John Fremlin's blog: Recruiting software engineers and their CVs

Posted 2017-03-03 23:00:00 GMT

Having conducted hundreds of software and other interviews and trained many interviewers, I've seen a ton of CVs. The one thing that will more or less guarantee a good interview performance is a strong TopCoder record.

The ability to solve algorithm puzzles under stress and time pressure is exactly what the coding interviews are about, and TopCoder tests these abilities at the highest levels. After some point in the rankings, it isn't just into people who can think fast and solve puzzles. The best players train regularly and continually improve, and in fact have to put in incredible discipline to outperform very dedicated opponents. These engineers in the end have the staying power to solve very complex system problems and the flexibility to attack them with novel approaches where necessary.

Only a small number of people can be the best at TopCoder. A wider pool of engineers can do a good job. Did they do a good job in the past? Good CVs boast quantitative production or business metric improvements. Bad ones describe techniques applied.

Experience isn't equally granted over time: for example, an engineer can work for years on an implementation that never goes to production and not really learn anything and just get set in his or her ways. The more feedback an engineer receives, and learns from, the more experience they get. People who have taken charge and launched an app or maintained a popular open source project in their spare time might have more real technical experience than a tech lead at a big company.

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