We've all been approached for jobs where the job description was merely an endless list of buzzwords across disciplines, and there was no real way to figure out what was actually the top couple of relevant skills. The head hunter is usually of no help as they're rarely tech-savvy enough to understand what the buzzwords mean. The phone screen is often misleading as they always say that one or two skills are the important ones, and then reject candidates because they don't have expertise in some ancillary skill.

A sign, dated March 9, 1982, welcoming travelers from the future

Teddy applied for a position at a firm that started out as a telco but morphed into a business service provider. The job was advertised as looking for people with at least 15-20 years of experience in designing complex systems, and Java programming. The phone screen confirmed the advert and claims of the head hunter. "This is a really great opportunity," the head hunter proclaimed.

Then it was time for the interview. The interview was the sort where you meet with the manager, a peer of the manager, and several senior members of the team, repeating your work history for each one.

There was a coding exercise to see if you could convert an int to a Roman numeral and vice versa.

Each person asked some simplistic architectural design type questions...

   What is Big-O notation?
   How would you compare three sets of numbers to see if any number was common to all three?
   How would you count the number of unique words in the input and report the tally?

OK, so they have verified that you went to school and at least sort of paid attention.

Then some more complex architectural questions were added: How would you design a phone-call pricing system, and what sorts of things would you need to consider? How would you add in a new module to provide additional functionality without breaking the existing system? How would you test it all?

After several hours of this, one of the interviewers admitted that they were looking for someone who has at least 10-15 years technical experience with all of the latest technologies.

"Wait a minute, most new technologies are, by definition, new!", Teddy protested. "They haven't been around ten years?" He questioned how they expected anyone to have that many years of familiarity with anything that hasn't existed that long? Also, wasn't this supposed to be a project that required Java developers?

The interviewer nodded. "That's exactly the problem we've been facing. We simply can't find anyone who had more than a decade of experience with latest technologies." While Java was relevant, they were phasing it out in favor of the flavor of the day.

"Perhaps," Teddy suggested, "you should be looking for a candidate who has many years in the field, doing work that's the same level of complexity and kind of work as you do here." Anyone with that level of expertise should be able to pick up the new technologies as they required.

"We don't *want* to train someone," the interveiwer said, "especially a veteran. We want to hire someone with more than ten years of experience in the latest technologies. We want to build our system using the latest tools."

Teddy warned that if they did one-off projects using different technologies, it'd be fun for the developers, but it would be virtually impossible to swap people in and out as nobody would know the technology used on the next project. Perhaps it might be more prudent to pick a few mainstay technologies as their base platform and make sure that everyone is an expert in at least those skills to effect redundancy across the organization.

The interview ended shortly thereafter, and Teddy never expected to hear from them again. Several months later the same job was still posted. Teddy knew this because another head hunter approached him with the exact same job description. "This is a really great opportunity," the head hunter proclaimed.

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