Today almost any tech enthusiast can say "I know how to program in C#" or "I know how to create awesome websites using RoR". With the evolution and abstraction of programming languages, it is true the knowledge required to make a program writing code on your own has become increasingly easy. My aunt, a 58 year-old catholic woman with 5 children and 8 grand-children just made her own website using nothing else than Dreamweaver. The point I want to make is "with popularity also comes mediocrity". There are a lot of self-titled software engineers in the job market that cannot tell you what a pointer is, nor can explain the basis or recursion. Many of these people make it their goal to memorize and learn a specific IDE, framework or language and then they themselves software engineers. Hey, when I was a kid, I built a tree house with my friends and... IT NEVER CRACKED... I'm a genius! I'm going to apply for an architect position to build the next Trump Tower!

As I'm writing this post, I'm going thru the process at work of interviewing some candidates for 2 openings, one as a Junior Software Developer and another as a Software Engineer with substantial experience and hands on project management. I'm living a nightmare. This is the second time I've had to hunt for people to add to the team, and I'm surprised on how many applicants are out there applying for positions they really cannot fill. After almost 10 days reading resumes, making phone calls and talking to many applicants; I've only been able to handpick 1 out of 57 applicants to move on to the second part of the hiring process. The CEO of the company (my boss) says I'm too rigid with the requirements and too tough with the applicants... I don't know if the expectation is to lower my standards (hard for me) or keep hunting for the right person and sacrifice the lost time for the quality and productivity the jewel will bring when it appears. In the meantime I can keep looking through a pile of stupid resumes full of lies and incredible fictitious accomplishments. This is the process I'm going through for the hiring process. As I said, one position is for a Junior programmer and another one for an experienced engineer.

  • Filter 1: Job applications go first to another guy that filters out the obvious mismatches based on non-technical stuff, such as their VISA status, ability to speak English fluently and so on.
  • Filter 2: Then, this guy sends the resumes to me and I take out those that are really really obvious mismatches based on their previous experience and field of interest. Here is kinda crazy what you find; people that graduated in 1976 from computer science and for the last 20 years they've been a manager assistant at Walmart. I mean, seriously?
  • Phone Interview: At this point we are down about 50% of the initial applicants. Then I order their profiles by the "interesting" factor and start calling them in order. I go through the same script with each one of them, and try to cut them short when I see is not going to work. Here is my script for the phone interview.

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  1. Chat about the company, what we do and what type of job the candidate is going to be doing.
  2. Chat about the candidate. Get him/her to relax an feel comfy talking to me.
  3. Question about most recent project he/she worked on. Specifics.
  4. Three questions about OOP.
  5. Three questions about programming languages (references, heap and object creation and disposal).
  6. Three questions about .NET Framework essentials.
  7. Are you satisfied? (the applicant)
  8. Questions and Answers.

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  • In-Person Interview: If the person passes the phone interview with a positive outcome, then he/she is invited to the office to continue the screening. An appointment is set.
  • A Day at the Office: the candidate comes to the office. I make sure to ask him/her the same questions I thought they could've been answered better in the phone interview. I chat with them a little bit and introduce the candidate to the team members and people they'll be working with. 2 or 3 of the software engineer team members will actually do like a little personality screening in private with the candidate with the goal of helping me determine if they think it'll be a good addition to the team. They can either give me thumbs up or thumbs down and tell me why they think it may or may not be a good addition to the team. I value a lot the criteria of my team, ultimately they are going to be working together and nobody wants a week link or a introverted soul in the group that doesn't know how to play team sports.
  • The test: After the office showing and team interview and more questions, it comes the written test. IT IS INCREDIBLE HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL PASS THE PREVIOUS PHASES JUST TO FAIL HERE. The test is usually something very generic but that requires a minimum knowledge required for the kind of job we do (and that they are applying for). This time around the exercise is to create a remote application HTTP accessible with a function that, given an integer it returns the second consecutive prime greater than the integer. The second part of the exercise is to create a separate client application that uses such method and provides a minimal UI to use it. I give them 45 minutes to complete and another 10 minutes to explain to me what they did. So far none, not even 1 candidate have completed the such simplistic task in 45 minutes. DAMN IT! I've encountered myself explaining to recent grads and candidates with Masters what a PRIME number is!!! BOOOOOOOOOO!!! WTF is going on?!?
  • Negotiations and Hiring: I've only considered 1 person as a possible candidate so far to fill in the Junior position. Negotiations are straight and very much depends on what skills and drive the candidate shows during the interview process. If I'm sure you are the right person for the job, you'll leave the office knowing that and with a competitive offer in your hand. If you are kinda there, but never got to convince me about you, BUT made a strong point about your will to learn and future, I'll put you in the back-up bucket. The rest of the world will receive an email with a sorry and a good luck on their job search.

At this point there has to be something I'm doing wrong. I cannot believe there are no worthy software engineers out there looking for a job. Is it that the interview is too tough? Am I expecting too much from the marketplace?

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