Trivia questions

This article is about software engineers, but in my field — high-level infrastructure design and operations — the same thing happens.

Yet in engineering, we expect people to do live engineering on a white board under stressful interview conditions because, well, because that is what we have always done. Most programmers need StackOverflow, Google search, or Dash in order to be effective, yet you get to an interview and are expected to spontaneously remember the positional arguments for some esoteric function. And we keep doing this even with people who have years of experience in the field!

Yep. It’s weird when I go into an interview having 15 years of experience and having accomplished now some really major things in my field and get asked what port SSH is on.

First of all, I know it. Knew it since SSH itself was new, nearly. But who the crap cares what port SSH is on? What does that even have to do with my job, and why could I not look it up if I needed it, assuming I did not already know it?

I know, there must be some basic test of competency (I guess), but is that really it? Is that the best you can do?

People are always surprised when I do interviews and I don’t ask a single technical question. Instead, I chat with the candidate about some projects they’ve done, what technologies they like and why, and what they are looking forward to in the field. I might ask them to show me how they might design something if they had complete control and tell them there are no wrong answers, but that ideally they should be able to explain why they’re making the choices they are.

It’s not perfect but so far I have a good record of hiring people and them not being duds.

But trivia questions? Come on, what are we, in 9th grade and in some Brain Bowl competition?