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For Goodness Sake – Stop Hiring Ruby Programmers Like This

How do you identify and hire the best Ruby programmer for your Ruby development team? Hiring managers, recruiters, and HR folks have found it difficult to get candidates to complete “programming tests” which are the standard tools of hiring a programmer. Many of the Ruby tests and test examples can be found out on open source websites and programmer communities, and many of the tests are not relevant to the work the hiring manager is looking for the coder to do. Most managers do not have the time to create their own tests.

As per the words of Daniel Parrillo Senior Technical Recruiter at Strategi LLC –  Many candidates “choke” when it comes to white board code examples (off the top of their head)…  And some folks also debate whether some questions/answers are more about your coding “style” then depth of knowledge of the programming language.

These are legitimate concerns which every mobile app development company faces. Whiteboard and answer to pure technical questions does not really reveal the real ability of a Ruby programmer to solve problems. Today we have decided to share few alternative approaches which come from our own experience in hiring Ruby programmers plus few extra insights coming from prominent community members.

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“Come up with a small project and place in out on Github. Have the candidate clone the repository on their own time and perform some tasks. Where I work, we have them clone a repository and implement a page on our website. This demonstrates that the candidate knows Ruby, Rails, Javascript, CSS, HTML, Git, etc., and that they can integrate their work with the work of others. That is a real-world test and provides meaningful results. Then, when we interview the candidate in person, we can focus entirely on culture and personality fit, since we already know that he or she knows how to code.

Developers reference Google and places like Stack Overflow when they run into something they don’t know all the time, so using reference material is perfectly legitimate. Being able to effectively research something you don’t already know is a valuable development skill as well.

My process is to do a phone interview in which I give the candidate a URL to a Github account that has a project in it, and I ask them to complete a task in that project. The project contains elements of all the technology we use, so if they complete the task, I feel confident that they will do well on the team.

If the candidate is unemployed, I give them a deadline of a week, and if they are currently employed, I give them a deadline of two weeks to finish the task. I tell the candidate upfront that I do this in lieu of white board questions or a trivia panel (which I personally think have little value), and I find that most people are happy to trade hours on the whiteboard for a real-world assignment, so most finish the task. This gives me a good idea of their skills, and also shows me that they are committed.”

 Clinton De Young Senior Software Engineer at MasteryConnect

“Questions can be used to establish fundamental understand and basic concepts by the Ruby programmer. For junior developers one of the best questions to weed out the poor developers is asking them to explain an algorithm for FizzBuzz.”

— Tony La, Software Developer at Ping

Standard interview can still work out well if you define what you need from a Ruby programmer and with the proper set of questions. Try them out with questions related to Block, Proc and Lambda specially which are strong  features of Ruby. If your time allow, go for featured tests, but be more creative than simply demanding the candidate to write 10 lines of solution code to a standard issue.
— Sangam Gupta RoR developer at Mobiloitte

“Does the developer have pet projects with Ruby? Strong opinions about programming languages, databases, concepts? Personally i prefer the ones who can argue why Compass is SO MUCH better than Sass and have a deep love/hate relationship to XML, JSON, SOAP, you name it. This gives you an idea how much time and passion someone has sacrificed on the subject – and time & passion are good advisers for a good developer.”

— Harm Lübben Independent Computer Professional

Feel free to join the conversation with your own tips which have worked great in finding the creamy part of your Ruby on Rails team of developers.