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Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent Paperback – Jun 1 2007
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From the reviews:
"Programming-employment decisions are a critical managerial process. … Spolsky asserts that ‘the real trick to management is to make people identify with the goals you’re trying to achieve.’ … Spolsky concludes with the self-designed ‘Joel Test,’ which rates the quality of a software team. … Managers, recruiters, and programmers will enjoy this easy read." (Brad Reid, ACM Computing Reviews, September, 2008)
About the Author
Joel Spolsky is a globally-recognized expert on the software development process. His website Joel on Software (www.joelonsoftware.com) is popular with software developers around the world and has been translated into over thirty languages. As the founder of Fog Creek Software in New York City, he created FogBugz, a popular project management system for software teams. Joel has worked at Microsoft, where he designed VBA as a member of the Excel team, and at Juno Online Services, developing an Internet client used by millions. He has written two books: User Interface Design for Programmers (Apress, 2001) and Joel on Software (Apress, 2004). Joel holds a BS from Yale in Computer Science. Before college he served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a paratrooper, and he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Hanaton.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
It helps you pick the stars out from the also ran's, and gives you some good guidelines for how to interview, test, and figure out who is the best candidate.
In today's incredibly hot market, some of the ideas are a little hard to pull off unless you are among the top 5% of companies that people want to work for, but even those "out there" ideas have nuggets you can use for yourself.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
Knowing that he was concentrating on rock stars, I bought the book anyway, looking for tips that I translate to my world where my customers are late adopters of technology and development is usually mixed in with O&M.
I did find some tips. Some just confirmed what I already believed to be true. The most useful chapters for me were Chapter 4 - Sorting Resumes (3 of my 6 dog-eared pages are in this chapter), and Chapter 7 - Fixing Suboptimal Teams.
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