How to Spot a Good Programmer

So, it's been my experience that non technical folks have a hell of a time interviewing technical people. This article came up today on Slashdot, and was pretty much on-the-money for what helps to separate a good tech from a mediocre one from a terrible one in an interview.


Since it's been Slashdotted and the server is nearly dead, the summary section, with slight edit for completeness:

Positive indicators:

  • Passionate about technology
  • Programs as a hobby
  • Will talk your ear off on a technical subject if encouraged
  • Significant (and often numerous) personal side-projects over the years
  • Learns new technologies on his/her own
  • Opinionated about which technologies are better for various usages
  • Very uncomfortable about the idea of working with a technology he doesn’t believe to be “right”
  • Clearly smart, can have great conversations on a variety of topics
  • Started programming long before university/work
  • Has some hidden “icebergs”, large personal projects under the CV radar
  • Knowledge of a large variety of unrelated technologies (may not be on CV)
  • Knowledge of a few bleeding-edge technologies

Negative indicators:

  • Programming is a day job
  • Don’t really want to “talk shop”, even when encouraged to
  • Learns new technologies in company-sponsored courses
  • Happy to work with whatever technology you’ve picked, “all technologies are good”
  • Doesn’t seem too smart
  • Started programming at university
  • All programming experience is on the CV
  • Focused mainly on one or two technology stacks (e.g. everything to do with developing a java application), with no experience outside of it


ryptide said...

I'm not sure I agree with some of those negatives.

I like my programmers to have something going on outside of programming, for example.

I like my programmers to be good programmers no matter the tech, and to be experienced enough with a variety of things to be comfortable tackling challenges across a variety of technologies.

Or maybe it's just that I don't really like to talk "shop" when I'm not at work... Unless it's personal projects.

Michael said...

The frequent recurrence of articles like this suggests to me that there's a market for 3rd party companies that do technical interviews well.