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May 15, 2019

The Games We Play: Hiring Senior Developers

by Adam Hardin

Today I found myself reading the article Senior Developers are Getting Rejected for Jobs by Glen McCallum. I’ll let the opening paragraphs set the tone:

Being a software engineer isn’t easy by any means and oftentimes we (developers) find ourselves traversing through a Dragon’s Layer-esque of quizzes, tests, and the dreaded whiteboarding sessions. Granted, for a more junior-level position, I can understand a good whiteboarding session or some assessments to gauge whether or not the individual learned anything. But when interviewing someone who has years of industry experience, are these miniature gauntlets really helping anybody?

I think part of the problem is the fear of feeling “stuck” with a bad developer. From the article 7 Reasons Why Software Develoment Is So Hard by Paul Smyth, the author cites that “[t]here is no barrier to entry into the programming world and thus it is awash with many poor programmers who adversely affect projects.” Are we at the point where the industry demands perfection in every aspect of operations?

Or is it just practicality?

Continuing on from Glen McCallum’s blog, we see that while developers hate them, companies love them:

Programming puzzles as a hiring gate solve [the problem of a large quantity of applicants and weed out inexperienced applicants]. To a company it is worth skipping over a few great candidates in order to simplify the review and selection process. With a now unlimited pool of applicants they can afford to do that. The numbers suggest that there will always be more good developers in the pipeline.

For this reason I believe that Programming challenge hiring gates are here to stay and will become even more common in the future.

I have bad news for senior developers in the field: many job placement agencies (Robert Half, especially) implement these gates as well. And, as much as I hate them, my workplace utilizes these aptitude tests as we were wasting so much time interviewing poor candidates that couldn’t even tell me what an interface was.

Later we’ll talk about one aspect that exasperated this problem: coding boot camps and the games that they play. Until then, you better know damn well how to use the Strategy pattern in conjunction with a SQL query that can determine the vowel count of every last name in a Japanese customer database and every database has a different collation.


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