar. Lot's of companies are being run from Starbucks (or so I hear), is that despicable too?
Legal things aside. I don't know about bars. It seems legal to meet candidates in a cafe, or over lunch?
Or what if you go out partying and you meet somebody who you want to hire by chance? Even if you don't do it deliberately - if the hiring manager just likes to party and goes out every night, he would automatically be "discriminating" against people who don't go out, because they would have a lower chance of meeting him and being hired.
Edit: would you say then that any looking for "cultural fit" is unethical?
I think most commentators here immediately think of a big, powerful corporation and poor, desperate employees jumping through hoops to get any job. But that certainly isn't the normal case. If somebody is motivated to fund a company to be able to run things in a way they enjoy, they should be allowed to do so (of course there are limits, but liking to hang out with colleagues is not the limit).
Imagine you are hiring your first employee, ever. Is it really outrageous to want to hire somebody you get along with well (more than just "being professional")? That person will be the only other human being you will be exposed to for a majority of your time. Maybe in a big open plan office with hundreds of employees those concerns are less important (among hundreds, you will find some likeminded souls). But not every company is that big.
This depends how well. I don't need to hire someone I would go out at night with. I am not hiring friends or prospective spouses. I need to hire someone who will get the job done.
This is a great post, but I take issue with the author's conclusion.
The harsh reality is that most of these so-called Valley Culture startups aren't actually competing in a "tech war." Most have relatively simple CRUD apps with at best moderate usage. Founders delude themselves into believing that they need far more engineering resources than they really do for obvious reasons, and investors have plenty of reasons of their own for indulging and rewarding these delusions.
The good news is that no disruption is needed. The majority of the Valley Culture startups will die off in the next several years and at some point, the economic and monetary policy environment will ensure that they're not replaced with a new batch of Valley Culture startups.
In the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities (in the Bay Area and elsewhere) for folks who don't want to deal with the nonsense.
The downside is more than just passing up good engineers though. Lots and lots of research has shown that more diverse teams come up with superior and more robust solutions to problems. When everyone thinks the same way about a problem they come up with the same solutions, but this just exacerbates the problems of satisficing. When there's diversity and a true interchange of ideas combined with robust intellectual skepticism and criticism innovation is enhanced and it's easier to break out of the local minima trap.
> It’s not that we’re so petty or strict about the dress code
> that we are going to disqualify him for not following an
> unwritten rule, but we know empirically that people who come
> in dressed in suits rarely work out well for our team.
But it is unscalable for a couple key reasons. (1) Lack of diversity is lack of ideas and experiences, you may fail to find the "next big thing" simply because your echo chamber doesn't include that experience. (2) raw scale. There are only so many Stanford grads et al out there. When you need your 25th, 100th or 150th technical person you will need to have achieved either Google's cachet or start expending your parameters quite a lot.
Finding people's value is a very important management skill that seems to have been eschewed in this "cultural fit" culture. It's true there are some people that will be poison, but if the majority of people with the right skills are bad for your organization rather than the majority being able to be a positive, you should ask yourself if your organization is adequately healthy and robust, or is it an infant in an incubator, only surviving as long as you obsessively manage every input.
It is a law of human nature that a chaotic environment breeds magical thinking and ingroup allegiance, and there are few business environments more chaotic than Silicon Valley, where startups succeed or fail seemingly at random. The noise calls for reason, and because there are no true known causes for success our mind demands some explanation. How many times have we read the line -- often written by some very smart people -- "correlation isn't causation, but we've found a strong correlation between....". What follows the but in that sentence is what is known as superstition. Correlation doesn't equal causation, but no buts follow. Actually, correlation plus confirmation bias equals magical thinking, and "data driven" correlation (with no confirmation bias) equals bigotry. Failing to realize that correlation without causation provides us with exactly zero predictive abilities (it might be "predictive" on unknown present data, but not on future data) is the root of a lot of evil. In fact, "data driven" correlation -- because it disguises itself as knowledge -- creates (or, usually, reinforces) a reverse causation.
> Whatever else one can say about the Mirrortocracy, it has the virtue of actually working, in the sense that the lucky few who break in have a decent rate of success.
This is the worst of all fallacies belying the "SV logic". Even supposing it were true, a large-number statistical observation says little or nothing about the behavior of a single random variable, or a single startup in this instance. Yes, the startup system "works" (for whom is another question) on the whole, but the vast majority of individual startups still fail. Learning back from correlative observations on the large system and implying the so called lessons to an individual company has little grounds in any rigorous reasoning.
> You can protest your logic and impartiality all day long, but the only honest statement is that we're all biased.
Understanding this is one of the keys to progress. How many times have we seen posts discussing sexism in tech deemed "controversial" here on HN? But the truth is that the chance a member of a society imbued with biases for millennia is not sexist (or otherwise biased) is extremely slim. The only way to fight this bias is to seek it out and see it (because it's there).
That is blatantly false. Correlation implies at very minimum a causal link trough a third effect. The traditional example of drownings and ice cream consumption has that third link. Nice summer days. So those two are linked.
I think one should say "Correlation doesn't imply direct causation". That's closer to the truth.
Now, it is true that perfect correlation (which is rarely shown; more often than not in the business world, only "half" of the correlation is shown -- e.g. all successful startups have ping pong tables -- which is as good as nothing at all) in the real world usually implies some hidden causal link, but that link is not what the investigator has in mind. Often, the causation is actually quite direct but flows in the opposite direction from the common interpretation.
No, it doesn't.
Correlation can be coincidence; while a particular correlation may be unlikely on its own to be coincidence, there are lots of combinations of things in the universe that might be compared side-by-side, and so unlikely coincidental correlations are everywhere, and so if you troll through the universe looking for correlations, you are going to find a bunch that don't mean anything causally.
And by enough I am talking about hundreds and more of datapoints. If one looks at things like yearly values of something for within last 10 years like the page spurious correlations is doing one is bound to find some weird ones.
The first result is a beauty http://twentytwowords.com/funny-graphs-show-correlation-betw...
Someone who claims it confidently like that is well into the area of making shit up then rationalizing it.
"The Company Culture" is important. But you do not create it by writing blog posts or even by having company off-sites every month. I create the culture in my team by re-enforcing my values every day during meetings or simple chats at the water cooler. Most software developers are smart and can easily see through the BS of startup or large company "culture building exercises" when the day-to-day processes in the company go in a completely opposite direction.
"He showed up in a suit, so he wasn't going to be hired, and we didn't tell him for the whole night! HA HA HA HA!!"
The word OP is looking for is groupthink, and the problem he's describing starts with deindividuation, the process when the group cohesiveness takes priority over individual freedom of expression.
And well the problem with this "mirrortocracy" (which is just a new word to describe Nepotism) is the typical conundrum of " I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it", basically the problem wont be solved until the number of people trying to enter the inner circle becomes smaller than the number of people trying to tear it down. But the reward for those who do make it is so high most individuals would rather live in what's essentially a tragedy of the commons than a place where there is more equality at the expense of a much lower chance of "making it big".
I always chuckle to myself when I read this because I realize that one day Zuck's going to say "Hey, I'm older" and by extension he'll have to also say "Ouch, I'm dumber". I suspect he'll recant the statement due to "youthful arrogance" at some point!
I can think of two reasons why someone would dress up for a dressed-down interview:
(1) They don't yet understand the social terrain they've entered well enough (particularly salient: people with class/cultural backgrounds underrepresented in tech).
(2) They're conscientious enough to go through the trouble of dressing well for an interview in order to signal they care about getting hired.
So that's some of what you're selecting against when you reject a candidate for failing the "go-out-for-a-beer" test: irrelevant cultural differences and conscientiousness. Bizarre.
College qualifications or any real qualifications are being dismissed by more and more people but the vacuum that has been left is being filled with crap like 15+ rounds of interviews and/or 12 hour interviews.
The hiring process is currently broken. I think the only fix is to have proper, trusted qualifications (again?).
I don't trust qualifications alone.
Oh, come on! Where is this myth coming from? I don't know about USA, but here in London there is an over-abundance of IT workforce (what else would justify the sub £60k senior dev job offers).
On a related note - why aren't there more senior software dev's building their own businesses? It seems like you have so little to lose.
Only the City pays fair market wages to technical people, because contrary to popular belief, the old boys were ruthlessly driven out in the 80s.
(I'm in London at the moment and I do acknowledge that this place is fucking fabulously expensive).
But it's true that the overall cost of living is still much higher than anywhere else in the EU (save maybe Copenhagen or Zurich).
don't be hatin' bro, or what ever the vernacular is.
Although it's more full beards at the moment than moustaches. Which I, for one, consider an improvement.
Sure there is; don't join the clique. There is no law, private or otherwise, that says you can't play your own game and win.
Despite the hype, the Valley isn't the only game in town even today.
They can self-reinforce all they want but if they start losing because of outside forces then they will have to reexamine their assumptions or fail.
This article is simply pointing out how the lack of established practices manifests itself within SV culture.
You could write a similarly outrageous article about how the people at one of my former employers knew next-to-nothing about interviewing people and how that resulted in a pileup of even more people who knew even less :)
Why the bloody hell would you optimize for uniformity?
Way over here in reality: I've worked for 6 startups, some you've heard of, and some you haven't. At the smallest I was employee 6; at the largest ~60. Now, I'm not claiming I've never seen unprofessional behavior, but
1 - the interview process has been pretty obvious. Yes, I've grabbed dinner with founders at one company. What the hell do you think eating dinner with two people you just met to discuss their company is, exactly?
2 - In 6 startups, I've never gone drinking with the team before starting, nor do I know of anyone who has. None of my friends from those startups who are on im right now has either.
3 - At one startup, some engineers went to strip clubs. Not my thing. No known ill effects.
4 - I don't go drinking with coworkers except maybe once every three months. And drinking means 1-2 beers then out; it's been probably 3 years since I spent a whole night drinking with coworkers. No known ill effects.
5 - perhaps some people should leave sf and see the peninsula and valley. There's a whole world of startups here that have 30+ year old employees, some with kids. At many of these adult companies it's fine to come in around 9, bust ass, and walk out the door at 5:30. If you don't fuck around with pingpong and scooters all goddamn day, you'll find you don't have to spend 12 hours in the office to get your job done. Me personally: no fucking scooters, no ping pong. No known ill effects.
6 - I do wonder if Carlos would complain similarly if an employee came to an interview severely underdressed and the company held it against him or her. Probably not. So learning not to wear a 3-piece suit to a startup interview is just part of the gig. Do, oh, 60 minutes of reading on the internet and you'll probably be fine. Hell, email your damn recruiter and ask. He or she really wants you to get that job.
7 - For ultra-small startups, recruiting from social circles is just part of the deal. I imagine very few tiny companies really hire randoms off the internet, or whatever people did before craigslist and dice.
8 - whining about white and asian males is fine, but how on earth did he miss indian males? Has he ever seen the valley?
9 - on a serious note, it's really weird how startup demographics mirror cs degree demographics.
10 - and while I do strongly believe we should make the industry more inclusive -- holding tiny startups responsible for not creating a recruiting pipeline back to high school is ridiculous. I'm not sure where social responsibilities kick in; it's some gradient between the 1 person company and the $10B corp. But the small startups don't have the resources to do much about it.
This is not about moral obligations. It's about how stupid it is to use such a subjective filter for potential hires while lying to yourselves how “open” and “cool” you are.
Uh? On the maps I have India is in Asia.
So yes, this hasn't happened to me, and I presented much more or, at bare minimum, the same actual data points.
No one owes you a job. If you think companies are missing out on your amazing talent, start your own and prove them wrong. This is a million times easier to do with software than with a white-shoe Wall Street firm.
This implies that there is a large untapped talent pool to be developed. Since the tech war boils down to a talent war, the company that figures out how to get over itself and tap that pool wins.
And I am not convinced that it is a bad idea to look for "cultural fit". For example I don't dismiss anybody as a programmer who has never heard about Paul Graham or Joel Spolsky, but certainly consider it weird and it's probably at least a minus in my book.
Actually I can't believe you can say this with a straight face. It is well known what a good hiring criterion is (e.g. productive, smart, not an asshole, can work with different people etc). All these things can be sussed out during the interview process quite professionally without resorting to questioning people's musical tastes and what they do in their free time.
> And I am not convinced that it is a bad idea to look for "cultural fit".
You just might be young and inexperienced but it is also possible you are socially inept and can't get along with professionals whose character and background don't match yours - and don't get me wrong - this is just the read I'm getting from your posts, it's not meant to be an insult.
If anything terrifies me in this world it's intolerant, prejudiced, xenophobic people who can't get along with anyone who is not exactly like them. Absolutely detestable stuff.
And I for one don't really care about having dinners with my coworkers, going clubbing together and similar nonsense. You're paying me to do a job for you and I will deliver my end of the deal. Beyond that I owe you nothing, especially not things like entertaining you and inflating your ego in your free time.
People seem to struggle to determine those things during an interview, though. If you don't understand me, I can only diagnose a lack of curiosity on your part. Otherwise you would have read some of the countless articles on hiring issues by now.
" people who can't get along with anyone who is not exactly like them"
I never said anything like that. I just think it is a good idea to judge people by what you know. What else can you do? It's completely random to hire somebody you don't understand or where you don't know where they are coming from.
"And I for one don't really care about having dinners with my coworkers, going clubbing together and similar nonsense. You're paying me to do a job for you and I will deliver my end of the deal."
It's nice that you don't care about your coworkers as people (having dinner with them or becoming friends). I am sure there are loads of companies that are perfect for you, because they only require blue collar programming drones.
But why should what you prefer be good for every company? Why shouldn't a company be allowed to aim for co-workers who become friends? Why not let the market sort it out (maybe the drone companies will outperform the friend companies, maybe not).
First of all, I care about my coworkers to the extent it is necessary to work together. Also, if they ever run into hardships, I am willing to help out if I can. It's just basic human decency that I will afford to anyone in my life, not just coworkers. But at the end of the day, I am primarily seeking a mutually profitable business relationship, not an emotional relationship.
Second of all, I don't have the need to become friends with my coworkers. If it happens spontaneously then fine. Work is a good place as any to make friends. If it doesn't happen, I'm really not going to lose my sleep over it. I don't have an obsessive need to be friends with my coworkers.
Also, I think you'll be surprised when I tell you I actually work for a company building cutting edge stuff. The fact that you assume that you need to work at a particular kind of startup with a particular culture to have that just shows how prejudiced you are. There are plenty of amazing and rewarding jobs that don't require these things.
> But why should what you prefer be good for every company? Why shouldn't a company be allowed to aim for co-workers who become friends? Why not let the market sort it out (maybe the drone companies will outperform the friend companies, maybe not).
Fair enough. I respect your opinion. However, if you're going to screen people based on arbitrary criteria, why don't you go ahead and put those criteria in the job ad? What's preventing you from making the process transparent by writing say, "Only people who are like us and seek to become friends need apply"? Or perhaps "Only people who listen to Michael Bolton and like drinking beer on Fridays...". That would be perfect because people who are not interested in those aspects could just skip your job ad and move on without having their precious time wasted jumping through hoops in a lopsided game with oblique rules. Don't you think that simply listing technical requirements in the ad and then turning tables on people and changing the rules of the game once they're sitting in the room with you is unfair and disrespectful? Are you afraid that listing those criteria would make your company look ridiculous?
Also, saying such things beforehand would make them too easy to fake.
I am btw not advocating to hire based on musical taste. I only mentioned it because it seems to be something people often talk about when they get to know each other, and because it might indicate likelihood to get along.
"The fact that you assume that you need to work at a particular kind of startup with a particular culture to have that just shows how prejudiced you are."
Where did you get any of that? I never mentioned startups, nor did I say one culture is better than another. I just think people should be free to choose.
Not really. I've had plenty of co-workers over the years I did not particularly like, but with whom I've had very productive working relationships. I'm not saying I actively disliked them, but they are not the type of people I would have become friends with in other situations.
There was the guy who was super into his micro-brewery, had to make sure everyone knew about it, and had a critical opinion of every restaurant in the county. Super annoying, great programmer, we worked really well together. One of my favorite co-workers.
There was the lady who went on and on about her pugs. She always smelled like she'd just expressed their anal glands. Very self-absorbed as well. You could depend on her to take care of any issue that came to her desk in a timely fashion, with excruciating attention to detail.
There was also the one office assistant who was the nicest, friendliest person on the floor. She never got anything done. You either had to nag her about something, work around her, or just do it yourself.
Of course, often times when you take the time to get to know someone you find that your initial impression was wrong or shallow, and you end up really liking them. However, your "culture fit" portion of the process never gets beyond that shallow impression. Learning to get along with people you don't "like" is one of the hallmarks of maturity.
One guy was very awkward socially, over confident in himself and under-appreciative of everyone else. At least that is how he appeared in the interview. My team at the time rotated three people through as a hiring board to spread out the work of finding people and I was on the board that interviewed him. He was a very weird guy, and I mean more than your typical loner/introvert with underdeveloped social skills. We were a little worried about his ability to work well with the team, but on technical merits he was fantastic. He also didn't show any red flags, just general weirdness. So we hired him, and he was a good fit. Definitely in the top half of our team as far as quality and timeliness of his output.
I'm also glad that the people managing the hiring process for the other two employees I mentioned was willing to look at their professional record and not at their "culture fit" because pug-lady and microbrewery-guy were some of our best people. When I left the company where I worked with microbrewery guy, he was the one to whom I handed all of my outstanding projects.
Do you know how to do your job, how to stick to a deadline, and how to work with other people?
>It's nice that you don't care about your coworkers as people (having dinner with them or becoming friends). I am sure there are loads of companies that are perfect for you, because they only require blue collar programming drones.
So if I don't drink with you, I must be a terrible, low-end uncreative programmer?
I didn't say that - I said that there are surely companies where you are a good fit. But why would every company have to want to hire you? Why shouldn't some companies be allowed to say they want a more friendly atmosphere? I am not even saying I would prefer that myself.
I personally have made friends at work, but it had nothing to do if they read Spolsky, they snowboarded or listen to whatever things you are implied are a positive filter in the interview process. From everywhere I've worked, I would say 99% of the people you work with won't be your friends, and that is fine, heck, even a positive thing in my opinion and assuming that people that don't conform to your idea of a worker are just 'drones' does make it hard to agree with you on other points you make.
What else than a worker drone environment is that?
My talk about musical taste or whatever was just a random example, because it is something people often talk about in the initial stages of getting to know each other.
What I mean is: why should it be a bad idea to hire based on how much you like somebody (given that you checked the required skills)?
If it really is a bad idea to hire based on who you like, then it seems to follow that ideally hiring should be done by a computer? Has any company tried that yet? For sure many already have automated filters on application, is that a good thing?
People here some to think I suggest a checklist including "same musical taste" and hire based on that. That is not at all what I mean. I just think it is ridiculous to recommend that you should hire people you don't like.
Plus, you would discriminate against tech oriented programmers that focus more on technological side of the things over soft-quasi-management one. Both of them are arguably smart and experienced, but their blogs are more opinions then need to read text books full of practical tips.
I don't get why it is supposedly a bad thing to judge people by their preferences, either. Why shouldn't I prefer to mingle with people who like the same things as I do? By definition, I probably wouldn't like the things those other people like, which would make for awkward dinner conversations and so on (what if they cherish Michael Bolton????). It's good to sometimes leave the filter bubble, but maybe hiring (where you will be stuck with somebody for years) is not the right place for it.
Other than that, he can read what he please. I have no reason to care whether his knowledge came from business book, programming book, Joels blog, random browsing or coursera videos, as long as that knowledge is solid (relatively to position he is taking).
There is nothing awkward about dinner conversation with a person with different preferences, unless you lived in mono-culture whole your life. Politely state that you do not like Michael Bolton and optionally specify what you like. For some reason, people always managed to find things to talk about, even as hiring managers did not cared about leisure time readings or movie preferences.
And seriously, most of your time together should be spend working, not chatting about music. If startups really focus on dinner conversations more then on product and sales, then they are as dysfunctional as big bad corporations.
I admit that there are types of personalities I had hard time to work with, but the problem was not in us reading different blogs nor using different programming language nor movies nor music.
I have a hard time imagining somebody who truly cares about programming to learn about Joel's blog and not devouring it (I mean the earlier days, when it was still about programming). I could let it pass if they never heard about Joel, but they know lots of other interesting stuff. Or anything else, really - it is the basic difference between somebody just doing their job and somebody curious about everything. If somebody is a Java developer and only reads about Java programming, he might be a good fit for some jobs. But I am different - I constantly read about new programming languages and development trends.
Why should it be good for me to work with somebody who only cares about Java? And what would you take about during lunch - Java development?
I am not saying you should hire based on musical taste, but I am waiting for a solid argument for why you shouldn't.
More specifically: why is "hire who you know/is like you" supposed to be a bad heuristic? If you know you yourself are efficient, it seems likely somebody like you is also sufficient. At least it seems more likely than that a random stranger (or somebody who explicitly isn't like you) is efficient. Please show me data to the contrary if you disagree with that heuristic (especially, as I said in my first comment, as nobody really seems to have a clue how to hire).
Back to Joel: it seems more likely that somebody who knows Joel is a good programmer than somebody who doesn't know Joel. Would you disagree with that assessment? Look at it in reverse: how would a good programmer not know about Joel's blog?
Someone who does not read the same old blog as you is not curious? That does not make any sense. I checked out Joels blog now (after years) and there does seem to be anything exceptional or different then what is on gazillion other blogs.
If anything, Java guy reading about Java could learn about map reduce, full text search, security, compilers, algorithms, sound processing, text analysis, artificial intelligence and million other things in the process. There are java libraries for all those things and when you follow java news you are primary learning about those.
Mastering full text search library in ruby is easier if you already mastered another full text search in another language. The underlying concepts are going to be similar.
I get it, you care more about language itself, but that does not make you more curious nor better developer. It makes you slightly different.
"And what would you take about during lunch - Java development?"
I would try various topics until I find the one we can talk about. Plus, discussion with someone who knows different things then me is more interesting usually, I learn new stuff from it. Listening to the same ideas I read about yesterday does not make for a compelling lunch.
"I am not saying you should hire based on musical taste, but I am waiting for a solid argument for why you shouldn't."
You might as well hire on color of their eyes.
"I would try various topics until I find the one we can talk about."
I am not talking about meeting once and making small talk. I am talking about meeting every day, for 10 years straight.
Curiosity: if somebody can give me a good reason why they don't like Joel, OK. But if they have never heard of him, it seems likely they are not curious about programming. Btw please mention some of the other gazillion blogs that say the same things? (Refer to the top list he has in the sidebar)
"You might as well hire on color of their eyes."
You think people have as little control over their musical tastes as over the color of their eyes? If they like death metal, it is just a random variation that says nothing about their personality? Or if Gangster Rap is their thing? Musical taste says nothing about personality, is that really what you believe?
You are conflating with what you are interested in with what everybody should be interested in. Some people just don't care about Spolsky or aren't big fans of his writing. That doesn't mean anything about those people's interest in programming or computers.
The whole point of this article is that companies and teams are creating cliques out of cultural preferences and setting up those that fall outside of their preferences as inferior for not liking what they like. The last several posts you had in this thread reenforced this idea: well gee I found this thing interesting/useful, anyone who doesn't clearly isn't any good.
Of course it does. Joel advocates a certain style of development. If you don't like him, you likely don't like that style of development. If your company works "Joel style", why should you hire somebody who doesn't like that development style.
Sorry, but the criticism here is ridiculous. It's clear people don't even think about what they write.
If you still work together 10 years later, your topics will be much different then. Whatever you read now is irrelevant. However, with company hires being focused on dinners and lunches small talks, the company is not likely to stay together 10 years later on. Not unless huge changes in culture happen.
As for music taste and personality, I do not see much of reliable and relevant to employment. If they would act like jerks towards anybody who does not share their passion or would insist on playing it loud despise other people objections, yeah I would have the issue. Other then that, nope. As far as I'm concerned most people listen whatever was the thing where they grew up.
I've always enjoyed finding out what's on the playlist of the great developers I work with, because I am always surprised.
2. Just-so story about how X is essential for good programmers (which, by definition, I am.)
3. "Therefore I interview for developers who do/are X."
If you believe X is important for programming, why on earth would you hire somebody who doesn't like/know about X?
It's possible that you are mistaken about X being important. But then you are screwed anyway. But if you start hiring based on things you don't know, you are also screwed.
At the end of the day everything you do is based on your beliefs. Maybe you started an IT consulting company because you believe Rails is the best thing ever. Then why should you hire somebody who doesn't believe that? If you think about it, the whole premise of the article is completely ridiculous.
So do that. Stop pretending you are a psychologist, and capable of figuring out what kind of personality is good at this job, because those are things you don't know.
Instead, give work-sample tests. Those are something you can know. You can look at the results the person emits. Then hire based on that. Personality only needs basic things like "doesn't spit on other people" and "doesn't say racial/sexual slurs to coworkers/clients."
There's no reason to think that a psychological test designed by non-psychologists is even as good as random guessing. On the other hand, work-sample tests have been studied and are a very good guide. Commenter 'tokenadult has FAQd this up for us: http://www.focus.vc/tokenadult-recruiting-faq/
A computer can administer a psychological test, and it can administer a programming test. Problem solved?
Other than that, again: you can only act based on the things you know. So the conclusion is nobody is qualified to hire (since the article talks to everybody)? Of course it is possible that there are some clueless people in the business of hiring. But people can only do what they can do. I don't see any practical advice in that article.
The very practical advise is to deliver a work-sample test. Tell the person exactly what you are looking for up-front("we want this code to run as fast as possible" versus "we want this code to be very readable") and then measure on what you said you looking for.
If you do a lot of code maintenance, pull up a piece of your code with a bug and have the candidate hind it. If you do a lot of OOP, describe a recent problem and have him design the class.
The article also doesn't say don't hire people you will get along with. You should try to hire such people but a workplace is a professional environment and not an extended family like some places like to paint themselves. First of all such places should be avoided because no workplace is an extended family and second because they are being unprofessional and exploitative if they pain themselves that way. The recent github fiasco is a good examples of what happens when people forget that workplaces are professional environments and github is actually one of the better places where work and life balance is highly valued. So yes if you're hiring a Rails developer then you should look for someone that understands Ruby and Rails but you shouldn't really care if they are a devout follower of the church of DHH because that has no bearing on their ability to do the job.
I personally don't think there is much to be learned from it. It was just a normal situation where employee and employer don't get along anymore - it happens thousands of times every day. I don't think because of that people should now shut down all emotions at their workplace and only focus on their work and never talk to each other.
You can not really demand that every employee has to be happy at every company and vice versa.
Knowledge depth, for one. The time you spend reading about new trends and languages is time not spent getting deeper knowledge about the skills you already have.
Maybe you spend just as much time as he does gaining knowledge depth in your chosen language and spend some of your free time reading about trends and languages, whereas he might spend time with his family instead.
You're still basing this decision on an arbitrary signal like "Reading about trends and languages makes you a better programmer", which is a very difficult thing to prove, the least of all reasons being that there are no hard lines drawn in the sand regarding programmer skill levels and the positions that they qualify for.
But then someone with this same attitude comes along and reads about trends, languages, and computer science developments. That guy won't hire you because you don't read about computer science developments because he thinks those three sources of knowledge makes you an even better programmer. He spends the same amount of time gaining knowledge depth as you do, but spends even more time reading about trends, languages, and CS developments, regularly sacrificing an hour of sleep.
And then someone comes along and reads about trends, languages, CS developments, and hardware hacking[, and social engineering][, and UI/UX theory][, and mathematics developments].
You can see how this can quickly fill someone's entire waking hours in a rat race to be the guy casting down judgment.
>Back to Joel: it seems more likely that somebody who knows Joel is a good programmer than somebody who doesn't know Joel.
You can hang around forums and parrot whatever other people are talking about and blend in without ever having to elaborate or think about Joel's blog (not to mention actually practice any of it). This is the same sort of signalling that SV is using according to the article.
I know about Jeff Atwood and his famous Fizzbuzz post. If you do a bit more reading, you know that it's not actually meant for the technical aspects: http://blog.codinghorror.com/fizzbuzz-the-programmers-stairw...
Having that bit of knowledge quickly skyrockets my perceived skill level above "the crowd". I'm an insider now, someone to get a little excited about hiring, and for no more work than it took to read a blog.
Then I start rattling off other things I've seen on here, reddit, and other places that make me seem intelligent and well-read. Now they're tittering to give me an offer.
Then they get a nice dose of reality when they learn I'm still pretty new with regards to actual skill.
If I wanted to be an SV insider, I'd follow the same procedure: read about what signals they are looking for, mimic those signals, and play it by ear the rest of the way. I guess if I had to code actual projects to make it then I can't be as deceptive because I'll actually know how to do something. (To save some of my dignity, I actually have done that!)
This is job hiring through obscurity.
You are right about forums. Although I have the impression many of the people who are very frequent writers on HN are also very good developers. So at least it's not necessarily a negative signal.
But it shows you are willing to read blogs to further your knowledge. Presumably even voluntarily. Would you really say that is just a weak signal, especially in a profession that changes as quickly as IT?
>Well I initially said "if somebody doesn't know Joel or Graham, I would probably count it as a minus", not a deal breaker.
Oh, sorry. I still think it can swing opinions too much being what it is.
I guess I believe that a company does not have a moral obligation to foster diversity and social mobility. It is possible that a company can benefit from that, though (ie wider candidate pool - lower wages, and so on).
"Another trait, it took me a while to notice. I noticed the following facts about people who work with the door open or the door closed. I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most.
But 10 years later somehow you don't know quite know what problems are worth working on; all the hard work you do is sort of tangential in importance. He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important.
Now I cannot prove the cause and effect sequence because you might say, ``The closed door is symbolic of a closed mind.'' I don't know. But I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing - not much, but enough that they miss fame."
Secondly, if you can only work with people you would be close friends with, you are massively reducing the talent pool available to you. If multiple companies are behaving the same way then you will be paying more for less skilled staff.
Meanwhile it's hard to see what the benefit of hiring from such a limited pool is? They're your work colleagues, not your party buddies, so who cares if you don't want to go to the same clubs? Just hire good professional people, surely? If they're pros, then any intra-group conflicts are manageable.
"Just hire good professional people, surely?"
So why have any hiring process at all, if it doesn't matter who works for/with you?
Some people realize they spend most of their waking hours at work, so they want to get along with the people they work with.
Firstly, "google it", well actually "google scholar" it. Go to the public research body rather than the general internet and spend some time finding some reviews (I mean proper peer-reviewed reviews), look for ones that are highly cited and ~5-10 years old. Then start following up, with standard procedures. This seems an important topic to you, and you're unwilling to follow the modern wisdom - which is completely fine, no criticism from me over that. So I would recommend spending at least a couple of weeks on this, go down to the primary experiments that the reviews draw on and see what the researcher's are really debating with each experiment. Look how the experiments being done have informed recent reviews and why viewpoints are changing. Make sure everything you're reading is peer reviewed, or you will waste a lot of time. Without two years+ in a subject, filtering the bull is hard.
I would also be very careful about whether the researchers are indirectly or directly being paid by the recruitment industry rather than centrally funded, since commercial funding makes the validity of the results more uncertain.
So I'm not saying "Google it". I'm saying do some bare minimum reading on the research corpus.
Just to go back to the above message. I'm not saying have no hiring process, obviously you need to evaluate the candidate. But for me, once I've checked for egregious personality flaws, they don't need to be my friends. Think of it this way: falling out with friends is terrible and likely to be very destructive to morale on your team - people will take sides and within the space of an hour your company has been ripped apart. Office politics will be much greater, while bad decisions based on emotion - "can't fire him, we had a real heart to heart last night", "let's do this because I like x more than y" are much more likely.
If you're pros, then melodrama becomes much less likely. Furthermore, you know you've been hired to be great at your job rather than because you behave in a certain way. Better motivation to focus on the job rather than the politics.
Then why are you spending so many words arguing about it?
Besides, I can't stand bullshit and prejudice.
Point me to some specific data. otherwise, how can I possible reply?
The result has been repeated ad nauseum, it's not exactly hard science, though getting into the precise details is. Otherwise, the old mantra is, if you don't believe it, try it yourself.
Technically, asking someone why they think <anything>, is asking about their believes. Does that seem logical to you?
Have you ever played D&D, Warcraft, or any RPG ? What happens to a party where all the characters are the same type?
If you manage to run your company as a factory where individuality doesn't matter, only code output or whatever, good for you. I don't see why it should be the go-to model for everyone, though.
I seem to remember blog posts about the music system at GitHub. Not sure if they play music over speakers? If anybody would put Michael Bolton on, the feelgood atmosphere might receive a serious dent.
Btw I am not a recruiter.
This is no different than any narrowminded and now dead organisation of the past that failed to survive because they couldn't take on people who weren't "the right type". As a result they failed to even find out what they don't know, let alone how to fix it and were completely surprised when history passed them by and they became the butt of the joke. (Mind you the 42 floors article is a parody in itself so we don't have to wait for the joke)
I know that is what they claim, but is there any proof? Anything at all? That was my question. The claim is that you should hire people you know nothing about rather than people you know something about. Like if you are from Harvard, you shouldn't hire other people from Harvard, you should hire people from some community college, who are as different from you as possible.
"This is no different than any narrowminded and now dead organisation of the past that failed to survive because they couldn't take on people who weren't "the right type". "
Which organizations you talking about? Name at least one example, please. I am not aware of such a story.
Another way to phrase the question: should you hire people you could likely be friends with? If not, why not?
And I never said you should hire based on musical taste, just that it is possibly a relevant data point.
I can only imagine you'd have to kill them with the soup spoon to save yourself.
The point of the article is that superficial matters like dress code are the last thing you should be looking at when trying to hire and that monocultures in general are something to be avoided. You can't do that though if you are only ever hiring people that think, talk, and in general act like you.
In theory I am all for diversity, but I can imagine that in some endeavours it helps if you get along with the people in your team. I don't think "hiring what you know" is really that much of a mistake. I would hire my friends, for example, because I already know I get along with them.
People with different mindsets will challenge you. They will disagree with your decisions. They will think of different approaches that may be much better than what you are doing. If you let them, they may drastically improve your business.
Are your friends the best fit for the job? What if someone likes different music and whatever but is ten times as effective at that type of position? I would consider the latter far more important. You're hiring people to do a job, not socialize with.
Which might significantly slow you down. Maybe there are different times for different approaches.
And if you just want a job done, why would you want to hire somebody who disagrees with you?
Some people on this site seem to be desperate to fulfill the rituals they think will lead to success. Most of success is pure luck, combined with some preparation and ability to deliver.
But you are merely doing the same thing, except that you revere the author of the article more than the PayPal founder. Why should the article writer be more right than the PayPal founder?
Whereas "paypal founder" is an intended signal, that if you do what they suggest, you will have similar success as "paypal founder."
It's a good thing that there are all sorts of companies. There are companies where everybody has to wear a uniform all day, and companies where people work in their underwear all day (because they work from home). Some people might prefer the one, others the other. But then to write "everybody should be working in their underwear at all times" is just bullshit.
Maybe the underwear people will outperform the uniform people. In 20 years there would be only underwear companies left. Or vice versa. Or there will always be a mix. But if you want to predict that ("I claim that underwear programmers will outperform uniform programmers"), you should provide some very good arguments.
People do what it takes to get a job. With the exception of 3 or 4 people you really know, that friend of yours, thats not a real friend, he couldn't care less about you. What you have is an employee skilled in pretending to be your friend.
It was the only job requirement!
You met him because you "accidentally" ran into him. You get along with him because he is a great performer. He likes the same music, wears the same cloths, has the same hobbies etc etc. You don't know who he is, it is all make believe, he doesn't even like organic carrots. When you close the door behind you he is glad you are gone.
You've recruited a psychopath who smiles pretty when you desire it. If he doesn't smile you might fire him! Smiling at you is the only skill required to get the job and the tenure. He doesn't have real skills or at least very crappy ones.
If he didn't start out like that you can still make a real friend into one. Might take a few years before they get tired of your ravings about organic carrots. That way they can gradually practice the act you desire from them.
I suppose it is a bit like the credit card wife.
 - http://www.wikihow.com/Identify-a-Psychopath
And the point in things like musical taste and blogs is that they are not that easy to fake. You have to make a real investment (spend time listening to music, reading,...). That's the point of signaling, which is what muscial taste is.
As for work sample tests, there are also those who criticize programming tests because they say people might just be bothered by the interview situation and in reality be much better programmers. If you let the candidate do it at home, they can fake it by letting somebody else do the coding.
I personally would certainly want to see some demonstration of programming skill.