If you haven't heard of Liz Ryan, she is a regular contributor to Forbes who writes about outmoded human resources practices. Her theme is that there are some practices that not only damage employees or potential employees, but also damage the companies themselves.
There's a story floating around that's right up Ryan's alley.
Someone was applying for a director of engineering position. Actually, he wasn't applying for it; someone sought HIM out. Why? Probably because of his experience.
I started coding 37 years ago (I was 11 years old) and never stopped since then. Beyond having been appointed as R&D Director 24 years ago (I was 24 years old), among (many) other works, I have since then designed and implemented the most demanding parts of TWD's R&D projects* – all of them delivering commercial products...
So presumably the director position is not an entry-level position where the employee is expected to do things by rote.
Or is it?
During a phone interview, things began to go awry around question 5.
5. What is a Linux inode?
Me: a unique file identifier for any given file system.
Recruiter: wrong, it's file metadata.
Me: the inode is an index uniquely identifying a file on a given filesystem, and you can lookup this index to fetch file attributes like size, time, owner and permissions; you can even add your own attributes on some file systems.
Recruiter: wrong, not "attributes", it's "metadata".
I should disclose that I would have bombed out of the test at question 1. But note the tone of the recruiter, and how the recruiter is proceeding with the interview. This becomes extremely obvious by the time the recruiter gets to question 7.
7. what is the name of the KILL signal?
Me: SIGKILL which #define is set to 9.
Recruiter: no, it's "TERMINATE".
Me: SIGTERM (15) is different from the KILL signal (9).
Recruiter: that's not the answer I have on my sheet of paper.
I don't know about your experience, but the people that I have seen in a Director position (or even in a Senior Manager or Manager position) have to respond to changing circumstances, sometimes with insufficient data. In other words, the answers to things that a Director faces are not things that you have on a sheet of paper.
Yet the recruiter insisted upon only accepting the official answer in front of him/her. This continued until ten questions had been asked, with the applicant explaining his rationale for the answers he provided, and the recruiter continuing to insist on the "right" answer.
As far as the recruiter was concerned, the applicant was grossly unqualified to work at the recruiter's company because he didn't provide the right answers.
Google, according to applicant Pierre Gauthier.
It's important to note that this part of the process was a specialized test rather than a general interview. But this particular interviewer apparently wasn't looking for creative solutions. In fact, while we're only getting a second-hand account of the recruiter's responses, it's quite possible that the recruiter didn't know anything about coding at all, and was just looking for the magic words on the all-important sheet of paper.
After the fact, Gauthier commented that even Google itself disagreed with the "right answers" that the recruiter had on the sheet of paper. After noting that the recruiter insisted that Quicksort is the best sorting method, Gauthier noted, "The Linux kernel (that Google relies on) opted for Heapsort rather than Quicksort... for its lower memory usage and more predictable execution time."
But Gauthier saved his best dig for the end of his post. Not the text at the end of the post, but a footnote at the end of the post (before subsequent updates).
(**) Google pagerank: the ultra-secret mathematical formula demonstrating that sponsored search results rank higher than reality can.
P.S. Hopefully the recruiter doesn't work in the Blogger part of Google now. If he/she does, this may be my last post outside of tymshft.
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