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Inside the Mirrortocracy (bueno.org)
393 points by ahupp on June 23, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 204 comments



That linked 42Floors blog post is terribly self-unaware.

> 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?


> Sometimes we’ll have a thirty minute interview extend the rest of the day and into the evening. We don’t mandate it, and we don’t ding you if you have other plans. But when it works out organically, it’s a nice thing for everyone and it moves the process along much faster.

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.

> 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 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.


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.

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.


The more I think about it, the more convinced I am it was satire. So, good work.


To think, all this time, I've been bringing non-organic carrots to interviews. Oh the shame.


"This is a Golden Sunrise carrot, in burnt orange with off-green foliage. Heritage. What do you think?"

"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 wouldn't want to work for a start-up that wasn't happy with a box of Micro Chips and a tin of special brew.


I was very surprised that a guy interviewing for what's basically a sales position - representing 42Floors to its clients, and asking them for money - was being dinged because he turned up to his interview dressed professionally!

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.


Why were you surprised? Did you look at the 42floors team bios page? One of them actually reads, "Also, accused of having a resting bitchface (RBF). She's working on it." Really.

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.


The hiring practices of some US companies is really surprising.

I have no idea how they avoid legal trouble.


A sufficiently aggressive lawyer just hasn't gone after them, yet.

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.


Well, it doesn't have as much to do with aggression as it does with payouts. The average startup doesn't have enough capital (or any revenue to speak of) to make it worth a lawyer's time.

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.


Is there really a statute of limitations on this sort of thing? I wonder if a lawyer can just wait 2-3 years for them to grow / get enough VC money to be a viable target.


It's pretty sad how people become exactly that which they hate.


I really, really, really hate rich people.


As a worker, if a company expected me to bring them a gift just to interview, I would figure that they either come from some strange foreign culture, or are complete arrogant assholes.


> That linked 42Floors blog post is terribly self-unaware.

It seems it has been taken down (http://blog.42floors.com/interviewing-at-a-startup/), or is someone getting content?


You can read it at the Way Back Machine:

https://web.archive.org/web/20140618142018/http://blog.42flo...


OMG, talk about unintentionally hilarious. No wonder they took it down.


This guy is very much not a good ad for either YC or "Tuck" (which I assume is a famous business skool in the US).


If an interviewee brought me a gift, I'd think they were either deeply incompetent, or a lick arse, or both.


I have noticed this myself at a few places I have interviewed and after the 2nd or 3rd time you can kinda smell it. Most of the time the company is just a bunch of 20-somethings running around with their heads on fire, working ridiculous hours because they have no idea what their tech stack is supposed to actually be, all the while getting paid almost nothing for wasting their best years in a monoculture bubble.

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.


> “Well, I grabbed coffee with the founder, and I had dinner with the team last night, and then we went to a bar together.”

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 do drink. A bit. Not much, though, and I'm not the bar type. For me, that would likely kill the interview. Maybe that's for the best; maybe I wouldn't fit with them, and that's a good filter. They're clearly looking for social as well as technical fits, and I wouldn't be that.


I feel the same way ... but I'd like to add that the main reason I hate bars is that they're too loud to have an intelligent conversation (except when they're almost empty). I have problems filtering background noise so it's even tougher for me - to the point where I commonly read lips.


> "They're clearly looking for social as well as technical fits, and I wouldn't be that."

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).


Yep. I'd decline and not get the job. I know that already [hint: I don't drink].

It is quite amazing how many people are completely oblivious to their own biases.


Who says they are oblivious? Maybe they just don't like to hire people who don't drink. Why should they be obliged to hire them?


Nobody's saying they should be obliged - but their complaints about how hard it is to hire people should now be taken with a larger grain of salt.

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.


Yep, precisely, I get on well with most of my workmates, and we have a few beers on Fridays together, but it's not mandatory.

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.


I never said they should be obligated to hire them.

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.


I'm sure if they are desperate enough they will overlook the drinking requirement. Maybe the hiring situation is not that desperate yet.

Edit: re "religious" argument: surely you can get some non-alcoholic drink at a bar? Water, if nothing else?


> Edit: re "religious" argument: surely you can get some non-alcoholic drink at a bar?

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.


Oh dear, if you want to accommodate for all religious preferences, it will become tricky soon. What if some religious person thinks homosexuals are bound for hell and they will be contaminated if they work alongside them?

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...).


Or you keep interviews in a professional setting so as not to discriminate against either. That's the whole point of being professional.

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.


> 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.

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".


" not requiring drinking isn't discriminating against people who drink"

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?


You can found a company where colleagues occasionally go to the bar together - as long as it is not mandatory, either implicitly or explicitly. But things that are a part of your hiring process are different than things that are optional parts of after-hours socializing. You should not be allowed to require such behavior because we, as a society, have decided that our employment should not be contingent on our lifestyle.

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.


The point is that religion, sexual orientation, etc., aren't supposed to be criteria in your hiring process, one way or the other. It doesn't matter if you prefer atheists or devout Christians. You are welcome to hold personal beliefs about religion -- but the topic itself shouldn't come up in the interview. And unless you're a religious organization, I can think of few reasons why it should ever come up in the workplace at all.

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.


> Surely there's a way to test for "cultural fit" that doesn't involve directly, or indirectly, testing for protected status.

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.)


Oh, I generally agree. "Cultural fit" was the reason my grandparents couldn't get into certain schools, clubs, organizations, or jobs. "Cultural fit" has a long and notorious history as a coded or indirect form of discrimination.

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.


But if you can't go to a bar with your colleagues, suddenly religion enters the equation. Should your colleagues never go to a bar to respect you? Or should they just go without you - but then maybe you don't get the promotion because your boss became friendly with a colleague who went along to the bar.

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.


Nobody is saying your company shouldn't go out to a bar "just because somebody's religious feelings might be offended." If you want to have company outings at bars, that is totally fine, provided a) attendance at said outings is optional and not mandatory (or even de facto mandatory, i.e., employees are held in some sort of disregard for not attending); b) attendance at bars is not evaluative, i.e., you are not using the bar as an indirect test of someone's fit on a protected dimension.

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.


> I'm sure if they are desperate enough they will overlook the drinking requirement. Maybe the hiring situation is not that desperate yet.

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.


"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.


Which is why any competent person that was aware that the interviewer's biases was the primary mechanism informing hiring choices...would decline.

I'm not sure why we need to talk this long about it to go back to the parent post?


Capitalism solves the problem? Let's say a company is based on a highly successful concept (say, like Paypal). Couldn't their potential advantage over their competitors in other regards than employment practises offset the cost of only hiring drinkers?

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.


Many people do not drink for religious reasons. You are not obligated to hire people who drink, but by virtue of employment discrimination laws, you are obligated not to discriminate against women and minorities in hiring.


Do a much lower percentage of (non pregnant) women drink? If that's true I certainly never noticed it. But I'm not from the US.


The issue is partially that pregnant women don't drink (and disclosing pregnancy shouldn't be part of the job interview), and partially that bars can be uncomfortable places for women. A woman should not have to worry about the guy one table over eying her up while she's trying to land a job. Bars are casual places, and it's not wrong to check someone out or hit on them. Indeed, that's one of the reasons people go to bars: to find a date. But these characteristics also make them inappropriate settings for a job interview.

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.


Wouldn't that depend on the choice of bar? There's a big difference between a nightclub at midnight and a gastropub during lunch time, especially since the latter will tend to also serve a selection of non alcoholic drinks.

People checking you out would also be a problem you could just as easily encounter at starbucks or indeed in the office.


Obviously you have to consider the social context. A place that's the local watering hole at night could just be a convenient lunch spot during the day. But the article mentioned going to a bar after dinner, which is generally a time and setting where people are out to drink and meet people to date.

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.


If it's after dinner that would suggest it's a social event rather than part of the interview itself. I can't imagine asking somebody serious questions about programming in a loud bar.

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.


> Wouldn't that depend on the choice of bar? There's a big difference between a nightclub at midnight and a gastropub during lunch time

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'm thinking of something that is more half way between, this might be more of a British phenomenon as I think our bar culture is somewhat different to the one in the US.


English pubs are not quite the same as American bars. I wish that we had more pub-style establishments. American bars - even the ones that serve decent food - typically turn into semi-nightclubs after 9 pm.


I'm sure nobody can force her to interview at a bar.


There's a difference between each of these three things: 1) Drinking, and 2) Going to a bar of one's own choice, with one's chosen companions, socially, and 3) Being expected (even if not stricly required) to go to a bar "socially" with one's employer or potential employer as part of an activity which may have consequences for one's employment.


It's a little alarming how quick the thread here backed away from this point, to reassure you that nobody is really saying that anyone is obligated to disregard drinking habits. No. People should definitely be reinforcing this (very real) ethical obligation. Don't select candidates based on their willingness to go to a bar during the interview process.


But why? I am not claiming it is a good idea. It wouldn't appeal to me at all. But why shouldn't people be free to hire in that way? What if the boss is somebody whose main lifestyle is hanging out in bars. Or the company wants to disrupt the nightlife business.

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?


There's a difference between a legal obligation and a rational move. It's not illegal to refuse to hire non-drinkers, but it is both irrational and even (if your firm becomes powerful in the labor market) somewhat unethical.


I'm not claiming it is a good idea to do so, I am just questioning the claim that companies shouldn't be allowed to do so.

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.


>Is it really outrageous to want to hire somebody you get along with well (more than just "being professional")?

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.


Meritocracy != Buddyocracy?


If you were a vegetarian, would you be offended if the interview was at a restaurant that serves mostly meat-based dishes?


> 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...You want a juicy industry to disrupt? How about your own?

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.


Indeed. And this is a particular problem in tech and the valley especially. In many other industries and other locations is perfectly acceptable to just run a business. Make stuff that people want and get on with your lives. But in an SV startup you exist in this bizarre world where if you're not changing the world with engineers who are the best of the best of the best then you're somehow fucking up. They don't actually hire the top 1% (or even 10%) of engineers but they create an elaborate kabuki dance which gives them plausible rationalizability that they do.

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.


Yes. I agree with you. The post is great but the conclusion is weak. I believe, a lot of this Culture constructo comes from marketing needs. They want to have a nice IstockPhoto start-up for investors.


   > 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.
I suggest comparing this...umm... shallow attitude with this example from a very different end of the economic spectrum (which was a link I found here on HN late last year):

    http://tressiemc.com/2013/10/29/the-logic-of-stupid-poor-people/
Type of job and income level seem to independent of the problem of gatekeepers (petty exercising of local power, often over superficial traits such as the current popular trends in apparel).


It's funny, really. Even poor white men are treated this way. People judge by appearances. People want to be around people that are like them. They want a 'tribe', not diversity. It's human nature.


This post is brilliant and correct. The best part is where he closes with the acknowledgement that the system works... to a limited degree. He's not just slamming it. It is actually an ok way to minimize risk at the cost of upside in the short term.

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.


> Without a natural feedback loop, interviewing mostly runs on myth and survivor bias.

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).


"Correlation doesn't equal causation" I've noticed that people tend to misinterpret this sentence. In a lot of discussions it shows that people think that there can be correlation while the things don't have _ANY_ relationship between eachother, as in the correlation would arise purely trough random chance.

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.


Correlation is a statistical term that means that two random variables exhibit "similar behavior" across the probability space. Causation is a philosophical concept taken as a scientific axiom. Correlation does not imply causation at all -- neither direct or indirect -- though it may increase the chances of logical consequence that is sometimes equated (albeit occasionally through confusion) with causality.

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.


> That is blatantly false. Correlation implies at very minimum a causal link trough a third effect.

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.


Sure. But with enough datapoints the probability of the correlation being a mere accident is going to be vanishingly small.

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.


Pointing out weird correlations that have absolutely no causal link whatsoever is a global sport.

https://www.google.com/search?q=weird+correlations

The first result is a beauty http://twentytwowords.com/funny-graphs-show-correlation-betw...


Divorce rate in Maine has a 0.99 correlation with US per-capita consumption of margarine.

http://www.tylervigen.com/view_correlation?id=1703


I thought the problem was with the statement was the "we've got a strong correlation here" bit, as if that were a meaningful thing. Correlation is weak evidence for a proposition (and sometimes weak evidence is all you've got) but the correlation being strong doesn't mean anything at all past the threshold of pure chance.

Someone who claims it confidently like that is well into the area of making shit up then rationalizing it.


I am managing software development teams in small startups and big companies in the Valley for more than 10 years now. I've probably had several hundreds of interviews, looked at thousands of resumes and hired a couple hundred people directly. One of the things I always look for during the interview is how the candidate is different from me. I obviously don't want to have weird folks who behave outside of the social norm in my team. But I absolutely love employees with different than my experience, education, background, and especially I love people who disagree with me. The team members who can argue with me are my best employees. These are the people I will be chatting to bounce ideas. These are the people I will be working hard to convince that my proposal is the right one. And these are the people whom I will go to when I need an advice (simply because they might see the problem from a different angle than I do).

"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.


Yet another absurdity from Monty Python has turned into reality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP0sqRMzkwo


The end of that video is the perfect accompaniment to the 42floors blog.

"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!!"


I would not call it *tocracy but business model. Company can pay under-market salary, if it inflates ego of its employees and make them feel special. It already works in science, fashion, medicine...


I think the article makes a mistake with its use of the word "diversity" here since these days the common use its ingrained more as a matter of race/gender and not so much opinions, and really you can find plenty of groups with that idea of diversity where everyone thinks the same and there's no debate whatsoever.

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 want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.” — Mark Zuckerberg

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!


There's a half truth there, a lot of young people think they are a lot smarter than they really are. They have false confidence that goes with not knowing what they don't know.


Agreed ... my own parents were pretty dumb until I moved out of the house, got a job, rented a house and had to completely support myself. Getting married and having kids added more responsibility (and made my parents seem even smarter).


"I’d rather be dead than sing Satisfaction when I’m 45."

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/08/12/jagger-satisfaction/


> Well, dude, no, actually you can overdress for an interview and you just did.

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.


What I find infuriating is how all these companies think they are so unique with their interviewing process then ask the same inane questions. This is worse when the same questions are asked by different people at the same company.

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?).


Qualifications are hard. I just graduated, and now that I'm a CEO I can tell you there's no way I'd hire someone just because they have my degree. At RPI (my school), there are at least as many completely worthless developers as there are diamonds, and they all have one degree.

I don't trust qualifications alone.


I agree, I wouldn't hire anyone just because they have my degree either BUT we need some qualifications to fill this gap otherwise the interview process will get more and more unwieldy.


"It's hard to find good people to hire"

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).


Every time I hear about salaries in London it makes me mad. Why is the pay so bad? How is it possible that the value isn't recognized? Are you able to demonstrate the value that you bring, or is it so much an old boys club that dev's are thought of as factory workers?

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.


Yes, the old class system. Engineers, no matter how qualified, better even than managers, are "blue collar" workers still. Better to have the right tie, played the right sports, and your father to use his network to give you a leg up. Even if you only have a a Third from Loughborough or Aberyswyth or Durham or some other joke university.

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.


City pays only a fraction of what the analysts/traders/etc. get.


But it pays programmers the global rate. I don't care that others earn more, only that I and my peers are treated fairly.


Perhaps not in the valley, but ~$105k is not ballpark absurd for senior dev in the US.

(I'm in London at the moment and I do acknowledge that this place is fucking fabulously expensive).


I live in Germany and spent almost 8 years in Austria before that & that (60k gbp = 75k eur) would be considered a very good salary for a senior dev here.


It is pointless to compare raw numbers without also considering cost of living. Rent, travel, food, entertainment, etc are all expensive in London.


Actually I think only rent and public transit are more expensive. Food and entertainment are cheaper than in mainland western Europe and flights from London are pretty cheap as well.

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).


I can attest to the lower than usual salary and high cost of living in LDN


Yeah but none of them are 25, thin, tall, tattooed and have boyish mustachios.

don't be hatin' bro, or what ever the vernacular is.


Heh you are not supposed to judge people based on such superficial traits. Programming skill is all that counts (according to the people who dissed me in this thread anyway).


Let me take you round the streets of Shoreditch.

Although it's more full beards at the moment than moustaches. Which I, for one, consider an improvement.


>The problem is that all cliques are self-reinforcing. There is no way to re-calibrate once the insiders have convinced themselves of their greatness.

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.


FWIW, hiring/interviews aren't just problems in SV culture. They're problematic all across the industries I've worked in.

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 :)


I think this is more about California culture than the Bay Area specifically. Are L.A. Or San Diego really that much different?


The thing that strikes me is that this isn't new. There is a famous story of Steve Jobs and his group abusing some guy who had shown up to an interview in a suit. DeMarco and Lister in Peopleware can be read as justifying aspects of this (see chapter 22).


> "The notion that diversity in an early team is important or good is completely wrong. You should try to make the early team as non-diverse as possible."

Why the bloody hell would you optimize for uniformity?


This problem isn't endemic to Silicon Valley (and SFO). It's spread to almost any given company in any given location in the US.


If like Rome, Silicon Valley should ever lose it's eminence, the blog post from 42Floors is a classic piece of evidence as to why it happened.


Carlos sounds like a wanker who spends too much time reading trust fund assholes on gawker bitch (and lie! Hi Sam) about startups.

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.


10 ... 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.


Whining about white and asian males is fine, but how on earth did he miss indian males? Has he ever seen the valley?

Uh? On the maps I have India is in Asia.


are you from the UK? In the US, colloquially, asian == japan, korea, china, vietnam, cambodia, laos and indian = people from india. Or perhaps you would call them south-east asian? But you would never call a person from india as asian.


South-East Asia generally refers to Vietnam, Thailand, etc. Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, etc. are South Asia.


sorry, right, south-asian. I'm tired. And also american, and therefore know nothing about geography =P


The Middle East is in Asia as well. Do you refer to, say, Israelis and Saudis as "Asian"? I gather that the terminology varies.


Ah, the good old "this hasn't happened to me so it doesn't happen" argument.


Do note that I mentioned 6 companies in which I have personal knowledge, while this article only mentions 42 floors (ie I presented 500% more actual examples than the author). Even if you where to believe all 7 companies the author has worked at -- counting the mugs on the about page -- are such bad startups, we still have nearly equal datasets. And that's not counting other startups I know about because friends are founders.

So yes, this hasn't happened to me, and I presented much more or, at bare minimum, the same actual data points.


I agreed with the sentiment of this article, until I thought about it.

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.


I don't think the author is looking at it from the point of view of a disgruntled interviewee, rather from the point of view of the company.

    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.
He's not the guy looking for a job, he's the guy hiring, looking at all of his peers and scratching his head over their insular hiring practices.


So what is a good/correct hiring criterion? I was under the impression that nobody really knows.

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.


> So what is a good/correct hiring criterion? I was under the impression that nobody really knows.

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.


"productive, smart, not an asshole, can work with different people etc"

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).


> 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.

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?


I would assume "liking each other" is usually a given job requirement. Also putting too many criteria into a job ad increases the risk for discrimination lawsuits, so it's probably better to just be generic.

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.


> I would assume "liking each other" is usually a given job requirement.

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.


But did you make the hiring decision for those people?


Not for one of the three I chose as examples, but yes for others.

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.


>I just think it is a good idea to judge people by what you know.

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?


"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.


While I agree with some points you make, and disagree with others, you are rubbing people the wrong way by using statements like "I am sure there are loads of companies that are perfect for you, because they only require blue collar programming drones" denigrating companies/people that aren't like you.

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.


The "worker drone" description was in reply to "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."

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.


I do not think that great programmer necessary reads a lot of what amounts to soft "programming/founder lifestyle" blogs. Especially since those two seem to be behind the peek of their fame. I do not remember their names appearing in major tech sites nor on any smaller topic/framework focused ones last years.

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.


So what blogs would a modern programmer read? I learned a lot from Joel, and I am not really aware of any blog that compares.

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.


Are you hiring programmer or drinking buddy? I would expect him to read blogs/news sites related to technology he used in past, because it basically means he educates himself about technology he uses.

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.


But isn't there a basic curiosity in some people?

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?


"But isn't there a basic curiosity in some people?"

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'm willing to bet that you don't live up to your own standards of being friendly with people. But I think you don't even understand what I am trying to say.

"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?


> 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.

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.


"That doesn't mean anything about those people's interest in programming or computers."

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.


It sounds like your answer to question "Are you hiring programmer or drinking buddy?" is "I'm hiring a drink/lunch buddy".

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.


Accidental downvote--I agree with you completely.


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?

I've always enjoyed finding out what's on the playlist of the great developers I work with, because I am always surprised.


anecdotally, yes, i've noticed very little correlation betweeen people's personalities and their tastes in music. why would you even expect there to be one?


1. "I do/am X."

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."


How do you propose to hire somebody you don't understand? It seems to make a lot more sense to judge people based on the things you know.

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.


It seems to make a lot more sense to judge people based on the things you know.

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/


So you would also say that it is best to leave all hiring to a computer, as I suggested in another comment (to summarize all comments I received)? After all, human perceptions seems to be too flawed?

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.


"I only know how to do ad-hoc personality tests, so ad-hoc personality tests must be how I can hire."

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.


I think you're missing the premise of the article. It doesn't say don't hire qualified people based on a set of characteristics. The article brings up various examples where people are totally confused about what those signals and characteristics of qualification actually are. Dress code, common taste in music, beer, literature, etc. are definitely not those characteristics.

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.


The "GitHub fiasco" would not have happened if they had only hired people who are like them. Bad example :-)

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.


>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?

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.


@facepalm I would much rather hire someone who reads in-depts books that those shallow blogs. Too much time spend on blogs and discussion forums is not that great thing.


Well you can get Joel's posts as a book: http://www.amazon.com/Joel-Software-Occasionally-Developers-...

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.


"for no more work than it took to read a blog."

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?


I think it's a weak signal. It should be a nice-to-have, not a deal-breaker. The article's signaling is even weaker in my opinion, and those are deal-breakers of the most superficial kind. It's too easy to gain significant credibility for so little actual work.

>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.


Well I initially said "if somebody doesn't know Joel or Graham, I would probably count it as a minus", not a deal breaker. But why should it not matter to my estimate whether somebody knows that or not. Would you believe somebody who claims they are passionate about physics but have never heard about Einstein (to make an obvious example)? How would you go about probing a candidates enthusiasm and determination?


So basically you don't really believe that diversity and social mobility are important with regards to the workplace.


I am asking you why you think it is important. I am not really interested in "beliefs". It seems curious that it is automatically assumed that diversity is beneficial. As I said, maybe there is a reason why your pals are your pals and you work better together with them than with strangers.

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).


Sounds a bit like NRx. Here's a Bell Labs story from Richard Hamming about office doors being open or closed. The metaphor is hopefully clear.

From http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html:

"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."


This is something completely different.


There's been quite a bit of research into group composition and dynamics and their effect on problem solving. In short, the main body of research seems to suggest that diverse groups show a higher group intelligence than homogeneous groups (have a search on google scholar). This is likely to do with a diverse group having a wider range of experiences, and more view points, to draw on in solving a problem. Ultimately, it's not about who you work better with, but how the group as a whole performs.

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.


That's just a handwavy reply (look up the research). I know the kind of research, and it is very hard to separate the ideologically motivated one from the worthwhile ones.

"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.


I don't know what's going on with the 'reply' button, but I don't seem to be able to reply to your latest comments.

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.


If you went through the Google Scholar thing, haven't you saved some articles you approved of? Why not point me directly to it? I don't really have time to become an expert in this by dozens of articles.


> I don't really have time to become an expert in this by dozens of articles.

Then why are you spending so many words arguing about it?


Discussing things used to be a good way to gain understanding. You know, back in the day before PC, when people were still willing to have a real discussion.

Besides, I can't stand bullshit and prejudice.


Discussing things is still a good way to gain understanding. But your unwillingness to acquaint yourself with actual research done on the topic tells me you aren't really interested in gaining understanding, just yelling your opinion louder than everyone else.


In response to your "hard data" reply: then point me to some specific articles to look at. "google for it" is just not good enough. You can find proof of anything by googling for it (global warming and anti global warming, creationism, evolution theory...).

Point me to some specific data. otherwise, how can I possible reply?


I don't seem to be able to reply to your reply to me further down the thread. So I'm just going to ask one question: "What is the point of asking for hard data when you're going to dismiss it since it doesn't agree with you?" If you don't believe the body of research, you are not going to agree with anyone's opinions here (unless of course they match your own).

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.


I think the deeper nested a comment is, the longer it takes for a reply button to appear. It's a HN heuristic, they think deeply nested threads are possibly flame wars and they want to slow them down.


I am asking you why you _think_ it is important. I am not really interested in "beliefs".

Technically, asking someone why they think <anything>, is asking about their believes. Does that seem logical to you?


Well you can give some reasons for your beliefs. Sure, at the end you probably always arrive at some core belief that is the basic for everything. But that core (axioms) might be more or less deep. You are asking me to believe something at face value, just because it is politically correct.


> It seems curious that it is automatically assumed that diversity is beneficial

Have you ever played D&D, Warcraft, or any RPG ? What happens to a party where all the characters are the same type?


Are you hiring a pal or a professional? Maybe it's useful to have someone different than you who can spot a different kind of flaws than you in the latest fad framework. Who gives a damn if it is Michael Bolton in someone else's earphones.


Some people seem to expect more from their job than just a place in a cubicle where they can do their duty for 8 hours and then go home. They want to have fun, be together with cool people and so on. If you can't bond over music, there is one fun factor less (btw Michael Bolton was a reference to the movie "Office Space").

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.


"If you manage to run your company as a factory where individuality doesn't matter". - You don't see the irony of this in the context of your argument for rejecting people because they have different musical taste? (not programming language preference but musical taste). The point of the article and its title "mirrortocracy" is that these people are building clones of themselves because of their narrowmindedness and that's increasing their chances of failure.

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)


"The point of the article and its title "mirrortocracy" is that these people are building clones of themselves because of their narrowmindedness and that's increasing their chances of failure."

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?


What if their taste in music or people changes, as their non-work social circle evolves? Do they become less desirable employees?


It's not impossible, is it? Companies fire people they had employed for years all the time. Friends drift apart all over the world, all the time, too.

And I never said you should hire based on musical taste, just that it is possibly a relevant data point.


I too used to be into Joel. Then I realized two things. Firstly, I didn't know a single person who used any Fog Creek products. And secondly that it simply was not credible that top-notch programmers would choose to work on something as dull as a glorified time sheet system. Nowadays, I would consider evangelising Joel to be a red flag for inexperience.


> (what if they cherish Michael Bolton????)

I can only imagine you'd have to kill them with the soup spoon to save yourself.


Some people live and breathe valley culture and others don't. I have met great programmers and just generally smart people on both sides of the fence. It's not the particular cultural understanding that makes them good or bad. It is usually something else. I wouldn't hold it against you if all you did in your spare time was paint portraits but for your day job you were a programmer. In fact that kind of variety in interests is indicative of intelligence whereas idol worshipping is not. Smart people tend to know there are no sacred cows and also tend to come from all walks of life with all sorts of passions and interests.

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.


So where is the fundamental argument against monocultures? The paypal founder seems to disagree? Is it just political correctness, or is there some hard data?

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.


The fundamental argument is that if you hire more similar people, you will get similar results. Are you a billionaire yet? If not, maybe you should hire some different types of people in order to deliver different results.

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.


"People with different mindsets will challenge you. They will disagree with your decisions."

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?


Another question: how would you hire, then? Just a programming test? Ideally anonymous, so that no prejudice can sneak into the assessment?


Programming test, discussing past experience (things they did, things they're proud of, where things went wrong, etc), etc. You're attempting to determine passion and curiosity by doing a "joel test", which is poor because you're biasing it towards people who have the same history as you. A better alternative is to ask for opinions, people who have opinions about programming practices/paradigms/languages/etc is a good signal for someone who is curious about their craft. Uncurious people never think deeply about what they're doing. People who care form opinions and ideas about what is good vs bad. It doesn't really matter what the opinions are, just that they have them and have some rationale for backing it up.

Examples: What is your opinion of Javascript as a lanaguage? * Whats your favorite language/least favorite language that you use/worst feature of your favorite language? Whats your opinion of the state of web development/how would you improve it? Static vs Dynamic typing? Functional vs Object oriented?


I think that's the point of the poster you're replying to. You examine the merits of someone's argument, not the fact they're one of the paypal founders. That is specifically the cult of personality referred to.

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.


"That is specifically the cult of personality referred to."

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?


This is the 'atheism is just another religion' argument, or the 'not being racist is just another racial preference' argument. You can't see the difference?


I don't know anything about dkarapetyan other than I agree with them that too many look to a cult of personality to give them the rituals to achieve the same sort of success.

Whereas "paypal founder" is an intended signal, that if you do what they suggest, you will have similar success as "paypal founder."


Probably should have replied here rather than above. Anyway, as I mentioned there, there is a ton of hard data showing mono-cultures generally being outperformed by diverse groups. Lots available as public research, you just have to look for it. You may have to pay for some journal access though. Hiring-what-you-know has been pretty much nailed down as a major mistake with hard data, but is also one that most people make.


I've been in both kinds of environments and I much prefer diversity. It's way too easy to burn out in a monoculture. I like working with people that have hobbies and passions both within and outside of work. It's just better on all sorts of levels to be in that kind of environment instead of one where people just parrot whatever is on the front page of HN. You learn more and consequently grow more as an individual in that kind of environment. That's all anecdotal but I'm not sure what you'd search for to find actual research on the matter. Micro studies show diverse groups often come up with better and more creative solutions when faced with novel problems.


Well I am all for people hiring or entering companies based on their preferences. If you prefer diversity, sure, go for it. I just don't see the sense in dictating people their preferences.

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.


That's funny. I wouldn't hire my friends for exactly the same reason.


My friends are too valuable to lose from joining a start-up with them.


Oh, let me enlighten you,

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[0] 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.

[0] - http://www.wikihow.com/Identify-a-Psychopath


That's a zero value argument because psychopaths will mimic whatever criterion you have. So the argument "psychopaths will hack your criterion" is worthless.

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.


Psychopaths can fake a personality test better than you can design around it. They can't fake a work-sample test.


I never said you shouldn't have a work-sample test. But I doubt everybody who can code is an equally good hire for every company.

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.




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