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What are your biggest frustrations in the hiring process?

jmfayard profile image Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ ・Updated on ・1 min read

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

I've been very pleased by the reception of my two articles What's your current salary ? and What's your salary expectation ?. This gives me motivation to write more about the topic.

But first, I have a few questions for you my readers :

  • If you have been looking for a job recently, what did frustrate you most ?
  • What have you tried to work around those issues as a candidate ?
  • How well did it work ?
  • What would you do if you were on the hiring side and had a magic wand to debug the hiring process ?

Searching for a job is a huge emotional roller coaster. It can be a huge leap forward for your career, but it also often feels confusing, frustrating and hopeless. Let's brainstorm on how to avoid the bad parts :)

Discussion

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habereder profile image
Raphael Habereder

I for one absolutely hate "reinvent the wheel" questions. Like "implement a sorting algorithm to sort this array of numbers ascending". Great. In Java that would be array.sort(), in go it's sort.Ints(slice), and so on.

Why would I do that for an interview, if I wouldn't do it on the job? I just don't see the point of doing things that have been done by language engineers already.
It would be stupid to think that my "5-Minute-Algorithm" is better than theirs.
Let's just solve real problems..

This particular opinion cost me about a dozen interviews already, but I stand firmly behind it.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

I also find it pointless. What I do in this case is that instead of showing my frustration, I ask calmly the question :

"I see. (Silence) Can we take a step back ? (Silence) (Yes, go on). What is your goal with this question ? What are you trying to achieve ?"

Then either a good answer comes or not. If they thought about it, I'm fine. If they didn't, they will remember it for next time and maybe do it differently :)

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anders profile image
Anders

The reason is most likely that they want to make sure you actually know how to code, not just how to cobble pieces of code that somebody else wrote together. Although the latter may be a relevant skill set in some roles as well ; )

When we hire though, we always do a work sample that is representative of what we actually want to achieve. That kinda feels like the best way to do it. But our work sample is quite time consuming, which is a big downside.

And I can see where they are coming from with that kind of question.

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habereder profile image
Raphael Habereder

Knowing how to learn, use and adapt an existing framework is, in most cases, many times more valuable than creating your own half-assed algorithm for a fake problem.
We are teaching DRY, KISS and many more paradigms of that sort, only to say "scratch that for a hot minute" in an interview. That is absolutely mind-boggling to me :D

Give people a real problem with real technological boundaries and see how they adapt and solve the problem. I don't care if someone can implement a bubble-sort or knows how HTTP internally works. It has zero practical value, since it can be memorized and mindlessly repeated on a whiteboard.

But if someone can take a look at <any framework>, one that is actually of practical value for you in the field, to solve a real problem? That's a keeper.

To be honest, when I look for employees, I don't even care if they "know how to code", as you called it. I want to know if they can learn. Knowing how to code today is easy, still knowing how to do it in years to come, that's important.

IMHO thinking "I can do better than <insert any Framework here>!" is wrong at best, and a waste of time and resources at the worst.

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Jason

I've gotten to the point, after the 2nd 'Give me the definition of {{concept}}' question (or even 'What is difference between {{x}} and {{y}}'), I usually ask 'Um.. so this is position is for {{X}}, wouldn't you rather be interested in how I solve problems?' Honestly, a company asking me to regurgitate definitions isn't really telling me anything about what I will be doing. Now, if I get asked 'What is a delegate?'. I will answer 'A way to pass a function as a parameter' and follow up with 'Can you tell me when you've had to use this in this current role? Wouldn't {{other option}} be better? Or 'What if I tried to check in {{other option}}?'

Like you said, 'How well do they react to something different?' If they have no time for questions, red flag. If they can't prove with tangible data why their way is better, red flag. 'Because I said so' or 'That's the way we've always done it' are red flags.

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Thorsten Hirsch

IMHO the current process gives the wrong people too much influence on the hiring decision. And by "wrong people" I mean developers and the potential future team members - yeah, unpopular opinion, I guess. So let me explain.

First of all - it's not a developer's primary job to evaluate candidates, most of us have absolutely no training for this task. Don't get me wrong - I know that it takes a good developer to know a good developer. Who else would be able to judge the skills of someone than a master of the skills? But this falls short when only developers have a vote in the hiring process, because then the only value you see in a candidate is their (technical) skills.

But it gets worse. What skills are being judged specifically? Well, of course the skills your developers already know - or do you know of a fellow frontend developer saying "well, he doesn't know react, but I would hire him for the java backend skills he told me he has, even though I have no idea of java and backend thing myself"? I for one would not say something like this.

Last, but not least, we have sympathy for people with similar interests. That's just human nature. It leads to a monoculture, not only people-wise, but also when it comes to the tech stack. Some developers are especially childish in that matter, which leads to our omnipresent framework wars, language wars, and even editor wars.

So in summary one could say that the current hiring process leads to teams of people that are all pretty much the same. These teams might be a local optimisation, mastering the current tech stack of the team. But they won't deliver the best results. Good developers need friction, need emotional debates, need the challenge against their peers in order to deliver their best results. And you only get that when people have different opinions, different passions, different people.

So the last thing you want is a team of people that are all alike. And I think this can be achieved by taking away much of the influence of developers in the hiring process, maybe cap it at 25%.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

I would also want developers with no training in hiring matter less.

An alternative way to do that is to actually give developers the training on how to hire :P

I did the job interviews at Amazon and they were quite good. You would have two people interviewing, one of them just listening to understand how to do it. Later he would lead the interviews, but still in a pair. Later he would do it alone.

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Alex Sarafian

I disagree with you or lets say i prefer relevant people as the lesser of two evils.

Look at my root comment for more relevance.

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sarafian profile image
Alex Sarafian

The irrelevance of people involved in the process. From the recruiter that is irrelevant, the hr that is also irrelevant to the hiring manager who often doesn't know what his team actually does. Again and again the same questions and quizes that someone read online that they are good to ask because people can't really evaluate the proficiency, potential and relevance of the applicant. I've been involved in this process both as an applicant and as a hiring manager for my team.

I've had more than often cases like the following

  • Me explaining to the recruiter after an interview what they really want.
  • The recruiter saying to me, computers are new to me, I was in retail sales
  • The recruiter seeking passionate people with technology and not knowing that his/her brand new phone has an app store etc
  • Recruiters and hiring managers who forget to check language compatibility when reading the CV.
  • Recruiters who can't confirm the honesty of an application and just sent every CV and applicant to me to be evaluated.
  • HR that is willing to pay incredible premius per hire but can't set quality conditions to the recruiters resulting in me doing their job while they get their premium.
  • Recruiters lying for the potential salary, so you go with false data in mind.
  • Internations hires with people who can't speak English while we are supposed to accurate express and describe a problem and its solution.

When being the interviewer, I can understand the applicant fast. I know how and what to ask to confirm the sincerety and when the applicant is young I know to ask questions that allow to candidate to figure what is important from his/her experience that though of unimportant. The only reason that I can do this is because I'm a software engineer and I understand the basics of what drives a good developer and more. Can I hire a civil engineer? No, because I'm irrelevant. Maybe I can tell you if the person is good if I'm present in the interview.

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Alex Sarafian

I didn't learn like it was taught to me. I just had to do it and I tried to avoid the pitfalls I had encountered. I also spend some time to prepare and read the CVs of the candidates and have points of interest that I wanted the candidate to expand. Lets say that I do it a bit on instict. When it comes to the honesty, I just understand where there is a lie or not because I connect the small things where people get comfortable. We tend to be well organized and lie on the big topics that we know we are evaluated. But are true selves are mostly represented in the smaller things.

I've also learned over the years that a question is a bidirection flow of information. The way you ask a question and what you focus on, conveys what you are interested in. Dry checklist questionaire reveals lack of relevance but if formalize the questions to be more personal and you can add and inject into the story line with more specific questions or paradigms with issues from your own company, then that connects and engages the candidate besides extracting information.

So this is how it happened. We were going to hire some people and we had senior and junior applicants. With the juniors it was easy. I early realized that I had to help them tell the story. I was more experienced, new what matters and I had to guide them into them telling their stories. I did this for example by asking them what else did they do during their thesis. How much more than the assignment they did. I implicitly asked them to tell me if they found the challenge interesting and why and if at the end it tought them more than the official curriculum. This is particular to the Greek culture but to my knowledge applies to the rest of europe. Let me explain this differently. If you are not willing to hire code monkeys, you want people that can step up, take responsibility and be proactive. If a junior profile did the absolute minimum for a given assignment, how would that ever be?

I had spoken with the juniors afterwards and they had said to me that they chose that company because of the interview. it was different and interesting and taught them a lot.

Overall I try to offer a challenging experience during the interview. An experience where the applicant at least had fun. If the applicant is into the technology as a passion, the exchange of information, challenges and experiences would feel as fun and not a chore and another repetition of the same thing.

In general I think is wrong to approach a candidate with a checklist of specialization. 5y of .net and 3 years of javascript and blah. I strongly disagree with quantifying people like this. What you need to look for is potential. Everything else the one with potential and passion will learn. Maybe it will take a bit longer but I would always trust for a long term relationship the person with the potential over the dry checklist. Not that knowing things is bad but it can't be your only conditions. But potential is the hardest to evaluate because it is based on how the person explains former challenges, what went wrong and what went bad. Admission of failure is also something that dry interviews don't understand but for me the important is what did the person learn because we all make mistakes. Understanding all these requires affiliation with the subject.

I can expand more if you are interested and your question for serious. Maybe with some more particular questions.

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helleworld_ profile image
DesirΓ© πŸ‘©β€πŸŽ“πŸ‘©β€πŸ«

➜ If you have been looking for a job recently, what did frustrate you most?

They absolutely ignored my influence, experience, work and strong points.

I'm an educative content creator, mentor, instructor, teacher. I have guides, blogs, courses, I'm actually teaching people. I've created my own CSS framework. But I don't have a title, even after 4 years here I was still being paid the minimum salary and categorized as a junior.

My interviews have been reflecting this. Minimizing my success and knowledge just because I look young and I don't have a university paper.

➜ What have you tried to work around those issues as a candidate?

I've tried sending [in advance] all my work, interesting links, portfolio, etc., but was pointless.

➜ How well did it work?

I had 1 interview where they knew about me and my projects and that was awesome, but that was just once. I feel like companies don't even bother to know who's sitting right in front of them.

➜ What would you do if you were on the hiring side and had a magic wand to debug the hiring process?

This is just my opinion and perception, but I would turn Human Resources more Human and less Resources.

My interviews went better when the other person actually read my name in my CV before we met.

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Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

Thanks for sharing this. I can imagine how frustrating it is.
"How many years of experience to do you have as $JOB_TITLE" is a question that infuriates me as well. It doesn't matter what your job title is. What matter is what you have done and what you want to do in the future.

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Diego Giuliani

For me is when the interviewer doesn't give feedback. I had a couple of interviews where they ask questions and even give you take-home exercises where I've spent many hours and never heard back from the interviewer.

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bias profile image
Tobias Nickel

that the companies actually don't know what they are looking for. So they give people these homework or university questions.

When I intervew someone it is important to me, what position it is about. often we don't even need the best coder, but a smart person.

It is useless to hire an other person for the stuff, that 10 other developer in our team already can do.

what is the margin around a box? you know that right? so what do you need me for?

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Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

often we don't even need the best coder, but a smart person.

That was half of the requirements from Joel Spolsky on how to hire

=> Smart and Get Things Done joelonsoftware.com/2007/06/05/smar...

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Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

To answer my own question, something I find super frustrating is those coding quizz where you are "evaluated" on how many trivia and syntax you know on the top of your head. If you open up a new tab to google or stack overflow things, they assume you are cheating. The company get a very detailed, but completly meaningless, evaluation of your skills.

That's excellent.
A company just made me pass a multiple choices quizz on codingame.com and it pisses me off how irrelevant it was. My gut told me "You are measuring the wrong things!! A senior developer is not someone who knows a lot of trivia by heart 😬😬"

Working around this is not so simple. Maybe do not take the quizz. Probably try to educate the company what a senior developer really does.

Thanks @themarcba !

If I were on the hiring side with a magic want, I would

  • let my current employees take the quizz
  • evaluate whether the evaluation quizz correlates with what I know to be true about my employees
  • probably discard the quizz :)
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Clavin June

I agree with you, most companies' coding tests ain't relevant anymore. Since it's a public secret that as an SWE, we must google things to do our work.

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Eelco Verbrugge

I agree but how would you test if the new guy is capable for the job? Cause thats the real problem they are trying to solve with the quiz I think.

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Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

Send them a pull request full of gotchas and ask them to review it.

That's actually something important you do on the job.

And it's hard to fake that you good at it, especially showing you have empathy for the programmer who wrote this.

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Andrew Baisden

This ---> πŸ‘»

Ghosting does not help anyone. The candidate gets zero feedback and the company's soul degrades as they get closer to hell πŸ”₯ πŸ™ƒ

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Manav Misra

πŸ‘» - especially after taking the time, sometimes a few hours to do a code challenge πŸ’’

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Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

Oh man, there is no good time to ghost, but after a code challenge is probably the worst time.

I had a friend who embeded Google Analytics in his sample Android app, and he was able to check this way that they didn't even run the app he bothered to write for them.

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Manav Misra

😞