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Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent Hardcover – Jun 1 2007


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Amazon.com: 37 reviews
46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
This should cause you to reexamine your hiring processes... June 20 2007
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
After driving cross-country in 49 hours, I returned home to find this book waiting for me... Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent by (of course) Joel Spolsky. Since I wasn't in the mood to start a large 300+ page novel, I figured this book would bridge the gap between naps quite nicely. It's a no-nonsense look at how Spolsky thinks hiring in the software industry should be done. While I may quibble on a few things, I think he's pretty accurate.

Content: Hitting the High Notes; Finding Great Developers; A Field Guide to Developers; Sorting Resumes; The Phone Screen; The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing; Fixing Suboptimal Teams; The Joel Test; Index

Spolsky takes the hard line that you should only be hiring *great* developers. In his terms, these are the people who are "smart & gets things done." Using the observation that a great programmer can be 10x as productive as an average programmer, he feels that the additional cost in salary and recruiting to find the gem is more than paid back in the work product produced. In fact, hiring average programmers (or clueless ones) actually lose you money in the long run due to rework and inferior quality. Spolsky uses a number of techniques outlined in the book to filter out average developers in order to concentrate on the few that show real potential. In fact, he maintains that you should be working at getting interns and contacts before you need staff, so that you can have a good idea as to what potential hires can accomplish in the real world. If an intern shows real talent and is happy with their internship, the hiring process is streamlined and little risk remains.

In some ways, I tend to disagree with a few of his attitudes. For instance, he feels all developers should have a thorough understanding of how pointers work. He'll ask those types of questions during interviews. He believes that having that sort of knowledge shows that a developer has more than just a basic understanding of how a language works. I would contend that depending on what your software base is, you may pass by excellent developers who have never had to use pointers. Also, the book is slanted heavily towards companies that create software products, not companies that have an IT department. While an IT department made up of people who pass Spolsky's tests would be great, the company would also likely be understaffed at all times. It's hard to find those types of people, and companies have far too many projects going at once to be that selective.

Even with those caveats, I think this is a very good read. Hiring good development staff is important to a company, and it's not the same as hiring a file clerk. After reading this book, you'll likely rethink your attitude and process of hiring.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
If only the world was like that June 29 2009
By D. R. Pitts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the read, and one side of my brain (not sure which Side) cheered and said I want to work for a company that hires like that. I want to fly first class and be treated like a star. The other s side of my brain says we cannot treat everyone as a star, Maybe If you are a Boutique maybe you can do so. My own experience says that small elite groups of architects may come up with great Ideas, but you still need to lay the bricks, or frame the house. If you are building Custom Homes that might be fine, but if you are building tract homes, you need lots of brick layers and framers, and if you pay and treat them like architects, you are going to have a lot of issues on your hands. Stalin said that quantity has a Quality all of its own! I gave it a 5 star read but 3 stars for practicality.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A somewhat different view of hiring developers July 22 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book represents Joel Spolsky's approach to hiring programmers. Smart and Gets Things Done is based on Spolsky's weblog, like his previous book, Joel on Software.

The main thrust of the book is to state that you should only hire the best. While many people would think this is reasonable and obvious, Joel takes the advice much farther than most. He describes in detail his methods for recognizing top talent, convincing them to join your company, and keeping them once you've got them. Joel is not talking about some useless slogan ("We hire only the best"), he is really talking about identifying the best and doing whatever is necessary to hire them.

His advice will probably annoy many managers and some people in human resources. Most programmers will probably love his advice. Whether the approach will work for a company different than Joel's is another question altogether.

One surprise to me was the fact that this book contained new material that was not on Joel's weblog. The book is extremely readable. Whether you agree with Joel or not on the specifics of his approach, the book is definitely worth reading if you are involved in any way with hiring software developers. It will give you insight into the people that you are innovating and show glimpses of what you may be competing with.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good book Oct. 26 2007
By J. MCADAMS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Though I don't always see eye-to-eye with the writings of Joel, I always do enjoy reading his material. This collection of his articles is no exception. Some of the claims and lines of reasoning are a tough sell, but they do call out important things to consider in your organization's hiring strategy.

Just realize before you buy this book, there is a chance somewhere between slim and none that you'll actually be able to implement all of Joel's recommendations. Still, you're sure to find a few areas where you can take action and improve the quality of your new hires.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Good but not great July 8 2007
By Steve Dakin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Written in Joel's typical "light" fashion the book is a quick and easy ready (as advertised). There are some useful insight amidst the many long-winded passages. Overall I enjoyed this book and felt it was worth price.


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