Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

"X years of experience in Y"

Job postings are full of requirements like this.  But what in the world is a "year of experience"?  Somebody might have been using a language for 10 years, but that language only constitutes 20% of what they do, while another person has spent 100% of 3 years in the same language.  Who has more "years of experience"?

Wouldn't it make much more sense to state something like "advanced profiency in Y, which although still subjective it has less problems than "years of experience"?  State the levels of profiency expected, and test/interview according to that profiency.  When contacting a candidate, explain your definition of "advanced profiency" so they may choose to eliminate themselves rather than wasting their time to go to your office for a full-fledged interview.

"Years of experience" suffers from the dual problems of people spending a different percentage of their "years" in the language and people learning at different rates.

T. Norman
Saturday, June 12, 2004

First you need to have actual experience on the language in order to impress the HR person and go to an interview.
Then, you need to build a raport with them to get the job.
Now, for the technical details, sometimes you'll get them only if you did work with the language in real life, but other times, a good reading is enough.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

You've raised a good point. I too am weary of being asked, "Write a matrix of all your skills with an individual value of the number of years of experience in each of them".

"Ok, VB, how much?"

Me: XX year, XX months.

"Next, SQL Server?"

"What about XML, you left that out?"
"And .NET, have you got any experience in .NET?"

unfortunately, most of the people who ask these sort of questions are the HR types or senior manager types who have almost no knowledge of programming. They are not required to, but they must at least be a bit more sensible in judging candidates.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Saturday, June 12, 2004

It's tempting to just say "Well, the first time I read a book about technology X was Y years ago, so I have Y years of experience in it."

Tempting, but not a good idea.

Aaron F Stanton
Saturday, June 12, 2004

That reminds me of job adverts I've seen asking for 10 years experience in Java (even two years ago) given the fact that Java was officially released on the 23rd of May 1995.

And I still see ads asking for 6 years exp in .NET, whatever that means. And candidates with "6 yrs .NET experience" apply and get jobs.


Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Saturday, June 12, 2004

I was once asked if I had any zero-zero knowledge.

Ignore my ignorance
Saturday, June 12, 2004

So what do you put, if they are asking for 6 years of .NET? lie?

Sathyaish Chakravarthy

I have seen resumes that had been using linux since 1990/1991(it was released in early forms = 1991)

When I called them out on it, they would say, "Oh I have been a unix user for twelve years, and linux is like unix so what is why I put that" ... punk

Berlin Brown
Saturday, June 12, 2004

I would say if you are good at C programming then basically any populair language will be possible.

Not a programmer but many modern languages look like some sort of dialect of C.

Also if you are really good with one brand of a RDMS then other wouldn't be to hard.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

>So what do you put, if they are asking for 6 years of .NET? lie?

Well, I just ignore them. Even if I were looking for an employment opportunity, I wouldn't join those kinds. As for now, I am single-mindedly looking for JUST one employer.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Saturday, June 12, 2004

Personally, I wouldn't hire anyone with less than 15 years of .NET and at a minimum a century of C++.

On your Resume` you should lie about as much as you think marketing folks lie in TV & Magazine ads. What you want is to get the job, end of story.

Your resume` should say something like:

"Before I was hired at ____ my boss never got laid. Within days of hiring me, his success with women improved 1000 times, he was now getting laid by a different woman every night." With about all the subtlety of that Armani Exchange ad I saw on the side of a Phone Booth yesterday. It seemd to say "If you wear our clothes, you'll take them off at the next possible opportunity." If you can throw in some subliminal messages as well, even better.

I'm being absolutely serious here. Toned down a little it could more realistically read:

Before I joined XYZ company, they were a mess. I organized everything, and even hand-built an extention to the offices to accomodate all the extra servers we needed because our website was getting so many hits. I quit because they weren't paying me enough, and my replacement ran the place in to the ground. I think the president of the company cleaned my windshield last night. I gave him $5 because I felt bad.

If you can get the job done, if you're more competent than the guy who claims to have 25 years experience in Java because he spent a summer in South America and met Juan Valdez, is it really being unethical?
Saturday, June 12, 2004

Hopefully you're joking Mark.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

> lie
> anything to get the job
So the end justifies the means - seems we're hearing an awful lot of that nowadays, on both the small and large scales.

No thank you, I have to look at myself in the mirror in the mornings and it's getting harder with each passing year.

W Michael Ealem
Sunday, June 13, 2004

I'm starting to gain a certain amount of justification for some of the lying on the basis that lying to muppets somehow shouldn't count. I still can't quite bring myself to outright lie on my CV though.

What I really want is the ability to submit an accurate CV to the technical people after HR have approved the HR-compatible one...

Frankly the recruitment issue is the sheer number of people in HR who not only aren't technical, but aren't actually any good at HR either. It's just that that's such a woolley skill they never get fired for being shite.

I was once sat in the second interview for a role. I'll mention the company, because they're so inept fellow developers deserve to be warned: It's "Next". That's Next, based in Leicester.

I'd done an "aptitude test" to see if I would be better off in a C++ development role or a till-operator in one of the shops. Fortunately for the computer science degree review committee at Warwick and a decade's worth of employers in the IT field, Next's aptitude testers agreed with them. So I arrived to talk to technical people at last after considerable wanking about.

Later on in the interview, after we'd established some basics, they asked me what I thought of their HR's new recruitment process. I replied that since I was there to be interviewed for a UNIX C++ role and they were there to interview for a VB/PeopleSoft role that the process had some work to be done on it and that their HR team was a bunch of idiots. The technical staff found it hard to disagree.

A proper HR person would consider it their job to learn enough to be able to do the technical recruiting, in the same way that a decent developer learns about the business they're developing software for. Proper HR people are like rocking-horse poo...

Katie Lucas
Sunday, June 13, 2004

A company my father worked at wanted to H-1B a former team member from Eastern Europe, but was obliged to prove they can't hire a local with the needed skillset first. So they posted a newspaper ad that demanded experience with their homegrown technology XYZ. The result? Hordes of Americans claiming "limited experience" with XYZ. BTW, that was in Silicon Valley circa 1992 when there hardly was any job shortage.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

There was a job shortage back then.  The economy was just emerging from the recession of 90/91.  It wasn't until about 94 that things started to pick up again.

T. Norman
Sunday, June 13, 2004

> Hopefully you're joking Mark.

Take from it what you want. They're just words.
Monday, June 14, 2004

Here's a related question:

What do you do if you have experience that really ought to be considered quite relevant, but which involves something that nobody's heard of, so is probably ignored?

I have about 10 months work experience with Java, though I first tinkered with it in 95/96.

Most of my work experience is OO development in Objective-C on NeXTSTEP/OpenStep, since about 1992.

Nobody knows what Objective-C is, or what NeXTSTEP/OpenStep were. Very few people use Objective-C now. (One headhunter recently was looking for people with "OneStep" experience, meaning people with Objective-C or Mac OS X programming experience, so he meant OpenStep, but didn't know it.)

So I bet that many people looking at my resume just skim over the Objective-C work and just think I have about 10 months of OO work, because of the 10 months with Java. Instead, I've worked with OO development since 1992, with a language and class frameworks which are almost the crazy uncle of Java.

Arrgh. Any ideas?

Jon H
Monday, June 14, 2004

Jon H: "Java, though I first tinkered with it in 95/96."

There you go.  10 years Java experience.

Steve Monk
Monday, June 14, 2004

Seriously though, why not:
10+ years Objected Oriented  development/design/architecture (pick what applies) experience, in Java and Objective-C

Steve Monk
Monday, June 14, 2004

Good lord, if I were allowed to go all the way back to the very first programs I wrote, I could say "25 years experience in Basic" (or is it only 24?  Hard to recall...).

Aaron F Stanton
Monday, June 14, 2004

One of my old bosses had the wonderful knack of being able to put together impressive sounding phrases that were not actually lies (*). Thus he was able to pass the screening people, and give a reasonable explanation to the technical folks -- and even wink, wink, let them in on the joke.

* In situations where a lie was the only possible choice, he would lie.

This is admittedly difficult to do with the bald "How many years?" questions.

I agree with Mark on these ones: When they want 6 years of X to qualify, you are disqualifying yourself if you don't lie. Act accordingly.

Friday, June 18, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home