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Testing IT Professionals On Job Interviews?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the what-did-you-know-and-when-did-you-know-it dept.

Businesses 1057

An anonymous reader writes "After having my university degrees, a couple of IT certifications, and over ten years of work experience in the industry, with 2-4 years of verifiable employment with each employer, working with a wide range of technologies, is it reasonable to ask me to take some test on a job interview? The same companies don't ask other professionals (lawyer, accountant, sales, HR, etc.) to submit to any kind of in-house tests when they are hired. Why are IT professionals treated differently and in such a paternalistic way? More importantly, why do IT professionals accept being treated less favorably than members of other professions? Should IT professionals start to refuse to be treated as not real professionals?"

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No, it is not reasonable. (5, Interesting)

banbeans (122547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006911)

I won't take them.
I have turned down several jobs over it.

Re:No, it is not reasonable. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25006961)

If you are going to be that flexible in the interview its probably good for both you and the employer that you aren't working for them ;)

Re:No, it is not reasonable. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007101)

That is true.
I am interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing me.
Life is too short to work someplace where I wont be happy.
99.9% of the time the person doing the interview won't understand the answers anyway.
Maybe I am just getting old.

If doctors were that bad, it would be manslaughter (5, Interesting)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007421)

OK, google "fizzbuzz". A large number of people in the industry (especially "qualified" ones, who haven't been selected for skill) have no idea how to work with computers. People plagiarize at university, get friends to sit their exams, and lie on resumes. There is no better indicator than an on-site, in-person coding test. Some tests are better than others (some employers are not too competent themselves), but there is no other way to verify whether a potential hire is remotely competent. It's not the only indicator (other indicators can be used once the candidate has been pegged as potentially useful), but failing to use it is suicide for any business that can't afford to have worse than useless programmers.

Re:No, it is not reasonable. (5, Insightful)

El Yanqui (1111145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006987)

It can be annoying, but I hardly think it's that big of a deal. I don't work in IT, I work as a creative in advertising, but I've had to take 'tests' when applying for a job. I'm given a sample brief and asked to come up with a campaign concept.

I'm given those tests because agencies work differently with different accoutns and some people are just not good fits from one to another. I would imagine the potential exists for an IT professional with a glowing CV to still be a poor choice in a particular company. At least they're not testing your social skills as well.

Re:No, it is not reasonable. (2, Interesting)

tinkertim (918832) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007311)

A FLOSS(ed) resume helps avoid them. Work on the free/open source programs that you like, then point your employers at commit diffs (as well as your responses to idiotic questions on the respective mailing lists showing that your tolerant and work well with others).

8/10 times, in my experience .. an employer is just as happy to browse my Mercurial repositories as they are to give me a test. Sometimes, though .. they make the test a little harder after viewing my repos :)

When you run into 'head hunters' , they're always going to test you .. as they need to fill a cell in some spread sheet with your results. The same goes for 'Managers' who have never written a real program in their life.

Cater to the head hunters, avoid the clueless managers ... or, catch up on your BOFH, get the job and take over theirs.

Interview question - universal answer!! (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007115)

Interviewer: OK, so you know C? what is the result of

i=0;
i=i++;


Joe Blow: Uhhhh...I....uuhhhh...it's compiler dependent!!

Re:Interview question - universal answer!! (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007333)

Interviewer: OK, so you know C? what is the result of i=0; i=i++; Joe Blow: Uhhhh...I....uuhhhh...it's compiler dependent!!

Is the correct answer!

Without an output statement you'll never know, a compiler could legally optimize the whole lot away!

Re:Interview question - universal answer!! (5, Insightful)

norpan (50740) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007361)

It doesn't matter if it's compiler-dependent or not. The correct answer to that question is: "This code is badly written. It never makes sense to write i = i++. You probably mean i++."

Re:Interview question - universal answer!! (1)

Krabbs (1319121) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007377)

Make a text file containing those two lines and show me a c compiler that actually compiles that. I seriously doubt it.

Re:Interview question - universal answer!! (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007399)

I see that [wikipedia.org] :

Sequence points also come into play when the same variable is modified more than once. An often-cited example is the expression i=i++, which both assigns i to itself and increments i; what is the final value of i? Language definitions might specify one of the possible behaviors or simply say the behavior is undefined. In C and C++, evaluating such an expression yields undefined behavior.

But I don't know why it's not simply based on operator precedence, as:
1) i is assigned 0 (first statement)
2) i's current value of 0 is temporarily saved off
3) postfix increment is applied to i, setting it to 1
4) finally, the saved value is assigned to i, setting it back to 0

Re:No, it is not reasonable. (5, Interesting)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007353)

It is entirely reasonable. Having a degree, and even several (perhaps many) years of verifiable / verified "experience" says very little about your actual qualifications. One of the best developers I know has a degree in history, and within 6 months of beginning development was producing better quality work than some guys who have been developing for years.

Also the number of people who lie about their qualifications is unbelievable. Many previous employers are afraid of getting into legal trouble and so will never give a real reference, either positive or negative. They'll basically only confirm dates of employment.

Finally, this industry is full of really excellent snow job men. People who have convinced their previous employer that they're really a cracker-jack developer, when in fact they are only barely able to cobble together code examples from other people.

Also it's not infrequent for several candidates to have what looks like reasonably similar experience on paper, yet differ widely on actual performance skills.

Last month, we interviewed a guy for a ColdFusion developer job, and when we asked him what the difference between a Struct and an Array were (one is associatively indexed, and does not preserve insert order, the other is sequentially numerically indexed and of course does preserve insert order - an equivalent to a HashMap and a Vector), he sputtered and stammered for a few seconds, then proceeded to read us search results from Google (we all followed along on our end) which were not an answer to the question ("Let's see, you can append a Struct. Oh, but then you can append an Array").

Some consultant firms make money only for placing a body in a seat. So some of these firms actually falsify resumes and provide references which are also false (they employ the people who answer the phone or respond to the email when you check the reference). They even go so far as to have a handful of guys who do the phone interviews - and these are not the same guy who shows up. Some times the guy who shows up has no experience with the technology at all.

Plus, who told you other professions don't get tested? Some jobs even come with personality tests - maybe they're looking for someone hyper aggressive, maybe they're looking for a peace maker. Though such tests are usually for higher up positions, and usually only for the short list of candidates.

It's not degrading in the least to be required to take a test to prove your qualifications. If you have the qualifications you profess to have, you should have no problem with the test.

It's safeguarding the company at hand, and if you wanted to refuse to take the test, we would want to not hire you. It's a matter of there being too many slime balls and con men out there in the world, we can't take you at your word until we know you. Until then we need to ask you to prove yourself to us.

Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (5, Insightful)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006913)

Because it is far easier to get "university degrees, a couple of IT certifications, and over ten years of work experience in the industry, with 2-4 years of verifiable employment with each employer, working with a wide range of technologies" without a shred of competence in our field than in most others.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25006965)

And it is so hard for your references to know if you're really any good or not because unless you're in a large technical group a lot of them wouldn't really know what it is that you actually do, or how to tell if you do it well.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (4, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007419)

And it is so hard for your references to know if you're really any good or not because unless you're in a large technical group a lot of them wouldn't really know what it is that you actually do, or how to tell if you do it well.

Most companies won't provide a reference other than "Person X worked for us from (date) to (date)." It's just too easy to say something which could be misconstrued as being negative and used to sue the company which issued the reference.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007007)

Because it is far easier to get "university degrees, a couple of IT certifications, and over ten years of work experience in the industry, with 2-4 years of verifiable employment with each employer, working with a wide range of technologies" without a shred of competence in our field than in most others.

No, its not. However, the craft of coding can be tested in an interview. Software engineering mostly cant (because it includes strategic and long termn decisions).
There is not much craft in "most other fields" - they depend more on virtues like thoroughness etc. - which cant be tested in an interview.

Skills can be tested in an interview, virtues less so.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007237)

Spelling should be tested too.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (2, Interesting)

williamhb (758070) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007141)

It is true that it is difficult for an employer to tell a good employee from a bad employee. Sadly, this has lead to what I can only call "hiring voodoo" -- the irrational belief without evidence that a relatively untrained interviewer will mysteriously be able to find out more about "what a candidate is really like" in an hour than the candidate's university or co-workers (references) found out in several years. Even stranger beliefs have cropped up over the years -- eg that artificial toy questions like "why are manhole covers round?" or "... how would you identify the heavier ball in only two measurements?" say anything meaningful about how a candidate thinks, any more so than handing them the Times crossword to have a go at.

There is what's humorously called the oncologist test for the 'puzzle' questions in interviews. "If you had cancer, would you ask your oncologist this question before you let him mess with your body?" After all, your body is both more complex and more mission critical to you personally than whatever it is you're hiring the candidate to work on, so surely it matters much more how the oncologist thinks...

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (1)

plehmuffin (846742) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007235)

Most other fields seem pretty rife with incompetent individuals as well. Maybe it's just that in our field, some hiring managers have the sense to test for it.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (5, Insightful)

wtfispcloadletter (1303253) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007401)

Man you guys who think this is an IT only thing, really need to get out and look around.

Yes you can't test for everything, but you can get a decent feel if if the person has some competency with the code for a programmer.

I've seen mechanical engineers asked to design a solution to a problem. I've seen drafters/designers given tests with the software they use. Welders get tested before being hired. Divers get tested before being hired.

I don't understand what the big problem is. Programmers write code and can at least be tested on their ability to write code. Maybe they can't engineer a program, but at least they can weed out the idiots just selling themselves.

What are you going to test an accountant on? Can you add 2+2? Seriously, accounting has a lot of rules, but it's quite honestly easy, boring as fuck, but easy. How are you going to test your attorney? How are you going to test an HR or sales person? This is why a lot of jobs usually have a 30/60/90 day trial/probation period.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (1)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007255)

Because it is far easier to get "university degrees, a couple of IT certifications, and over ten years of work experience in the industry, with 2-4 years of verifiable employment with each employer, working with a wide range of technologies" without a shred of competence in our field than in most others.

I fully agree. I'm more on the employer side (I do the technical part of our job interviews) I was already fooled by someone who had a degree and whose CV said he has 3 years of C++ experience (with a testimonial from his former employer). So I didn't concentrate on that very much in the interview. But then it turned out he didn't even know what a pointer was and I am willing to bet money that he had never actually done any C++ programming before.

Since then the way I interview applicants has completely changed and I also do a small test (about 5 minutes) now.

Re:Blame it on the idiots who can sell themselves (5, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007281)

Wrong. It is only that incompetence in IT is much harder to cover up than in those professions. When IT systems fail, they can fail spectacularly and effect wide numbers of people. An incompetent IT persons mistake will cause an essential server or the like to fail. If they're not competent to fix it promptly, it will show.

Inversely, when a lawyer, accountant, sales, HR person, etc screws up, the screw up will not be noticed as much unless it reaches epic proportions. It's easier to mask a mistake in these fields, and with the softer ones, e.g. PR, their metrics are so fuzzy that the difference between competence and incompetence is blurry anyway. Plus they are trained in buzz speak which they blurt out like a frighted squid spurts out ink to mask their escape.

Let me give an example (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007289)

1. Yep. Let me even give an example. It didn't happen in a team I was in, but I know several people from that team.

So they got a new guy who had some outstanding experience, according to his resume. He had worked on major enterprise projects, been an architect, ate Enterprise Java Beans for breakfast, etc.

Turns out he was utterly incompetent. He spent about a month just getting used to their architecture and IDE and everything, apparently everything they did or the way they did it was new to him, and he needed some time to accomodate. Fair enough. Then started working on something, but never was quite done with it. Eventually they started asking to see some results. He started randomly changing files and checking them back in. The first few times he even had a good excuse, like "oops, I hadn't worked with this particular versioning system before" or "oops, I forgot some other file that mine depends on." There go a few more weeks, before it's obvious that his changes can't possibly even compile, because they have elementary syntax errors.

Eventually they fire him, but by now he's got several months of "experience" there.

Then someone finds his updated resume online. The guy claimed he singlehandedly improved their architecture, increase performance X times, got project management back on track, etc.

2. 'Nother example, my ex-coworker Wally. Spent two years on a trivial module, whose core someone else rewrote from scratch in 6 hours. It took another two weeks or so, mostly of testing, to get it bug-for-bug compatible with his, since a couple of teams already had their own workarounds for them. (Trying to get him to fix it was a bit like negotiating with the terrorists.) The rewrite was also benchmarked as 40 times faster than Wally's on large data sets. Literally. Measured.

The thing everyone remembers fondly about him, is how he asked for 2 weeks just to estimate the effort to fix a trivial bug. He got it too. (His team leader was a bit a Mr Testicle: technically he was involved, but he kept out of it as much as possible;)

He also massively practiced obfuscation. Any of his modules contained half the techniques from How To Write Unmaintainable Java code (literally) and megabytes of files copied from unrelated stuff to pad the number of lines of code per day. Obviously, it worked on his team leader.

Then he got moved through the maintenance of two other programs (one at a time), and just managed to make them both worse.

There we go, that's his provable 2-4 years employment. Well, ok, 5 in his case.

3. Example number 3: Old Father Williams. I got to think of him that way after a particular fortune on my linux box:

"You are old," said the youth, "and your programs don't run,
                And there isn't one language you like;
Yet of useful suggestions for help you have none --
                Have you thought about taking a hike?"

"Since I never write programs," his father replied,
                "Every language looks equally bad;
Yet the people keep paying to read all my books
                And don't realize that they've been had."

Pretty much spent 6 years in a place complaining about everything that everyone else did. Coding style, IDE, OS, _everything_. His first choice of a whine was Windows, which might even have had a point, but when Linux was finally allowed and half the team switched to Linux, plus the servers actually went Linux... he proclaimed Linux to be sell-out crap for idiots, and switched to preaching BSD.

He also caused a reformat-and-commit war in which he was preaching _three_ space tabs, as spaces. And wasn't affraid to check out someone else's project and reformat it, to make his point.

He spent two years, just "modernizing" the build process. Nobody knows what he experimented with on his computer, but the results visible from the outside, were moving the build scripts to a sub-directory and then eventually back to the project root.

Although he apparently did have short bursts of actually doing useful stuff, mostly he was there just to whine about how everyone else is doing The Wrong Thing (TM).

Apparently a weak and risk-averse team leader kept him there anyway.

4. Abdul, the apprentice of Wally. He got hired through a workaround, since hiring more coders was on hold at that corporation. So someone hired him as a web designer, then hastily dubbed him programmer. Ironically, he seemed actually decent at web design. As a programmer, the consensus is that he's too stupid to piss holes in snow. Seriously, he doesn't understand even the elementary basics, and is constantly on the look out for someone to pass solving anything onto.

Has that job for some 4 years now, since firing him would face the same problem with hiring a replacement. So he's keeping his job by sheer virtue of being marginally better than nothing.

6. The merry team I got to see once, which had inflated like a blowfish, apparently just because one's position and salary depended on how many people one had under him. So someone had pulled all the strings and faked everything that needed to be faked, to gain IIRC 2 promotions based on just hiring more and more incompetents.

Etc, etc, etc.

5. No, I'm not saying _everyone_ is incompetent, in case someone wants to raise that objection. I've worked with excellent programmers before, but occasionally I get to sort out the crap produced by people like the above. And since this is about the relevance of proving having worked 2-4 years somewhere, well, these are the relevant ones.

6. If someone wants to point out that all these are failures of management: yes. But they exist anyway. When you hire someone, you have no way to know if he lied on the resume, and it only says that an incompetent manager kept him there just to not have to manage.

7. Actually, I'd like to see testing extended to other professions too. Makes sense to me. I don't want, say, a car mechanic who doesn't even understand the basics of cars.

8. I really don't get the outrage in the summary/question. _If_ he has the skills, what's the big insult in showing them off? You'd think someone with 1337 skillz would get an ego boost out of showing him off, not be outraged that someone asked to see an example of them.

Sheesh (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25006923)

ten years in the industry and you have to ask?

Re:Sheesh (4, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007191)

Taking a test during a job interview means that they are serious about the situation.

The worst thing isn't tests at job interviews it's the work climate at the site where you are going to be located. Is it micro managed or is it goal managed? And job satisfaction is very important for IT workers.

The question is rather why other types of workers aren't tested as much. Why not test lawyers, accountants and administrators?

because you never know (4, Insightful)

richlv (778496) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006933)

because you (the employer in this case) never know.
a person can work in various places, have diplomas... and still be unbelievably stupid.
i'd argue that other professions should gain some tests (i know a lot of them actually do, though those tests usually involve more generic skillset, like being able to work in a stressful conditions or under external noise, ability to quickly analyse particular information of the field etc).

Re:because you never know (3, Interesting)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007151)

My experience is that the majority of employers and the majority of employees are equally stupid and deserve each other. If you're at an interview and they seem retarded then you probably want to move on.

Anyway, a person can pass the kind of stupid tests given at interviews and still be a retard. I wouldnt't give such stupid tests to people I hire and wouldn't submit to such a test.

The best thing an employer can look for is a portfolio. Look the work over, ask questions about the work, double check that it isn't just stolen from some open source project. If their work is good, even if unrelated to what you're doing, then they'll be good. If not, or if they lack a portfolio, then toss them.

If you're going to claim to know Java then write a program in Java and put it in your portfolio. If you're going to claim to know Linux then write some tools to make managing a Linux server easier and show you know common command-line programs and config files. Do that sort of thing and then employers can know what you know.

Re:because you never know (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007285)

My experience is that the majority of employers and the majority of employees are equally stupid and deserve each other.

too bad this is true ;)

If you're at an interview and they seem retarded then you probably want to move on.

while i would support this as the most sensible reaction, i can understand how not everybody always is in a position to easily do that, so just have to take those tests. which just increases the annoyance factor.

Anyway, a person can pass the kind of stupid tests given at interviews and still be a retard. I wouldnt't give such stupid tests to people I hire and wouldn't submit to such a test.

but that's the thing - first, those tests aren't meant to be comprehensive, only to filter out absolute retards & liears. second, they can be good. just think about what you would put on such a short test - you'll probably think it would be good ;)

The best thing an employer can look for is a portfolio. Look the work over, ask questions about the work, double check that it isn't just stolen from some open source project. If their work is good, even if unrelated to what you're doing, then they'll be good. If not, or if they lack a portfolio, then toss them.

that's only doable for developer positions. there are enough other positions where no such portfolio can be evaluated (you couldn't ask for access to the servers of the previous employers). while some developers also could argue that in-house written code can't be displayed, this is a perfect chance to show contributions to oss =)

If you're going to claim to know Java then write a program in Java and put it in your portfolio. If you're going to claim to know Linux then write some tools to make managing a Linux server easier and show you know common command-line programs and config files.

yes, but simply showing some components would not be satisfactory - the person could have snatched those off the internet or asked somebody else to write. asking to solve some simple problem during the testing would work so much better.

Measurability (5, Insightful)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006935)

A simple answer is that IT knowledge is a more quantitatively measurable than many other professions. Another factor is the high percentage of self-learned IT professionals. You don't see any "self-learned" lawyers, but self-learned IT pros are commonplace. Lawyers have been tested previously (bar exam) while the IT pro may never have passed any formal testing.

Re:Measurability (2, Informative)

symes (835608) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007103)

This is very true - there's the chance some IT guru's only way of demonstrating effectiveness is by example rather what is on paper (certificates and the like) - and having recruited recently, if you ask one applicant to do some test then it is only fair that you give the same to every applicant.

Re:Measurability (4, Informative)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007147)

It's also possible that the interviewers feel that specific IT knowledge becomes obsolete very quickly. If you've been around since the 80s for example, then the specific skills you had when you started are no longer relevant (general skills are another matter of course). If you haven't used a relevant technology that the employer needs in at least two years, the interviewers may feel the need to test you on it.

Re:Measurability (2, Interesting)

OneMadMuppet (1329291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007173)

I think more than that, if I practice law without passing the bar exam, or practice medicine without a licence I can get into serious trouble. The barrier to entry for these industries is quite high, even if you become a nurse / paralegal first.

Any idiot can spend 5 years saying "Thank you for calling Dell", fix their neighbours PC's for a while, read C++ in 24 hours and call themselves a IT consultant without any repercussions.

Re:Measurability (2, Informative)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007179)

Another factor is that having a degree or certification in IT, or ven ten years of job experience, doesn't actually mean that you know anything. There is no easy way to judge an IT job candidate on paper. Tests are a poor method also though - better to look at a portfolio and ask the right questions about the work in the portfolio.

Re:Measurability (2, Interesting)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007313)

BTW, I prefer self learners as programmers (read: coders) over people with degrees. My experience is that they are more dedicated and know more about real world problems. That's simply because a CS degree is not focused on making you a programmer but a more general problem solver.

So when you want a coder you have to check what he really knows, not what diplomas he's having (that only gives a hint). Story is completely different if you're looking for someone higher up the food chain, of course.

Possibly to weed out the fakers? (5, Insightful)

EricTheRed (5613) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006939)

When I've been holding interviews, I always make up a set of tests just to make sure what they put on their CV is accurate.

The number of times I've had someone put on their CV they can do something we are after, but in reality they know Sh*t about it, has only really come out when they do the test. It also helps to pick up those who are good at taking exams but don't know how to handle themselves in the real world.

Unlike the other professions, IT doesn't have a legal backing. i.e. lawyers and accountants have qualifications that are backed by some law or another so if they write bullshit on their CV then it can come back on them. Not with IT unfortunately.

Re:Possibly to weed out the fakers? (2, Insightful)

nietsch (112711) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007189)

It also helps to pick up those who are good at taking exams but don't know how to handle themselves in the real world.

Are you sure a bout that? Seems to me you are just presenting another exam to them, which by your own definition, they know how to handle.

Re:Possibly to weed out the fakers? (2, Informative)

EricTheRed (5613) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007247)

It also helps to pick up those who are good at taking exams but don't know how to handle themselves in the real world.

Are you sure a bout that? Seems to me you are just presenting another exam to them, which by your own definition, they know how to handle.

Not quite. With the exams, they have resources available to give them the answers (i.e. textbooks, MCSE Cram's etc), but with a test within the interview, they won't necessarily know the answer until they see the test.

The tests I use are more real world as they are usually based on a problem I have had within the previous couple of weeks, not something they would get from a text book but something they would know from experience.

Re:Possibly to weed out the fakers? (4, Interesting)

deroby (568773) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007411)

Not quite,
at school you can guess quite well what the questions will be, so with a bit of 'educated guesswork' you can pass any exam without really knowing 'everything', let alone 'understanding' it. Heck, you spend over 10 years learning to 'work' the system, it's no surprise one gets good at it.

When we hire people we try to prune out those that either simply wrote the right words on their CV and/or those that worked their way through education purely based on the above way. Not because we think they 'cheated', but because we are looking for people to help us with a certain task that involves certain skills. (This is for development job, I'm not sure how the Sales department does it's selection =)

It's amazing how often people will write to be 'very good' at eg. SQL while all they know is that it stands for "Structured Query Language". When asked to write a query 'out of thin air' to get the most recent date from a simple agenda-like-table and they are unable to come up with ANYTHING, then we both know where are wasting each others time.

Before we tested people, we got burned once too often by people who bluffed themselves into the company but turned out to be more of a burden than a helping hand =( By introducing simple tests we now only waste time at the interview level, we don't have to put time into educating them something they claim to be expert in already. That said, we sometimes DO hire people who /fail/ the test, simply because they show potential and we ARE willing to put time & effort in them. You'll find though that this will is a lot less present when the candidate's CV turns out to be 90%+ 'vapoorware'.

Re:Possibly to weed out the fakers? (1)

peelpress (1039582) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007211)

It is totally true that lawyers and accountants are accredited but not IT professionals. But we have to just take a look into yesterday's slashdot story "Fire Your IT Boss" also in this context and weigh.

Whoa, we can lie about stuff? (1)

Layth (1090489) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007269)

Be more specific, my CV needs a boost

The why... (4, Funny)

Manip (656104) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006945)

Because unlike Accountants, Lawyers, etc we actually have to work for a living...

If we're bad then stuff just doesn't get done. If an accountant is bad they still get $100k a year.

Doctors still have to prove themselves multiple times just to be able to get into the interview. Years and training and testing.

I like to think of us more like Doctors than professional bureaucrats.

Really! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25006979)

So all those incompetents we've all worked with over the years were actually from the legal or accounts department... well that certainly explains a few things.

Because unlike Accountants, Lawyers, etc we actually have to work for a living...

If we're bad then stuff just doesn't get done. If an accountant is bad they still get $100k a year.

Doctors still have to prove themselves multiple times just to be able to get into the interview. Years and training and testing.

I like to think of us more like Doctors than professional bureaucrats.

The underlying assumption is not true (5, Interesting)

Meshugga (581651) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006957)

thus the whole question is futile.

Skill assessment is done in almost all kinds of professional employment situations . yet it depends mostly on the hiring policy of the department of that particular firm if there will be an assessment.

And quite franky, I think there is a good reason why this is done with IT jobs more often: analytic and associative thinking and problem solving are not skills you can learn.

Plus, IT jobbers tend to be more annoyed by moron colleagues than non-IT employees.

And lets not forget that there is a huge amount of moronness out there - I myself did Job interviews with certified whatevers, who applied for a sysadmin position and couldn't tell me what information a notation like "192.168.38.1/24" provides. And thats just the very basic for such a job, but it already weeded out two thirds of the applicants, *completely unrelated* to their educational history or other certified qualifications.

And last but not least, it always depends on the quality of the respective management if such an evaluation is done: and speaking for me and my experience, a company should do it in *all* sorts of positions, no matter how professional, experienced and well educated an applicant is.

Careful there.. (4, Insightful)

Trailwalker (648636) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006959)

You are a technician, not a professional.

The "professional" bs is just a way to put you on salary rather than an hourly wage.

While "professional" sounds nice, there are only a few real professions.

A nice law passed a few years back reclassified several technical fields as professional, allowing employers to really screw their employees by changing their pay to salary from hourly.

Re:Careful there.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007169)

As a consultant, I consider myself part of the world's oldest profession. After all:

I charge an extortionate rate
I'll be whatever you want me to be
I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms
I have a pimp that gives me a fraction of what I make and sends me to do things that I really don't want to do

Re:Careful there.. (1)

Wanon (808109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007309)

In Australia a job is classed as a profession when a professional society exists to govern it. To become a professional you must become a member of said society which have entry requirements such as at least a degree in the discipline and relevant experience. Professional societies have a code of ethics and possibly a code of conduct/practice. This is why there is only a limited number of professions in Australia compared to the millions of types of jobs. IT is one of the professions. But the real reason has been highlighted above. It's far too easy to get a degree these days. I know people who have received their IT degrees without knowing how to program! And if you look at it from the employers side, IT knowledge is something that is more easily testable than other professions. If you can weed out the people without qualifications and the clueless people with qualifications with one simple test, then why wouldn't you? It's not like the tests are hard...

Credibility of professional qualifications (4, Interesting)

tonycatman (1269818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006967)

I was recently involved in a series of gruelling and unfair interviews in which we destroyed the confidence of a series of IT professionals with extraordinary difficult questions. Having spent 10 years as an accountant, and 10 years as an IT Manager, I found myself asking the same thing. In order to qualify as an accountant, I had to take 17 exams over the period of 6 years, with each exam having a 30-50% pass rate. During the first 2 years, I could barely make a living wage. To become an IT Manager - I was just in the right place at the right time. I since gained OCP and MCSE, but nobody takes them seriously - in relative terms, they were both very easy to pass. It is still a fact that an accounting (and probably legal) qualification counts for more than an IT qualification.

No (1)

spasticfraggle (670632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006969)

But then, they have the money. If you want the job enough, maybe you have to accept it.

Given that you've got a lot of experience you should be able to sit and chat with the guys hiring you for hours about all kinds of technical stuff. If I was doing the hiring I would put much more weight behind that conversation than any test. If they need a test, it says to me that they may not be competent to judge you, something which would raise a red flag for me.

Better environment? (4, Insightful)

BrainInAJar (584756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006971)

Personally I wouldn't accept a job that /didn't/ test me on my competence because that means they probably didn't test the guy before me on his competence either

Mopping up after some idiot with "university degrees, a couple of IT certifications, and over ten years of work experience in the industry, with 2-4 years of verifiable employment with each employer, working with a wide range of technologies" that's a total clueless retard isn't my idea of fun and rewarding employment.

why not (4, Insightful)

jareds (100340) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006973)

The reason it's done is a combination of great variability in skill among IT applicants, compared to professions with time-tested accreditation bodies like lawyers and accountants, and skills that are fairly amenable to formal testing, compared to professions like sales and HR, at least with respect to weeding out duds (if someone can't write a simple program in an afternoon, given a language reference, they should not be hired). More generally, I can't imagine why it's unreasonable for an employer to test skill.

Competent IT professionals accept it because it's in fact beneficial to them to be distinguished from their less competent peers. (If the test itself is poor, they complain about that, and don't whine about the indignity of taking a test in general.) Paternalism is forcing someone to do something for their own good. This is not. I can assure of I have no intention of refusing tests of skill when applying for jobs.

Employment history, certifications, and degrees do not ensure competence. Probably most of the people on The Daily WTF [thedailywtf.com] passed such basic screening.

Why not take a test? (5, Insightful)

Fingerbob (613137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006975)

I frequently interview programmers, and having them take a short test (approx 30 minutes) and then discussing this with them in their interview is incredibly useful to determine their skillset. I could ask similar questions directly and have them work through the answers on a board, but then they would be under pressure to provide an answer on the spot to questions that probably deserve some thought before providing a solution.

None of the questions on the test are unduly taxing - any person we interview who has a few years professional c++ experience under their belt should be able to provide at least a working solution, with potential better solutions open to discussion face to face.

I've had 15 years doing what I do, and I'd be happy to take a test if asked - if I can't pass whatever hurdle the company sets, then I'd rather not sit there for a few more hours trying to win them over with my sparkling personality, and if the test is a pile of rubbish I know early on that I probably don't want to work there.

We've all heard the 10x difference in productivity (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006977)

This requires that Candidate A and Candidate B will BOTH have a degree from a good school AND 3 years in their last job AND experience with Java, Struts, and Prototype. However, when it comes down to brass tacks, A "gets it" much more than B does. HR would obviously want to hire A over B, but the only way to figure out which is to do a skill test.

There are some experienced engineers with good degrees who nonetheless cannot solve FizzBuzz in under 15 minutes. Do you want to hire them for a programming position?

Testing is a good thing (2, Insightful)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006983)

Speaking from the perspective of the "self-taught" IT Professional, these tests have been a good thing. Helping headhunters and would-be employers to understand "No, I don't have a degree, but I'm highly competent" was a very difficult thing until these persons/companies developed a way to measure that competence.

On the flip side, I knew many college grads and MCSE's that new little to nothing about real-world IT work. I place this blame mainly on the many "MCSE" schools that sprang up. These schools often (but not always) taught students how to pass a test. This, unfortunately, is what lead hiring parties to test even the college grads.

Where's IT's "Professional Body"? (3, Insightful)

khchung (462899) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006985)

Accountants and Lawyers have professional bodies (or whatever it is called) that tests candidates wanting to call themselves "accountant" and "lawyer", so do doctors, nurses, engineers, etc, so employers don't need to test the candidates themselves when they want to hire one. if people call themselves "lawyer" or "accountant" without the proper certification, they could be jailed.

Which is the corresponding organization that tested and certified you as an "IT professional"? Can your employer file complaints to that organization and have your certification removed if you displayed incompetence or is negligent in your job? And would anyone risk jail time if they call themselves "IT Professional" without any such certification?

Don't kid yourself, an IT worker is hardly any more "professional" than a secretary or a salesman. Anyone sitting in front of a monitor for the past 10 years can call himself an "IT Professional" with 10 years of experience. Heck, someone who had NOT been sitting in front of a monitor for the past 10 years can also do so! Until we have a widely recognized professional body to certify us (and to de-certify or penalize us if we display incompetence), it is the employers' responsibility to assess our capability and testing us is one way to do it.

I am sure many working in the field would prefer their employers had properly tested themselves and their co-workers, rather than having to fix up problems caused by other less-than-competent "IT Professionals".

Re:Where's IT's "Professional Body"? (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007297)

The British Computing Society?

  They have a seriously strict code of conduct and minimum qualification standard, but its pretty good.

Because so few know how to conduct interviews (5, Insightful)

pcause (209643) | more than 5 years ago | (#25006989)

In my experience, which ia way more than your 10 years, very few folks in IT actually know how to interview and what traits to look for. Being tech folks and not having people skills, they think that some test will tell them what they need to know about a potential applicant. Not true.

A lot of the tests are language lawyer things (knowing about public static final in Java) which doesn't get to what they really need to know. There are lots of folks who know the language lawyer tricks that will be lousy employees. You need folks that are bright, have a demonstrated track record of being able to learn new things and that will fit with your culture/environment.

Re:Because so few know how to conduct interviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007253)

Gotta love this pig-ignorant stereotype "Being tech folks and not having people skills..."

It's a good thing. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007023)

Testing is a good thing. Years ago, I ran from interview to interview, but didn't get the jobs. My grades from school were fine, but being a geek, there was one thing I was (and still am) bad at: "Selling myself". When we got to the question "please tell us about yourself", I didn't know what to say. I've always hated that question.

But then at one place, rather than expecting me to talk about how great I am (hey, if I was that good at selling, I would be in the sales department, not IT), they sent me a small programming task. Towers of Hanoi, I know, text book stuff, except the second part required a bit of brain work.

Guess what... I got the job. At the interview itself I probably didn't do any better than all of the other interviews (of course we did talk a bit about my solution to the test, but apart from that). I have no doubt that what made the difference was that I got to show my programming skills, rather than my (lack of) salesperson skills.

At my current job, new people get a simple programming test too (small company, we talk about things at lunch). And according to the manager/programmer who does the interviews, he's had several people who "had lots of experience with exactly what we are doing", but when shown a simple programming problem had no idea how to solve it. Those are the people who excel at regular job interviews. Good salespeople, but not good programmers.

Not always a bad thing (1)

ilovecheese (301274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007037)

I've been in the IT field for a little over 20 years. I still get asked to take the tests, it's really no big deal to me. While they can be a little annoying at times, I still take them.

If they get too annoying for you, write the answers in hexadecimal... ;)

Others are tested (2, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007041)

There are two obvious reasons why people get tested in IT

1) People might have passed exams, but can they actually code
2) People might have been on a project where technology X was used, but did they use it?

The first is the case where you have a graduate with a degree in computing and it turns out they did all the "soft" options. So lots of theory but not practice and they don't even know what a compiler is.

The second is the case where you are looking for people with a given skill (say Java) and you want to check that they have that skill.

Its not true to say that other people don't have to sit tests, its just that a lot of the time those tests aren't written tests but are more open, indeed I prefer to test people using such open assignments. Set them a problem (design a system to do X) and then have them respond. This is exactly the same way that lawyers are often tested by their new chambers, they have to defend (or prosecute) a given perspective to show how they would perform and lay out their approach of constructing the case.

The point is that for most jobs they are "soft" jobs where a specific exam makes no sense once you have the qualification and therefore you do soft interview tests. In IT however we have lots of "hard" jobs where a specific skill is required and a specific level of performance is required. This isn't about professional v unprofessional its about the nature of an industry where there are millions of different technologies arriving every year and where the average ability level has been plunging for the last 20 years.

So get off your high horse and stop complaining. You are in an industry that changes, that means that the degree you did gives you a theoretical basis (hopefully) but your practical skills will need to be evolved. I did Ada, LISP, 68k and Prolog at University. Guess what? My first job meant I had to learn C in 1 week to prove I knew it and my 3rd job was the last one where I used any of those languages (I'm now on my 7th job). So did I mind being tested to prove I knew C/Java/XML/MQSeries/etc? No I didn't.

Do I test people to prove they really have the skills they say? You bet, I wouldn't trust an IT CV statement further than I'd trust Dick Cheney at a bird shoot.

All interviews test in any areas where its worth having a job. IT interviews test more because IT changes more and your qualifications become out of date more quickly.

Now for the real question though: Why isn't there a written test for high office, especially a geography test for US Presidents and VPs.

Give a code sample or take the damn test (1)

Specks (798579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007047)

Unfortunately our profession can be learned from books. Because of that it can lead to a lot of individuals who claim to have the same experience as you but can't really program worth shit. Those tests weed out the people who can't from the cans.

I was looking for a job when the company I last worked for went in to the dead pool. One company I applied to and went for an interview gave me a test to take to make sure I was who I claimed to be. I was incensed and argued that I had a proven track record and refused to take the test. It resulted in them passing on me.

A friend had suggested I prepare code samples on mini CD-Rs. The 200 MB ones that are easy to find and cheap. I handed it to the last person I interviewed with. I was warned that I may need to produce code and make some code on the spot but it never happened. The code sample was sufficient. I'll also add that I was the only person to hand the person I interviewed with a code sample. None of the others who interviewed for the same job did. It made me stand out.

So prepare some code samples for them to look over. And even if they still ask you to do a test, swallow your pride and take the damn test. Sometimes we forget that those who have the gold make the rules.

Re:Give a code sample or take the damn test (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007287)

Testing for other jobs ensures a basic skill level and are a normal part of industry.

For example, pipe welders are expected to pass a test or tests before each hiring. They weld a sample, it is then bend-tested and sometimes X-rayed. The test doesn't lie, and ensures the candidate can do the work. There is no way to cheat.

Weldors are not insulted by testing, and the better ones use their performance to impress the company hiring them.

IT Employment Tests (2, Informative)

arachnoid (873176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007049)

Here are some of the reasons you might be tested and another person might not be:

1. A business school graduate is part of a comparatively unchanging field, one in which a past performance record is likely to be repeated in a new job.

2. A lawyer is normally a member of a professional guild (the local bar association), and law is also a relatively unchanging field.

3. Technical/computer work is in rapid flux, today's marketable skills are not yesterday's or tomorrow's, also because of its esoteric nature it's likely that no one in the business will be able to interview you in any meaningful way. A test relieves the personnel department of any direct evaluation responsibilities.

But ... The more IT professionals there are in a particular business, the less likely that you will be treated like an alien insect. Do you suppose Google makes you submit to a boilerplate written exam? They do scout for talent using interesting published questions, but that is a different strategy with a different purpose.

Re:IT Employment Tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007193)

It should be noted that to become a lawyer you need to pass the bar exam, which we can be difficult (as attested by JFK jr having to take it three times).

Tech Skills Change (1)

SoopahMan (706062) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007053)

Having 10 years of experience in technology doesn't necessarily mean you're fresh on whatever's the latest; it might even imply you aren't. Technology is a fast-moving field and more than 5 years of experience means you're probably good at design but you might actually be clueless about the latest version of Java, ASP.Net, Ruby on Rails or whatever it is they're testing you on. Seems like a perfectly valid thing to ask.

Obviously (1)

symes (835608) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007057)

The same companies don't ask other professionals (lawyer, accountant, sales, HR, etc.) to submit to any kind of in-house tests when they are hired.

It is because IT folks do something far more important (potentially)... compared to lawyers, accountants, sales people and HR that is.

Just think yourself lucky you've never had to interview as a proctologist!

reality check (1)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007077)

I love reading posts from "IT Professionals" crying that they don't get respect when, as a whole, the "IT Profession" exhibits about as much professionalism and has about the same barriers to entry as, say, the "Hairdressing Profession".

I think it's a good thing (2, Interesting)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007095)

A CV can be read in many ways. I think that testing is a good way to see that the skills, CV and open position match. That being said, testing can be done in many ways.

Someone recommended me to Google once, and the Google HR department obviously read my CV looking for the skills they were after. While I had them to a degree, that was only part of the truth. A later phone interview with one of their engineers clarified the situation a lot: He tested my skill set with a bunch of oral test questions that made it obvious to both that my skills were of the right sort but at the wrong layer of abstraction. (Scripting vs. assembly-level knowledge.) That test saved both parties a lot of time.

But like I said, there is good testing and bad testing. Often tests test passive knowledge, but not problem solving skills. Unfortunately the hardest to quantify stuff is also the most essential in terms of actual productivity.

Good Testing == Getting Paid. (1)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007403)

This 'test' here? Am I getting PAID for my time to take the thing?

I don't work for free, and my time is valuable.

"Professionals"? (3, Insightful)

MrZaius (321037) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007097)

This type of test is fairly commonplace in certain engineering fields, and should be. Specific technical knowledge, trivial to test for, are much more important and much simpler to test for in engineers and technicians than they are in professional workers. If you can easily and efficiently test the skill level and prior training given a technical worker, for whom training is often quite area-specific and expensive, why on earth wouldn't you? This isn't paternalism, and is not a show of disrespect. I, for one, will neither stop giving nor refuse to take this sort of interview. The suggestion that we should seems ludicrous to me.

On a related note, just exactly what did you think a traditional business interview is designed to do? They are little more than a version of the skills tests that you're complaining about, but designed to measure the aptitude of managers and the like. They are more open-ended in nature, but not because those job candidates are somehow worthy of more respect. The questions are more subjective because the topics at hand are far more difficult to objectively measure than technical knowledge. Furthermore, you must also consider those organizations (especially within the government) that subject teachers, managers, lawyers, policy experts, etc. to standardized testing of some sort prior to hiring them.

Subject Matter tests are effective to IT employees (1)

SirShadowlord (32925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007113)

A couple notes
    o IT Certifications, with a few possible exceptions (CCIE) - are almost completely meaningless. They basically indicate that you have an IQ > 100 and your employer paid to send you to a boot camp.

    o As one who has interviewed 100s of IT professionals, I discover that you can learn a lot from another IT professional by saying "What technology have you worked with recently, and tell me about it."

    o Why do you think other professions aren't asked questions that are relevant to their field? Programmers are _always_ asked to code in an interview. EEs are asked to comment on circuit designs in their field. Mechanical Es are asked to describe how they've solved problems.

    o Lawyers/Accountants/Doctors all require professional certification from accredited organizations, unlike IT "Professionals" that receive their certification from money-oriented diploma mills.

Make the employer an exam too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007117)

Last time I was in a job interview the first thing they did was giving me the exam. After I had filled it in I was interviewed. In the interview I realized two things:
- The job/company didn't interest me.
- I didn't want to work on a company that treated me that way. (I expect interviewing first and if both parts agree, then make the exam).

My conclusion was I should have brought a test for them too. Some questions it could include are:

- What was the company income of last year?
- What do you think are the most important ways of keeping your employees motivated?
- ...

I think financial questions about the company are very interesting, specially because you show you're not only interested in your day to day job but also in the company economic health.

Management questions are also interesting because they directly talk about your interviewer if he/she is to be your immediate boss.

Professional Body (1)

TheEvilOverlord (684773) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007123)

It's easy. Just about every traditional profession you cite has a professional body with professional qualifications, which believe it or not, can be quite hard to pass!

Professionals in other fields who are incompetant can lose their professional accreditation, incompetant IT workers on the other hand, just move from organisation to organisation. Quite often with good references because their previous employers are pleased to see the back of them.

tests (1)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007127)

Sometimes they are good, sometimes bad, they are usually just there to provide a starting point. When I've been asked at times to do such a test, it was always before the actual interview, and provided a base from where they started asking me things. Sometimes it happened that they asked about one of the test questions that I responded to correctly - they wanted to know how much I know about it - and I said, I never used it, then they asked how come I know it then, to which I said I always try to be up to date in other technologies - besides the ones I currently use -, an answer which they actually liked.

I'd say tests are nothing to like or dislike, it's just a part of the process. Other jobs' candidates are asked other things, that's their cross to bear.

If your good it wont matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007131)

I have more than 16 years of IT experience and have no problem being tested and always test people when I interview them.
The truth is that lying on IT CV's is rampant and in the absence of a professional membership that requires you to continually update your skills to retain it (like accountants do for example) testing is the best way to weed out inappropriate candidates.

I've interviewed people with 15 years or more of experience who've demonstrated amazing ignorance. Some examples include people with SQL skills who don't know what a cross join is, financial markets experts who cant explain what an option is, C++ developers that cant use templates, experienced developers who have never used a profiler and the list goes on. If you're any good the test will only prove it and you wont have a problem finding another role if the test isn't appropriate.

Re:If your good it wont matter (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007317)

Other examples are people who find it difficult to distinguish between your and you're.

There are very good reasons for testing IT people (1)

TekPolitik (147802) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007181)

1. You don't have to have any meaningful qualifications to apply for a job in IT. You do to apply for a job in law.
2. An incompetent accountant or lawyer can be easily detected before they get their first pay cheque. An incompetent IT person may not be detected until their first real deliverable is due months later, or until the first real disaster strikes, at which point the employer is really screwed.
3. The lack of objective measures means some IT shops are stacked with idiots so that a person from such a shop may think they're pretty good when in fact they are not.

Honestly, the testing is there for IT people because HR have found there is a higher risk with those candidates. Deal with it.

Testing for what? (1)

badger17 (1360865) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007185)

I have no objection to an employer doing the best they can to determine whether I am up to the job in question. What I find hugely frustrating are the types of tests used, particularly for programming roles. What I have found is that I am generally tested on my ability to remember the syntax of some specific language rather tham my ability to think logically about how to solve the types of problems that I will come up against. This seems to me ridiculous, as I will often switch between languages with subtle differences in syntax, so will often fail blind tests of this type. Also, I think there is a tendency among managers to become hung up on current trends among technology and be always looking for the next exciting new thing, rather than good solid people with experience and ability.

I like giving test.. (1)

KarlH420 (532043) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007217)

I've hired a few people in IT. Usually you get 100 resumes for a position, then I select the 10-20 CV's/Resumes I like the best. Then I give those 10-20 people a test of basic concepts. You can get rid of the people then that have no f***'ing clue and not waste you time on them. If they pass the test they get an interview.

Too many people have read an article on /. about some technology, or tried something out for day then put it on their CV like they are an expert.

Some people say that's what on the job training is for, but when I hire somebody, I want them to come in and hit the ground running.

To be honest you sound like an arse (2, Insightful)

superskippy (772852) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007225)

If you are the sort of person who is won't put up with a simple test, which seems to me to be quite a reasonable request (where you seem to think it is all "how dare you question my magnificence), you certainly aren't the sort of person I want to employ. I don't want someone who is not willing to pitch in with whatever is needed.

In this case, I think the test has provided a useful function.

IT as a trade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007229)

I think IT should be a trade.

1) Programmers
    * Do small tasks first, learn theory do harder tasks.

2) Sys Admin same.

Is this not a positive thing instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007249)

I mean - the outcry here against IT "professionals" who have no clue about "real" issues here is legendary. Just one (two?) days ago there was a general 'dance around Piggy' with regards to IT people managers who can't code in multiple languages.

If there are practical tests for even high-level positions, this should ensure you will never have managers that are technically clueless.

Unless of course you want _yourself_ to be trusted implicitly based on your job role history, but never want to work under someone who has simply gotten the job because of their job role history. Which might be the case in some cases, we're all human after all.

Mgmt Consulting Companies & Banks Test People (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007251)

Most management consulting companies (McK, BCG, etc) test interviewees with cases and sometimes written tests. These interviewees are from top MBA programs and gladly go through the testing process. To a lesser extent major investment banks also test people.

Take Advantage of the Situation (1)

yakiimo (1024339) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007263)

I think you are overstating your case/situation. Other people in other fields certainly are "tested" although perhaps in different ways. That's a big part of what an interview is. Your question begs for a blanket answer that won't be able to fit every case.

Perhaps the better questions are:
1) Whether the test is useful or not and
2) Do you care?

1) It all depends on the details and objective of their test. Take the test and if it seems like they were asking relevant and useful questions, then be glad they are screening effectively for good employees who will be your coworkers. If it's a random test of corner-cases, then maybe they have no idea what they are doing. Which leads to..

2) Do you care if they have no idea what they are doing? If so, don't work there. If not, then take the job or be happy when they reject you.

In summary, I suggest you don't let pride or ideology get in the way of taking advantage of the situation.

IT is a mystery they don't understand... (1)

Nitewing98 (308560) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007267)

The reason why they do this is because they haven't a clue what we do and they're trying to put some qualitative or objective number on each person to help guide them to hire someone. It's human nature to try and analyze what we don't understand.

That being said, I, too, would feel insulted if someone asked me to submit to a silly test. It depends on what sort of job you're interviewing for, I suppose. If you're going to manage the IT department, testing your skill set is less important, since you'll be delegating most of the work anyway..

Reverse Testing (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007271)

Can we test potential employers? Why do we take their word that it's "a great place to work." And certainly why should we believe stuff like "we work as a team."

Interview the potential bosses and test them on commonsense and ability to be a decent person to work with/for.

Besides just raw data research, I've always found it critical to ask questions and look around meeting people and talking to everyone I can. If you ask the lowest people in the system how they are treated, that's a very fair assessment of the overall health of the social environment.

I test, because we are a linux shop (1)

bruceg (14365) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007277)

The test I developed is fairly broad. There are some skills which I would think a "Certified Windows Professional" would be able to get correct, like: "Using the telnet command, how would you check to see if a SMTP server is answering requests?" Almost none of the "certified" folks got that one right. I just wanted to see mainly if people knew which port (usually) a SMTP server uses.

I mainly want to see if applicants have any "real" Linux experience. Anyone can write a nice resume, but when things are looking bad, and you need your sysadmin to shine, do they really have the skills needed? If I posted the answers to some of the less linux specific, and actually more windows specific questions, from people with certs, you would be amazed.

I could also care less about certifications. About the only one I respect, are the ones Red Hat has. I like their testing methods; no multiple guess questions, they put you on a real system, with a real problem. Multiple choice tests could never tell you really what someone knows.

It's not unreasonable (1)

SystematicPsycho (456042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007301)

The best questions to ask someone in a technical interview aren't theory questions but scenario questions that prove the persons experience, knowledge and skills. As an Oracle DBA I ask questions on backup/recovery, diagnosing user problems, performance issues, disaster recovery. If they can't cut the mustard they can't do the job, simple as that. You don't stick someone who thinks they can talk their way through in front of a production database because in a real situation the mud's going to fly everywhere.

less work, better results (1)

mrthoughtful (466814) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007323)

When we started using tests for positions, we saw the number of applicants drop from about a thousand per seat to about twenty per seat. Of those twenty, typically four are worth a FIRST interview. So we skip the first interview and spend a few hours working with the candidates instead.

What I have noticed from graduates is that the quality of knowledge had declined over the last decade. In our last recruitment test we had a simple logic refactoring question, and not one candidate was able to achieve the optimal answer.

So, we don't necessarily ask for any qualifications any more. But we expect skill and interest and determination. A recent markup engineer was 19 years old and knew more about markup than every other candidate put together.

The other thing is, some candidates actually like the tests - the tests indicate what the job will be about, and if the work is interesting to the candidate, (and after all, they will be 'tested' with real work just like it every day of their working life) then it's not such a burden.

We test for every position in the technical department. We tried doing tests for the design and business departments, but it didn't work nearly as well.

Too many morons in IT. (3, Interesting)

packman (156280) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007331)

Sadly, a lot of the "IT Professionals" I encounter are plain idiots. Even in-depth interviews can't guarantee that you have someone capable in front of you, but it does filter out those idiots.

I work for a small (5 ppl) IT-only company and when we hire someone, while he will get some basic training, he is supposed to work pretty independantly. But once in such a position you can pretend doing a lot while doing almost nothing, and still make things appear to 'work'. You'd be amazed what an incompetent guy can pretend to be and produce results that on the first glance seem to be OK. And then when his software goes into production you suddenly notice that he didn't use an XML parser, but expected certain data on certain lines and filtered it out using regular expressions - and NO, not using the standard regular expression library - but doing something like this in C:

sprintf(cmdbuf, "/usr/bash /bin/sed -e \"s/%s//\" > /tmp/filename", inputbuffer);
system(cmdbuf);
fp = fopen("/tmp/filename", "r"); ...

You get the picture. He btw didn't even write a function to do this, but copy-pasted stuff like this a few 100 times... Software worked in test, client changed 1 insignificant thing in their XML generation (added a tag we didn't use), and our entire system went down. I ended up rewriting this guy's stuff after he was fired.

And that's the main problem with IT jobs, you only notice they're incompetent when things start to go wrong. And then it's too late. So if I have to interview someone for an IT position, I want to be as sure as possible we don't end up in such a situation again. Masking incompetence in an IT position is just too easy.

Re:Too many morons in IT. (4, Insightful)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007407)

Actually, it says something about your company's (lack of) internal QA that that garbage code ever made it to a customer site!

Standard of "professionalism" is lower in IT (5, Insightful)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007345)

I speak as a member of "IT" as well, so I'm accusing myself here too, fairly and squarely.

I don't know (nor care) about the non-technical professions, but the standard of professionalism in Computing is a lot lower than in Engineering.

I can say that with confidence after a long career spanning both Electrical/Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, both in academia (PhD, postdoc, lecturer) and in industry. It took me the better part of a decade in the computing industry to realize that I had been (unwittingly) deluding my Software Engineering students when I taught them "Do it like this, or you will be laughed at as amateurs when you get out into industry." The sad fact is that 98% of computing in industry is utterly amateurish, as I eventually discovered for myself. Even huge, "properly" managed projects are in practice just hacks like all the rest, but with better documentation and QA/testing.

While computing is my current love, and bread provider, I recognize that we're at the stage of gazing at chicken entrails in this discipline. It's a bit sad, although I still love it. But when they say "Bridges would fall down every other day if they were built like we build software", they are 100% right. Looking at it from the perspective of my old engineering days, it's a bit distressing, but that's how it is.

We're still in the early days of Computing, and to call it a professional discipline is stretching the definition rather severely.

So what are you afraid of? (1)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007347)

If you have qualifications, experience and track record, what have you got to fear from a some testing?

Is the idea of proving yourself to them is beneath your dignity? If so, they probably wouldn't want to test you anyway.

Is it that you are worried that you are not good enough to pass their tests? Or that someone else will do better than you? Well, tough. Nobody owes you a job!

It ABSOLUTELY is ok. (1)

leibnitz27 (180388) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007351)

Mainly because the hit rate is so bloody terrible.

I interview programmers all the time, and hire about 1 in 50. And the ones I do hire are great, but I see some truly unacceptable people who have great CVs.

Or they've worked on something which is really interesting, and smart, and when you dig it turns out that they simply don't understand what the team did, they just 'did their bit'.

You _HAVE_ to trust your developers, even with code reviews, design reviews etc etc in place, or you end up doing all the work yourself.

Frankly, I think it's more a question of 'why don't they test the others harder?' ;)

The flip side, of course, is that I get interviewed HARD whenever I go for a job. And, frankly, I really enjoy it. Don't you? If you do this sort of thing because you have a passion for it, you'll probably get something out of the interview, not view it as pointless. In fact, I've turned down jobs because the interview was too cursory. I think it says a lot about a place, how high the barriers to entry are.

Well... (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007355)

Based upon the post, we have whiners in our industry.

Look, if you feel you are above testing when you go to an interview or feel the job is not worth your time to take the test, then walk out or let them know that it's an insult. The latter being a way to start off a good business relationship. ;-)

Professional is not always qualified (1)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007359)

Should IT professionals start to refuse to be treated as not real professionals?

The workers knowledge and experties is not always proofed with working time or any other certificates, you need to show what you know.
It applies to any professional, you only need to live with it. Even someone has studied computer science in university, does not mean that you are always actually qualified.

Professional does not mean same as qualified.
Even the amateur can be more qualified to job than professional. Problem is that most people does not understand the difference of the professional and amateur, they make a black/white analyse for that.

The difference is usually just the payment... But the other difference what makes actually more, is that professional spends usually 8h/5d a week to work, while amateurs just usually spending the free-time. But then again, amateur usually with greater passion can lead better quality of work.

But I would not hire a 15 year old kid without tests either, even what kind "promise" he would be.

What I would demand, is that every person who gets hired, gets tested first with same tests, and if test is changed later, older workers gets tested again with new tests. Or then every person gets choosed only by their certificates, without knowing their real qualities for job. It is one or other, not mixed...

Dont test at your own peril (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007363)

I worked for a company who had to written tests for new employees, there where 4 lvls of testing : Junior/Intermediate/Senior/Enterprise Architect. The test was then followed by 2 interviews one to assess technical competenace and one to assess soft skill.

All Candidates had University Degrees.

The success rate of candidates was approximatly
Junior : 1 in 4
Intermediate : 1 in 10
Senior : 1 in 20
Architect : 1 in 40

The numbers speak for themselves, the tests help filter out people who are wasting you time.

Because CVs lie (1)

DrHyde (134602) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007381)

Anyone we invite for interview as a programmer has to sit a little test. They have an hour and a half to solve a problem. They've got an interwebnet connection and all the docs. It's amazing how many people with great CVs this weeds out because they can't do simple things like open a file.

crybaby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25007385)

Seems like you want to have a job just handed to you. 2-4 years and a wide range? What the hell does that mean? As an employer Id surely want to test you.

Michael Chermside (3, Insightful)

jekk (15278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25007417)

I don't know about you, but I would RATHER be tested during an interview. It would increase the chance that I would wind up working with competent co-workers.

Michael Chermside
http://mcherm.com/ [mcherm.com]

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