Unintentionally Hard Tests

I finally decided that too many of the things on my To Do list are things that I probably should not be handling personally, like dealing with getting business cards and routine invoicing. And too many of the things that I should be handling personally, and quickly, are being left undone too long.

So I posted an ad for a part time assistant on Craig’s List. And being test obsessed, I devised a test to give me a good indication of whether a given candidate had enough of the skills I needed to bring in for an in-person interview.

I asked the candidates who wrote an articulate reply to the job posting (and there were a lot of them!) to do a little research and find out what conference I’m speaking at in August, where the conference is, and what the titles of my presentations are.

It seemed to me like this was a pretty easy test that would weed out anyone who couldn’t do basic research on the web. But I made the test harder than I intended by asking about conferences in August. I forgot that there are two conferences listed on my web site for August: Agile2008 (where I am not speaking), and STANZ (where I am giving two talks).

When I realized my mistake, I thought “No problem. Good candidates will search for my name in the Agile2008 program and realize I am not speaking there.” Then I tried it myself and discovered that searching for a specific speaker is apparently a use case that the Agile conference organizers didn’t think about when they published the program this year. Even I found it difficult to determine absolutely that I am not on the program. There are too many places to look, and even the PDF program is a little difficult to search for a given speaker’s name.

Sometimes what seems like a simple test – whether of software or of a person – turns out to be much more difficult than we intended or imagined. Although I suppose that as long as none of the job candidates crash as readily as software, we’ll all be OK.

And if any of them manage the task without giving up, I will definitely know something about their ability to find information on the web!