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comment by Odder
Odder  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Why I think the tech interview process is broken – Medium

    Don’t always go through the tiny little door that everyone’s trying to rush through, maybe go around the corner and go through the vast gate that nobody is taking.

I like this quote, and I think it's a good metaphor for how the job interview process works, as well as how other processes such as college/graduate applications work. But I think it downplays the difficulty of finding the vast gate by "going around the corner," and I think that it does so at the expense of the point that the essay is trying to make. It's a rare and difficult skill to have, to be able to identify how to get around the "little door", and I think that that's a skill that most companies want to have in their employees. When tech companies use a predefined interview process that can be hacked, what they are doing is insuring that they hire the least qualified applicants, those that are good at following a set of instructions, not those that are creative enough to identify novel solutions to problems or figure out how to improve processes.

    Meanwhile, another one of my students told me to keep poetry out of the class. His exact words were, "Poetry offends masculinity."

There had to be a lot that happened to someone for them to say something like that. I wonder who hurt him...




kleinbl00  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thiel's "vast gates" have always been akin to the VIP door at the club - he wasn't born stinking rich, but he never had to sweat it. Sure - if you can afford to entrepreneurially start a company instead of working for one, do so. Keep in mind that the percentage of successful startups is smaller than the percentage of Google's non-advertising revenue.

This sort of interview dominates the tech industry like no other for two key reasons: (1) nobody looking for a programming job anticipates being there for long (2) nobody hiring for a tech job expects their employees to stick around long enough for their trainability to matter. The questions are what you know now and what you do when you don't. Things are different when you make specialized widgets with a specialized process and your employer expects to invest time in your position.

Nobody who is hiring fresh college grads is looking for someone they're gonna give a watch to in 25 years. They're looking for cannon fodder. Internal cannon fodder isn't even likely to be promoted faster than external cannon fodder so from the employer's perspective, there's nothing wrong with the process.

Odder  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

There's probably a lot of companies where it makes sense to have formulaic job interview questions, because they are just looking for someone who can fit the mold of a well-defined job role, not shake the boat, and they don't expect them to stay very long. However, I don't think that those are the only jobs that exist in the tech industry, or that those are the only jobs available to college graduates.

I only know from my own experience and that of friends, but most of the CS or SE graduates I knew looked down on the "codemonkey" jobs, so I assume that their jobs required a bit more creativity. I have a friend who works for google, who got his job right out of college, who certainly does a lot more than write code within a defined set of rules. I think the author's surprise is based on his own impression of google, that since most of their revenue is in advertising, and most of their projects are in other things, that the sort of jobs that they're hiring for probably aren't all formulaic jobs where all you do is follow instructions.

And I don't think that trainability or the expectation that someone will stay at your company for more than two years are the only reasons to hire someone who is capable of doing any more than following instructions. A lot of tech jobs don't have much to do with the initial job description, and most of my engineering or CS friends have told me that they don't actually do much related to the description of their job. While nobody expects a fresh college grad to stick around for 25 years, most also don't expect those college grads to need hand-holding and micromanaging, either.

rjw  ·  103 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I wish people at Google would tell me what they actually fucking do. I hear they have good snacks.

galen  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I think it downplays the difficulty of finding the vast gate by "going around the corner," and I think that it does so at the expense of the point that the essay is trying to make. It's a rare and difficult skill to have, to be able to identify how to get around the "little door", and I think that that's a skill that most companies want to have in their employees.

I think it also downplays the importance of privilege in the ability to go around the corner. I think my meaning is best illustrated with a concrete example from my own life: 90% of graduates from my university get jobs through networking, outside of the normal application process. The reason this is possible is because we have one of the strongest alumni networks in the nation, allowing me and my peers to "go around the corner." But our very presence in this network is a function of our privilege: the educational and extracurricular opportunities that we were afforded as a result of whom we were born to and who we were born as, all of which led us to getting admitted and being able to afford tuition.

Odder  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think privilege is important, but not in the immediate sense. If you are using your connections to get the same job you might have gotten by padding your resume or memorizing the tech interview quiz, that's not going around the corner, that's more like getting pulled through the little door. You're still in the same place. In a sense, all of the networking strategies are just another game, the same as interview strategies. It's just that that's a game that isn't accessible to many people with less privilege.

If I remember correctly, SpaceX has a spot on their job application for something like "show us something cool that you've worked on in the past." That's trying to get at the idea of "going around the corner" and finding people who are creative, who candemostrate that they can function in an environment where there isn't a set of instructions to follow. That's not something that you get to do if you're barely surviving. There's privilege in having had the opportunity to be creative in the past, and those who have had more opportunities are in many ways more valuable to companies than those who have not had the same opportunities. The problem is that it's virtually impossible to distinguish between people who have never had opportunities and those who just never took the opportunities that were presented to them.

kleinbl00  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    If you are using your connections to get the same job you might have gotten by padding your resume or memorizing the tech interview quiz, that's not going around the corner, that's more like getting pulled through the little door.

It's not the same job.

I've worked at companies where employees are paid bounties for finding good candidates for future employment, regardless of whether there's an open position. Every company I've worked at, we've hired people with no positions advertised anywhere. Of the four "real" post-college jobs I held, only one of them existed before I popped up as a candidate.

I know two people who work at SpaceX and one person who works for SpaceX. The two who work at were at Blue Origin and decided they wanted to head south; the one who works for was a recommendation from a friend who was too busy for the gig. None of them interviewed.

rjw  ·  103 days ago  ·  link  ·  
This comment has been deleted.
veen  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I also find that quote inspiring, but I assumed he meant it as a suggestion to find creative ways to avoid the hiring process altogether. Personally I've been aiming to be, to use Cal Newports book title, "so good they can't ignore you". I got my current job that I do next to my full-time degree because I was interesting enough to the company that they wanted me more than the other way around. The interview was mostly a formality. It felt very much like pursuing a route nobody's taking.

kleinbl00  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

how many times do I have to say "write a book" before you write a book?

veen  ·  104 days ago  ·  link  ·  

My master thesis counselor mailed me three theses that were done in the last year and relevant to my topic. They were 70, 159 and 174 pages long. I think that'll be my practice run.