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How I Hire Programmers

There are three questions you have when you’re hiring a programmer (or anyone, for that matter): Are they smart? Can they get stuff done? Can you work with them? Someone who’s smart but doesn’t get stuff done should be your friend, not your employee. You can talk your problems over with them while they procrastinate on their actual job. Someone who gets stuff done but isn’t smart is inefficient: non-smart people get stuff done by doing it the hard way and working with them is slow and frustrating. Someone you can’t work with, you can’t work with.

The traditional programmer hiring process consists of: a) reading a resume, b) asking some hard questions on the phone, and c) giving them a programming problem in person. I think this is a terrible system for hiring people. You learn very little from a resume and people get real nervous when you ask them tough questions in an interview. Programming isn’t typically a job done under pressure, so seeing how people perform when nervous is pretty useless. And the interview questions usually asked seem chosen just to be cruel. I think I’m a pretty good programmer, but I’ve never passed one of these interviews and I doubt I ever could.

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