Coffeehouse Thread

11 posts

Whiteboard coding interviews are bad

Back to Forum: Coffeehouse
  • TimP

    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-05-2.html

    Miguel brought that point up in a post talking about Novell/Mono hiring process. I never understood the fascination myself with these sorts of interviews or why they exist since they hardly relate to professional software development. To me it seems like a lot of companies do them because Microsoft is sort of infamous for doing them, implying it's a good way to screen people.

  • dahat

    I hate to quote the old cliché... but if you are interviewing a musician or singer, aren’t you going to ask them to demonstrate their craft? If you are interviewing a writer, aren’t you going to ask them to write something for you? If you are interviewing a designer, aren’t you going to ask them to design something for you?

    I agree that a whiteboard interview isn’t always the best way of dealing with the need to actually confirm (at some level) the applicants skills rather than just assume that they are in fact proficient at all of the languages and technologies they list and can think while using them as it’s far to easy to ahead of time have a meticoliously perfected portfolio to show off as ‘see all of my great work’ and *can* be more telling to see something live.

    In one episode of podcasts Scott Hanselman discussed a few alternative ways including discuss a problem. Have the interviewer throw out a problem they’ve seen recently and let the candidate ask questions and try to work through it, or alternatively have the caudate discuss a problem of theirs, a like or dislike so you can gauge their passion. This way you are able to get know more about who the person is and what skills they bring to the table while reducing the risk of cheating or stage fright when on the whiteboard.

    I must say that I rather like his ideas better than the board or a trivial test on paper where I need to write code to sort orange (as was seen at an interview a few months ago).

  • TimP

    I agree that you need some tangible way to evaluate a person's abilities. Resumes and portfolios are too easy to fake or BS. I think Miguel has the right idea with giving them a 8-16 hour project instead. It'll prove their coding abilities better than any whiteboard coding exercise and is a better representation of their real world work.

    You could argue that you can just as easily BS a remote coding interview as you could a resume or portfolio, but it would probably be pretty obvious as soon as you were asked to explain what you did.

  • SlackmasterK

    TimP wrote:

    wkempf wrote:


    Two different people post two topics with links back to the same blog. The posts were added to the blog on the same day, as were the forum threads.  Both blog plugs were phrased in the same way, and both about some new-age hippie commie open-source holier-than-thou propaganda from the homebrew anti-corporate indoctrination machine.

    Could this be a duplicate user?  Shame.  Not for doing it, but for giving it away so easily.

  • Cannot​Resolve​Symbol

    SlackmasterK wrote:
    
    TimP wrote:
    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-05-2.html%20%5B/quote">http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-05-2.html

    wkempf wrote:
    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-05.html


    Two different people post two topics with links back to the same blog. The posts were added to the blog on the same day, as were the forum threads.  Both blog plugs were phrased in the same way, and both about some new-age hippie commie open-source holier-than-thou propaganda from the homebrew anti-corporate indoctrination machine.

    Could this be a duplicate user?  Shame.  Not for doing it, but for giving it away so easily.


    Miguel works for Novell (he's the head of the Mono project) and he doesn't need to spam Channel 9 to get traffic.

    He's in the news right now because Novell and Microsoft are partnering to bring Silverlight to Linux (via the open-source Moonlight project).  But if you had actually read the posts (as it appears that you haven't, because you called them "commie open-source propoganda"), you would know this.

  • TimP

    SlackmasterK wrote:
    
    TimP wrote:
    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-05-2.html [/quote">http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-05-2.html

    wkempf wrote:
    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-05.html


    Two different people post two topics with links back to the same blog. The posts were added to the blog on the same day, as were the forum threads.  Both blog plugs were phrased in the same way, and both about some new-age hippie commie open-source holier-than-thou propaganda from the homebrew anti-corporate indoctrination machine.

    Could this be a duplicate user?  Shame.  Not for doing it, but for giving it away so easily.


    Not sure if this is a tongue-in-cheek reference to my reaction to sysrpl's off topic dribble that he posts here, but both posts are definitely more relevant to C9 than alleged CIA conspiracies or the latest happenings on the Colbert Report.

    Either that or you figured out my agenda. Yes, I registered here three years ago and waited until now to further Miguel de Icaza's agenda.

  • Detroit Muscle

    TimP wrote:
    I think Miguel has the right idea with giving them a 8-16 hour project instead.


    The best candidates are already working 8 hours a day at a different company. They wont have time to complete an 8-16 hour project. This limits your job search to the unemployed, which is never a best way to find the best people.

  • TimP

    Detroit Muscle wrote:
    
    TimP wrote:
    I think Miguel has the right idea with giving them a 8-16 hour project instead.


    The best candidates are already working 8 hours a day at a different company. They wont have time to complete an 8-16 hour project. This limits your job search to the unemployed, which is never a best way to find the best people.


    In the post he says he expects them to either have another full time job or school commitments, so he gives them several weeks to complete it.

  • Detroit Muscle

    TimP wrote:
    he gives them several weeks to complete it.

    Several weeks is plenty of time for your competition to snatch up the best talent.

  • DigitalDud

    You generally spend a lot of time on the whiteboard while working these jobs anyway, seems fitting enough.

  • thumbtacks2

    This is definitely an interesting approach. Personally, I would probably benefit from such an interview style. Plus, if the developer gets hired, I think it would become pretty clear within days whether or not the candidate actually has the skills they claim to have (or not).

Comments closed

Comments have been closed since this content was published more than 30 days ago, but if you'd like to continue the conversation, please create a new thread in our Forums, or Contact Us and let us know.