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Hiring Developers By Algorithm 326

Posted by samzenpus
from the nice-profile dept.
Strudelkugel writes in with a story about how big data is being used to recruit workers. "When the e-mail came out of the blue last summer, offering a shot as a programmer at a San Francisco start-up, Jade Dominguez, 26, was living off credit card debt in a rental in South Pasadena, Calif., while he taught himself programming. He had been an average student in high school and hadn't bothered with college, but someone, somewhere out there in the cloud, thought that he might be brilliant, or at least a diamond in the rough. 'The traditional markers people use for hiring can be wrong, profoundly wrong,' says Vivienne Ming, the chief scientist at Gild since late last year. That someone was Luca Bonmassar. He had discovered Mr. Dominguez by using a technology that raises important questions about how people are recruited and hired, and whether great talent is being overlooked along the way."
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Hiring Developers By Algorithm

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  • by WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:16PM (#43575871)

    Leaving a backdoor in this program would be the ultimate job security guarantee.

  • Sadly quite true (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:28PM (#43575973)

    I've been programming professionally since 1994. I'm sure I'll get around to taking a computer course one of these days. My first task with any new job is "Get past the HR moron" followed by "Find someone who actually knows something." If you're lucky, this is a manager. Frequently, however, describing the code abstraction structure in your overall application design often whizzes right over a manager's head.

    My suggestion? Keep it simple. Have some apps to show them, or a a web site with your latest web apps. Talk about how it solved a problem. Don't worry about the details until you get to another developer.

  • He is the only one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by houghi (78078) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:42PM (#43576069)

    He is the only one who reacted to the spam?

    I get tons of job offers and the only algorithm they seem to be using is that I at some point in the past was looking for a job. By pure chance one will fit me, I am sure.

  • If I have a day job? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by poached (1123673) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:45PM (#43576089)

    I am beginning to worry about this trend to have an online coding portfolio.

    I think open source is great, but once I got done with my day job coding, I never want to touch another line of code until work the next day. Adding to that, what about the basic need to socialize, spend time with the family, and spend time on hobbies?

    I have definitely seen SF job postings for people with extensive open-source commits. Those posts are biased towards a few people who are lucky enough that their company pays them to work on open-source products, are unemployed and doing open-source thing until hired, or the very few people who code for 16 hours a day. Personally, I wouldn't hire the person that codes for 16 hours a day, but that is who I need to be to get noticed these days?

  • We're artisans (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:51PM (#43576107)

    ... you've bothered to learn the necessary engineering outside of school and can convince them of that fact.

    We're talking about programming here and software design. By 'Software Engineering" are you referring to this [wikipedia.org]? I have never seen anyone with that cert or anyone who really cares. Has anyone actually seen it asa requirement for a job?

    Actual "Software engineering" is something that I have never seen in practice - ever.

    Every company that I've been at and every project that I've seen everywhere including all over the internet, designs and develops software the same way: hand over vague specs, figure it out and pound out that code. That's how developers/"Software engineers"/programmers (they are just titles referring to the same skill sets - get over yourselves) are hired - someone or a group (only the a genius superstar) can come in and knock it or their section out.

    We're Artisans - not engineers.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @05:19PM (#43576275) Journal

    No one is good at everything

    I've worked with legendary programmers throughout my career and I can tell you this --- you must understand the strong points of a particular programmer (even the legendary ones) so that you can tap into his potential and let him/her perform

    That "hiring by algorithm" is indeed a new way of looking at things, but it does take experience - excellent programmers all comes with their own particular quirks - and you need to provide them the room to stretch, the freedom that they need, in order to get them to do whatever they are good at

  • Re:We're artisans (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @05:38PM (#43576359)

    We're Artisans - not engineers.

    As an electrical engineer I can assure you that engineers largely work the same way. And the job titles that they're always playing with are ridiculous. Programmer, system analyst, software engineer, computer scientist, blah, blah, blah. Please, nobody try to educate me on the fine distinctions. I know them, I don't care, and I think anybody who really does care is either a stuck-up ass or so insecure about their abilities that they cling to buzzwords. At least EE's just call themselves EE's (and I've never met anybody who bothered to distinguish between electrical engineer and electronic engineer). The best programmer I ever knew (who also had a Ph.D. in CS from a fancy school) simply called himself a programmer.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @05:56PM (#43576457) Journal
    Depending somewhat on the kind of company doing the hiring, the prospective new hire shouldn't just be evaluated for the job at hand, but also for how well they'd do at other jobs, both at and above their current level. This means testing for adaptability, versatility and future potential. This, by the way, is where I find that people with college degrees far outperform self taught high school dropout programmers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 28, 2013 @06:03PM (#43576487)

    I'm really loving this attitude that PhDs are not any different from high school drop outs. This is perhaps true for menial tasks. It says something about the posters who tell these stories. Try assigning that high school dropout to do something non-trivial and highly conceptual, and you are mostly likely completely screwed.

    I know Slashdot isn't the place to say this, but almost all programming is menial. You wouldn't hire a high school dropout to do something serious like physics or chemistry or biology, but for driving a bus, washing a car, writing a UI, or cleaning toilets they're perfectly serviceable.

  • by mephox (1462813) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @07:26PM (#43576955) Homepage

    No one is good at everything

    I've worked with legendary programmers throughout my career and I can tell you this --- you must understand the strong points of a particular programmer (even the legendary ones) so that you can tap into his potential and let him/her perform

    That "hiring by algorithm" is indeed a new way of looking at things, but it does take experience - excellent programmers all comes with their own particular quirks - and you need to provide them the room to stretch, the freedom that they need, in order to get them to do whatever they are good at

    Interesting... You describe programmers much like other people describe artists. This is not a bad thing. I see programming, as a programmer, as part art, part science. Programmers need a deep understanding of logic and not a small bit of creativity to solve problems.

  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @07:34PM (#43576995) Journal

    I've hired about a hundred programmers in my career, and education and career background are a good set of indicators, but they're not the be-all and end-all of selection. I've had the best results from avoiding agencies and their filtering methods, believing it's worth plowing through a lot of crap myself, in order to not lose that one gem that can transform your entire development effort.

    And again, oddly enough, some of the best indicators were clear, intelligent, structured English and an interest in music. There seemed to be almost no correlation between those factors and their achieving a degree, or their lack of one.

    On a whim once I interviewed someone who had a non-standard resume that consisted of a well-reasoned argument for her self-taught programming skills, in impeccable English. I brought her in, and she showed me code samples that were sophisticated, well-written, well-commented and offered proof that they worked. Her background was "housewife", no job background at all, no degree. I hired her, and she ripped through the workload like a veteran.

    Don't be lazy, do your own filtering.

  • by rev0lt (1950662) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @08:09PM (#43577141)
    Disclaimer: I'm a high-school dropout.

    Theoretically, hiring a PhD would give you some guarantee about what the programmer is capable of doing - you can expect him to know not only how 2nd degree equations work, but also the basics of transcendental functions and how to apply base concepts into real-life problems. Theoretically. In practice, shure, maybe most dropouts don't have the basis to understand a lot of stuff - but many PhDs don't understand it either. And some of them, while understanding it, are unable to put in in practice.

    I'm one of the few (only?) completely self-taught developers on the company I work for (>100 developers). For most tasks, no "special" knowledge is needed - a monkey could do it. Even so, some academic folks struggle with concepts. For non-trivial, conceptual tasks, I'm usually at the top of the list of the guys to ask stuff. I've done stuff ranging from math coprocessor emulation to signal processing, image processing, 3d programming, embedded systems, compression algorithms, data processing/mining, etc. I'm probably not better than a good PhD (or a guy like me with proper academic background), but I'm way better than *a lot* of median ones.
    I would recommend to anyone that wants to be serious either in programming or CS to get a degree - proper mathematics is something that is usually hard to learn without a teacher - but having expectations on a guy just because he has a degree is just stupid. As it is having great expectations regarding a high-school dropout.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2013 @04:08AM (#43578857)

    "Having HR do any kind of interviewing is a waste of time." - Not entirely true, if we view HR as eliminating complete timewasters from hitting the development team. For example:
    - Working out if the candidate is capable of speaking fluent English (or whatever language is needed)
    - Working out if the candidate has the right visas, etc. to work in the country or is trying to blag sponsorship.
    - Vetting for security clearance if needed.
    - Asking preset questions with well-defined answers. e.g. "Please name the primitive types in Java", "What is the cube root of 64?"

    It's surprising how many people you can eliminate with this stuff and it definitely doesn't warrant distracting the development team to do it.

  • by xelah (176252) on Monday April 29, 2013 @06:19AM (#43579183)
    Becoming a competent bioengineer or aero engineer is likely to require special equipment and a lot of practical experience that's hard to come by. Software developers don't generally need that. 'Self taught' doesn't mean that someone hasn't read the same books and papers, or learnt the same material, as someone might have done following an official course. Mostly what the course adds is third-party validation. Also, think about just how much of that knowledge is really retained by the typical graduate, and just how applicable what they've learnt really is. Personally, I wouldn't trust a graduate straight out of university to design a plane, either....I'd rather have someone well respected by their peers and with a history of good work.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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