October 2010
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Hiring Tips That HR Wouldn’t Like

When all of your advisers heave their plastic
At your feet to convince you of your pain
Trying to prove that your conclusions should be more drastic
Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?

So I’ve been doing a fair bit of hiring in this year. Turns out that everyone has wildly different ideas about who is a good hire, and who sucks the big one. Let’s get straight to it – here are ten questions. Leave your thoughts in the comments. I’ll share my views (with reasons) once all the important folk have commented. Discussions on the #iwouldhire hashtag please.

Each persona has a nice short name, so you can leave comments in the form of (assuming you went for the first option in every case):

And that’s only 62 characters. So you can tweet it with the hashtag and the link back and everything to give me some lovely, sweet, linky love juice.

A solid worker than executes the strategy laid out by upper management
Someone with a critical eye and scientific mind that questions everything, clearing escalating their concerns. If their boss doesn’t listen, they escalate even higher.

The developer that whines about everything, even though they’re less experienced than you, and they’re wrong most of the time
The developer that quietly goes about their business and doesn’t rock the boat

A solid developer that is certified in every product in your stack
A seasoned developer with excellent track record who has never been certified in anything and has never touched the products in your stack

4. EDU vs EXP
The kid fresh out of college with her three year university degree
The kid that didn’t bother with college and has three years experience

The well dressed, articulate MBA grad that doesn’t open their mouth in a meeting
The guy that security tries to escort out of the building twice a week that rants and raves in every meeting

The dude that submits a well thought out business case for new ideas in the company and requests time and budget to develop them
The dude that doesn’t ask, builds something off-piste without approval, and presents it when it has some substance

7. LATE vs LIE
The guy who was late for the interview
The guy that made some shit up on his CV

Someone that has a perfectly constructed LinkedIn profile
Someone that has a pretty filthy, off-topic blog

Talks about many succesful projects in the interview
Talks about numerous disasters in the interview

10. FAD vs SAD
Wants to try the new tech that the kids love on every project, even though they’ve never used it in production
Happy to stick to the tried and tested old stuff, even though it isn’t exactly leading edge

So answers below in the format suggested. A beer if anyone matches 9 out of 10 on my list, and a job if anyone matched all of them (you’ve got a 1 in 1024 chance of guessing that).

Note: While the tips outlined in this post are invaluable, they are in no way endorsed by the HR department of any company I have ever worked for.

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15 comments to Hiring Tips That HR Wouldn’t Like

  • Peter

    I don’t necessarily think the pairings as listed define two ends of the same spectrum, so I’m going to cherry pick from the entire list and go with Scars, Edu, Exp, Planner, Rebel, Pottymouth, Loser (provided they have a strong opinion of how they’d do things differently next time around), Fad & Sad. It’s also worth mentioning that I’d be looking to have these characteristics across the entire team, not necessarily concentrated in any one person (some of them are indeed contradictory).

    How’s that for hedging my bets? ;-)

  • I can’t pick! For instance I’d never go for someone who is late OR a lier! I think you can also have a nice linked in profile with the addition of a ‘dirty’ blog – separation of professional and personal is an important thing!

  • Leapfrog, Plodder, Scars, Exp, Slob, Planner, Late, Pottymouth, Winner, Sad
    There are a number of variations that could work together creating a balanced hire but you’d be able to work this out when you’re in the interview.
    Oh and you could try to avoid unlucky people by throwing half of the CV’s in the bin without reading them…

  • Second try…

    Love this post – I think along lines like this as well, and so here is what I think of me:


    Although I have no off-topic blog, I am incapable or keeping my (as planned) twitter account purely professional!
    Perhaps you can publish a list of #iwouldfire for those that are most distant from your preferences!

  • Paul Carvill

    I’m not playing by McBoof’s rules (THAT’S RIGHT, I’M A REBEL). I want a developer who’s self-aware; who knows what they’re great at, which areas they need to improve, and where they want to go. In a project-based context I want my hires to instinctively know what’s expected of them, what role they’re playing in a team and when to put themselves forward or defer to a colleague. I want my hires to encapsulate most of what you describe above, because most of it is behavioural, and not skill-based. That stuff can all be learned. And, if necessary, I want all of these people. That way I have a flexible team that can work in many situations, and hiring isn’t a prolonged process while we wait for the perfect developer to walk in the door.

    So, to clarify:

    I want someone to encapsulate both 1′s, both 2′s, both 3′s, both 4′s, both 5′s, probably only the PLANNER, because the REBEL is just a frustrated PLANNER anyway, LATE, because LIE is an UTTER BASTARD and a waste of my time, both 8′s, both 9′s and both 10′s, but specifically a SAD who is also a FAD, because everything was new at some point, right? Right.

    • Peter

      From a reply to Paul on twitter: couldn’t agree more wrt LIE, and also think that anyone who comes across as a WINNER in an interview is in actual fact more likely to be a LIE, and should therefore be avoided like the plague for the same reasons.

  • Dawn

    depends, plodder, badges, exp, neither, planner, late, depends on my staff retention rate, winner, sad

    pussy may be happy with the strategy, or may be passive aggressive. leapfrog depends: are they trying to find a manager with enough time who agrees with them or are they trying to control their managers through undermining them and going above their head?

    badges: certs don’t mean anything but the developer is solid. the scars guy has no experience in your stack so you have a big upfront cost of training him and things may not work out.

    rebel is burning money that your business hasn’t accounted for. if your business doesn’t encourage or at least listen to planners you have a business problem: obstacle to innovation. fad is a very similar proposition.

    winner: who in their right mind picks disasters to talk through in an interview? apart from the “tell me about the time something went wrong and what you did about it” style questions. don’t they have any pride in their good work?


  • Ray

    Bomfy – yet again I stumble upon your website. Glad you and the family are well.. Hear Tim is coming back to SA.. Drop me an email you lazy bastard…

    Anyway to answer your quiz:


  • Sally Foote

    McBoof – did we ever get YOUR answers on these?

    • Nope. I forgot. Very similar to James’ list though:


      I’m not sure about PISSANT / PLODDER. I made PISSANT sound too negative. He isn’t always wrong. I prefer people with a mouth on them that ask a lot of questions. But they do need to be right some of the time. And learn. I hate the Head Down Ask No Questions Spend Hours Making A Mess Of Things kind of PLODDER.

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