27 Jul 2011 What Color Are Santa's Pants?
Recently there was a topic for the Un-SQL Friday. I didn’t participate, but something came along right after the deadline that made me stop and think a bit, and I thought I would write up a quick post. The topic was “bad interviews” and it made me think a bit about the hiring process in general. This past week I was
forced to watch watching Happythankyoumoreplease with that guy who still hasn’t told us who our mother is yet. For those that haven’t seen the movie yet I don’t want to spoil it but I will say that there is far less violence and bloodshed than you would expect from that title, I don’t recall even one gunshot which makes me think Hollywood had nothing to do with the making of this film.
Anyway, there is a point in the movie where Tony Hale’s character is talking about the color of Santa Claus’ pants, and how he once colored them blue, and a teacher told him he was wrong, and his father went down to the school to confront the teachers by yelling “WHICH ONE OF YOU TOLD MY KID THAT SANTA’S PANTS HAVE TO BE RED?” which was actually kinda awesome and brings me to my point.
OK, back up a bit. Let’s say you are hiring, or interviewing. Most all of those standard questions are bullshit. They are. I don’t care if you know that database mirroring wasn’t fully supported until SQL2005 SP1. That’s a piece of trivial information. Knowing that detail won’t make you a good DBA. If you want to hire a book, just put a shortcut to Google on your desktop and save HR the paperwork.
Pushing aside the technical questions (which can only measure your depth and breadth of knowledge, and not your ability to adapt or apply knowledge in a skillful manner), you could try to do the interview in a “first date” kind of way where you can get a sense if you will want to be working together for an extended period of time. You do this by having a conversation. It’s that simple, really. And you can talk about anything you want, including geeky technical stuff. It’s just a conversation.
Now, let’s go one step further. Who is it you really want to hire? Who is it you really want to work for? Well you can get all of the info you need by discussing the color of Santa’s pants. It’s true. Let me explain.
Let’s say one person (interviewer/interviewee) insists they are red, no exceptions. They are more than likely going to insist lots of other things are done, without exception, in a particular manner, never wavering. If this is the person you want to hire/work for, then you’ve found a match. If we started asking this question my guess is that we would see 2 or 3 people out of ten respond in this manner. Not many people are this rigid, but enough of them are. They are good at following and executing orders, without questioning anything or anyone, and trust that their good service will be recognized by those in power at some point in time.
If a person says they are typically perceived to be red but in fact could be any color then you likely have someone open to new ideas. I think we would have 4 or 5 people out of ten answer in this manner, as most technical people are open to new ideas and ask natural questions when given instructions. They don’t care as much about what people think of them, they just strive to be allowed to be creative at times. I sometimes think of this group as those that think “outside the box” which is hilarious when you consider how many managers and executives say they want this type of person but always manage to hire/promote the person who insists Santa’s pants are red.
If a person says that they are typically thought to be red but they don’t really know what color they are because they have never met Santa Claus then you have someone that is not only open to new ideas but will likely want to test those ideas thoroughly. My guess is that maybe 1 in 20 people would respond in this manner. Most folks don’t like to be the pain in the ass that points out the obvious facts to others around them.
Then again, most folks aren’t DBAs, either.
And even fewer folks know how to hire one.