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Will the Solve-the-Riddle Hiring Trend Affect IT? 579

Posted by Cliff
from the practical-skills-vs-pedigree dept.
An anonymous reader wonders: "It's probably harder to find a good developer, than for a developer to find a job. Seems to be a Google-riddle trend; rather than caring about references/diplomas/resumes, employers are using solve-this-and-you-have-a-job approach, not even caring about any usual information. Does that give decent graduates/talented unexperienced devs/homegrown coders a chance at the corporate job, or does it alienate potential matches?"
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Will the Solve-the-Riddle Hiring Trend Affect IT?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @11:46AM (#16096966) Journal
    From the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] entry:
    Some 9,000 people were working at Bletchley Park at the height of the codebreaking efforts in January 1945, and over 10,000 worked there at some point during the war. A number were recruited for various intellectual achievements, whether they were chess champions, crossword experts, polyglots or great mathematicians. In one, now well known instance, the ability to solve The Daily Telegraph crossword in under 12 minutes was used as a recruitment test. The newspaper was asked to organise a crossword competition, after which each of the successful participants was contacted and asked if they would be prepared to undertake "a particular type of work as a contribution to the war effort". The competition itself was won by F H W Hawes of Dagenham who finished the crossword in less than eight minutes.
    Solving a crossword in under 12 minutes was the entrance exam. That's interesting. I remember reading about this in Simon Singh's The Code Book [simonsingh.net] in the Chapter on Alan Turing.

    I think the ability to solve puzzles is tightly correlated with the skill set desired by IT. Because it takes an inquisitive and unrelenting mind to hit the hardest puzzles. If they like to do this for fun, surely they can do it well for a living.

    Perhaps it's even more important than the education because of the way IT problems arise? I constantly tell my boss that I complete the crossword everyday at work without fear of repurcussions. I feel this keeps my mind nimble and prepares me for the day.

    Isn't a college degree just a symbol that says, "Look, a whole bunch of people with good reputations threw a bunch of puzzles at me. Some were hard, some were easy, but overall I did well enough to pass through these puzzles. I retained some of the information and processes but that's not really important. What's important is the fact that I'm able to solve problems and paid to do it for four years."

    So, in the end, I predict this will have little or no effect on the IT world at all. In fact, I think it's a better shift towards hiring the most qualified person. For financial reasons, I went to the University of Minnesota but people on the East coast imagine a backwoods podunk frozen tundra instead of an institution of learning when I mention it. If I'm a good puzzle solver, it shouldn't matter.
    • by networkBoy (774728) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:14PM (#16097253) Homepage Journal
      You're making too much of it.

      The average network diagram is so convoluted that it can not be accurately put on paper. Having a mind that can actually grasp what's really going on is a rare thing. It's simply another puzzle to be solved.
      -nB
      • by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:35PM (#16097438)
        You hit the nail on the head there, twice.

        Real IT problems aren't as easy as the Sunday crossword. The problem being that different people are good at different puzzles. But if you're bad at problem solving, it'll show up in your lack of ability to solve puzzles.

        Even our small network here at the office was ugly to diagram out. I was amazed at what a pain it was. And the guy who installed the IP-based phones could not do his job until he drew it out on the whiteboard. We ended up fixing his drawing, then revising it several times as we re-ordered the office a bit for convenience. But we had to draw EVERYTHING for him. With extensive labelling. And we also had to call things by the names he learned in school. It had to be 'FQDN' and not 'domain name' or he'd be lost. (He did eventually figure that one out and start correcting us when we just said 'domain name', though.) He's exactly the sort of 'tech' the puzzles would have made sure they never hired.

        Relying solely upon the puzzles is as crazy as relying on any other single part of the interview process, though. Our office is extremely smooth, and most people get along with most everyone else. A year prior to my hire, the office was not like this. Most people hated coming to work, including the owners. They instituted a personality test during the interview process and things got better quickly.

        Just 1 more thing to help weed out bad apples, that's all.
    • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot@[ ]kelectric.com ['mon' in gap]> on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:38PM (#16097465)
      Yes and no.

      Out here in Orange County, IGN Entertainment is infamous for their tests. I went in and nailed the interview. The next level to advance to was a test. The test was to implement a small web server (GET/HEAD commands basically) in C++ using *no external libraries of any kind*. They stated the test should take 3 - 4 hours. The specs were extremely vague and any attempt I made to get clarification was met with "do what you think is best".

      They also mailed me the test late on a thursday evening, and were calling asking where it was the following monday morning. Problem being I was currently working 50/60 hours a week as well, and it just happened to be the weekend I was moving :(

      I ask you then, how is anyone who currently *has* a job and perhaps a family supposed to complete a test like this? It seems like the most talented candidates would *HAVE* jobs and therefore find it much more difficult to complete the test. I rushed the program together because -- what choice did I have? It did not represent me well.

      Looking back, the only appropriate response on my part would have been to say "Your requirements suck, and this is not a 3 to 4 hour job. Thanks but no thanks." The entire thing was a waste of their time, waste of my time. Maybe that was the test, to see if I'd tell them to fuck off.

      • by EastCoastSurfer (310758) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:55PM (#16097622)
        These kinds of tests usually tell me I don't want to work at that sort of place. If they are going to expect an interview candidate to write a web server in a few hours, then what will they want when you work there? Expect to have demands like 'we need an entire application written this week, don't worry about design or figuring out what the application really needs to do, just write something.'
        • by rlp (11898) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @02:07PM (#16098224)
          'we need an entire application written this week, don't worry about design or figuring out what the application really needs to do, just write something.'

          Wow, I used to work there too! Did you know Fred?
        • by Geoff (968) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @03:18PM (#16098774) Homepage
          Amen, brother.

          I once had an interview where they handed me a few lines of abberent C code and asked what's the output. I answered that it didn't matter, because C code should never be written like that. Production C code should never look like an entry in the Obfuscated C contest.

          That was the wrong answer, of course, and I didn't get an offer, but I figured a sysadmin job at a place that wanted me to be able to read obfuscated C entries probably wasn't the place I wanted to work anyway.

          Geoff
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tricorn (199664)

            Of course it was the wrong answer. The ability to analyze a bit of C code (whether or not you think it's "abberent") is an important skill, when determining what a piece of code IS doing as opposed to what it APPEARS to be doing or is DOCUMENTED as doing.

      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @02:26PM (#16098371) Homepage

        The next level to advance to was a test. The test was to implement a small web server (GET/HEAD commands basically) in C++ using *no external libraries of any kind*.

        So you had to GET/HEAD over a weekend? Was your wife allowed to help you?

    • College is a game (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nuggz (69912) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:45PM (#16097518) Homepage
      Isn't a college degree just a symbol that says, "Look, a whole bunch of people with good reputations threw a bunch of puzzles at me.

      No, it's mostly proof that you can play the game.
      There are two games.
      1. The technical education which is the following game.
      They ask a question.
      You determine what the real question is.
      You find the right book.
      You read how to answer the question.
      You answer the question.

      2. The People game.
      You learn how to make people happy and play the politics and admin game. I think this is the real reason most education administrations are described as a nightmare, it's actually part of the learning experience.
      Later you play the sales/job interview game. They're pretty much the same, only the product changes.
      • by Knara (9377) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @01:29PM (#16097923)
        All of which are applicable to a corporate job.

        But if you think you can get through a good CS program without learning puzzle solving or problem analysis, you're either an idiot or you went through a really bad CS program (which admittedly, are probably not in short supply).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ozbird (127571)
      Solving a crossword in under 12 minutes was the entrance exam.

      I assume it was solving a cryptic crossword [telegraph.co.uk] in under 12 minutes.

      English cryptic crosswords are notoriously difficult, at least in part because of their assumed local knowledge (e.g. "Mayfair" stands for the two letters "WI".) I've seen one where virtually all of the clues referenced the answer of others - until you solve the key clues, you can't even start! Another had no numbers - you have to solve all of the clues first, then fit them t
  • "Where shall we have lunch?"

    --Douglas Adams
  • Websense (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @11:48AM (#16096986)
    Hmm. Websense blocks proveyourworth.net because it falls in the 'sex' category. Now I'm really curious about what this riddle is...
  • I've used them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cybert4 (994278) *
    Well, I tried to do riddles when I was hiring at a technology company. I liked to do mathematical ones that couldn't show any cultural bias. For example, deriving the quadratic formula. Or proving that the square root of two is irrational.

    I like this. It's a lot better than the usual asking for "ten years in a five year old language". Cool trick too. I wonder how many people won't even get to the "view source" option!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iapetus (24050)
      By the sounds of it you did show a cultural bias - towards people with a background in pure mathematics. If the work required that, then it's fair enough, but it shows next to nothing about problem-solving abilities. I dislike this - and not just because I didn't study pure maths to any particularly high level.
    • Re:I've used them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RingDev (879105) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:24PM (#16097334) Homepage Journal
      While I appreciate the unforgiving rock solid logic that is math, asking someone who has been out of math based education for a number of years to prove the irrationality of sqrt(2) is a bit of a stretch.

      I'd much rather go with a series of standardized logic questions (pattern recognition, basic math story problems, etc...) and one question buried in the test that is intentionally vague or poorly worded. Because well defined problems are easy, it's the problems that are not well defined that really test us in IT. Seeing how a potential employee handles themselves in a confusing situation is just as critical as how they handle themselves in a well defined situation. I would stay away from anything that depends on a complex understanding of any given topic, because at this point, we're not looking for someone who has the quadratic formula memorized, we're looking at someone who can look at a situation and pull values from that situation to plug into a formula.

      -Rick
  • Moo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chacham (981) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @11:48AM (#16096993) Homepage Journal
    Guvf vf xvaq bs fvyyl, ohg vg vf n avpr jnl gb svaq ng yrnfg *fbzr* gnyrag.
    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Funny)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @11:55AM (#16097073)
      For those of you confused by the gibberish above, you can solve it by using the key in the subject line. The process involves adding and subtracting each subsequent character value in the key. Since 'm' is the 13th character, you start by adding 13. From there you subtract 15 ('o' is the 15th character), and then you add 15 again. This gives you a final rotation value of 13. You can then apply that to the message to decrypt it.
    • V pbaphe.
  • Well, that was fun. For about 10 minutes. Then I got bored. :P

    Or more precisely, I don't need a job in Quebec, nor do I particularly want to work with PHP for a living. So I wasn't particularly interested in submitting my resume and 'PHP code'. Still, it's kind of a neat site. I would encourage companies looking for high-end talent to do more of this as a recruitment effort. After all, it had me intrigued enough to solve their little puzzle (even if it was overrated) despite not looking to work for them.

    Unfortunately, the comparison with Google is poor. Google requires that you have a Masters Degree (PhDs are preferrable) before they even give you their test. Then they're so secretive that they may never get back to you even if you complete their test perfectly. You'll never even know why they didn't get back to you, despite a promise to start an interview process after the test.

    As a result, the two don't really compare. :)

    P.S. The Prove Your Worth site really does track your movements via (some rather ugly looking) Javascript. So move carefully.
    • I don't know. I don't have a master's and I've been contacted by two Google recruiters that were interested in me...
      • Did they ever get back to you?
        • Actually, I told them I wasn't interested. I don't want to live in Cal and I don't really care for the working practices that I've heard there having talked to people.

          I've done the startup thing before. Insane hours are not my thing. Crunch time happens, but every day should not be a crunch. Life is for living. Even though you should enjoy your work, there are more important things than being at your desk for excessive periods of time.
        • I think the important bit is that if they categorically don't go after anyone without a masters then they wouldn't have contacted him in the first place.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AKAImBatman (238306) *
            The first rule is that there's always exceptions to the rule. ;-)

            Google appears to pursue non-degreed people in a couple of different situations:

            1. The early responders to their public Quiz sheet they put out a little while back.
            2. You have a project, product, or unique knowledge they wish to acquire.
            3. The position is not in a development area of the company, but is in a supporting function. (e.g. Customer Relations, Tech Ops, etc.)

            Unfortunately, things seem to NOT work out with Google more often than they
    • Maybe you only *thought* you completed the test perfectly. ;-)
    • Unfortunately, the comparison with Google is poor. Google requires that you have a Masters Degree (PhDs are preferrable) before they even give you their test.

      What?

      I don't know what "test" you are talking about, but no qualifications whatsoever are required to do certain types of engineering at Google. Specifically look at what they call "Google.com Engineering" or "Site Reliability Engineering". This is not some trivial job; they require very broad and deep knowledge across operating system design, pro

  • Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kevin_conaway (585204) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @11:50AM (#16097007) Homepage

    I suspect that its not necessarily that you solve the riddle this instant, they probably want to get an insight into how you think and how you solve problems.

    Problem solving is a huge part of developing software and an important quality to have in a candidate

  • by plopez (54068) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @11:50AM (#16097015) Journal
    "What have I got in my pockets".

    Considering the resemblence of hiring trolls to Gollum, it seemed appropriate :)
  • Having interviewed at a number of these companies (Google included), this "riddle" emphasis is dramatically overstated.

    So, then, what could the point of this submission be? Perhaps to drive posters to this website?

    Bah. Screw 'em.
  • Solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikeumass (581062) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @11:55AM (#16097063)
    • by cs02rm0 (654673)
      That was what I thought was obvious, but no.
      • by cs02rm0 (654673)
        Oh. I pasted the URL into firefox and it put an & in which obviously screwed it up.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Nos. (179609)

      That's step one, step two is to automate the reply to the form in step two. Not incredibly difficult, and they give you hints on what to use to do it (fscok, curl, snoopy). Since it requires you to use POST, its a little more than just manipulating the URL, but like I said, its not incredibly difficult.

      That being said, this is probably not a bad way to screen out those who are incompetent. It would narrow the field down at least somewhat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Qzukk (229616)
        The interesting thing about it is that not only does it test the applicant's ability to use various PHP tools (in a roundabout way) it also forces awareness of some of the stupider things people do in their site designs. Hidden values in forms that are expected to be secure because you can't see them in the browser, aren't. People can post anything to your form from anywhere, not just from the page you thought they should be coming from, and so on.

        That said, I've done the kind of automation that they're l
  • if they are related to the actual job. I don't expect a history/language riddle for a programming related job, etcetera - as that won't tell you much.

    That said, there is so many variables what makes a good/valuable employee that basing a hiring decision solely on one riddle can be silly.

    But it's not going to affect IT any. I have the impression that some companies have always been a bit silly in this area, and some companies always had their feet on the ground and don't go for the latest fad/nonsense.

    I re
  • Prove to me your talents. That's what I need. That and a criminal background check that comes up negative.

    • Re:I like this (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) * on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:09PM (#16097202)
      and a criminal background check that comes up negative

      Is your hiring policy so brain-dead that any blot on a criminal background check is an automatic disqualifier? Or is a potential candidate given a chance to explain? We live in times when it seems that everything is illegal. No one gets through a day without doing something illegal. No one gets through a month without committing a serious crime. (Well, at least that's true if you have a half-way fun sex life.) Is your requirement for a negative background check absolute? If so, why?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MindStalker (22827)
        1) It proves you are good enough not to get caught.
        2) If they tell you to do something illigal they don't want it comming back to them in the terms of "You hired a known felon..."
  • Riddles are good at proving problem solving skills, but don't necessarily show prgramming or IT eptitude. Someone who solves a riddle fast is more likely to be able to fix an unknown problem with little background, and while that is good a better employee would be able to keep the problem from happening in the first place.

    Riddles are a good test and gauge a person better than "you went to this school for this time period, got these grades, and then went on to do this job for a few years", but they don't mak
    • by peragrin (659227)
      while I agree with you for programing, IT, in genral is trying to figure out which part is bad out of so many possible combinations, ranging from hardware to software layers. Solving a riddle may not prove your worth as a programmer, but it won't hurt it either. it shows you can see things from more than just GIGO.
    • Well, in today's IT world, your chances are high that you're hired for fixing code rather than for writing new code. More often than not, I was hired for maintaining and expanding existing code than for writing code from scratch. So yes, your ability to understand a problem, find its source and fixing it is definitly high on the "want-to-have" scale of IT companies today.
    • by nuzak (959558)
      > Riddles are good at proving problem solving skills

      They're good at a particular set of problem solving skills.

      Let's see, what did I do yesterday ... Tracked down a rogue remote reconfiguration that hosed a lab box, aided by my knowledge of PAM and experience with where to look in syslog. Suggested some variance analysis datamining to fine-tune an antispam rule retraining algorithm. Explained the differences between a DFA and NFA regex engine to a new guy and how backrefs will blow it up.

      I am the go-to
  • Riddles work (Score:4, Informative)

    by grapeape (137008) <mpope7 AT kc DOT rr DOT com> on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:06PM (#16097173) Homepage
    Its how I landed my current job. Resume wise I have an unrelated degree, few certifications that are still valid but many years of experience. The companies owner saw my resume and noticed an application I had listed was a relatively obscure one that they were having trouble with. I was asked to come in as a consultant for a week and fix the problem for them. I had everything fixed in less than a day, they were impressed enough that I was offered a full time job on the spot.

    Riddle solving evens the playing field for those that are skilled but may not have the resume to reflect their skill level. I know most hate the old saying that "those who can do and those who cant teach" but many times book smarts doesnt translate into real world performance. Being able to display the smarts and tenacity to tackle a problem head especially after others have tried and given up instantly gives you a "value" to the potential employer. I think most that dont like the idea arent comfortable with the idea that someone with a lesser resume might actually be better in real world situations.

  • Pay more attention to how you got to the answer, even if it's wrong.

    Years ago I went through something similar during an interview. VP of sales comes in, hands me a piece of paper, pencil, and calculator and asked me to figure out how many gas stations were in the US. Came back about 10 minutes later and we discussed how I got to my answer and how we got to his. Both of ours were reasonable, though we were probably both off the actual number. I think he just wanted to make sure I came up with something
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:08PM (#16097185)
    Manager
        "The bad news is that you failed the puzzle exam, the good news is that if you can make this power point slide animate annoyingly while playing music, you're hired."

    CEO/CFO/etc.
        "Here's a knife and here's your mother, stab her and I'll give you $20."

    Corporate Lawyer
        "Look outside and tell me it's raining (it's sunny). Now write the most incomprehensible sentence you can. When you are finished, Bob the CEO wants to talk to you about another test."

    Accountant
        "See these two piles of cash on my table? When I turn around, you have five seconds to hide one so that I can't find it."

    Marketing
        "Tell me again how this pen in my hand can cure cancer?"

    Sales
        "I have several baggies of what appears to be baking soda on my desk, when I come back at lunch, they should be gone."

    Intern
        "When I say it's all your fault, you say ok. It's your fault."

    Technical Support
        "This button on the phone transfers the caller to another support person. Can you press it?"

    Office Assistant
        "Do you have experience with the mentally handicapped or young children? Meet Bob, your new boss."

  • by pauljlucas (529435) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:12PM (#16097225) Homepage Journal
    Does [solve-the-riddle] give decent graduates/talented unexperienced devs/homegrown coders a chance at the corporate job, or does it alienate potential matches?
    If I do say so myself, I'm a pretty good software architect and developer. However, I don't do well under the kind of pressure typically experienced at a job interview when asked to solve oddball problems in real-time. Often, my biggest insights come when I'm not consiously thinking about the problem, e.g., while in the shower.

    Those who do well at solve-the-riddle interviews are certainly intelligent and can solve problems, but it's not necessarily true that they can solve ill-specified problems -- real-world problems that need solving aren't usually as completely specified as a riddle or puzzle.

    There are other ways to conduct interviews that yield good candidates. Get the person to talk about his past work -- technical people who have done good stuff love to do this with great enthusiasm. You can then ask about trade-offs in thei designs and implementations. You can usually figure out whether the candidate was a key player in the work being discussed.

    Another way is to describe a real-world problem facing your company, but without actually asking the candidate anything. A good candidate will be interested in yoru problem, ask questions, offer suggestions. If the candidate just sits there, s/he's not a good candidate.

    • by starfishsystems (834319) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:50PM (#16097574) Homepage
      Absolutely.

      There are certainly tech support jobs out there which consist primarily of what we might call solving puzzles.

      Generally, however, a technical person needs to be broadly competent, needs to have strengths in both analysis and design, needs to communicate well, needs to be able to manage relationships effectively, needs to be able to organize and prioritize effectively under directions which can be incomplete or ambiguous.

      The best technical people are not just able to address the issues in front of them, they use them to generate leverage in making progress toward larger goals. They have to articulate and negotiate for those larger goals, which means they have to be sensitive to interests of other individuals, and to the potential for alignment and conflict among them.

      These requirements hold especially for more senior positions. It's fine to be able to solve puzzles, but that's not most of the job. And as anyone with hiring experience knows, it's far more successful to gain senior people by letting them rise through the ranks than it is to hire them from outside the organization. Unless you make a point of attracting and hiring people who have that potential, you can risk ending up mostly with a whole bunch of puzzle solvers.

      Even scientific research, which obviously tries to solve some very hard puzzles, is mostly driven by collaboration. I've seen generations of compuer science grad students come and go, and the ones that go furthest are invariably the most collaborative. Out of the practice of collaboration they seem to have an easier time understanding their work in context, and they seem able to pick up all the other necessary management skills along the way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Frogbert (589961)
      I typically get around this problem by tipping a glass of water over my head when presented with hard problems that I need to figure out asap.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:12PM (#16097229) Homepage

    To submit your resume, you have to construct a URL manually. The Angelides campaign in California is in trouble for doing that on Governor Schwartznegger's "speeches" site, where all they did was to look at the directory of available audio and listen to it, instead of just listening to the stuff that had external links.

    If anybody cares, http://www.proveyourworth.net/?p=begin&mistake=lit tle [proveyourworth.net] gets you to their stupid form.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Animats (122034)

      And then you have to build up the URL as if some app had built it. The arguments are

      p="auto_submit"&hash="number you get from form page"&referer="URL of form page"...

      There's more, but you get the idea.

  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@devi n m oore.com> on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:24PM (#16097339) Homepage Journal
    1. Sales has agreed to build a system, and the client's already signed off on a fixed price payment. You have 1 month to build it until the budget runs out. There is no spec, no design document, and no way to confirm any given feature. What do you do?

    A. Build as fast as possible and hope for the best.
    B. Cry and whimper like a baby, because you're completely screwed.
    C. Pitch a fit to management/slashdot/etc about what sales did.
    D. Burn the place down.
    E. All of the above.
  • It's a good filter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @12:34PM (#16097415)
    Actually, I got my job that way. Basically, the catch was that they contacted me, and my interest came on when I saw that they used riddles to filter applicants.

    It is a good filter when it comes to separating those who have relevant skills from those who are good at pretending. You can't cheat at "riddles". You can't talk and weasle out of them. You can't impress the interviewer. Don't forget that in HR, few if any people have relevant coding skills. Now, you want to hire a coder. The HR guy hasn't the foggiest what assembler or an export table is, but he should hire someone who can read assembler and understand foreign 80x86 code. How should he do it? Would you rather have the HR guy listen to someone rambling about his "achivements" and qualifications, or do you hand him a paper saying:

    What does this do:
    POP EBX
    INC EBX
    PUSH EBX
    RET

    (together with the correct answer, of course).

    Which strategy do you think will give you the better qualified applicants for the final examination?
    • by ewhac (5844) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @01:40PM (#16098018) Homepage Journal
      What does this do:
      POP EBX
      INC EBX
      PUSH EBX
      RET

      More often than not, crashes the machine.

      Schwab

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by biobogonics (513416)
        What does this do:
        POP EBX
        INC EBX
        PUSH EBX
        RET

        More often than not, crashes the machine.


        Maybe so. A better question might be - Why would you want to use code like this or similar code? On the 65xx, one way of passing arguments to a subroutine was having them embedded in the code stream. So the return address is a pointer to your arguments. You deal with them, then adjust the return address to skip the arguments, push it, then return. So do I get the job???

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wintermute42 (710554)

      You certainly have a right to your opinion. It's great that there's a match between employers who do this sort of thing and people who like that sort of interview. I wrote a web page, Calculating Permutations and Job Interview Questions [bearcave.com] on this topic. What do I suggest for interview questions instead? How about detailed questions about the projects that the applicant has worked on, what exactly they did on these projects, how the solved the problems they encountered, how the software they wrote was st

  • Problem solving and creative thinking is an essential skill in technology, whether you are a developer, administrator, QA, etc.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @01:00PM (#16097662)

    ...couldn't get dumber. This is flavor of the week type of stuff, folks. I'm lousy at riddles, but I win design award after design award plus bonuses in my engineering job. I have several patents. I'm sorry, but I just have very little patience for these Grand Unified Theories Of Everything when it comes to dealing with human beings. It just strikes me as HR people looking for ever lazier ways to hire the talent.

    Also, Our IT people have that site blocked. I wonder what that riddle means?

  • best credentials (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TLouden (677335) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @01:48PM (#16098078)
    if you were a manager looking for a wrestler, wouldn't you want to test their physical strength?

    IT is now so much about problem solving, why not test potential employees ability to do just that.
    While it might once have been possible to already know everything about a technology which one was responible for maintaining, that's no longer how the industry works. When there's a new problem, we google. The better problem solver is the better hire.
  • by digitalamish (449285) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @02:58PM (#16098618)
    I was taken to a conference room, given a hardcopy chunk of code, and told to figure out what it did. On the way out one guy said, "Oh there might be an error in there too". So I did my 'Russell Nash' thing and ran the program step by step in my head and figured the program out. I ran a few more calculations, and I determined there was a problem given a certain numeric precision. The guys came back in about 30 minutes after they left. First they asked to see any scrap paper I used determining the solution. I told them I didn't have any, except for a couple of numbers I wrote on the code pages. They were stunned, but I explained exactly what the program did, which one of them confirmed. Then I explained the error I found. At this point they got very defensive. It seems this piece of code was pulled from their production systems, and "didn't have any errors". I explained what I found to them, and one of them wandered off.

    Oddly I didn't get the job. They said I lacked the ability to document. Funny since I graduated with a degree in technical writing. Maybe they just wanted people to come in an debug for them in interviews.
    • I interviewed for a telecommuting position in a city about two hours away. The Big Project was to re-implement Pointcast or some other stupid push technology, but this time users would actually like it. Yeah.

      So during the interview, they revealed that they were expecting to support about 1,000,000 clients with updates every minute. "Oh?", says I, "how much data are you pushing to each user every minute?" They answered with, "we're very efficient! Only about 1KB." "And how much bandwidth do you have?

  • by speckledpig (880809) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @04:24PM (#16099468)
    "How many lights do you see?"

Loan-department manager: "There isn't any fine print. At these interest rates, we don't need it."

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