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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - which one are you?

Samrobb (12731) writes | more than 8 years ago

User Journal 3

I was thinking about non-technical interview questions for software developers this morning, and came up with the above. I'll freely admit that, in and of itself, it's a useless question. So someone says, "I'm a tinker!" - great. Why would you say that you're a tinker, a tailor, a soldier, or a spy? How would you map these arbitrary labels onto software development? What does your choice say about your thought processes, development persona and perceptions?

I was thinking about non-technical interview questions for software developers this morning, and came up with the above. I'll freely admit that, in and of itself, it's a useless question. So someone says, "I'm a tinker!" - great. Why would you say that you're a tinker, a tailor, a soldier, or a spy? How would you map these arbitrary labels onto software development? What does your choice say about your thought processes, development persona and perceptions?

Is a tinker a one-shot, McGyver-type developer, or the mecahnic that can patch together a solution to just about any problem? Is a tailor someone who crafts elegant, personalized solutions, or someone who takes off-the-shelf components and cuts them to fit? When you think of soldier, do you think of someone doing their job and following orders, or a scout sent to search out the enemy and find a path for others to follow? Is a spy someone who examines competing products, or who researches upcoming technologies that might impact your development team?

What are you - tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy?

Are there any other interview questions of this sort that you've encountered or that you like to ask when you're on the other side of the table?

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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1)

ILikeRed (141848) | more than 8 years ago | (#15621595)

Why are you trying to reinvent the wheel? I'm not trying to be critical - I honestly wonder if you think you have some special insight into personalities or if you just are not aware that there are standard personality tests to help people in hiring employees. I've had to take variations of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [personalitypage.com] for jobs before (including my current one.)

I'm iNtuitive Thinking....

Re:Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1)

Samrobb (12731) | more than 8 years ago | (#15623719)

First off, no, I don't think that I have any special insight into personalities, and yes, I am aware of the various personality tests available. I'm not particularly interested in administering, reinventing, or using a personality test. I mean, I'm a developer, not a psychologist! I have an hour or two at most to talk to someone and get a feel for what they're like int erms of technical ability and personality before I make a hire/no hire recommendation. If a personality test says that someone is an INTJ/P or whatever, that may be an indication of what they're like, but it certainly doesn't tell me how they like to work or how they view themselves in the context of a development team.

With this question, I want to get some idea of how the person views themself and how they think without asking them directly, "What kind of developer are you?" IMHO, that sort of question tends to elicit a canned response, a lot like the cannonical "What is your greatest weakness?" question. People have heard it so often - and thought about it so much going into the interview - that in order to avoid the canned response, you you need to sneak up on the subject by presenting a question that will lead to a discussion of the topic you're interested in, without making it obvious what it is you're asking. If it helps, think of it as an ice-breaker - an invitation to the person to talk about themselves and their experiences more informally, outside of the "What was your best/worst..." type of interview questions.

Even more important, a personality test doesn't give me any insight into their thought process. I imagine that some people would start by trying to figure out what qualities map to the different labels before trying to classify themselves. Others would quickly pick one position and justify it. Some would probably go on at lengths to describe why they're not one label or another. Some would require more prodding, hand-holding, and leading. Someone would say, "I think of myself more as a Ninja/Pirate, really." Someone else might say, "You're doing this wrong, you should be using a Myers-Briggs personality test." :-)

Re:Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1)

ILikeRed (141848) | more than 8 years ago | (#15624171)

Unrelated to this thread really, but I met someone at a developer group recently that looks to hire people who say they are lazy during the interview. (Not sure what type of question would elict that response.) He reasons that it is easier for him to inspire lazy programmers to work harder to develop code that they will not have to come back to later.

"The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris."
-Larry Wall

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