Better Technical Interviews

Is the tech interview dead? An interesting case made in the article, and some links ideas on how to better interview and hire technical developers. I think some of the ideas are specific to developers, and while they can work, they don’t necessarily translate to other professions, like database people. Developers are tinkerers and while there are lots of projects they can tackle outside of work for fun, I don’t see a lot of database project type work for database administration.

However I think the main problem with trying to recast technical interviews and ensure you have better success in hiring is that interviews aren’t good models of the real world. In trying to evaluate a person’s skills, and ensure the process is efficient enough to talk to 2, 3, or 10 people for each position, you have to sacrifice something. Usually you end up sacrificing the fidelity of the insight into how the person will perform.

The idea of hiring someone for a side project is a good one, though not that scalable. However in many of the non-tech companies I’ve worked in, this would have easily have been possible. We didn’t hire new people that often, and having them spend a week on a project, maybe 20 hours of side time, would have worked well and been affordable. The constraints would actually have been finding time to assemble the side projects. We’re usually hiring because we can’t get our work done, and we would have struggled to find time to assemble a project.

Ultimately I think that prep time is perhaps the best way to hire better. Spend time teaching a few of your managers or other employees how to evaluate someone, perhaps even by interviewing and evaluating existing team members. Learn what things have helped people fit in better, and what haven’t. What traits make sense in your environment. Maybe then you’d have a better chance of finding employees who would both fit in and be productive.

Steve Jones

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