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Discussion on: The Principle Of Association

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blindfish3 profile image
Ben Calder

It's good that you wrote this - because I'm sure it will help some - but at the same time I think it's a really sad reflection on the industry, and society as a whole, that prospective employees are still judged on the associations they've made rather than on their proficiency in the subject. It's an exclusionary practice and has many negative repercussions for those who don't fit into supposed norms.

Of course if you've developed something that was picked up or promoted by some big name in the industry it's going to look good on your CV; but I would personally encourage people to focus on what's right for them rather than chasing validation from those big name companies. They're all too happy to exploit you: make you work long hours for comparatively low pay; and replace you with another eager young developer when you've burnt yourself out. You got their name on your CV and it might serve you well in future; but at what cost?

I would urge employers to look beyond associations and see what new perspectives a prospective employee can bring to your company; especially if they come from an under-represented background.

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

I agree for sure. I think the difficulty is, though, that many people have hired staff that seemed to have the right skills and experience and come to find out that when actually in their real job they weren't so hot (which I've seen played out).

I think that social/community validation is so useful because it enforces, even more, the competence of a potential hire. And anything that can give any more clarity and confidence in a potential hire is "gold".

That being said, yes it's sad in a sense. But it is what it is...

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blindfish3 profile image
Ben Calder

That just sounds like a cop-out: "The system is prejudiced; but it's not working against me so... :shrug:"

Conversely to what you say: I know people who have been hired to jobs because of who they know; because they went to the right school etc. and who turned out to be utterly incompetent (most of the British government for a start).

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blindfish3 profile image
Ben Calder

To put it more constructively: we need to improve hiring processes to identify the potential in candidates; rather than lazily relying on something like association. There is just too much bias implicit in "social/community validation":

  • established communities can be exclusionary
  • the definition of "established" is subject to the employer's personal, subjective opinion

Ultimately you're hiring a developer because of their technical; problem-solving and teamwork abilities; not because they're good at marketing themselves. Look beyond the surface and instead focus on the substance of what someone has done. Consider the barriers they may have faced that means they haven't formed the associations you subjectively think make someone stand out.

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

Sure, I would agree with you for the most part. I never said we shouldn't try to improve the hiring process, etc. What I did say was that as someone who might be the subject of the hiring process, this is a way to make an impression given the state of things.

I think there's merit on both sides of the argument though - looking at a developer's real experience, accomplishments, abilities is great. But, on the other hand, if a potential hiree cannot demonstrate to me why he/she is a good fit for the job (e.g. marketing) then that's a huge flag that they aren't a good communicator (which is necessary for more senior/experienced roles).

So I think a balanced approach, for those wanting to get hired, is best.

And for hiring, the fact is that a developer who can communicate his/her worth to me best is def. going to be ahead of the game (since communication skills is more important overall)

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omrisama profile image
Omri Gabay

@ben Calder is 100% right. People do this "associations" stuff to appear smart and look good more than to actually share information.

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey Author

Sure, that happens. But I would disagree that this is 100% of the people who want to just "appear smart".

If you do legitimately have an achievement that accurately demonstrates your level of competence, then you ought to communicate that.

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omrisama profile image
Omri Gabay

Fair. Unfortunately, we can't always know everyone's intentions when it comes to all this association stuff.