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RE: [XP] Re: Pairing during interviews?

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  • Steven Gordon
    Do any candidates ever reject the offer after such a grueling experience? ... From: Ken Boucher [mailto:yahoo@nozen.com] Sent: Wed 6/30/2004 7:06 PM To:
    Message 1 of 8 , Jun 30, 2004
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      Do any candidates ever reject the offer after such a grueling experience?

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Ken Boucher [mailto:yahoo@...]
      Sent: Wed 6/30/2004 7:06 PM
      To: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
      Cc:
      Subject: [XP] Re: Pairing during interviews?

      > Interesting. Can you provide a little more detail on how this
      > works at your organization? What kind of project do you use during
      > this "interview pairing"? I assume you switch off roles? How much
      > time do you take? How many pairs does an interviewee do during the
      > interview process?

      Rough process overview of the last time we did it: (all tasks are
      roughly 1.5 hours give or take a half hour. Entire process takes most
      of the day)
      Bob (generic name for the person we're considering hiring) talks with
      a senior programmer, a business person, and someone else for an hour
      or so.
      Bob pairs with someone from Team X on whatever they're doing.
      Bob pairs with someone from Team Y on some sort of "how would you
      solve this problem pairing".
      Bobs eats at the Chinese food joint across the street with 4-8 of us.
      Bob pairs with a couple people from Team Z on whatever they're doing.
      Bob meets in a larger room with a bunch of developers, talks some
      more, and does a little bit of chalk talk/modeling/whatever.
      Bob goes home, exhausted, and knowing more about how we work than he
      probably ever wanted to know.
      We meet and decide through some process that if I describe it
      incorrectly would probably have HR breathing down my neck. It's
      really simple actually and very quick (<15 minutes).
      In this process Bob will meet (roughly) about 12 people with a wide
      range of personalities (perhaps too wide).

      This is about as generic of a description as I can give. It provides
      the flavor with no real attempt at accuracy.





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    • Ken Boucher
      ... Yes, but usually over money. If you base your salary expectations on the cost of living in San Francisco, well, there s a reason were in Omaha. You can buy
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 1 2:57 AM
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        > Do any candidates ever reject the offer after such a grueling
        > experience?

        Yes, but usually over money. If you base your salary expectations on
        the cost of living in San Francisco, well, there's a reason were in
        Omaha. You can buy a house in Omaha for the cost of an apartment in
        San Francisco.

        The majority of the people who decide not to interview are the ones
        who say "Omaha? You want me to relocate to Omaha? Bwahahaha."

        We try to be very clear in the preliminary phone interview about what
        we're looking for, what we expect, and what we're about. We're not
        going to fly someone out and waste their time and ours unless all of
        us (the person included) think this is a good idea.
      • Eric Crampton
        ... I guess I m one of those strange people who would say, Ohama? Great! Personally, I would be really happy to be interviewed in the manner that Ken
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 1 2:21 PM
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          On Thu, 2004-07-01 at 02:57, Ken Boucher wrote:
          > The majority of the people who decide not to interview are the ones
          > who say "Omaha? You want me to relocate to Omaha? Bwahahaha."

          I guess I'm one of those strange people who would say, "Ohama? Great!"

          Personally, I would be really happy to be interviewed in the manner that
          Ken describes. When I'm in the interviewee position, it's really hard to
          know how their development process works, the general "code
          cleanliness", how their test coverage looks, and what kinds of hurdles
          they have in their daily development (managerial? build times too long?
          undocumented code? stale code? untestable code? source code control?
          requirements problems? etc.). Anything I can do as an interviewee to
          learn these things is great.

          I think I've often asked *too many* questions as the interviewee trying
          to glean this information from a potential employer. If I can't get that
          information I want about how they do their jobs, then I won't accept the
          job.

          Having the opportunity to actually *code* with the people I'd be working
          with on a daily basis would be perfect, grueling or not!

          --Eric
        • Ken Boucher
          ... Great! If you smalltalk and you re interested, send a resume my way.
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 1 3:48 PM
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            > I guess I'm one of those strange people who would say, "Ohama?
            Great!"

            If you smalltalk and you're interested, send a resume my way.
          • Tony Nassar
            ... Wouldn t it be a relief to find out how they code? What their code looks like? What practices they actually follow? What they re *like*? This is the *only*
            Message 5 of 8 , Jul 5 7:10 AM
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              > > Do any candidates ever reject the offer after such a grueling
              > > experience?

              Wouldn't it be a relief to find out how they code? What their code looks like? What practices they actually follow? What they're *like*? This is the *only* kind of interview I'd like to go through. Sure, I'd have to skip work for a day, but do I really want a better job or don't I?

              After struggling for a year to find a job near San Francisco, and having to suffer through quizzes, puzzles ("A king had three sons..."), technical "Gotcha!" questions, etc., I know whereof I speak. In the future I will walk out on a prospective employer if all the interviewers resort to these tactics, because <EM>there is no way to tell if I'd actually want to work there</EM>, no way to tell if they write good code (not individually, which doesn't count, but collectively), and no way to tell if I'd write good code if I went to work there.
            • Ken Boucher
              ... Even though it s off topic, I feel I need to talk a bit about these tactics, since I ve now been on the other side of the hiring table a few too many
              Message 6 of 8 , Jul 5 8:33 AM
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                --- In extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com, Tony Nassar
                <tony.nassar@o...> wrote:
                > having to suffer through quizzes, puzzles ("A king had three
                > sons..."), technical "Gotcha!" questions, etc., I know whereof I
                > speak. In the future I will walk out on a prospective employer if
                > all the interviewers resort to these tactics, because <EM>there is
                > no way to tell if I'd actually want to work there</EM>, no way to
                > tell if they write good code (not individually, which doesn't
                > count, but collectively), and no way to tell if I'd write good code
                > if I went to work there.

                Even though it's off topic, I feel I need to talk a bit about these
                tactics, since I've now been on the other side of the hiring table a
                few too many times.

                For the most part, the programmers our organization interviews are
                not in competition with anyone else. This may change, as all things
                may, but really each person is running pretty much on their own
                merits. We've occasionally matched canidates with jobs other than the
                ones they knew about when they were a fit for one thing but not a fit
                for the job they applied for.

                But here's a quick run down of some of the things that happen and
                what this means to someone looking for a job.

                1) The resume slush pile:
                Do not make a mistake on your resume. A resume very rarely convinces
                any one to hire you. What a resume really does is give someone a
                reason to end the interview process right then and there. We need
                X,Y, and Z. Does the resume clearly indicate they have X,Y,and Z?
                Good. Are there any mistakes or anything we don't like about the
                resume? The resume is an indicator of the best work we can expect out
                of a canidate. If the best work someone can do includes a bunch of
                mistakes, well, we have other resumes and a limited amount of time.
                So really the resume isn't a "who do we include?" process. It's
                really a "who do we throw out?" process. Write and have your resume
                reviewed accordingly.

                2) The phone interview.
                The phone interview serves one purpose only. We don't want to waste
                their time and our time and everyone else's money to fly someone in
                unless we think they're a good fit. So we want to make sure the
                person knows what we're about, we know they know their stuff, we know
                that they can communicate, and we all have a happy feeling about
                this.
                The trick questions above can come into play here. We've done samurai
                java and smalltalk interviews complete with trick questions, obscure
                details, and everything else. Why? Because there aren't a lot of
                things you can find out from a phone conversation. You can get a good
                feel for someone's knowledge, someone's ability to relax, and
                someone's ability to say the words "I don't know". You can also get a
                feel for how strong someone's personality is. People who bend too far
                or can't bend at all may not be a good fit for the organization. So
                you do what you can because phone interviews are cheap and the next
                step isn't. Once again, it's a weed-out process.

                3) Onsite.
                A lot of things happen when you're onsite for the day. Everyone has
                different experiences in hiring practices and in a day you're going
                to see a lot of them. You may find yourself pairing with the shop's
                most abrasive programmer. You may find yourself discussing obscure
                forms of music. You may wonder why everyone is wearing a wig. You may
                ask yourself what the heck these people are even saying because the
                language is peppered with terms and acronyms that you've never heard
                before. You might wonder why someone just banged the gong
                (literally). Some of this is simply business as normal and other
                times it's done just to see how you react.

                Does that last bit sound strange? Read
                http://militera.lib.ru/research/suvorov6/04.html and learn the lesson
                of the towel. Think about it. And then think about all the stange
                customs a group of people who work as closely together as a agile
                shop has to might create.

                I honestly belive we now hire people as much for the person they are
                as much as for the skills they have. After all, the right person can
                learn the skills as they need to. Changing a personality on the other
                hand is much more difficult.
              • Ron Jeffries
                ... Fascinating story! Thanks! Ron Jeffries www.XProgramming.com I m not bad, I m just drawn that way. -- Jessica Rabbit
                Message 7 of 8 , Jul 5 11:32 AM
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                  On Monday, July 5, 2004, at 11:33:27 AM, Ken Boucher wrote:

                  > Does that last bit sound strange? Read
                  > http://militera.lib.ru/research/suvorov6/04.html and learn the lesson
                  > of the towel. Think about it. And then think about all the stange
                  > customs a group of people who work as closely together as a agile
                  > shop has to might create.

                  Fascinating story! Thanks!

                  Ron Jeffries
                  www.XProgramming.com
                  I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way. -- Jessica Rabbit
                • Ilja Preuss
                  BTW, I just read a very interesting paper on Extreme Interviewing , which included a lot of PP:
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jul 7 9:48 AM
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                    BTW, I just read a very interesting paper on "Extreme Interviewing",
                    which included a lot of PP:

                    http://menloinstitute.com/freestuff/whitepapers/extremeinterviewing.htm

                    or

                    http://tinyurl.com/3c583

                    Cheers, Ilja
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