Personal Touch

I have interviewed many candidates for various technical positions. Lately, the trend has been to "screen" prospects with one or more virtual meetings. This includes emailing candidates with homework assignments that they have a week to complete, or some combination of Skype and CoderPad (a sandboxing tool that let's us play with code in a shared environment).

Only a couple times have I found this screening process to be worthwhile. On one, it was clear that the coder had cut and pasted huge sections of code (specifically CSS) and did a few find-and-replace changes to hide the fact that the code was not his. Rejected.

More often, though, candidates that we interview have the technical skills and capacity to do the work. The struggle is to find skilled engineers that will be a good "fit" for our teams. Can they hold a conversation? Describe a process? Explain a difficulty? Share what is important to them? Can they listen or take criticism? Are they funny or too serious? Do they read, go to the movies or watch Game of Thrones?

I feel like any proficient coder can pick up new syntax or coding styles. Finding a person that we want to spend 8 hours a day with seems way more important to me. So, when it comes to hiring, I want smart but personable. And that's an interview I prefer to do face to face.