Sometimes though it?s hard to be sure what you?re actually going to get when you hire someone and you have to gamble a bit. Several years ago I hired an older man into a technical position. He had no certs or degree, but I knew that he really needed that job and I wanted to give him a shot at it. So I hired him even with the knowledge that his technical skills were probably on the low side, but with a good feeling he?d probably work out.
The day he started I tossed him a couple of small projects to look at that had been scheduled for a programmer to write but kept getting pushed back; I just wanted to see how he would react. One dealt with an interoffice backup project and another was a specialized inventory program; neither was especially complex but were going to be a bit ?fiddly? to get working right.
Incredibly, he finished both in three days, including documentation. Since we had estimated it would take three man weeks, I didn?t quite believe it so I had one of our techs do a review. The report was that it was ?old school? stuff, not the way they (the tech staff) would have done it. When pressed though, he admitted that it did seem to work well enough, so I decided to take a look for myself.
Yes, it was old school, instead of clean programming in C, he had used an ancient Quick Basic compiler (something I thought was extinct) to create an executable to do some fancy string parsing and dynamically generate several complicated scripts (Dos batch) for the specialized timed backup job.
The inventory was a generated FoxPro program. Both solutions drew laughs from the programming group and sneers for the FoxPro solution, but both not only worked, but worked very well indeed. He might be old school, but he knew how what he was doing; those jobs ran error free from day one and are still running today; we?ve never touched them.
It?s been like that for two years now; hardware, software, support, feather smoothing, whatever; it doesn?t matter what I throw at him, this astonishing man solves it. I can give him a task anyone else would be at for days and he comes back in few hours, finished.
My only regret is that he?ll be eligible to retire in three years,
So why did we hire him?
1. He was open, friendly and curious about what we did
2. Even though he really needed the job, he was completely at ease and comfortable during the interview. He didn?t fidget, dodge questions, even when they highlighted deficiencies and his eye contact was solid the whole time.
3. He was frank when asked about his lack of certs but careful to quickly point out how that would be offset by his extensive experience.
4. Near the end of the interview, he asked for a walk through to meet some of the staff. This is a very unusual request, but it provided us an opportunity to observe him in conversation with both technical and non-technical people. I?m convinced, although he?s never admitted it, that his goal with this request was to showcase his personality and interpersonal skills. And it worked.
In the post interview review the candidate came up short on qualifications so no one, including myself is quite sure why the offer was made. In the end though, it has worked out well even though I have a suspicion that the candidate controlled the interview more than we did.
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