I’ve had interviews nearly every day for the past two weeks, but two in particular stand out to me due to the sheer cluelessness on behalf of the interviewers. In America, we hear from “business leaders” (rich people who can afford press coverage and who rarely, actually earned their lots in life) say there is “a shortage of talent” but most of these people—the interviewers and business owners—can barely write a sentence and have little, if any, reading comprehension. This is especially pronounced in the tech sector. I can’t stress it enough: These people wouldn’t know good talent if it jumped up and bit them! These are the kinds of experiences that make you wonder how the other person ever got a job to begin with.
I worked in .net environments, but I was something like the Database Admin or a combination of the Jr. Developer and Data Analyst.
Anyway, after a bit of cajoling and getting a help reference, I did the quiz. The first place had six questions and I got half of them right. Not bad for something I’ve never touched before. If you got an exam (let’s say a Japanese test) and still got half the questions right, you’d feel pretty good about yourself. The only reason I couldn’t do the last three questions is because they involved using very specific C# methods that I knew nothing about. The second place I interviewed at wouldn’t even let me access the help ref. for the program (and had cut net access). This is like saying a carpenter can’t use a hammer. I optimized the query, set up the basic logic but couldn’t quite get the database to talk with the C# program.
What bothered me the most though was how visibly vexed the interviewer at the second place got when I wanted to have a real interview there to figure out if this was a place I even wanted to work for. As a result, I don’t. If answering basic questions flusters you or the interviewer demands answers to things that aren’t their business to begin with then you’re going to lose talent.
The lesson here is: Respect talent and talent’s time. Try to have a basic knowledge—even if it’s skimming one book—of what it is you’re hiring for or just get out of the way. The first place I interviewed with demanded a six question coding quiz and challenge after the first interview in C#. I’ve never written anything in C# before. I made it clear—as my resume did—that at no point in anywhere in my work history have I done things in C# before. I know C and C++. And people still ask about it. The fact that I got half the questions right in a language I had literally never touched before and had no internet access for should say a lot.
Somewhere out there is an executive pounding the table saying “People are our most important asset!” So why don’t you take care of them by bringing them up to speed, pay market wages (or even Adam Smith’s true minimum wage, that being enough to support a family of four) or even improve the people you have by training them properly? Understand that perfect candidates are out there, but probably won’t work for you, just as there are beauty queens that won’t date me. At the very least, you can actually read the resume we send you. And have the people who actually know what they are talking about do the darn interviewing!