Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




"No Hire"

I understand the logic behind "one person says 'no hire' and it's over" but do the managers that advocate that ever look more deeply into the reasoning behind the "no hire"?

I mean, what if it was "look, anyone that can't tell me the value of vbAdoForwardOnly obviously wasn't an ASP Developer"? Or some other practically random criteria?

Does that sit well with you?

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Well I do not think that a "no-hire" absolutely means a "no-hire".  It only means as such when other members sit on the fence and are not enthused about the candidate.

Even if there is one strong "do-hire" the "no-hire" guy has to give proper reasons (as does the "do-hire" guy) as to why not to hire the person...and the reason can't be...this guy did not know what this doohickey was...unless it is something as fundamentel like a database guy not being able to tell you what an index is or a C guy not understanding pointers

Atleast when I interview I make sure that I do not make such judgements based on some technical trick questions because dammit I know that sometimes I am forgetful enough to answer questions about code  I myself have written!

I was once asked though what are the 14 parameters to CreateFontIndirect API call in Windows or have enumerate all the functions in the Java string class...needless to say I could not do that nor did I want to work at a place where I was expected to do so!

Code Monkey
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Of course you can talk about it, but I think the first issue is: you shouldn't be having people do interviewing if you don't trust their judgment. If you don't trust them to say "no hire", why in the world would you trust them to say "hire"?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Oh, and the interview process should be very transparent. Nobody goes in un-prepared, everybody agrees on what things are appropriate measures of what makes a good candidate and what doesn't.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I think Joel presumes that those in the hiring process won't use such criteria during their interviews and that the other interviewers are a good judge of character and what type of person will fit into the company well.

Lou
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I'm of the opinion that in the vast majority of companies, all that really counts toward a hiring decision is personal chemistry. If the people who interview you like you, they will find reasons to disregard stringent  and specific "job requirements". If they don't like you, they will find compelling and obvious reasons to diss and undercut you even if you "objectively" walk on water and have specific bragging rights. 

And one very important interpersonal attribute in this context is the ability and desire to kiss ass and suck up to the people who are interviewing you.

I think that most "one vote and you're out" logic is based upon these dynamics. It's very very very rare to find companies where the management knows that the lead techies are weenies who demand maximal worship at all times.

Geek objectivity is a vain fallacy.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Therein lies the rub.  Everyone assumes that there are no hidden agendas, and as Brad said, its transparent, fair, ....

The reality is, we all come in with baggage and while we say everyone needs to have a reason, 1 no vote regardless of how detailed the reason is usually a killer. 

The danger here is that someone may not intentionally eliminate someone, but at a more subtle level feel threatened.  What happens next time their are layoffs, or a good project needs to be staffed, or...  THIS PERSON will be my competitor.  If you don't believe that plays a part, then ask the no votes for a measurable example of why candidate "A" is no.  Something that everyone can agrees is a requirement that was not specified. 

MSHack
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

At Microsoft we have special interviewers who are trained to handle that situation.  If a candidate gets to the end of the day with both "hire" and "no hire" recommendations then one of the many jobs of that final interviewer is to dig into that ambiguity and figure out what's going on.  Sometimes they really are "no hire" people.  But quite often, candidates with a couple of "no hires" end up being hired.

Good candidates often get "no hire" because they're applying for the wrong jobs for their skill set.  Several times I've 'no hire"d people with the comment "this guy has all the design skills and customer relations skills to be a great technical PM, but his C++ programming skills are not good enough to be a productive dev, so get him another interview day as a PM."

Or, it could be simple -- good candidates often get "no hire" because they're fatigued or nervous and blow easy questions.  By building some "slack" into the process, we mitigate the risk that simple nerves and jetlag will eliminate a good hire.

I could go on -- good hires are "no hired" for a _lot_ of reasons.  Heck, I was "no hired" by not one but two of the three teams to which I applied, and I think that I ended up being a reasonably good hire. 

Eric Lippert
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

> The danger here is that someone may not
> intentionally eliminate someone, but at a
>  more subtle level feel threatened.

That's rather self-defeating, wouldn't you say?  The more brilliant, high-productivity people I work with, the better it is for me.  Brilliant, high-productivity people are fun to work with and make my project a success, and they're good for the stock price. 

Eric Lippert
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

In my case, I was a programmer on a team and was forced to interview candidates (along with my peers). I have no training and would often plea not to be a part of this, but I was told to do it anyway and that nobody likes doing it.

In the end, I noticed my manager would just use us to reinforce his opinions, good or bad. If we agreed with him, great, if we did not - we were in a bad mood that day.

Oh well, glad I am not there anymore.

I hate interviewing
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

We've no-hired people because they spent too much effort kissing ass in Flameville. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

If my vote doesn't count why should i take the
time to do the pre-inteview, interview, and post-interview?

son of parnas
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

>> At Microsoft we have special interviewers who are trained to handle that situation.  If a candidate gets to the end of the day with both "hire" and "no hire" recommendations then one of the many jobs of that final interviewer is to dig into that ambiguity and figure out what's going on.

Microsoft is an exceptionally well run company. The standing rule in most companies is that the most assertive prima donna gets his (usually a "his") way. That "digging into the heckler's reasoning" stuff really doesn't play in Peoria. In fact in most environments management is scared to death to confront the defensive and/or narcissistic internal heckler who puts the kibosh on individuals who could actually do well in the position.

I didn't claim that this was a good thing, either.

And look where Microsoft is. The vast majority of companies are second rate, and in that context, all the subjective and personality and "what frat did you belong to" crap is what "counts."

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

> The danger here is that someone may not
> intentionally eliminate someone, but at a
>  more subtle level feel threatened.

>The more brilliant, high-productivity people I work with, >the better it is for me.  "

Eric,
I would bet you're in the minority when it comes to hiring people.  Most manager types are of the 'PHB' stock and would not want to hire 'brilliant' people who could one day replace them.  They want smart, but not that smart.  Something along the lines of "Smart in technololgy, yet gulliable in the way's of the world"

Smitty
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

>The vast majority of companies are second rate, and in >that context, all the subjective and personality and "what >frat did you belong to" crap is what "counts."

When trying to land a job it seems that your're stuck between ass-smooching corp and the good ol' boy network.

I guess the question that needs to be asked here to those in managment or responsible for hiring, and hopefully you answer truthfully, do companies really hire based on perceived merit?

Smitty
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

No, that doesn't sit well with me.

The tech interview should be given by one or two trusted techs -- not every technical shmuck in the group.

And I don't think it's difficult either. Just have a good conversation and talk tech.

>"look, anyone that can't tell me the value of
>vbAdoForwardOnly obviously wasn't an ASP Developer"?

Sounds like you got a bozo in the group.

Steve
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

> Most manager types are of the 'PHB' stock and
> would not want to hire 'brilliant' people who
> could one day replace them.

I'm not sure I agree with the "most" but I see your point. 

We could divide managers into two categories -- competent managers who expect to be promoted, and incompetent managers who are trying to coast along at their present level forever.

Managers who want to be promoted know that you can't be promoted if you can't find someone to fill your place, so competent managers are always trying to find people clever enough to replace them. 

But for that other kind of manager, indeed, the obvious strategy is to surround yourself with mediocrity.  That ensures that you'll never have to replace yourself due to your promotion!

Eric Lippert
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

There was a comment made regarding Jet Lag. . .

Do people ever take this into account?  I remember my first interview at MS post graduation.  I woke up at a late 9am for me EST (6AM PST), Interview's didn't start until 11am PST, and by the time they were done, it was 9pm PST.  Needless to say by about 6 or 7 PST my brain was shot.  The last two hours I was mostly worthless.  Who makes dumb decisions like having me finish my interviews at midnight my time?  Not that any of it really mattered in the long run, just a bit of a rant.  I guess it boils down to the HR dept.

Elephant
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

You take it into account as an applicant by going the day before.

Or you're stupid like me and you like working (going to an interview is work for everyone), straight after travelling for hours across the globe.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, January 08, 2004

> The danger here is that someone may not
> intentionally eliminate someone, but at a
>  more subtle level feel threatened.

Which is one of the reasons B's hire C's.
One thing I always try to figure out is an ambitious persons strategies.
Some people try to get ahead by doing great things, lifting the whole team, and maybe at the end of it all being recognized for their key role.
Others just do whatever to make themselfves come out on top, even if it means accomplishing this by letting everyone around them sink to below their level. People like this can be detrimental to a team/company, and they are not always that obvious to spot.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, January 08, 2004

"It's very very very rare to find companies where the management knows that the lead techies are weenies who demand maximal worship at all times."

This hits the nail on the head. The Lead Designer wants a yes man at design reviews, not a critic who's going to challenge his competence. That's why they look for Team Players.

Tom H
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Personal chemistry is critical and is not a hidden agenda. It's just being human.

No one can earn a job by their qualifications. There is always more to it than what's in the req. Otherwise the decision could be made by an automated interview/test.

fool for python
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I think you guys are getting a positive thing (only hiring people who you would actively like and want to fit into a team) mixed up with what happens when the positive thing goes wrong (i.e. not hiring people who have their own opinions or seem brighter than you are because the interviewer is trying to coast).

The funny part is that, given what you guys have been talking about, it looks like the same interview process will make good teams awesome and mediocre teams awful. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Along Flamebait's line -- I really like encapsulating the purpose of an interview as "causing mismatched people/companies to be immediately ejected like a virus."  Strongly expressing your tendencies and beliefs won't always get me that particular job/employee, but the job/employee they do get me will be the right one.  No matter which side of the chair I'm on, I try to be just a little more idiosyncratic and honest than I think I can afford to.

All my jobs have been enlightening, and the loyalty I still sometimes have from ex-hires is almost scary, so that method certainly can work...

Mikayla
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home