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I’m curious. We’re trying to hire for our startup and have no clue what sorts of questions to ask. An algorithm based interview doesn’t make sense, nor does it seem appropriate to give senior engineers (8+ years exp) a take home project. We ideally want someone who is

  1. Adept at architectural and design patterns.
  2. Understands library internals and performance nuances.
  3. Can scale a complex codebase with software engineering practices (Test cases, CI-CD, migrations, etc)
  4. Can mentor the team to better themselves.

How do you test for all these?

Note : None of us currently on the Frontend team have over 4 years of exp. The person coming in will be leading the team.


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    One possible avenue is to hire someone to do that.

    Perhaps you know someone who can’t or won’t accept the job, but would be available for a bit of highly-paid consulting — just enough hours to help you hire the right person?

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      Thanks for the reply, yes we have considered this, and most likely will be going forward with this. It makes sense, as someone with ~4 years of exp, it will be hard to gauge someone twice my experience.

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      I think first and foremost you’ll want to optimize for social fit. It might sound idiotic on the surface (and it may well be underneath too, I’m a dev, this is far from my area of expertise), but a leader and mentor needs to be able to communicate well and connect with people. That he’s the most knowledgeable person, THE BEST architect, makes not a lick of a difference if all of his superior designs and knowledge are trapped behind his face and he can’t pass them on.

      Social, for me, is the hard part of software. Soylent green Software development is people.

      Furthermore, I have no idea how to test someone efficiently for technological expertise. Not at that level. If bootcamps can put people just above the line of “would pass interview” for entry-level roles, I can’t imagine a person in the business for nearly a decade can’t just fake his way through.

      The best interview I’ve ever had, the hiring manager gave me a choice of four loose-ended toy projects/problem statements. He told me, and I quote: Just show off what you can do, use anything you want, have fun, send it back by Friday. The projects had very little constraints, it was a fun exercise, and I picked a tech that had absolutely nothing to do with what we were going to do at work. Hell, I decided to pick techs I didn’t even know just for fun.

      That was still the easy part. The hard part of software development is people.

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        This seems like good advice overall but it pains me to see “go for social fit” next to “…he…” Going for social fit has the important drawback that we tend to pick people like us, and in a male-dominated field the assumption that person is a “he” can be dangerous.

        I’m not accusing you of anything of course, just wanted to make the unconscious bias that someone might’ve drawn from your comment. Thank you!

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          I appreciate that, I definitely did not mean to suggest “pick a male” from this, I’ll rectify my comment. I’m being more careful about that but every so often I slip and fail. Sorry!

          [Edit:] I apparently cannot amend my comment anymore.

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            Apparently there’s a time limit to editing ones comments… I’m not a huge fan of this either.

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            Yes, I tend to agree with points made in both of these comments. One my current struggles is working at a startup with all dudes with two being non-White. It’s a sales heavy team, but that doesn’t matter. Hiring is extremely hard.

            I really love the idea of “do a fun project and tell us about it”.

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          this is a tough question and I cannot give you a good answer.

          But: let him take a short take home project. I disagree that it isn’t useful. You are specifically searching for someone who knows library internals. I am always surprised how many “experienced senior devs” can’t code.

          I would also ask him how he’d solve some real challenge that you currently have. It is very insightful already. Does he understands your concerns, the technology? Can he adapt to pragmatic “startup” mode? Can he sell his approach to you? is he pleasant to talk to? how does he handle disagreement?

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            One thing I’d recommend is having him/her make a presentation to the team explaining some reasonably complex project, in detail, thus covering points 1-3. The team should ask lots of “why” questions, covering point 4. Be sure to dig into some things and make him/her really explain it down to the metal. Danger signs: hedging, vagueness, condescension, defensiveness, superior attitude. Good signs: humility, openness, awareness of alternative solutions, ability to justify their choices to the most junior member of the team.

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              8+ years of XP doesn’t mean they are good. Make sure you have a filtering question to cut the fakers. Anyway- I would fundamentally agree with @arnt here. If you trust your investors (being a startup), they might have a friend that can come in and lead the interviewing.