Why 37signals refuses to use interview 'parlor tricks' when hiring programmers

Hiring programmers is tough. Do whiteboard programming tests or logic riddles really help hiring managers make better choices?

Not according to 37signals in a post by David saying that company refuses to force applicants to program on a whiteboard or answer riddles. Calling them "parlor tricks," the unidentified David says he's seen great programmers flame out during such a process, and seen those who have passed the "quizzing cage" test with flying colors turn out to be terrible employees.

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The best way to gauge a programmer, according to David, is to look at their work from the past, talk about certain issues, and then have a test drive. Potential hires are given a test project they should complete in less than 40 hours. Do well on that, and 37signals may offer you a job.

We hate interview parlor trick

It’s like, dude: No one works like this. No one is forced to write code on whiteboards and paper in front of their boss without the internet to look things up.

Joe Sak on 37signals.com

Quizzing is a waste of time and prone to so many errors in gauging a candidates actual skill.

TimeMasheen on reddit.com

The problem is: I don't do thinking by writing code. I do thinking by thinking. Often away from the computer (and even farther away from whiteboards).

rimantas on news.ycombinator.com

Parlor tricks are worthwhile

I work at Google and I've given over 150 software engineering interviews. Coding at the whiteboard is hard. It's not natural. It sucks to want to insert a line in the middle. Guess what? I know that. I bend over backwards to give you the benefit of the doubt.

dmazzoni on reddit.com

My own philosophy is that a simple whiteboard coding problem is an incredibly useful litmus test.

cletus on news.ycombinator.com

Summary of the comments in this thread: I hate taking technical interviews as well, they always suck. However, here's why my technical interviews always deliver me stunning insight into a candidate.

DamnableNook on reddit.com

a problem like this is a negative filter. If someone has a hard time whipping out the code for a well-defined problem like that, they will have a very hard time here.

mvgoogler on news.ycombinator.com

The hiring process

I think the lesson is – don’t model your hiring processes off large companies if you are a small company.

nick on 37signals.com

Some of the best interviewers I've seen approach interviewing almost like teaching, in that they'll ask you questions that lead you towards the answer, just to keep the conversation flowing so they can see how (and whether) you think.

bermanoid on news.ycombinator.com

Programmers must have plenty of time during the day, because there are hundreds and hundreds of comments on this article. Or this hit a nerve in a big way.

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