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Daniel Doubrovkine

aka dB., @awscloud, former CTO @artsy, +@vestris, NYC

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I feel very inspired by Raymond Chen’s The Old New Thing: Tales from the Interview posts, so here’s one from my own.

There’re two criteria often omitted in an a successful software developer candidate: doesn’t drool and has a handshake. The second one is particularly important, it eliminates potentially weak candidates that can’t make a decision. To which the following story …

We had a candidate come in for a mid-level developer position. We do Microsoft-style interviews on competencies where you start by coding “reverse a string” and end up designing a new thread-safe memory manager for a pocket device with 640K of RAM. So I have this developer who can reverse a string in sleep, reverse-engineer a driver on a week-end and design and implement a large scale system in a week. Needless to say that after four technical interviews of an hour each, we’re convinced that we have a hire. So we send in a top-level manager to “sell” the job. The manager gets out of the room and says: “The candidate is fine, but has no handshake, I got a hanging hand and I didn’t know what to do with it!” We laughed and ignored that comment. We send a VP person into the room to close the deal, confirm that the only problem is the handshake, and after three minutes the candidate says something in the lines of “I don’t want to answer any more questions, I am tired and I’m leaving!”. Makes a scene and leaves. Wow. That’s a way to not get a job.

We have since standardized handshake testing in the first round.