We’ve talked a bunch about questions you should ask at an interview when you’re looking for a new job,but what if you’re the one trying to evaluate a job candidate? This one question might help you separate the best candidates from the rest.
Coder and blogger Nicolas Bize shares his previous, tedious experience trying to conduct technical interviews-from asking programming trivia questions, to creating a quiz manager, to just letting the candidates code:
I was initially happy with the results and did that for a couple of months. But then again I started feeling that I was missing something… Something that just wasn’t right… It’s true that I could easily spot the ones who could solve algorithms from the others. But were they really the great programmers I was looking for? When you think about it, is the quality of a programmer defined by how well he/she can solve a math problem, or whether or not he is able to sort a list in O(n log n) and not O(n2)?
And then he came upon the one question that makes the most difference:
I have always been convinced that those who love code do not restrict their coding activities to their work. They take home that love and continue to create for fun as a hobby. How many times have I felt frustrated at work because of a struggling eclipse, only to find relief and joy when writing ruby on rails code back home!
And so it was, that after 1 year of trial and error, I completely stopped handing out technical tests. I would sit down with the candidate, read and comment his resume without asking him any questions for a good 5-10 minutes. And then I would flip over the resume, look at the candidate in the eyes and ask: “we have about 30 minutes left. Will you please tell me about the best project that you’ve ever created?”
Although this is in the context of coding interviews, the premise should work in most fields: Candidates whose eyes light up when they talk about their best projects (maybe more universally, the best one they “worked on” rather than “created”) and are proud and passionate about their work are the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with.