Posted on 7/31/2006 @ 12:27 AM in #Non Techie by | Feedback | 9913 views

Jeffrey Palermo has shared his opinions on Interviewing.

Some of them I agree with, some I don't. Rather than a point by point analysis of his post, I figured I'd share some of my experiences instead.

I look for attitude more than I do for aptitude. Aptitude can be taught, attitude cannot be - atleast not quickly enough.

An in-person interview is extremely time consuming, so I am very picky about who spends their valuable time walking into our office, and sitting face to face with me. When you do sit face to face, cutting an interview shorter than 45 minutes is unjust and rude, and being rude is not an option. The candidate you turn down will invariably feel bad, and the world is a too small a place to make anyone feel bad.

In those 45 minutes, I try and explain what the job will entail on a day to day basis. I try and ask a bit about the candidate without being too invasive of their personal lives - my intention is to ensure that the job fits their lifestyle. If they have an issue with a friendly chit chat around personal life, they are probably not good company anyway. (Of course there are limits).

Finally, for the tech part, I ask them "What they are good at". There is so much to learn, it is impossible to know everything. I then cook up a practical problem on the spot, in what they are good at - and bordering something they haven't had much experience with, and give them a computer, internet connection and peace to figure it out.

I leave them alone for a few minutes, and when they are in full-flow, I interrupt and discuss their approach.

I am generally looking for, their logic, how they dig for information, design patterns/good coding, and in the discussion I look for their ability to communicate and understand technical chit chat.

I also try and pick a perfectly good point they have, and just to be an annoyance I put them in a corner and criticize their approach - just to see how they handle criticism (good team workers do not mind criticism).

I squarely avoid know it all phonies/cowboys. They do more damage to the team than good. No you don't have to be servile and meek either. More often than not, the cowboys know very little and are extremely bad at handling criticism.

Finally, if possible, I like to delegate out the job of interviewing to the actual people the candidate will be working with. Interviewing is quite a thankless job. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince, and frankly the frogs you kissed are never counted - but the time spent is still time spent. Not to mention, each one of those frogs that you rejected now has their ego dinged by you .. well some of them do.

Sound off but keep it civil:

Older comments..

On 8/2/2006 11:07:46 AM Nick said ..
So how do tell if a candidate is a know it all or really does "know it all" and is very secure in saying so?

Over the years I have had to do many areas and when it comes to .net there are very little areas I do not fluently know ( code non-stops at home and work )

But, would you perceive me as a know it all, or is there ways that signal he just just blow smoke at you?

On 8/2/2006 4:18:20 PM Sahil Malik said ..

Nobody knows it all. It is impossible !! You just accept that fact and move on.

When I say "I squarely avoid know it all phonies/cowboys", I meant - they are phonies because they do not know it all. NOBODY does.

On 8/3/2006 8:13:53 AM Rob Garrett said ..
I completely agree - looking for a candidate with attitude vs aptitude is definitely the right approach to interviewing in my opinion. See an earlier post I wrote on the subject ( - it's a little dated (as far as the .NET section is concerned) but the principles still hold.

On 8/3/2006 8:24:11 AM Sahil Malik said ..
What about the cowboys Robert? ;)

On 8/10/2006 12:57:26 AM gozh2002 said ..
I would argue with the aptitude of a developer has a huge impact on the software quality, unless you believe you as a intervewer, who is really very good in technical level to ensure the quality.

Sure Sahil you are, but many people who are in the lead of mangement don't.

And sometimes I will be feeling bad by the attitude of the

interviewer. Once a development lead said, apart from the installation and deploy sharepoint protal 2003, and even my

grandma can do, what else have you done... blah, blah..

that is crap.

On 8/10/2006 2:19:41 AM Sahil Malik said ..

Yes aptitude is important. You cannot ignore that. But attitude is a tad bit more important. Attitude gets more weightage in my eyes, but both are essential.

Oh and talking about interviewers and their attitude. And people in charge of management who have zero technical skills. Don't get me started on my pet peeve with the IT industry - the only industry that doesn't respect the only skill it is supposed to have "Technology".

On 8/11/2006 7:37:03 AM Philip Stevens said ..
My boss once told me he was instructed by a former employer to criticize the candidate in some form to see how they handled themselves; the example he was given was to say something like "hey, that's sure a really ugly tie your wearing"... I can handle criticism, and I invite it, but if it were that kind, I'd probably turn the job down :)

On 8/11/2006 4:45:00 PM Sahil Malik said ..
Wow Philip, you're stinkin' real bad today ;).

I think criticism must be about their work, and especially about something that is factually correct. You want to know how they handle criticism about a topic they are convinced they are 100% right about.

On 3/2/2007 3:04:06 AM Ian Laurin said ..
Is it better to be open about your flaws and post hypothesis (majority are farfetched) when looking for a job (i.e.: jobless). Logic dilemma looking for recommendation on personal website and blogs for that matter… Some people really frown on errors, so I have held off for the most part over the years. As a result, I have very little to show.

Deep down I prefer openness and do not care if others think besides a few I greatly respect. I know success will be more likely focusing on your strengths rather than improving your weakness.

Background… My computer skills have been humbled away over the last couple of years. My training was from a top-down approach (GUI) versus bottom-up (electrical engineer), and at the beginning of my career I got stumped early on. As a result, I have been trying to learn technology mostly to avoid the path that got me stuck in a rut. However, like drowning you cannot learn how to do it, rather you learn to swim. By not writing flaws I write very little factoring in change which is the only thing guaranteed to occur.

Dilemma… I am a vocal person for I believe in openness. I guess I am looking for a response to push me in a direction? Basically, when looking to hire would you rather see a ton of crap (attempts) or a couple of excellent pieces? Fundamentally, is weeding through the bulk acceptable and possibly desired?