Finding the Right Skill Set
by Mark O'Neill
When hiring for technology and programming positions, focus on core technical competence, real-world experience, dedication and self-motivation
1. Core Technical Competence
We have applicants answer a battery of questions and work through several sample programming challenges so we can see how they go about solving complex problems. We're a PHP shop -- and there are a lot of people who start off installing a WordPress blog, then start tweaking their blog, pick up a little PHP and rebrand themselves as PHP developers. These people talk a good game and often know a lot about the language they've been using, but if they haven't studied the fundamentals, over time we've found their code to be less efficient.
2. Real-world Experience
Unless we're hiring for a very junior position, it's important that you’ve worked in the industry before as a member of a team and under someone more senior. If you've been the sole developer at a company, doubtless that company loves you -- because you're the only one there who knows how to program, and what you do seems magical -- but you're missing exposure to different ideas and might not be challenged in the way a technical manager can challenge you.
3. Dedication and Self-motivation
If you're gonna work here, you kinda have to drink the Kool-Aid. There's a part of our interview process, right at the end, called “The Scare,” where we try to convince you not to work here.
After we've explained what our company does and where we're headed, we say that because our goals are bigger, our expectations are a little higher. We're not a 40-hour-a-week shop; we're a 50-or-more-hour-a-week shop. We recognize that you need time away from work if we're gonna get the best performance out of you, but you will occasionally be asked to work weekends and stay late. Also, this is tech work: Sometimes it needs to be done when we've got less traffic on the site. So if 4 a.m. rollouts won't work for you, you shouldn't work for us. And finally, though we're a growing company, we're still in startup mode: We have no room for “not my job.” If Thrillist needs a papier-mache sculpture tomorrow, you're a papier-mache sculptor tonight.
We ask a lot of you, have some strong personalities in the office and won't always be there to pat you on the back (though we try to be).
Although we've had good techs walk away after that speech, it means that the people we do get are terrific. We get the people who can hack not just the tech challenges, but also the strain of what our ambition demands
Mark O'Neill is a daily editorial resource offering innovative insights and strategies for building an integrated, secure and resilient IT infrastructure.
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