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Agree with this. No amount of formality and forced stoicism is going to eliminate the myriad biases that creep into every minute action and decision we all make every day. Hiring is a notorious minefield where believing in your own impartiality merely demonstrates a lack of self-awareness, or worse.



I cannot upvote your comment ( and the parent ) enough. If the labor market in tech was a perfectly competitive market where all parties had perfect information, hiring would be a lot more straightforward. However, as you state, cognitive biases and lack of rationality on both the supply and demand side muddy the waters.


Many orchestras have found a fairly simple solution to the problem - https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%22blind+auditions%22+hiring+music...

I'd hope to have a similar 'audition' approach that included not only basic programming skills but also –and as a junior level programmer, more importantly– learning skills. For example, commenting or debugging internal framework code (something that all interviewees are experiencing for the first time).

In regard to the linked article's approach - I couldn't afford to take three weeks off of my current job, to learn a new language, even if the training gave me a slim chance of a new job (I still have bills to pay). That said, I do think wish there were more apprenticeship type approaches for junior devs.


That would be pretty cool-- and although software development is meritocratic, it's not as meritocratic as those orchestras, right?. They simply want the best musicians PERIOD, whereas lots of software companies would probably hesitate to hire someone with a lot of talent but a toxic attitude.


> and although software development is meritocratic, it's not as meritocratic as those orchestras

Software development IS NOT meritocratic and neither are orchestras. There is just as much politics, networking, and problems with "value" in orchestras as in software development.


This sounds a bit cynical and negative to me. Probably if your company is too big then these are quite inevitable. But at least at where I work now I feel free. There's enough transparency, candidness and equality among all. Don't know whether things will change in the future, but a relatively "clean" state is certainly possible, at least according to my current feelings.


Unfortunately I'm in bind with first impressions. By nature, I'm a massive introvert, which has always caused me problems. But I'm also coming from a toxic workplace environment (our boss regularly berates employees in front of other employees, to include profanity and yelling loud enough to be clearly understood through multiple walls, and he's been know to literally rip doors off their hinges, just because he's mad at the world). In the handful of interviews I've been on, I've tried to focus on the positives of potential new jobs, instead of the negatives of my current job, but I always seem to slip up and mention something about the toxic nature of my current position. The combination of these two factors means I have a really hard time "making a good first impression".

I recently completed a programming bootcamp and when I explained this to several of my classmates they made a point of highlighting what a great programmer I am (relatively to our peers) and that I'm a really great person to work with "once people get to know me". But, there's the crux of the matter for me - in an interview situation, if I'm ruled out in the first 30 seconds then nobody "gets to know me" or my programming potential. To add to the irony, about 2/3rds of my current co-workers know that I'm looking for a job and they regularly make comments to me about how much they don't want me to go, followed by comments about understanding my need to work in a less toxic environment.


I also realize that no two people or situations are alike, and that I have no idea what you're going through!

But from a fellow introvert who has had success with interviews: an interview is a good example of a social situation that's fairly "hackable."

By hackable I mean an interview is something where, at least compared to an open-ended conversation with a stranger, there are certain... branching paths of conversation?... that you can practice ahead of time.

The inevitable questions about why you're leaving your current job are definitely a thing you can practice. I don't think it's necessarily bad to mention some negatives regarding your current position and why you want to get out of it. If it didn't suck in some way, why would you be looking for a new job?

I think a good answer to the "why are you looking to leave your current position?" question would involve:

1. What you like about the new company ("You guys seem to hire really good coders, you're growing as a company, and I like your approach to A, B, and C.")

2. What you want to achieve at the new company (ex: "I'm looking for an opportunity to do less support and more coding.")

3. Optionally, something about what's bad at your current company. Preferably in a positive context. (ex: "I'm really excited about building modern web applications, and I'm not able to achieve that at Company XYZ because we've committed to supporting IE6.0 until 2050 because it's what the owner's mom uses.")

Anyway, it's not easy, but it's.... hackable. Unless it's a really weird interview, most of the ground you'll cover is rehearseable. Good luck!!


Thank you for the advice and good luck!

In all of the interviews I've been to recently, the interviewers continue to press me if I focus on their company and don't say something about why I want to leave my current employer.

After a particularly bad interview, I did start practicing for these types of questions and I'm getting better, but that's still relative. Part of the problem is that I've been in the toxic workplace so long and I'm so desperate to get out of it, that thoughts of escaping push to the front of my brain while I'm in interviews and I either blurt out something I shouldn't [1] or I just freeze up (think deer in headlights), typically a combination of the two which is even worse.

[1] I don't blurt out anything quite as bad as "my current boss is an ass", rather things like "My boss doesn't believe in bug trackers and I think they're extremely important." So far so good, right? But then there's a pregnant pause and I catch myself blurting out, "At least a client threatened to take away our business if we didn't start keeping bug records, so now we have 3-ring binders and paper forms to record our bugs. But that doesn't do any good when the same bug is reported multiple times in every binder and the boss doesn't actually look at the bug reports or give anyone else access to the code." At which point the looks on the interviewers face tell me I've blown it again. (Very true scenarios about our bug reporting and my idiotic blurting out in an interview.)


Haha. I've done very little interviewing/hiring, but if I was the interviewer I'd probably laugh along with you at that point - especially if I had just pressed you for more details about why you're leaving the current job.

Maybe it's how you're saying it, and not what you're saying? Is there somebody you could practice with? Somebody who could point out body language or tone of voice or other cues that could be giving interviewers the wrong impression about you?

One other possibility...

Maybe round out that story by mentioning how you (or the team you were a part of, even if you weren't the lead person on the effort) tried to solve that problem in a constructive way. "We gave our boss a presentation on three popular, low-cost issue trackers that we tried and liked... to no avail." Surely your next employer will make some decisions you don't agree with - they're wondering how you will handle them!


I certainly think part of my problem is the how I'm saying it. Unfortunately I don't have any friends who would give me constructive criticism (they'd give me plenty of criticism in jest, just none of the constructive variety). I wish I had somebody who could do this for me!

I have to admit, I never considered trying to recover after I get the "look" from interviewers. In fact, I had provided multiple recommendations on bug-tracking software, to include setting up demo servers for several different packages (because of those demos and related discussions, our interns started using both bug-tracking software and GitHub for their projects - so that was a definite win).


  > I certainly think part of my problem is the how I'm saying it.
First of all there's a chance you might not be coming across as awkwardly as you think you are. You know how it is when you're nervous - our perceptions (and our perceptions of how others see us) can get skewed.

If you truly are coming off awkwardly, what's the real problem there? The problem is this: the interviewer is wondering, "How is this guy going to interface with the rest of the team here if he's this awkward? Does he even know he's awkward?"

So... you can address both of those unspoken questions head-on. Mention that you tend to get nervous in interviews and when meeting people for the first time and that it's something you overcome fairly quickly and that you tend to develop really good working relationships with coworkers. (Because that's certainly true from what you've said)

  > I wish I had somebody who could do this for me!
If you live near Philadelphia I'll do it for a beer haha. Is there anybody non-technical that might help you? Siblings, parents...?

  > In fact, I had provided multiple recommendations on bug-tracking software, 
  > to include setting up demo servers for several different packages (because of 
  > those demos and related discussions, our interns started using both bug-tracking 
  > software and GitHub for their projects - so that was a definite win).
If I was interviewing you I'd find this impressive. You offered a constructive solution and, even more importantly, your solution got traction. Kudos!


Thank you so much for the advice and offer!

> ... you might not be coming across as awkwardly as you think you are ... I have no doubt that I am.

> ... you can address both of those unspoken questions head-on ... I honestly never considered this, but will in future interviews!

> If you live near Philadelphia... Unfortunately not.

> Is there anybody non-technical that might help you? Siblings, parents...?

Unfortunately I tend to have family and friends that are overly critical in a really bad way. The last time I asked my mother to look at my resume I was berated for 30 minutes for being so stupid, not using my god-given-skills, etc (i.e. nothing useful but lots of hurtful). I don't even bother asking the guys in my family, they're far worse than my mother. My friends really are great friends in many, many different ways, but tend to be truly lousy at giving constructive criticism. For example, I told one friend that I was going to be building an JavaScript application. She instantly went off on the evils of Java, how Apple won't run Java, and didn't let me get a word in. When she finally finished her anti-Java tirade, I tried to let her know some of the many differences between JavaScript and Java, but until a couple of other friends started quoting from wikipedia entries and intro tutorials, she wouldn't believe me that they really are two different languages. (I promise, she has been a really good friend in other ways!)

I do participate in a ton of meetups. Would it be appropriate to ask a peer from a meetup group to be a proxy for an interviewer?


Yeah that sounds like a great idea!


So get better at being a fake extrovert for 90 seconds. Programmers as a class of people are shy and awkward. Not hard to be not the shyest and awkwardest around.


Just be yourself. Interviews are not equal to acting like an extrovert, and any attempt to "fake" will likely backfire. But indeed I have to admit I was quite shocked at how incredibly unsociable and inexpressive those programmers are at my first work. Probably it's just because I'm not working at a world-class place yet and the sample size is way too small, I can only assume.


I've always figured that the thing about an "absolutely impartial" standard is a mirage. Go way too much into it and what you create will be deformed, mechanical processes which largely deviates from the thing's original intention and end up worse than what it intends to replace. Look at any huge national exam system(China for example) then you'll perfectly understand what I mean. Students get absolutely no space for personality, and nothing else than abilities to do specified types of exams get evaluated. No holistic abilities at all. A process with space for subjectivity certainly isn't perfect, but it allows so much more to be evaluated than purely mechanical and many times deformed narrow "skill sets", if so can be called. I remember reading Peter Thiel say PayPal didn't recruit a guy because "he loved playing basketball", although all other attributes looked great. That might be a little bit extreme but it says a lot about how hiring, and generally admission processes, isn't a precision science, and that's actually probably how lots of decision-makers want it to be. It requires dynamism, interactions and gauging between people. Simple blind mechanical assessment results aren't equal to "justice" in any way. It's the same thing as you cannot just choose your friends nor your mate by "assessment scores". I feel many commentators are stressing too much on another extreme of things here.


I honestly don't know: Is a toxic attitude somehow not a problem in the orchestra world?

Because you'll never convince me that no musicians have toxic attitudes. Even at the symphony orchestra level.


Most people don't have a toxic attitude, and you can always fire them if they do.


Blind auditions make sense if the candidate will be working independently, but they (deliberately) don't assess cultural compatibility.

Do you prefer the most skilled person, or a very skilled person who gets along well with your team, understands your industry, and cares about your mission?


Orchestras are not a collection of independent workers. Everyone works together as a team and chemistry is very important.

> your team, understands your industry, and cares about your mission

When teams are largely made up of a certain kind of person, using this as criteria for hiring is a sure fire bet to make sure your team stays homogenous and never grows outside of its little comfort zone.


I agree to some extent that we all have biases and that the reason given for a turn down might be individual and idiosyncratic; however, if you're getting similar feedback from different interviews, then one might want to reassess things.

So, yes, individually maybe they're not valuable, but in multiplicity they can become meaningful.


And the fundamental game theory of the interview processes: all the incentives for both players are to lie, lie, lie.




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