Programming Tests part 3 (or is it 4?)

I didn’t realise my article was going to be published on Gamasutra (it’s great though!) but it has generated a fair bit of discussion and one of the things that I hadn’t really considered (but have thought a bit about today) is that of What Knowledge Do You Want?

So there you are, doing your technical tests. What do you _Actually_ want to know about the person? Well, obviously you want to know that _they_ know “what they are doing”.

But what tells you that? Does knowing the order derived virtual destructors are called in qualify?

Well, it kinda does and it kinda doesn’t.

There’s what I call institutional knowledge (what a hick would call
“book learnin’”, and there’s what I call experience knowledge.

The afore mentioned question is a good one, but it’s very institutionalized – it’s a binary thing and you either know it or you don’t; this is why questions of this nature are so popular – because it’s easy to judge the answer.

Experience knowledge is far harder to test, but is of far more immense value. One of the reasons it’s hard to test for is that you really need to have it (and recognise it for what it is) in order to recognise it in other people.

It’s *much* more subjective too – although it’s possible to look for situations where your candidate has hit a particular problem and listen more to the description of what the problem was than the actual solution – most people tend to focus on the solution but that’s one of those things that tend to be very situationally specific. Obviously the very wrong solution is something to take notice of, but generally the solutions are very specific to the environment in which the problem was found, and often can’t be compared to your environment, which is what happens. – I’m sure you’ve been in interviews where the interviewer wants to argue about a solution you came to because it’s not what they would have done related to their specific situation.

Now realistically for good experience knowledge to exist, and for the candidate to have solved whatever situation he was in, the afore mentioned institutional knowledge is required – otherwise he has no tools in his tool box with which to fix the original problem.

So from my point of view if you start in at the experience knowledge then you kinda get the institutional knowledge along for the ride, since you kinda _have_ to dip into that in order to really explain what was done.

Thats one of the reasons why I rail a bit about technology tests – they often aren’t an invitation for a discussion but more a check list “he knows that, he doesn’t know this”.

My style is far more conversational since thats how I think people develop < shrug > YMMV.

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