Neil's News


3 September 2005

After an extensive search, we just hired a new programmer.

Just like last time, the process was interesting. About 30 people applied for the job, more than we were expecting. Each candidate was treated identically, regardless of their qualifications. They were each given SSH login details and set a simple challenge [my solution] which they had four days to complete.

The results were varied. Many of the candidates never managed to login. Some logged in, but were unable to deal with the Linux command line. Some managed to write a CGI script, but failed to test it against the sample inputs. Three managed to solve the challenge.

Some interesting negative predictors emerged. For instance, everyone with one or more of the following attributes never managed to login:

  • Hotmail or AOL email address
  • MCSE or other Microsoft certification
  • Female
  • University degree
  • Married

It's worth noting that not having these attributes was no guarantee of success. We saw no positive predictors. For that, we would have needed a larger sample size. It's also worth noting that I'm not trying to claim universality or claim causation; I'm just recording an observation.

So, I'll keep the above in mind as I continue to work towards my MSc...

Whoa! This entry is generating an avalanche of email. [Who are all you people? Am I being linked to from somewhere?] It seems that people are reading between the lines and jumping to conclusions. To clarify:

  1. Most people who have emailed seem to think that the above are company policies. Absolutely not; all candidates were treated identically. The demographic patterns emerged from the results.
  2. Other people acknowledge that this was merely an observation, but argue that such observations should not be discussed. This is the very definition of "political correctness". My view is that problems generally don't solve themselves. Sweeping an issue under the carpet something isn't a good way to understand or improve matters.
  3. Everyone seems to think that I'm trying to argue a point. I'm not. I find some of the above attributes understandable (Hotmail and AOL), some counter-intuitive (married) and some disturbing (university).
  4. Many people imply that I've got an issue with women in IT. For the record, every IT company I've worked for has been run by a woman (except for two very brief stints at companies which both went bankrupt within months).
  5. One person accused me of being anti-Microsoft. Guilty as charged.

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Legal yada yada: My views do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my goldfish.