Hiring Heterogeneously

I wrote recently about tech interviews and hiring, and even on an interesting interviewing technique for senior people. However we need to hire more than just senior people. We need to hire junior people, and intermediate people. Those roles are important for both growing the experience of your staff, and not getting caught with a “” as a bottleneck or single point of failure. Not that’s not Brent Ozar, though someone with his talent might be the single point of failure in many organizations.

Not everyone can be a superstar-expert-architect that decides how the system is built. Not all architects should spend time coding basic insert/update/delete code or adding clustered indexes to tables. We need a variety of talent levels that can get complete different types of tasks. There is tedious administrative work, supporting roles, necessary, though unexciting work like reviewing security, logs, audits, and more. While you can automate much of this busy work, there are still tasks that we must assign to people.

There’s another consideration as well in hiring that all too often people overlook. Hiring too many people that are too similar, who may think alike, who may view problems the same way can lead to an environment that doesn’t grow and expand, that loses it’s creativity over time. There’s a great quote that says “Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much” (Walter Lippmann). It’s important to have a diversity of opinions, and when you hire new people, you should consider this. You want talented people, and people that get along, but not necessarily all thinking about problems in the same way.

The world is a richer place for the diversity we have, and varying opinions, thoughts and ideas. We don’t all get along, but many of us can work together with mutual respect, considering each others’ viewpoints as we work to build solutions to the problems we face.

Steve Jones

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The Lighter Side of Technical Interview Questions

I hate those puzzle type interview questions. I am sure that they show some level of aptitude about something, but I’m not typically a puzzle person. I’m a let’s solve this person, and I rarely figure out the answers.

Someone send me this interview text, which supposes that someone tried one of those questions on Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman. It’s rather humorous.

Note that I wouldn’t recommend this. Likely your application would be scrapped by the second or third answer you gave to this.

We Are Not a Meritocracy

I’ve heard a few times over the last month that the technology business ought to be a meritocracy, where people are hired, promoted, and fired based on their skills and talents. It’s usually accompanied by a mandate that everyone should  “hire the best person for the job.”

Information Technology may be the closest we get to a meritocracy, but it certainly isn’t one. Your skills matter, your talent matters, but it’s still a who you know and who-you-get-along-with that overrides everything else. More often than not, skills alone will not carry you far. You need to have a bond with the people that hire you.

If we were a meritocracy, we could just give everyone a test that applied for a job and hire the person with the highest score. Or just use a lottery to pick everyone that achieved a certain score. That doesn’t sound like the kind of place that I’d like to work since I place a lot of value on the interpersonal relationships with other people.

It seems that most people really want their employees, or co-workers, to meet some minimum level of competency, continue to improve their skills, and do their share of the work. That’s reasonable and I can appreciate those qualities in people, but the thing that’s most important to me is that we get along.

I can work with you to improve your technical skills, but I can’t usually do anything about your personality.

Steve Jones