Hiring quality senior developers


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    My technique for finding excellent senior developers is basically to tell the staffing company to take all their just-out-of-college kids with crappy grades and all the misfit junior developers who were let go from their previous gig for "personality conflicts", give them the online test, discard everyone who didn't land in the 80th+ percentile, and then discard everyone who took an average of more than 60 seconds per question (which says they were Googling it).

    The ones that are left are the ones I want to interview.

    Why? The test tells us they might actually be able to program. It's strictly mickey mouse horseshit level questions, but above about 80%, you're not a mouthbreathing moron. The misfits were fired because they have opinions that they are willing to voice. Opinions are most often unwelcome when they're true. An unswerving dedication to calling everyone else on their bullshit is what I want.

    And the college fuckups? I did shitty, but it's because I already knew all that shit and prioritized differently. I know a half dozen other people who fit that description (unfortunately, none of them went into development). Maybe there are more?

    I've only hired 1 guy by this method, and he hasn't started yet, so I have no idea if I've made a huge mistake or not. Thoughts? How do you/would you do it?



  • @Weng said:

    just-out-of-college kids

    @Weng said:

    excellent senior developers

    ...am I missing something?



  • @Weng said:

    How do you/would you do it?

    It's not how I would do it, but I wish more people would live stream programming tests à la @cartman82.

    I'm happily divorced from staffing issues, but my feeling has often been that enthusiasm or some sort of independent initiative show that the person probably has some proficiency and may be able to learn.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Not to start off with, obviously. But in theory, you could punt that type straight into midlevel work and have a senior built to order in a year or two.



  • How senior of a senior developer do you want/need? Are you looking for someone who's simply no longer wet behind the ears and has enough initiative to drive quality/... standards among their peers? Or are you after someone with a vast realm of deep technical knowledge and the ability to handle exotic challenges?



  • @Weng said:

    The misfits were fired because they have opinions that they are willing to voice. Opinions are most often unwelcome when they're true. An unswerving dedication to calling everyone else on their bullshit is what I want.

    And the college fuckups? I did shitty, but it's because I already knew all that shit and prioritized differently. I know a half dozen other people who fit that description (unfortunately, none of them went into development). Maybe there are more?

    Ok, that's one (optimistic) way to look at it. Or the "misfits" could be lazy asholes who show up drunk and sexually harass secretaries. And college fuckups could be just fuckups. You could hit gold, but there's probably a lot of shit to dig through.

    My theory is that a truly good dev will have something to show they did outside of work, so I would look for hobby projects, SO presence etc.

    Also, shitty college averages are just shitty averages. Most likely to indicate a shitty student. I would look for a shitty average, but with a few top grades forming a pattern. For example, if they have all D-s and E-s, except in anything relating to microcontrollers/hardware/assembly, it could mean they are REALLY passionate about electronics. Which is a good sign, even if grades display a lack of discipline.



  • @cartman82 said:

    My theory is that a truly good dev will have something to show they did outside of work, so I would look for hobby projects, SO presence etc.

    Ehhhh. This bugs me, if only because I'm lazy outside of work and don't have an interest in FOSS. I do have some personal projects I'm (slowly) working on, but I don't make my hobby projects internet-visible. Should that make me less employable?



  • @trithne said:

    Ehhhh. This bugs me, if only because I'm lazy outside of work and don't have an interest in FOSS. I do have some personal projects I'm (slowly) working on, but I don't make my hobby projects internet-visible. Should that make me less employable?

    It makes you less discoverable.

    We all know that guy in the office who are on paper "senior", but are lazy, inefficient and are constantly on the run from the unmaintainable garbage they produce. So, looking just at resumes, how are you different from them? How do you prove you're not "that guy"?



  • Valid points all around.

    Being less discoverable is true, but it's a choice I elect to make, for better or worse.

    Lazy Seniors are a sad fact of life though - I would hope that my public accomplishments from previous workplaces would be sufficient. But I admit that today's job market is... hazardous.

    You're not wrong, I just dislike the idea that we're pressured to work in FOSS to make ourselves look better to recruitment.



  • @Weng said:

    The misfits were fired because they have opinions that they are willing to voice. Opinions are most often unwelcome when they're true. An unswerving dedication to calling everyone else on their bullshit is what I want.

    WITCH! WITCH! WE HAVE A WITCH OVER HERE! HEYYY YOU GUYSSSS!! BURN THE WITCH!!!!!

    Just lost a great DBA over something like this. He had the audacity to suggest that we try a different strategy for backing up our databases and upset the local graybeard. He's doing quite well a few states away because someone wanted what you're looking for.



  • @trithne said:

    Ehhhh. This bugs me, if only because I'm lazy outside of work and don't have an interest in FOSS. I do have some personal projects I'm (slowly) working on, but I don't make my hobby projects internet-visible. Should that make me less employable?

    As I basically said before, I'd look for how you felt about whatever projects you'd worked on, whether for school, employment or as a hobby. I suppose being able to see and explore code is good, but this sort of technique works for things besides coding, where it's often not possible to easily share or demonstrate.



  • @Weng said:

    give them the online test

    Hmmm?


  • SockDev

    That's always been my problem. I've always been pretty happy to voice my opinion, even if not the popular opinion.



  • @Weng said:

    Not to start off with, obviously. But in theory, you could punt that type straight into midlevel work and have a senior built to order in a year or two.

    Where I work, "senior" is based on skill level, not time served. But there's still no seniors with <10 years experience. You need a hell of a lot of time and experience to be able to describe yourself as senior, imo. Just being able to code day to day is fine for a young dev (like myself :) ) but I'd be lost with some of the tricky problems and architectures the senior dudes work on.

    Of course, it's also possible I just suck :smile:


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Some sort of smell test the agency uses. There's a c# one, a sql one, etc. Covers basic Mickey mouse syntax up through basic design (aka advanced concepts).

    I certainly don't expect it to tell us anything on its own beyond "has probably used the language before" but the filtering ratio is absurd.



  • We've been hiring 'senior' developers here recently (disregard the fact that there are no 'junior' developers here at all).

    I feel we're doing it the right way:

    1. Having good criteria, and thinning out CVs that just don't match, or have that 'smell'. People with 10 years VB6 experience that claim to know Signalr without any supporting evidence, etc.
    2. Conducting intense phone interviews. Be friendly, but don't be afraid to ask tough questions. Also note that communication is as important as technical skill for a senior developer.
    3. Friendly in-person interviews, with a technical challenge. You claim to know javascript? Well, then write some for us. Here's a laptop and a spec. Have at it.

    A good senior dev will be honest, communicative and competent. All we're trying to do is weed out the juniors and those who talk BS.

    There's no shortcut to finding good staff.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Senior in this place is shorthand for "can take shitty requirements and after browbeating the business into a reality based spec, produce a product that is actually capable of existing" with minimal zen koan level guidance.



  • Ah - I misunderstood - I thought it was one of your own in-house tests.


  • mod

    @cartman82 said:

    SO presence

    Why? As often as not, SO presence is just an attempt to build epeen. Might as well look for someone who has a presence here. It doesn't necessarily indicate anything about an individuals actual abilities.



  • @abarker said:

    Why? As often as not, SO presence is just an attempt to build epeen. Might as well look for someone who has a presence here.

    Here would be good too. The point is to see the code or thoughts they've undoubtedly produced on their own. Without the ability to hide behind job titles or invisible project names.


  • SockDev

    Github?


  • mod

    @cartman82 said:

    Here would be good too. The point is to see the code or thoughts they've undoubtedly produced on their own. Without the ability to hide behind job titles or invisible project names.

    Half the time, the code that people post on SO is not their own. The rest of the time, they're asking the question. Doesn't seem like a quality indicator. And I don't link my account here to my resume.



  • @Arantor said:

    Github?

    Sure, that's what I meant by hobby projects.

    @abarker said:

    Half the time, the code that people post on SO is not their own. The rest of the time, they're asking the question. Doesn't seem like a quality indicator. And I don't link my account here to my resume.

    Sure, it COULD mean nothing. Or you could find that the guy is a rep whore, or that he's super eloquent in his written communication or that he can't explain ice to Eskimos. Either way, it's a data point above the big old nothing you get from school and CV.



  • "Senior" is such a stupid term.

    There needs to be a term for someone that actually is devoted to making their code, and their coding ability, better every day.

    These are the people that you need to hire, regardless of their level.


  • SockDev

    There is. It's called 'competence'.



  • @Arantor said:

    There is. It's called 'competence'.

    I mean one that you can use in a job listing.


  • SockDev

    @chubertdev said:

    I mean one that you can use in a job listing.

    It would only work until the tools and droolies figured out what it was code for and applied, just as has happened with 'senior' 'developer'.



  • Exactly...


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Weng said:

    The misfits were fired because they have opinions that they are willing to voice.

    This is the part I question, reservedly. You know some of them were fired because they're incapable of getting along with people--do you really want them on your team? Admittedly you'll probably suss them out during the probationary period or better yet during a phone or in-person screen.



  • @chubertdev said:

    I mean one that you can use in a job listing.

    I think they're using "ninja" for that?



  • Last guy I met which matched your description was a social incapable subject who stuck with make script in a JEE enterprise project. Not a good choice believe me.
    OTOH, the guy was a really good coder, but we were unable to collaborate with him because he stuck with older stuff (make, java 1.4 style, reinventing the wheel) and wouldn't update his knowledge or accept new processes, methodologies or technologies.
    At the end he was let go because we were moving to SCRUM and he couldn't be bothered with telling everyone what he was doing every day.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Weng said:

    Senior in this place is shorthand for "can take shitty requirements and after browbeating the business into a reality based spec, produce a product that is actually capable of existing" with minimal zen koan level guidance.

    That's the best definition of “senior” I've seen for a while. It's not that you can code, it's that you can figure out what needs to be coded from only the vaguest of contradictory explanations with vast amounts of critical stuff left out. You can't just give people what they say they want, you have have to give them what they need and a bit of what they really want too.

    Which sounds easy. Ha ha…


  • I survived the hour long Uno hand

    @blakeyrat said:

    I think they're using "ninja" for that?

    I thought they were using "ninja" as shorthand for "blindly following the hype train and churning out poorly-understood buckets of whatever's cool this year".


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Anyone using the word ninja on a resume for my stodgy east coast company is going straight into the bin.



  • Inserting the word "ninja" into a name is the opposite of inserting the word "specialist".



  • dglambert: Any senior developers around?
    Arild: define "senior"
    dglambert: I am just trying to get a poll on how many years it took to become a senior dev
    Arild: not sure how such a poll matters; each company has a different definition of what "senior" means
    dglambert: yeah I am just looking for a more average definition
    Lemony: dglambert, its subjective
    dglambert: I am about to start my first dev job, how quickly can I become a senior dev, at any company
    Lemony: are you smart?
    dglambert: yes
    Lemony: are you motivated?
    dglambert: yes
    Lemony: then it could still take you 10 years, your question sucks, sorry.



  • @Weng said:

    Anyone using the word ninja on a resume for my stodgy east coast company is going straight into the bin.

    I can't imagine seeing this on a resume and following up for any reason but teh lulz.



  • What if they listed their hobbies as "hanzo the ninja" and "thread necromancy"?



  • I'd need a username.


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