Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Travails of a S/w programming position Interviewer

I was reading a back dated copy of the Indian Express. There was a quote from the Nasscom chair: Mr Karnik saying that the rate at which the IT sector is growing is a cause of concern since the needed skilled people are in short supply. This was corroborated by a report in the TOI (A paper I still detest, but dare say makes a good packaging material) which talks about the rising cost of IT-labor force in India. But the grade of interviews I take makes me think - either I am a gargoyle or the people sent to me to be interviewed just do not have IT. I seem to have set a record of sorts at the place I work - 4 selections from over 200 interviews and I am glad to say barring one the rest are with us still.This puts a lot of strain on the HR team managing the recruitment process. Time and again I bowed to the temptation of reducing the level of questions I usually posed the candidates and (sigh!!!) all the time I was disappointed. To top it all I get a feedback that the questions I ask are very difficult. That decided my dilemma. I took a sabbatical from interviews for about 3 months. And was I glad that I stood vindicated when I started taking interviews again or was I sorry that the story is still the same. All interviews were bland and we are still looking for our candidates.

That being given, I did a unscientific random sampling from the resumes that reached my desk and here are the findings. Mind you they are rather discriminatory, biased and not very flattering. Biased because I am one of those at the receiving end of interviewers who did no believe that a person with a non-tech academic qualification can be a good programmer.

Have Fancy designations : 80%
From Known IT Corporations : 90%
Have Completed some certification or the other : 70%
People claiming more than 5 years of experience in programming : 70%
People claiming an Engineering degree from BIG ENGG Colleges: 40%

Given that above demographics, the findings are

Know the Work/Deliverables in code : <>
Know even the basics of programming : < 1%

Number of people selected from the 1% -Just 1

A glance would hurl these details outside the window. These are not stupid people. They find me a gargoyle because what I ask them they have not even heard of. The range of candidates I have interviewed span from
Mute Lamb to "I am doing a favour to you by getting you to interview me". In India the number of years of experience count more than what you have actually done and learnt during those years. So a person with more than 7years of experience carries an attitude of "Don't touch me. I am a senior".

Then you have the next category: I will not work in these technologies. I have one advice for them. Don't call yourself a programmer. Lets face it, call yourself a s/w specialist or s/w engineer with a senior, junior, chief, principal tag attached, but you are first and foremost a programmer. I have interviews candidates calling themselves, team leads, module leads, PL, TL, PM and more, but none of them were a programmer not even remotely.

The category that makes me angry the most is the "Rote". How can anyone with say 90% and above score in a Sun certfication be so withdrawn from technology. Asking them about the understanding of a question (which was asked in the certification) is like showing Kryptonite to super-man. What these people have done is read up whole question banks and transferred the answers to memory using magnificent technique called "ROTE". Realise one thing - A certification might pull your resume higher in the stack, but it aint guaranteeing a job.

People with lot of experience or "BIG" quallifications tend to make up for their lack of programming and technology skills with "Attitude of the wrong type"

What you have is a classic "All steersman and 1 rower" situation. Why don't people realise that so many managers are not needed and if they are needed then that job is not worth doing. Vice president Grass cutting does not make the job very rosy it still remains dead brown and alive green. I recollect that during college days when pursuing a PG Diploma in MIS (which I did not complete by way for reasons similar to my diatribe) technical growth of a programmer was illustrated as follows

Trainee Programmer--> Associate S/w Engineer-->S/w Eng--> TL-->PL-->PM and so on. According to this continuum a person stops being a programmer after 2 years of working in an IT company in India. And that is a fact.

Sample these answers to the questions "You are in a good position. Why are you looking for a change?"

less than 35% of respondents have said "I want to get back to technology"

Technology graduates don't work in technology, they work with technology.

God help all those MCA, IITians, Msc Comp science and all those with a Non-IT academic qualification, you have only "your" help. Nobody else will help you.