You (usually) can't go wrong when hiring a programmer

What are the most important job functions for an organization today? Well, I guess the answer is going to differ from person to person, but if you ask me, I’d say sales, technology, and customer service. I think these three departments should be the hardest-hitting in any organization, because their performance directly dictates how long the company is going to survive.

Now, how do you hire for these roles? I know you can float the request on job portals, ask around for referrals, and so forth, but how do you make sure you’re getting exactly the skills the candidate claims?

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Given that people are likely to lie through their teeth when it comes to accomplishments, claim making impact they had absolutely no contribution to, and even cook up fake backers-up, it’s next to impossible.

Except when you are hiring for technology.

It’s impossible to fake your mastery as a programmer. A programming interview is not about two people sitting on two opposite sides of a table, sipping coffee and using their tongues to fabricate woolly stories of conquests in foreign lands; it’s more like sparring when your skills actually get tested. “So you say you created that API? Good! Can you tell me how you’re handling multiple authentication tokens in the back-end?” Boom! Your ass will explode trying to answer this if you are faking, because the moment you take the dip, the follow-up questions will get more and more specific.

To top it all, there’s always a round of actual coding and problem solving, which is akin to standing naked in a spot light while being judged on your dancing skills. How you start thinking about a problem, how soon you grasp the main idea, how you formulate assumptions and use them, and how elegantly you are able to think — all this gets tested. And good luck if you’re a code monkey who just knows how to Google for each and every thing.

That is not to say all hiring in programming is right. There are more than enough bad apples out there. All I am saying is that given an intelligent interviewer, there’s no chance the candidate can fake it in a programming interview. In the other job functions, however, the chances of passing through unnoticed are pretty high.

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