Posts Tagged ‘hiring’
  • On developer shortage

    A laptop on a table with nobody sitting in front

    Who is not aware that there’s a developer shortage? I mean, if you’re into the software industry, everybody is telling it every now and then - especially if you’re on the recruiting side. To handle that, companies come up with creative solutions - some are sponsoring education initiatives, or even creating their own. However, I think it’s not the right answer.

    Of course, there’s no doubt that there’s a shortage of good developers. Yet, that’s true for every industry: there’s a lack of good plumbers, of good carpenters, of good car mechanics, etc. So, why is there such a pathos around it in IT? I’ve come up with several reasons, that boil down to a single point. Let me develop.

    Unrelated technologies/skills

    Have you ever written a job description that looks like a Christmas wish list? I mean, a lot of technologies, mainly unrelated. Like front-end and back-end, or sysadmin skills with any kind of development skills.

    And since I’m there, I need to tell you there no such thing as a full-stack developer. At least, not in the sense you think. I have designed systems from front to back, and I’ve fixed bugs on the front-end, but I’m not on par with a regular experienced front-end developer.

    Yet, every day, I learn new things - that I try to share here. Do you believe I can learn them in my free time, but not as a new hire?


    Does your job description requires a university degree? A degree in computer science? A licence or a master?

    If that’s the case, it means you believe those university degrees somehow prepare people to do the job. Or worse, you don’t really believe it, but at least, it will protect you if the hire is not the right fit in the end.

    Do they teach you object-oriented programming in universities? Or mutation testing? Or testing at all? How people who are full-time teachers know about modern build pipelines? About Docker? They do know a lot about sorting algorithms though, which you probably don’t need to implement yourself in the industry.


    Do you require certifications for the job? Of course, it might make sense to require a Java certification for a Java job. But do you know how people are getting certified? Do you know what it really entails?

    Well, certifications are based on multiple-choice questions. Mostly based on knowing the API by heart. In real-life, I have an IDE and Google if I forget about them.


    In most developed countries, selection by age is not allowed. However, there are subtle ways to filter by age. Asking for a number of years of experience is a good way. Like 5 years of experience probably means ~28 years, counting a master’s degree.

    Thing is, I’ve worked in the same team as an Android developer, he had 5 years of experience. Only he was 21, as he had started developing in Android at age 16. Would you hire him, since he fulfills the requirements, or is he too young for your taste?

    Too young, too old, not the right gender, not the right ethnicity…​ There are a lot of bias that might sit between you and potential capable hires.

    Work onsite

    Do you require your developers to work onsite? 100% of the time? Why?

    I’ve worked with remote colleagues. I do work now with remote colleagues. Some companies are 100% remote. Are they making bad software? If you believe people need to meet each other once in a while, does that mean that people need to commute every day to work?

    For sure, there are differences between working while co-located and not. But there are a lot of tips and tricks available to make it work.

    Creating a team is about building trust. Trust doesn’t appear automatically by co-locating people.

    Dress code

    Is there a specific dress code in your company? I’m referring to a dress code that is not compatible with the average developer’s dress code e.g. costume, bow and tie.

    Do you think developers work better when they dress in a certain way? Or is your reason is that developers are part of the image of the company, and customers might see them (hint: they never do). Or do you think that in order to cooperate with business people, they need to dress the same way? Then, think about a car mechanic who would handle your car dressed in bow and tie?

    Hiring process itself

    What’s your hiring process? How many steps completely unrelated to the job do I need to pass in order to get to the real interviews? Do I need to answer questions such as "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" or "What’s your 3 best qualities?".

    I’m not saying this is a rule, but I’ve never seen an HR team that knew about the specifics of the developer job. Having an hiring process that doesn’t take it into account is plain crazy, especially since HR is but the first step.

    HR should be a help, not an hindrance.


    This one is pretty obvious, but do you pay developers at the market level? Do you include the salary range in your job description?

    When browsing job ads, it’s an extra effort to ask for the compensation. Most developers won’t take the time, and just discard your job description. And if they do, and the offer doesn’t match, it’s time lost for both parties.

    There are only 2 possible reason you don’t include compensation policy. Either you’re afraid of telling current employees, and that means something is already broken. Or you’re afraid of telling competitors, and let’s be blunt, they probably already know - because people talk about their compensation.


    Last but not least, how do you consider developers inside your company? Are they a true part of the value chain? Are they only accountable or also decision makers? Do you threaten them to outsource their job in India every day to keep them "under pressure"?

    Developers are in touch. Because of the same university, same technology user group, whatever…​ They know about your company and its culture, about its pros and cons.


    Does any of the above point ring a bell? There’s no developer shortage, there are only barriers you set yourself between your company and a potential workforce. Break the barriers.

    Categories: Miscellaneous Tags: hiring
  • You're not a compiler!

    Passed exam

    At conferences, it’s common to get gifts at booths. In general, you need to pass some some sort of challenge.

    An innocent puzzle

    Some of those challenges involve answering a code puzzle, like the following:

    What would be the output of running the following snippet:

    public class Sum {
        public static void main(String[] args) {
            System.out.println(0123 + 3210);
    1. 3293
    2. 3333
    3. The code doesn’t compile
    4. The code throws an IllegalArgumentException
    5. None of the above

    My usual reaction is either to leave the booth immediately, or if I’ve some time, to write the code down on my laptop to get the result (or search on Google). You could say I’m lazy but I prefer to think I’m an expert at optimizing how I spend my time.

    Simple but useless

    There is a single advantage to this approach: anybody can grade the answers - if the correct results are provided. And that’s all.

    Otherwise, this kind of puzzles brings absolutely nothing to the table. This wouldn’t be an issue if it stayed on conference booths, as a "fun" game during breakouts. Unfortunately, the stuff has become pretty ubiquitous, to filter out candidates during recruiting or to deliver certifications.

    In both cases, skills needs to be assessed, and the easy solution is through a multiple-choice question test. Of course, if one has no access to an IDE nor Google, then it becomes a real challenge. But in the case of the above sample, what’s being checked? The knowledge of a very specific corner-case. This specific usage I would disallow on my projects anyway for this exact same reason: it’s a corner-case! And I want my code to be as free of corner cases as possible,

    Another sample

    This is also another kind of puzzle you can stumble upon:

    In the class javax.servlet.http.HttpServlet, what’s the correct signature of the service() method?:

    1. public void service(ServletRequest, ServletResponse)
    2. public void service(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse)
    3. public int service(ServletRequest, ServletResponse)
    4. public int service(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse)
    5. protected void service(ServletRequest, ServletResponse)
    6. protected void service(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse)
    7. protected int service(ServletRequest, ServletResponse)
    8. protected int service(HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse)

    This kind of question asserts nothing but the capacity to remember something that is given by the most basic of IDEs or the JavaDoc.

    In fact, the complete title of this post should have been "You’re not a compiler, nor a runtime, nor the documentation".

    The core issue

    There is no single proof of correlation between correctly answering any of the above questions and real-world proficiency of applying the skills they are meant to assess. Is there an alternative? Yes. Don’t simply check shallow knowledge, check what you want to assert, under the same conditions, including IDEs, documentation, Google, etc.

    • You want to check if candidates are able to read code? Make them read your own code - or similar code if your code is secret.
    • You want to check if candidates are able to write code? Make them write code e.g. fix an existing or already-fixed bug.

    The same can be done in the context of certifications.

    Of course, the downside is that it takes time. Time to prepare the material. Time to analyze what the candidate produced. Time to debrief the candidate.

    Is this feasible? Unfortunately for those who would cast that aside as an utopia, it already exists. The best example is the Java EE Enterprise Architect. Though the first step is a multiple-choice questions test, other steps include a project-like assignment and an associated essay.

    Another example is much more personal. I’m working as a part-time lecturer public in higher education organizations. In some courses, I evaluate students by giving them an assignment: develop a very small application. The assignment takes the form of specifications, as a business analyst would.


    For the sake of our industry, let’s stop pretending puzzles are worth anything beyond having some fun with colleagues. You should be more concerned about the consequences of a bad hire than the about the time spent on assessing the skills of a potential hire. There are alternatives, use them. Or face the consequences.

    Categories: Miscellaneous Tags: hiringrecruitingcertification