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The Importance of Hiring

One of my many responsibilities at work as part of my role as Java Practice Lead is the hiring of Java programmers, developers, and architects in collaboration with human resources. Recently I have been adjusting our hiring process and clarifying the roles and people involved. I am always juggling a multitude of requests and demands for my time, balancing what is important short-term versus long-term and what is truly urgent versus what is artificially or superficially urgent. So when I focused on hiring, I was acutely aware of the other activities that I was deferring or ignoring.

As I often do, I found myself reflecting at the end of these days as to whether I had properly prioritized my time. I could have been resolving tricky technical issues and advancing progress towards our desired future state in terms of architecture, technology, and development practices. But I am only one person. I realized that the focus on growing our group of solid Java developers and architects would pay off in the long run by increasing the overall capacity of problem-solving and progress-advancing.

Another consideration is that the implementation of the improvements that I wanted to see happen are limited by the capabilities and knowledge of the developers who actually put these things into practice. In the past, I have experienced problematic developers who inadvertently introduce issues that others are stuck resolving and use older technologies and/or less-effective practices through lack of awareness or poor habits. Hiring highly capable developers, in contrast, makes it much easier to make progress on these improvements. So for a limited short-term investment of my time, focusing on hiring has staggeringly immense long-term benefits.

The above logic regarding my personal limits apply just as equally to my direct involvement with hiring. As much as I may like to personally interview each applicant, I simply do not have the time, especially during hiring booms. So my objective in working on the hiring process is to put a system in place that can, if need be, operate without my involvement while obtaining the same results.

I received feedback recently from one director that the new hires we have brought on since my involvement in hiring have been almost entirely working out just fine. This is very rewarding to hear and is confirmation that my efforts in building an effective hiring system have indeed paid off.

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5 Comments on “The Importance of Hiring”

  1. jgb says:

    In an interview, how do you distinguish highly capable developers from ordinary developers? Or are you simply trying to distinguish developers from people who claim to be developers (but are not)?

  2. @jgb, I definitely try to determine how good the developer is, not just whether or not they are a developer. I do this by asking technical, hands-on questions – verbal and written exercises involving the reading and writing of code and design questions – and see how well they answer. This encompasses multiple factors including how accurate / correct their answers are, how quickly they answered, how intelligent the clarifying questions they asked are (if any), etc. Getting an accurate assessment in the limited time frame of an interview is quite difficult if not impossible: I find that at best an interview provides an approximate assessment.

  3. Phil vonSaldern says:

    In your experience, would it be warranted to pre-screen applicants using a tool like ProveIT?

  4. @Phil, I’m not familiar with ProveIT. If it is like many other certifications (e.g. Java Programmer) in which the assessment primarily tests knowledge rather than skill then I wouldn’t find it particularly valuable as a pre-screen. Plus if people can do it remotely on their own time, then they’ll likely use Google or other resources to complete the test.

  5. James says:

    My own opinion is that interviewing is an art. I also think it’s a little like a golf swing, just when you think you have it mastered … I treat every interview like a case study. My plan going in is to ask questions that will give me insight into the candidate’s experience. From there I try to respond to their answers by asking questions that prompt them to give me insight into their story. What experiences have they had that relate to the problems that I’m experiencing? Can they teach me something about the problems I might face in the future. Ultimately I’m looking for intelligence, creativity, motivation and strength of character.

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