Daniel Sharp

A little less conversation, a little more action please

Knowledge is power, but only if you know how to use it.

In the early 90s I joined the Air Force. My recruiter was amazingly uninterested in me until he got my ASVAB score. After, he was my new BFF and I was fast-tracked into basic training with a coveted guaranteed job. I was the only person in my training flight who knew what their job role would be before the end of basic.

In tech school, one other Airman and I competed for the top score. He got it by a single question on the second to last test. The kicker is that he and the question were both wrong. I argued my point to the instructor until he actually called the 2 Tech Sergeants (in the military, the enlisted do the actual work) who were responsible for the question. It was a short discussion. I was right and they changed the question on future tests. But my test was still scored using the old key and I came in second.

Sorry, that last part has nothing to do with anything but my pride.

The top scorer and I both went on to the same hands-on-training and instead of just taking test we would now have a chance to get our hands on a combat ready F-16. It took just one day for the top scoring Airman to slide all the way to last place. He held the tools as if he expected them to take off a finger. He struggled with even the simplest of task and was hopeless using a speed handle (that is the tool pictured).

Now that I’ve told you that little story, let me ask you this. Who would you rather have working on your jet if you were an F-16 pilot? The other guy or me? Ok, but how are you supposed to know to pick me? We weren’t formally ranked coming out of the hands-on-training so the top Airman was still ranked number one. You could ask us both a set of questions but he could answer them just as well as I could.

"If your job is fixing something, talking about it only gets you so far."

The only reasonable answer is that you would need to give us practical tests. Hands on. Because that is what really matters. If your job is fixing something, talking about it only gets you so far.

What about the reverse situation? Someone who is just adequate in the classroom and yet excels at hands-on. But again, if you start by asking questions you are going to form an opinion that goes against your best interest.

I once watched an interview with Steve Wozniak where he said he grew up surrounded by a bunch of prune trees. The interviewer asked if he meant plum trees and you could see that The Woz had no idea. That was not the only akward thing The Woz said during that interview. He just isn't as good at interviews as Steve Jobs. No where close actually. If you want to be wowed by talk, Steve Jobs is your man. But if you want to be wowed by talk about hardware, Steve Wozniak is your man.

Now, let me ask you this. Why are you still trying to hire programmers by just asking them questions? If you are judging your canidates by their answers instead of their work, you are missing some of the very best candidates. Use a site like Hacker Rank and test them. You will probably be surprised at how fast your opinions change.