Richard Bergmair's Blog


==> There’s yet another heated debate on social media about tech hiring: A lot of folks feel insulted by automated online coding exams and take-home exercises.

I agree: I’d much rather be grilled in 1:1 interviews for four hours than agree to an automated test or unpaid take-home exercise, even if it just takes 30 minutes. Suppose you’re a hiring manager, and you give me four hours of face time 1:1 with your engineers. I then have a guarantee that you value my time as highly as you value your engineers’. What if you give me 30 minutes of homework? I then have no guarantee that you don’t have 100 other candidates at this stage of the process. One of your engineers might dismiss 30 minutes of my work after 5 minutes of looking at it. This feels highly disrespectful of my time. Automated tests are even worse because they’re dehumanizing. Also highly insulting: bait-and-switch tactics, where a CEO invites a candidate to “have a chat” but then hands off the lead to a junior HR person to funnel the candidate into a sausage factory hiring process. So, what should be done instead?

I’ve recently been doing some reading about how craftsmanship worked in late medieval and renaissance Europe – think crafts guilds of Florence, the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. One of the things that jumped out at me was that gatekeeping was institutionalized at the guild level rather than the level of the individual company.

You only had to prove to the guild of wool once that you knew how to work with wool at the master craftsman level. The individual merchants and companies within the guild would then accept that more or less at face value. If there were repeated complaints about your craftsmanship, those, too, surfaced at the guild level rather than just the individual company level and might put an end to your guild membership.

It would be really cool if the ACM, BCS, IEEE, or any of those professional associations started doing something like that, i.e. you could just be an “IEEE-certified dude who friggin’ just knows what they’re doing”. Companies could say, “people without IEEE certification at the master craftsman level need not apply”, instead of giving people insulting exams of technical competence.

On the other end of the lifecycle, an employer who finds an employee repeatedly falling short on craftsmanship could report that person to the IEEE. They would investigate the complaint and revoke the certification if appropriate.

This is how it works for doctors & lawyers, and some other kinds of professionals. I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be equally useful in Software Engineering.

#business   |   Mar-09 2022