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16 September 2017 @ 01:05 pm
Interview with Muhammad  
Muhammad contacted me on LinkedIn:
===============
M: Hi Dennis,
As one of my connections, I wanted to quickly reach out to see if you have any current or future opportunity for me?
...
I am based in Islamabad Pakistan.
{Long list of buzzwords and self-praise skipped}
D: What's your hourly rate?
M: Hi Dennis, thanks for your response.
I am happy if I can get $40+ /hr. Incase of remote opportunity $20/hr is good.
===============

We chatted on LinkedIn a little about his participation in nTaskManager project.
I pointed out to a misspelling in his resume "Windows Azuer" (which is not a good sign), but he fixed it (which is a good sign) and said "thank you" for that.

I was not able to get answers from Muhammad to my specific technical questions and was considering dropping it, but Muhammad offered to talk on Skype.
So I decided to try and see what would happen. In particular, my goal was to learn how text chat correlates with voice conversation over Skype.
Muhammad proved to be consistent: he could not answer my specific tech questions in text chat, and he could not answer my specific questions in our voice conversation.

Transcript of our voice interview
--------------------
D: Hi Muhammad.
M: Hi Dennis, how are you.
D: Let’s start with question about email that this nTask sends (*1). Did you create this email?
M: Actually, I created this with the team. It was not only my task. I think it was team of 5 persons. I see your screen.
D: So, yes, I’m talking about this email. Did you participate in any way in creating this email.
M: Actually, my participation was only technical: creating technical design, ..., creating technical implementation , ...
D: So, did you do anything about this email. Anything. Any activity. Did you put any work into this email?
M: There are 2 things: one is content and second one is how email is being sent. What I implemented is to send emails. This email template was designed by our designer, and content was designed by the owner of this application. My role was to write code, so this email will be sent.
D: When this code was (*2) ... are you saying you wrote code that was sending this email? Or you are not saying this? Or you did not do it?
M: Sorry, I could not get what you said.
D: Did you write the ... I still cannot understand what you did here. Did you do anything here? Or you actually wrote code for sending this email. Or was it somebody else who was doing it?
M: I was writing the code.
D: You were writing the code. Ok. How many developers were writing code that sends this email?
M: I had one front-end developer...
D: Uh-huh.
M: ... and one SQL guy with me, and I was only backend developer. And the code was written in C#. And we were using Mongo DBs database.
D: So could you explain, in this email, what was the backend work and what was the front-end work, and which part did you do, specifically? In this email.
M: Actually, as a backed it is, actually MVC single-page application. And this is using ...
D: [Interrupting] Ok, now you mention MVC. Single page application. What does it have to do with MVC? Like this email – what does it have to do with MVC?
M: Actually, MVC is the main framework for this.
D: What do you mean? Are you saying you are using MVC in order to create email?
M: No-no-no. Definitely there is an application. It’s a complete architecture. Having multiple ... for database, operations, sending emails...
D: So, we are talking specifically about email. Do you understand it, right? We are talking specifically about sending email. I am asking you specifically about this email. You were mentioning MVC. Why were you mentioning MVC in the context in the email?
M: Sorry, I were talking about overall architecture ...
D: [Interrupting] No, we were not talking about overall architecture. I was talking, specifically, about this email. I am not talking about overall architecture. Did I say “overall architecture”?
M: N ... this specific email – there is nothing special, just Microsoft [unclear] just register. Request will go to the server. Once your account is created. And we are sending email to just verify you enter your own email address, to avoid spamming.
D: Uh-huh.
M: There is not special, there is just as way for emails.
D: Ok. And?
M: What do you mean “and”? ... I think there is nothing special or complicated in sending email.
D: Ok, Muhammed, here’s what I noticeD: you do not answer my questions. Ok? It looks like you do not even understand them.
M: Sorry, can you repeat the question?
D: I asked you several questions. During this conversation (while we are talking for, like, 3 minutes now) I asked you several questions. You answered almost none of them.
M: Yes, can please start with one by one. I will be answering.
D: All right. So, one of my question was: “Did I ask you to talk about overall architecture?”.
M: Eh, sorry, I was talking about what is the overall implementation of this project. And you asked me what was your role. I was talking about my role. My role was to create an architecture.
D: Ok, it looks like you, again, did not hear my question. Could you repeat my question before you answer that? (*3).
M: Sorry, actually, when we were talking about few seconds ago, and you just asked what was my role. And my role was from multiple tasks. So, I talked about the architecture and MVC-like things in the context of my role.
D: So, context of your role... Context of your role in what? What do you think I asked you?
M: Actually, I understand it was, there you wanted to ask me what was my role on this application, and I was just explaining my role on this application.
D: On “this” – on what “this” application? What do you mean under “this” application?
M: “This application” means “nTaskManager”.
D: I did not ask you that! I did not. I asked you, specifically, about this email.
Ok, Muhammad, I think there is no point to waste the time. I see what would happen going forward. You do not understand my questions – we are not able to work together. Thank you.
M: Thank you.
D: Bye.
--------------------

Foot notes
(*1) - The email subject is "Complete your nTask Registration". Email messaging is very important for my business, so I decided to start conversation with it.
(*2) - I started asking Mohammad about "when this code was written", but then changed my mind mid-sentence and moved on to the question that focused on his role in creating this email.
(*3) - At this point I sound noticeably angry, and that makes Muhammad a little bit nervous.


What do you think: if interviewee is not able to repeat my question and instead talks about a different topic - is it reasonable to terminate interview at that point?

Originally posted at: http://dennisgorelik.dreamwidth.org/140548.html
 
 
 
Yaturkenzhensirhiv - a handheld spyyatur on September 16th, 2017 10:53 pm (UTC)
Take away:

1. Muhammad does not understand (your version of) spoken English very well. So, he tried to guess what you MAY be asking and answered that.

2. Your questions could have been more focused. E.g. "what classes and methods did you use to send the e-mail?"

3. It is important to be able to quickly stop the interview once you know it's hopeless. The case was 100% clear by the time he said "Sorry, can you repeat the question?". The remainder was pure torture that was completely unnecessary.

4. Even though you were understandably infuriated, you don't need to be so rude. This sounds unprofessional.

5. Non-Slavic speakers cannot understand the "OK, and?" question, and get baffled/confused by it. "OK, and what happened next?" is one of more legible translations.



Edited at 2017-09-16 10:55 pm (UTC)
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on September 16th, 2017 11:38 pm (UTC)
> 1. Muhammad does not understand (your version of) spoken English very well.

I think he understood almost all individual words, but did not understand the overall meaning.
In any case, he did not admit that he had trouble understanding me, and not admitting lack of understanding - is a serious sin in software development (or in any profession that requires complex collaborative decision-making).

> "what classes and methods did you use to send the e-mail?"

I would probably asked something like that - but only after he would claim that he programed that email. But he did not even say that.
What's the point to ask about classes if he was not even involved into that "sending email" sub-project?

> 3. It is important to be able to quickly stop the interview once you know it's hopeless.

I agree. I want to improve my ability to quickly recognize hopeless cases.
But it's tricky to make quick judgements without producing too many false "it is a clear mismatch" evaluations.


> The case was 100% clear by the time he said "Sorry, can you repeat the question?".

Why, specifically, at that point?

When interviewee is asking to repeat the question - it may be, actually, a good sign (assuming he does care to understand the follow-up explanation).

> you don't need to be so rude

I agree. My excuse it that I was still learning at that point and I cared.
If it was a routine situation when I already talked with 10 other clueless candidates and routinely rejecting them -- I would not care and would be much calmer and more polite.

I am also making a progress. This interview was less than 7 minutes.
My first interviews could last over an hour (filled with mental torture), even though it should have been clear to me that the candidate is an obvious mismatch.

> "OK, and?" question

The full version would have been: "Ok, and how does it answer my question?".
I did not assign Muhammad negative points for not understanding me here. Actually it was a somewhat positive sign for me -- that he admits misunderstanding and asks for clarification.
But then he badly screwed it up anyway.


Edited at 2017-09-16 11:39 pm (UTC)
Yaturkenzhensirhiv - a handheld spyyatur on September 17th, 2017 06:39 pm (UTC)
> I think he understood almost all individual words, but did not understand the overall meaning.

That falls under the definition of "does not understand English".

>> "what classes and methods did you use to send the e-mail?"

> I would probably asked something like that - but only after he would claim that he programed that email.

Why is it so important? If he can name the classes/methods, then he knows how to send e-mails, or at least where to look.

>> > The case was 100% clear by the time he said "Sorry, can you repeat the question?".

> Why, specifically, at that point?

Not because he asked to repeat the question, but because of the pattern. Until that point, he was answering what he thought you MAY be asking, without attempt to clarify anything. He stumbled when he faced a question that did not look like a part of a traditional interview script.
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on September 17th, 2017 09:38 pm (UTC)
> That falls under the definition of "does not understand English".

Not really.
He understands English, but he does not understand underlying concepts (of software design and development) that I used.
These are two different things.

> I would probably asked something like that - but only after he would claim that he programed that email.

> Why is it so important?

It would be an integrity check. "Is he routinely lying about his accomplishments?"

> If he can name the classes/methods, then he knows how to send e-mails, or at least where to look.

I see the value of your "what classes and methods did you use to send the e-mail?" question. It helps to very quickly filter out people who are not developers.
But, I think, it is important not to skip integrity check. I need to trust the person I hire. In part, because developers have access to our codebase.

> He stumbled when he faced a question that did not look like a part of a traditional interview script.

Is it a reason to automatically disqualify interviewee?
Why? Is it because that indicates that he would not be able to solve non-traditional problems at work?


See also: http://dennisgorelik.dreamwidth.org/140548.html#comments
Yaturkenzhensirhiv - a handheld spyyatur on September 17th, 2017 09:50 pm (UTC)
Integrity check can be difficult with drasticly different cultural codes. What yiu may consider a lie could be actually a way to politely say no, or vice versa.

> Is it because that indicates that he would not be able to solve non-traditional problems at work?

Yes. What he tried to do here is to BS his way through the interview by saying some general words, and only admitting failure when BSing seemed no longer possible. And then he requested a second chance. Unfortunately, this is the mode of operation of many offshore developers, especially from India.

Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on September 17th, 2017 10:17 pm (UTC)
> Integrity check can be difficult

I agree. But that does not mean I should not try.

> drasticaly different cultural codes

I noticed that the best developers (and best professionals in general) do not beat around the bush and do not say "yes" when they mean "no". No matter what culture they came from originally.
I really cannot recall any exceptions from that observation.

> only admitting failure when BSing seemed no longer possible

Right. I came to that conclusion, but I still wanted to get an extra confirmation to my analysis.
The thing is that at that moment getting that extra confirmation costed me only extra minute, which is almost nothing in comparison with ~30+ minutes of previous preparations (reading + chatting + first part of the voice interview). I think if "additional insurance" cost is so low - it is better to be safe (from misdiagnosis) than sorry (and lose an opportunity for self-correction).

> this is the mode of operation of many offshore developers

The more I encounter it - the calmer I would be and the shorter my interview would be with such guys.
Ideally, there should be no interview at all and such hopeless candidates should be disqualified over email.

How many such hopeless BS candidates did you have in, say, last 12 months?
rbcexpressrbcexpress on September 17th, 2017 01:53 am (UTC)
Возможно это связано с менталитетом. Сталкиваюсь с таким очень часто. У них принято говорить как-то обобщенно, неточно. Они этим не сильно заморачиваются.

Вот пример (рекламное агенство)
-------------

Клиент из Индии:
Раньше я, рекламируясь у вас, получал много продаж, но в последние 6 месяцев продаж нет. Ни одной. Я потратил 5000 долларов и никаких продаж.

Агент (обиженно, после проверки акаунта):
В течение последних 6 месяцев вы вообще не покупали рекламу. И последний ваш логин был как раз 6 месяцев назад. Откуда ж продажам взяться? :))

Клиент:
Вы меня не слышите. Я перестал покупать рекламу 6 месяцев назад, потому что не стало продаж. И теперь в последние 6 месяцев у меня нет продаж! До этого потратил 5000 долларов и продажи были.

-----------

Чувствуете нюансы???
Вот я, когда читала ваш отчет, уже могла предсказать его ответы на 5 строчек вперед :))
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on September 17th, 2017 02:08 am (UTC)
> У них принято говорить как-то обобщенно, неточно.

"У них" - это у кого?
В Южной Азии?

Или вы имеете ввиду просто глупых людей, без отношения к национальной культуре?

> "Я потратил 5000 долларов и никаких продаж."
> "До этого потратил 5000 долларов и продажи были."
> Чувствуете нюансы???

Я здесь вижу только прямое противоречие между двумя заявлениями. То есть глупость. Ну ещё, может быть, жадность.
Больше ничего не вижу.
Я упускаю какие-то нюансы?
rbcexpressrbcexpress on September 17th, 2017 02:36 am (UTC)
В Южной Азии? Да
Я не считаю, что они глупы, у них другие приоритеты. То что важно для нас (и мы ставим на это акценты), несущественно для них и они пропускают это мимо ушей.

Тут характерна его фраза "вы меня не слышите". Он считает, что сказал все понятно, и дураки - это мы, которые не понимают простую логику (их логику). Вот это главный нюанс.

Он акцентирует то, что для него важно: 5000, нет продаж, раньше были. Игногирует хронологию. Мы наоборот, на первое место ставим хронологию, считая остальное второстепенным.

Поэтому я говорю о менталитете, о другом способе видеть реальность.
О субъективизме. Ведь вы же знаете, объективной истины не существует, есть только субъективные интерпретации. :))
У них другая шкала приоритетов. Стремление к точности - не их приоритет. :))
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on September 17th, 2017 02:57 am (UTC)
> Он считает, что сказал все понятно

Он так считает (ошибочно), потому что не озаботился проверкой соответствия его высказываний друг другу и логике.

> Он акцентирует то, что для него важно: 5000, нет продаж, раньше были

Так ведь надо свою ментальную модель мира строить не только для того, чтобы описать проблему, но и для того, чтобы найти решение.
Его модель - не годится для поиска решения.
Я не согласен, что обобщённые индусы/пакистанцы не умеют строить ментальные модели, подходящие для поиска решений. Умеют.
Хотя, возможно, в их современной культуре до сих пор что-то есть, осложняющее построение таких решений.
Возможно, они придают слишком большое значение статусу ("я начальник - ты дурак"). А, может быть, дело в том, что они не любят представлять себя на месте тех, с кем делают бизнес (недостаток эмпатии в отношении расширенного круга общения).

> их логику

"Логика", которую вы описали - это не "другая логика", а просто очень сильно усечённая версия полноценной логики.

> Стремление к точности - не их приоритет.

А что приоритет?
rbcexpressrbcexpress on September 17th, 2017 02:43 am (UTC)
" То есть глупость. Ну ещё, может быть, жадность."

Ну если конкретно, то данный рекламодатель почему-то решил таким способом выторговать себе особый статус. Это была, так сказать, прелюдия к переговорам, возможность которых он себе сразу же и отрезал этой нелепицей.
:))
Но возможно у них принято вести переговоры именно так?

Так что и глупость и жадность имеет место быть, конечно, в данном конкретном случае.
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on September 17th, 2017 02:47 am (UTC)
> Но возможно у них принято вести переговоры именно так?

Вряд ли.
Скорее всего, подобное поведение будет воспринято глупым в любой культуре.
Иначе же вообще невозможно вести дела.
Anatoli Dontsovlamantyn on September 17th, 2017 04:58 pm (UTC)
Да, он же покупал рекламу раньше.
Если бы он совсем не понимал связь рекламы и продаж - он бы не купил бы ее и раньше.

Может быть он рассчитывал на долговременный эффект от рекламы.
Maxhobober on September 30th, 2017 02:24 pm (UTC)
Денис, нашел подработку для тебя :)

https://twitter.com/CIA/status/913799567388405762
Dennis Gorelikdennisgorelik on September 30th, 2017 10:15 pm (UTC)
Не подходит.

> https://twitter.com/CIA/status/913799567388405762
> Interest in national security?


У меня нет особого интереса в national security (для меня гораздо важнее free trade).

Кроме того:
----
https://www.cia.gov/careers/life-at-cia/top-10-reasons-for-working-at-the-cia
9. You never have to talk about your work while away from the job.
----
А я люблю поговорить о своей работе и не люблю секретов.