Thursday, March 04, 2010

Hiring is Only for Managers?

A friend of mine told me that he just met the new guy on their team. I thought it was odd that he was just meeting a new team member, so I asked if he wasn't around during the interviews, and he told me that the developers on the team never interview candidates - only managers do that. As near as I can tell, they do this to minimize the time required during interviewing. This is just wrong.

In the words of Manager Tools, "hiring is the most important job that a manager does" because, in part, failures pull down the whole team for months or years. And, team-fit is a crucial part of that interviewing process. All things being equal (which they never are), it's better to hire a technical 8 who has a 10 personality than it is to hire a technical 10 who was only an 8 (or less) personality. If nothing else, you can teach technical stuff, but you can't teach personality.

Dave Ramsey describes his lengthy, multi-round interview process that even includes dinner with spouses to ensure team (in the largest sense) fit. As lengthy as the process is, he points out that fixing a hiring mistake costs much more than the added time of proper interviews.

I'd even argue that this manager-only interviewing process produces shortcoming in the technical area, too, because the manager works off of a superficial checklist that s/he has to get through quickly in the interview. Thus, if a candidate is asked "do you know web framework X," and the answer is "no, but I know frameworks A through F, and I wrote a framework I call G," that candidate is treated the same as someone straight out of school who doesn't know any frameworks. This narrow-mindedness leads to hires that know framework X, but they store passwords as plain-text because no one told them not to, and none of them knows how to use MD5 to store a password (another story from my friend). These are what Erik Sink calls programmers not developers - you want (well-rounded) developers.

So, with apologies to Georges Clemenceau, interviewing is too important to be left exclusively to the managers.

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