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Interview - on the other side

I have finally gotten to be on the other side of interviews. As a techie person, who was [allegedly] liked by the tech lead I've interviewed with, but not the HR person, on several occassion, I've developed an active aversion to corporatese/Dilbertese on a resume. In my mind, the people putting things like "excellent communication skills, self-starter" on a resume already get a few points off -- but I try to force myself to be impartial. (As an aside, though, why the hell would a software engineer put that on the resume? or why would anybody -- without proof positive).

But that's fine. I do purely technical interviews, and I [hope to] have no interest in where a candidate sees him/herself
n years from now, etc.

What really gets my goat is when a candidate, while completely flummoxed by a technical question -- especially
a basic one, in my opinion -- starts (noticeably, hey, I also
know some things about professed interview techniques
in particular, and NLP in general) to do, er, tricks. Like,
s/he starts using my first name to address me when s/he
didn't before, and quite often. At that point, I am annoyed,
because the HR tricks advertized on all job-related newspapers, websites, etc., are being applied to me
IN THE HOPE THAT I WILL TURN MY ATTENTION AWAY FROM
THE CANDIDATE'S INADEQUACIES!

And that pisses me off. But then I think, well, s/he's just
doing what I'd've done... maybe... a large part of me thinks that I wouldn't have done that (and from experience, since I have not done that, I can maybe be comforted).

But still.. Am I being too harsh? Is this the Revenge of the Nerds? Is the Revenge of the Nerds even right?

Your thoughts, please.

Anonymous, for obvious reasons
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Why are you bothered by people who can't even answer simple questions and start to play mindgames with you? Especially if you recognize the behavior. Just don't hire them.

  -tim

a2800276
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Just discount their apparent score by 90 percent before you compare them against the truthful candidates.

Let the mind-gamers go somewhere they're appreciated, like Accenture.

Inside Job
Thursday, May 27, 2004

No interviews are "purely technical interviews".  The fact that you are willing to give the person a lower rating because of his manerisms in the interview demonstrate this. 

hightequity
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Assuming that you would be working with this individual, I don't see anything wrong with have a completely subjective part of your considerations.  At my last job, when we interviewed candidates, we had two portions to our evalation.  One was technical merit (which you should try to discount any mind games or nervousness on their part and try to be objective), and the other part was personal skills.  If a candidate seems overly smarmy or dodgy or whatever, make sure you say that in your evaluation.

Of course, I've never had to actually make a hire/no hire decision so I don't have to weigh the importance of such factors.  As one of the "tech" interviewers, I just try to evaluate the candidate as well as I can, and be thorough and brutally honest in my write up so management can make as informed of a decision as possible.

madking
Thursday, May 27, 2004

You know, you can secondguess people into oblivion.

That's what pisses me off the most about modern HR culture. The notion that candidates are absolutely mindless programmable flesh and blood PLC's who parrot anything they hear.

And now technical people who are impressed into interviewer roles are disparaging job seekers with secondguessing like the best of them.

Sic:

If you're polite you're ass kissing or or insincere or are using newspaper column tactics.

If you use any terminology indicating your ability to interact on other than a technical plane, you're doing the same or are ludicrously bucking for a sales or management role.

etc etc.

Give me a f*ckin' break. This industry is morally and fiscally bankrupt. Not just fiscally, but morally, because now the grunt technology people are starting to believe their own bullshit.

There is such a vast number of unemployed or underemployed techies milling around that utterly irrelevant, stupid, hateful, and absurd criteria "must" be used to cut down the pool to a "reasonable" size.

Do a gosh darn coin toss and *admit* that you don't know what the hell you're doing...

Bored Bystander
Thursday, May 27, 2004

As Joel has written elsewhere, if you don't feel positive about hiring a candidate, then it's a "no hire" anyway, even if you are on the fence.

Data Miner
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Hightequity, and others: good point.

But I try not to be put off just by "newspaper column techniques", only when they are attempted to be used to turn attention away from skill inadequacies.

As a separate matter, what is the point of this game anyway? Everybody knows that every "interview advice" book or news article repeatedly tells you these techniques, and while they are fine in a different settings (establishing rapport on personal level), in an interview they just become so overt they are, on that same level, a turnoff. Or maybe just to me...

The difference between a "How are you" with a smile in my neighborhood convenience store and in a chain are very apparent to everyone. It is the difference between a human and a robot. Why do these games persist?

Anonymous, for obvious reasons
Thursday, May 27, 2004

A.F.O.R.:

Here is my challenge to you. Tell us how you would disambiguate coached, stereotyped gladhanding from sincere politeness.

IE: formulate a sort of "HR Turing Test" to distinguish candidate droids who are applying formulas by rote, from the sort of intelligent, sincere, uber-candidate whom you would prefer to encounter.

My premise is that any approach will sound stereotyped if you're looking for it to do so.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Anonymous, for obvious reasons:
Stick it to them.  If a candidate has on their resume "6 years as a senior VB dude" and he can't answer a simple question, don't let him off the hook.  YOU will look bad if you recommend/hire someone who can't get the job done.  The only way people will stop completely bullshitting on their resumes is if more and more jobs ask REAL technical questions opposed to "what are your biggest weaknesses" or "are you a leader or a follower". 

vince
Thursday, May 27, 2004

The problem faced by EVERY job seeker is: one never knows if the hiring party or the gatekeepers are selecting for line item skill sets, talent, or "meeting HR requirements for having a good attitude". 

Satisfy one and you are regarded as a loser, asshole, timewaster, not-following-instructions-evil-applicant, and/or dismal failure as a human being if the gatekeeper values a different criteria.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Anon,

It would be quite foolish to discount someone because they are concientious enough to have studied the interveiw process and are trying to put their best foot forward. Assuming that this means they are incompetant is just plain wrong.

Good managers learn how to quickly identify when 'techniques' are being used and to put such a candidate at ease during an interview and get to the real meat of the matter.

But you are free to discount them if you wish and then lurk about on chat boards slamming the poor fellows.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Dennis:

It would be foolish to discount them just because of that (and I should get over my personal annoyance with this. I agree).

But I do not think that it's foolish to discount someone who prefers to study the interview technique over the skills that the job demands. And if they get away with it, well, that is really bad.

Anonymous, for obvious reasons
Thursday, May 27, 2004

In this economy/market, job seekers are looking for any possible edge.  A lot of people will say things that people have said are a "plus".

How about when you start the interview, you add this little statement:

"Before we get started, let me explain something.  Recruiters and job-hunting sites and books will tell you all kinds of crazy things they think will get you hired.  There are places where that works, but this isn't one of them.  You won't impress me with fancy phrasing and I've seen all the psychological tricks.  Best thing is do your best to relax and be yourself."

By explaining yourself up front you give the candidate the opportunity to not play word games and mind games.  Chances are they're only doing it because they think it'll give them an "edge" over the candidate who's not. 

Should be working
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Should be working -

well, that's what I thought. But that strikes me as blunt and offensive. I don't know if
that would relax me :)

Anonymous, for obvious reasons
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bored bystander, re the HR Turing test:

I can't, but I know it when I see it :-). I think so do you. I was in Burger King the other day. The smalltalk of the woman behind the counter was very different from a required wooden corporate smile and "How may we help you today?"

Maybe that's good acting. But at least good acting is more aesthetically pleasing than bad one :)

Anonymous, for obvious reasons
Thursday, May 27, 2004

OK, just for a minute, imagine yourself outsourced and laid off. What would you do to get a job?

Data Miner
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Anon, I didn't mention it but my earlier post is LGPL, so feel free to modify the phrase I used if you want it to sound less "blunt".

:-)

Should be working
Friday, May 28, 2004

OK, I gotcha - you're saying that really the gist of this particular interview was that he didn't actually know what he said he did, and tried to use tricks to distract you from this knowledge. As apposed to someone who does know at least some of eh problem domain who is innocently using interviewing tricks and tips. Yeah, that would be annoying - I can see why you're upset.

Dennis Atkins
Friday, May 28, 2004

And I do agree with Should be Working  - that's the way to get the interview rolling, and you can also use a speech like that if the person starts to go weird on you.

Dennis Atkins
Friday, May 28, 2004

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