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Testing IT Professionals On Job Interviews?

Discussion in 'The Lounge - Off Topic' started by wagnerk, Sep 19, 2008.

  1. wagnerk
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    wagnerk aka kitkatninja Moderator

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    See here.

    In my opinion, that is a very good question. Why do we as IT professionals submit to this kind of 2nd rate attitude? Is our certified education (whether it's professional, vocational or academic) and verifiable experiences not as good? Like the above anonymous reader, I've never seen any other profession be subjected to this.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    -Ken
     
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  2. twizzle

    twizzle Gigabyte Poster

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    Thats not true, when working in electronics or eletrical roles i have been tested during various interviews. I've been tested to prove that i can solder or crimp cables, know what components are what on a board, what different symbols mean etc.

    Now i have the relavant experience, certs comming out of my ears for all this, but still get tested at times. It all seems to depend on teh company and i can see no reall logic behind why some test and some don't.

    Thing is even those that test vary. Take my last interview for an IT role. I was asked how would i locate a users temp file from the command prompt in XP, and that was it. No other questions on XP or software diagnosis, no hardware questions, nothing. Now compare that to a job i went for a few years ago. During the interview they asked me to solder a simple pcb, identify component values, read circuit diagrams and exlpain how the circuit works, all for a role where all i would do would be to solder compnents to a board an no fault finding was involved.

    Lets face it, companies do as they feel, they could even ask you to walk in a straight line during teh interview. If you really want the job, you would do as asked. And sometimes its not to test if you know your stuff but just to see how you react to questions, or how you take instructions, which can be even more important than specialist knowledge and is the sort of thing that is hard to learn, no cert can show that you can do that, and can be hard to see during teh brief period of an interview.
     
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  3. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    That is incorrect; those other professions in question ARE in fact tested. I believe Arro can attest to that from the lawyers' points of view.

    And "verifiable" experience these days is a laughable term; most companies won't verify anything other than your job title and your length of employment.

    One might say, "But I'm certified - isn't that enough?" If certification weren't braindumped to high heaven, perhaps certifications would be a bit more respected than they currently are - but not getting certified really isn't a valid option, is it?

    By all means, employers, bring on additional testing during the interview process! I applaud your efforts to weed out the bad and employ the good!!!

    Sounds like a case of sour grapes from the "anonymous reader". Suck it up, or make way for those who DO welcome a little accountability in the IT field.
     
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  4. UKDarkstar
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    UKDarkstar Terabyte Poster

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    Interesting as I was tested at the last interview I attended with no prior warning.

    Just 30 quick questions and I was advised I did "average" and "about the same as everyone else".

    Bearing in mind the work the BCS are doing for Professional level memberships which ARE verified (in terms of experience rather than certification) I think it's debatable whether it should go on.
     
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  5. Arroryn
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    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

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    To be brutally honest, I can't understand why people seem to have a problem with testing professionals in any environment that requires technical ability.

    It's certainly neither isolated to, nor concentrated on, the IT profession, so there's no real need to take umbridge with it. Rest assured that if an employer is giving you a practical test on an interview, it is because of company policy, not some minor crusade they have against your job application.

    In response to debate around the quote from Wagnerk, I have already posted this:

    But in summation, I also offer this little tidbit:

    On Certforums, we consider (and rightly so) the element of braindumps a plague. BM already touched on braindumps devaluing certs, but consider this - practical testing would catch the braindumpers out before they ever got their grubby hands on a client or server in a working environment. If you were practical tested before getting your job, you should be assured that if successful, you will be working with equally skilled people.

    Every so-called cloud has a silver lining.
     
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  6. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    Thats exactly the point, this is a typical attitude of a non skilled worker not a skilled professional. Many skilled professionals in other fields absolutely would not stand for this type of behaviour, while many IT workers do.

    I agree there are many cowboys in the profession, surely the profession should be looking to remove these people rather than instead assume everybody is a fraud ?

    Doctors and lawyers are effectively licensed to perform their profession by an approved body and that license can be removed.

    How many managers waste millions on failed projects yet still get promoted while front line workers get laid off ?

    Wasn't there a thread titled how to fire your boss because he spends all day on the golf course and buys cr*$p ?

    I'm all for mannng up and proving my worth, but if the standards going to be measured, it should be measured uniformly.

    Currently banks are failing around the world, governments are bailing them out with billions, where are the big resignations ? Are they handing back their bonuses ?
     
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  7. Arroryn
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    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

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    But this isn't about "standards" being "uniformly measured".

    This is about the unique requirements of a prospective employer. As a part of their selection process for a particular post, the employer chooses to utilise practical testing in their interview methods. Why is everyone taking offense at this? IT isn't the only field to be subject to such processes, and it's certainly not an "IT stiff upper lip" of putting up with it.

    Virtually every profession has its "cowboys". How is practical testing at the interview stage not helping to eliminate the idiots from our IT departments?

    Again, you're taking it out of context. We're talking about practical testing - which may not necessarily be dictated by the IT departmental manager - but I wouldn't have a problem with it.

    Of course other skilled professionals in other fields "put up with it". Name me a skilled field where you aren't tested, in some form or another, whilst either applying for a job, or on the job. I'm finding it difficult to think of any right now.

    It's utter nonsense to take the ridiculous stance that people in the IT field are somehow being oppressed and hard done by for having practical tests. We're certainly not tested whilst "on the job" - certifications on the whole on CF are undertaken voluntarily, and if the employer does want you to certify on something, they invariably end up paying for it themselves - not a bad thing at all either.
     
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  8. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    Why not ? If testing is good shouldn't everyone get tested the same way ?

    I wish that were the case, I've had to work with underqualified people in many roles, they manage to swindle their way past such processes even when they are in place, thats why there needs to be a uniformly applied process. In fact as is the topic of the article, many of these people come from non IT backgrounds, that is how they have managed to avoid such processes.

    Its not their process, its our process, an employment contract is a two way deal. Arguably the interview is potentially day one of the job, if they can't respect you on day one what makes you think they will on day two?

    I've been in the profession 14 years, I've been to literally hundreds of interviews, I have no objection to reasonable testing, do you not think some forms of testing can be unreasonable ?

    I had one particulary interesting interview for big blue where we had to roleplay being stranded in a lifeboat, unfortunately we had to spend the entire time not debating our survival stratergy but trying to stop some girl (management material?:wink:) from drinking the salt water and going nuts !!! :D

    I have spent many hours many times on jumping through hoops to not even get a reason as to why my application will proceed no further. As I previously mentioned I once spent a week coding a client and server for a prospective employer, delivered fully working code, no interview or feedback. For another job I took a C++ coding test and was told I scored in the top 2% worldwide, no interview or feedback. I've also been promised test results to publish if I take a test, then not given them. Why should I spend my time on such processes?

    Many tests I've taken were just plain wrong, then you have to guess the wrong answer that the boss wants to hear ! Don't even think about correcting them :wink:

    What is more dangerous ? A cowboy IT helpdesk person or a cowboy manager in charge of a 20 million pound budget ?

    No you are taking my points out of context, I never mentioned IT managers.

    No in many other professionals experience and references still count for something, as do their accreditations from a professional body. Does a surgeon of 14 years have to cut up a cadaver or answer questions on how to cure the common cold every time they move hospital? Does a lawyer of 14 years have to answer questions on basic law ? Does a pilot of 14 years have to spot the 747 from the airbus on the blackboard ?

    Just because you have not personally been mistreated does not mean it does not happen, I've been in interviews that lasted over six hours, I was not offered a drink or a break, needless to say I did not take the job.(It was only 6 hours because I got up and left, otherwise it would have been even longer!)

    Never had an employer pay for my certifications, probably £4000 from my own pocket, plus my own time.
    I could add in my spend on IT books, probably at least another £4000, plus my own time to read them.
    Three years spent at University, yet more money and time.
    Many hours of free overtime for various clients.

    Surely the quality of what I deliver dictates if I've done the job correctly ? Not an artificial test ?

    Many people are assessed on the job, in fact isn't that one of the primary purposes of good management, to assess their team? Probationary periods are common, I'd argue the lack of proper use of probationary periods is probably the biggest single failure during recruitment above the interview process and testing. Companies should be prepared to fire people who do not perform in the probationary period, in most cases they are not, in fact in many cases they let the period pass without any assessment at all.

    The employer is entitled to do what is 'reasonable' to ascertain you can do the job, that does not mean you have to submit to any request as twizzle inferred.
     
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  9. zebulebu

    zebulebu Terabyte Poster

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    Lets not turn this debate (which I might remind people has now been going on over two distinct threads) into a bunfight. Simply put, opinions are like arseholes - everyone has one.

    For what its worth, IMNSHO I would prefer there to be a practical element to any interview I sit. This is not because I suck at interviews - on the contrary, I do very well in them and have only ever had two where I didn't get offered the job at the end. I simply feel that, were you to design a practical element into an interview process for any staff above first line level you would, almost instantly, rule out any p***-takers or braindumpers. As an added bonus, if you had two candidates who were pretty equal at interview, a practical test would be an extra tool to use when trying to make a hiring decision. With virtualisation now so commonplace in most workplaces it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to get a prospective employee to demonstrate their skills, certainly in a systems environment. A networking environment is slightly more difficult to analyse, especially if there is a design element to the role, but still not outwith the boundaries of possibility. As for security - well that's easy. You stick someone in a room with a virtual domain, a connection to the Internet, a USB key and forty-five minutes to crack the SAM.

    I agree with other posters that the original article writer sounds like he's just pissed at the world - I should know, that's my 'default mode' most of the time :) Stating that other professions are not tested on their skills at interview is, frankly, bull****. In fact, I don't know of a single profession where this is the case, other than mundane desk jobs (where the only ability you need seems to be incompetence and/or laziness in equal measure), manual labour (where you will be found out that you can't lay bricks like you said you could and get run out of town PDQ) or shelf-stacking. Does the article writer seriously believe that trainee Lawyers are not given theoretical cases to quote precedent on? That prospective heart surgeons are not quizzed on modern cardiac surgical techniques when they arrive in the UK clutching a diploma from some backwater college halfway round the world? That an interviewee for a Management Accounts role with a certificate from an accounts college in the third world with no way of ratifying its veracity isn't asked questions about compliance procedures when dealing with auditors?

    DMarsh I can see where you're coming from regarding development - but surely its no problem for you to demonstrate your skills in a practical environment on demand? personally, I absolutely love the opportunity to show off - being given the chance to show a potential employer that I had the ability to put my money where my mouth was would, i believe, give me an even bigger advantage over the braindumping divots out there. I know it would certainly have helped me in the past if I were given the time and resources to develop a practical test for people when hiring instead of having to go through the grief of CV sifting only to find that some of the people I'd taken a chance on interviewing were so dumb they couldn't find their own arse with a map.

    Finally, there was a post in the other thread which said (not a direct quote) that IT was pretty much the only industry in which you had to continually recertify to retain employability. This, again, is laughably inaccurate. Ask any tradesman, for instance, whether they have been a plumber/electrician/gas fitter etc for thirty years without training/recertifying/getting new accreditations. My mate is a sparks and he is almost constantly studying for some electrical cert or other. To return to the earlier analogy about heart surgeons - I'm pretty sure there have been some major advances in that field since Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant in 1967. Does anyone really believe a surgeon from the 1960s is still performing transplants using only those technologies/research methodologies available to Barnard then? or what about Lawyers? (since they seem to being picked on, probably for the first and only time in human history unfairly in this debate). I'm pretty sure that lawyers do nothing but study (new case law, trial precedents, legal arguments in their particular field of practice etc etc)

    it would appear to me that the article writer is actually doing a disservice to the IT industry when he moans about us having to take knowledge-based tests at interview. Indeed, it seems that practically every 'real' profession has exactly the same state of constant learning, certification and evaluation of skills at interview and on the job - if we truly want IT to be taken seriously as a 'profession', then we should welcome such testing as it serves only to legitimise our industry and pull us up from out of the basement.
     
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  10. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    They would have to pass this countries tests for the professional body concerned, sure there would still be an interview, but the point is they would be assumed professional status where in IT it seems to be assumed you are a fraud.

    Sure, maybe its fun the first few times, then it gets dull very quickly. Especially when you take into account all the points mentioned :-

    1. People not qualified to test you.
    2. Poorly constructed tests.
    3. People who believe they are right when they are wrong.
    4. Tests designed to profit the company/individual by free consultancy.
    5. Tests undertaken by people with no serious intent of filling a position.

    The web is full of debates on how to conduct technical tests in interviews for developers, simply read one of Joel Spolsky's blogs http://www.joelonsoftware.com/, even the experts can't agree. These were the sorts of blog postings that were raised initially.

    My father was a highly regarded tradesman for 20+ years, he never enjoyed exams or interviews having been considered an educational failure by the 11 plus / grammar school system. People with such attitudes would have missed out on a great tradesman.

    I've worked with highly paid management consultants, one of their primary duties was to produce reports, one could not use even the most basic features of Word, clearly whatever testing they had passed was insufficient.

    Nobody said they don't continue professional development, the point is they enter the interview with a level of professionalism already atributed to them due to their previous experience and qualifications.
     
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  11. zebulebu

    zebulebu Terabyte Poster

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    You really think so? That someone whose diploma in, say, dentistry, that was earned at the univeristy of Timbuktu is just going to be given a license to practice as an orthodontist because he has a piece of paper that says he is qualified to do so from a third-world country whose educational system may be second-rate and where the veracity of said qualification can't be checked anyway? It doesn't happen - can't happen. I really don't see your point at all here. You say yourself on the one hand that they would have to pass this country's tests, but on the other that they would be assumed to be of professional status. How is that any different from asking someone to prove that they are (for argument's sake) an MCSE, then asking them to take a test to prove that their certification is legitimate?
    This is just arrogant. THEY have a job - YOU are interviewing for it! Whilst they shouldn't ask you to be turning cartwheels in the hallway or serving them tea and cream cakes they certainly have every right to test your aptitude for the job in any way they see fit. I'm guessing you haven't often known the frustation of being sat in a windowless room wanting to punch the person sitting opposite you for wasting your time when a quick ten minute test as part of a sift process would have instantly marked them out as a FAIL.
    Simple answer to this - make the tests well-constructed! What difference does it make whether a practical test is poorly constructed, or an interview question is poorly worded? I've lost count of the number of times I've been given paper tests to be completed prior to an interview where the standard of written English has been so appalling that some of the questions have been rendered incomprehensible.
    Again, this smacks of arrogance. It sounds like you, with all your years of experience, refuse to admit that it might be YOU that are wrong. Occasionally, I've come out of an interview thinking "well, that guy didn't seem too good technically". Apart from one memorable occasion where the guy interviewing me was a second line bod who was, quite frankly clueless, I've never simply dismissed someone as 'wrong'
    Here you've got me. I've seen this on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, it sucks, but its just part of the modern working world. I'm guessing this is, however, exactly the same for almost every profession on Earth - its only human nature that someone may sense that you know what you're taking about and try and get some free knowledge out of you! Like I said, it sucks, but move on - dwelling on it will only make you as bitter and twisted as me!
    I agree with that one too - but again, this isn't something that is peculiar to IT, it happens all the time. Its especially common in 'non-jobs' (like HR drones) where there just seems to be an endless round of recruitment to fill jobs that aren't necessary in the first place, despite there being no point at recruiting externally because there's always someone internal looking for a transfer and company policy pretty much dictates they will get the job. I'd argue that, in IT, I've often been able to demonstrate that an internal transfer is NOT right for the role because they simply don't have the skills required for the role.

    But there again, you see, you're destroying your own argument. If your father didn't do well at interviews, then surely a practical demonstration of his skills would have been the best chance for him to have demonstrated the aptitude for his trade?

    I think, in general, you're guilty of over-estimating the intelligence of non-technical people hiring technical staff. Most of them don't know a goddamn thing about IT - all they see is the professional certification. This is why, for years, MCSEs (be they legit or paper) had a leg up when it came to interviews - the sift early on would have pushed them all forward for roles and led to non-MCSE status candidates getting overlooked. Years of ****e candidates with paper certs began to really bite the industry on the arse a few years back, so, unfortunately, its only natural that companies are now more than a little gun-shy about hiring a tech based solely on the strength of the letter fruit salad accompanying their name on their business card. Like I've said, I think a practical test is the best way to weed out the no-hopers.
     
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  12. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    But... unless I've been wholly misinformed by other skilled professionals, skilled professionals DO "stand for this type of behavior". I worked for an orthopaedic practice who gave their doctors (more than 50 of them when I was there) a rigorous interview process before inviting them to join the practice.

    EDIT: looks like this has been hashed and rehashed... not sure if my post makes a bit of difference to the argument...
     
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  13. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    But... if there were a "uniform process", where everyone is given the "same test" then THAT test would be braindumped. Or you'd get the same test for every job, and everyone would know how to do "the test". How does that catch people out? It doesn't.
     
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  14. Arroryn
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    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

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    DMarsh, I can kind of see where you're coming from (yet to digest the posts from Zeb and BM) but this stood out:

    My employer isn't paying for my certs either, I know it doesn't happen everywhere. She doesn't think they're a necessity, as long as her employees can do the practical side of the job :wink and I work my poor little rear off for my internal clients. Starting work at 6am on a Sunday for no extra renumeration and a fully open nightclub next door really does whomp.

    But the quote above is an instant where you have excelled a job for your current employer.

    A prospective employer may be looking for a completely different range of skillsets, but still under the umbrella title of Analyst, Sys Admin, or one of the other numerous terms HR professionals may give to IT roles as they're not familiar with the territory.

    Just because you've performed a job well at one place, doesn't mean you will excel at another. There will be different technologies, different amounts of technologies, and different personalities to fit in with.

    Whilst our past jobs can dictate that we are able to perform to a given standard to a certain degree, a prospective employer would and should always ensure that you fit into their team to the way their work ethics run. Otherwise it'll be USB rocket launchers at a dozen ruler lengths across the office. IT it a stressful job (as are many others) and I've seen people and places where, if you don't get on with your co-workers, it can be hell on earth.

    You've had your own bad experiences, which whilst I can't empathise with you, I can sympathise. But you seem to be tarring the entire idea of testing with the same brush of your bad times. The people testing the applicant could very well be "qualified to test you" and I wouldn't assume that they're not walking into an interview, otherwise you're setting yourself up to fail before you've gone through the door.

    Very few IT roles are the same from one employer to the next. Because of this, how could the testing be standardised to the requirements of every company? Impossible IMO.

    Again, I believe you're possibly posting through bad experience. I've had bad managers, but like bad techs, they are invariably found out and thrown out.

    So with you saying experts being asked basic questions in technical tests, can I assume that in some practical test for a, say, sysadmin role you were asked to identify a peripheral, and name the 7 layers of the OSI model? As that is what you appear to be insinuating... if that is the case, I would have expected you to point and laugh at them and stroll out with your bag.

    I don't know how surgeons are interviewed. But the constant professional development of the lawyers, given they do the identical job every day, means that at an interview it's probably more on personality and whether they'd fit in with the ethos of the firm. Well, that and a long and successful case history... but as that almost supports your statement of their having their past successes attributed to them rest assured, I will not be taking my successful detailed call history as an analyst into my next interview.

    How is being from a non-IT background helping anyone to avoid a testing process? Did they wave a magic card and say "I've done sales for three years therefore I'm exempt!". That just sounds like a suggestion from bad experience again, and far too generalistic to have any proper weight. How do you think most people enter the IT profession? I could attempt to take umbridge at that statement (being from a non IT educational and vocational background myself) but I know it's not aimed at me, and that would be quite, quite silly.

    DMarsh, from what I've written, clearly I am just battling against your opinion on a large amount of bad experience, and a lot of empathy (from you) for the article written. I sincerely don't have a problem with that, and enjoy having a debate with a person passionate for what they're arguing about. But for this one, I have my opinions, and you have yours. I think we may have to leave it at that, otherwise our keyboards may wear out...
     
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  15. Arroryn
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    I thought the 'accountant' forte was Excel. I'm regularly in Accounts sorting out Word issues, but our management accountant runs rings around me in Excel. Had to ask her for help with a pivot table the other day :oops:
     
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  16. craigie

    craigie Terabyte Poster

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    When I was a Financial Advisor, naturally we had competency exams to sit. These where both industry wide and also company specific in relation to there products.

    Each year you had to resit various exams, again company specific and industry wide. If you failed any exam you had to pass it second time around otherwise you would not be able to continue to practice.

    I personally feel that there should always be continued professional development, but as Zeb said which made me lol 'opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one!'
     
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  17. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    I know someone trained in dentistry from a foreign country, they are not allowed to practice in this country unless they retrain and requalify by taking the approved tests of this country. So yes they must test, but they test ONCE (per country), and then are assumed to be a qualified professional in each interview. Sure they should still get interviewed, but isn't this a more effective process ?

    I mean treat everyone equally, I never mentioned only one test. For instance nurses, dentists, doctors, pilots, must all be approved by a professional body, they don't take exactly the same tests. Sporadic testing leads to what we have now, it does not improve anything in the industry, fakers can still survive. Braindumps seem to exist largely due to corrupt test centres, other industries seem to test their professionals with less issues, possibly because their test process is not designed to be a commercial profit making business. They have a higher cost test method that involves person to person assessment or a paper based exam in a secure room by a country specific body.

    I kind of agree with the 'you have to earn respect' and 'you're only as good as your last movie' principle but as mentioned I've rarely seen this uniformly applied.

    That was zebulebus example, this person was not in anyway related to accounts, Word along with business knowledge absolutely should have been one of their key skills. I've been deliberately vague on such statements because these are real people I have met. You can test IT workers to within an inch of their life, but if other professions in the workplace don't undergo the same rigourous process, again it is fairly meaningless. What use is a perfectly working system if its the wrong system ?

    Oh I have, but I don't see the problem as limited to IT and I've seen people get around such measures. I've worked with whole teams who were tested and competent except one individual who knew the manager and was totally useless. In one interview I was asked to describe the worst coder I ever worked with, when I walked out the interview, he was working there ! I've worked with business analysts who knew nothing about business or analysis. I've worked with business intelligence people with no intelligence ! I've worked with SEO consultants who knew nothing about SEO. Frequently it is senior management who recruit these positions and they undertake no testing and are not qualified to test the person.

    I'm just highlighing points that I feel are important around the issue, I'm not saying they all reinforce the same viewpoint. I think practical testing and a probationary period is a far more effective way to test somebody, although obviously finding out later in the process is more costly. You can't really code anything of merit in under an hour, thats why we end up with the artificial tests, some are good, some are poor. Sure longer tests are possible, but then do you want an eight hour test for each job? Why not just use the first day of the probationary period or have a pre-approved industry standard test process ?

    Obviously everyone has their own opinions, I just think people should think about all the issues and not just assume their current employers method is obviously correct. I've been through many different processes first hand, I entered into all of them with an open mind, I tried to see the point of view of the interviewer, my opinions are based on my experiences. I think its also very important for an interviewer to reaslise that this is a person they are trying to attract to their company.
     
    Certifications: CITP, BSc, HND, SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCEA, N+, Sec+, Proj+, Server+, Linux+, MCTS, MCPD, MCSA, MCITP, CCDH

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