More Humility Needed – Technical Interviews

Technical Interviews are not fun

No one likes to go on tech interviews! Ok, most of us don’t. I’m sure there are a few of you geniuses that see it as a fun game to outsmart the interviewer. But, for most of us it feels like a series of questions and white boarding that have been designed to completely crush our confidence. It appears that for some interviewers, interviews have become a way to boost one’s self esteem. I think we could all use a little more humility.

Does forgetting a random Sort Algorithm that someone hasn’t looked at since college really prove they are not a good programmer? If a developer has been focused on creating his own site/product on their free time and not studying the Coin Jar problem, you’ll see a big difference in confidence and approach when asked to solve it. Though, some would argue that you should spend a good amount of free time studying Algorithms, Data Structures and Interview Questions. Do these types of questions really help us differentiate a group of candidates? I would argue they might have more to do with inflating our ego as opposed to finding the right person.

Humility Please

Some people just are not good at interviews. They might be super prepared and an amazing developer. But, when staring at a blank white board with 5 incredible engineers just glaring at them they go blank. Should we dismiss this candidate and assume he just doesn’t have the talent we are looking for? Heck no! Talk to the developer. Make them feel comfortable. Give them some clues to help them get started. Just remember that we all had to start somewhere and didn’t know everything early in our careers. We learned, had experiences and got better and better.

So… What Do I Suggest You Look For?

I think the most important thing to look for when hiring a developer is an ability to learn and passion which usually go hand and hand. I think passion is pretty easy to spot. Do they know a variety of languages or frameworks? Do they have any side projects that you won’t be able to shut them up about? When you ask them questions about a topic that they don’t know does their answer inspire confidence that they want to learn about it and that they will pick it up quickly? You can usually coax passion out of a developer in an interview if you ask the right questions.

And of course, look for humility. You really don’t want to hire someone that isn’t open to anyone else’s ideas. It’s never fun having to deal with an argument over every small decision because of that one person on your team that “know” that their way is the best approach. Having humility and looking for developers with humility will take you a long way.