I remember the first time I interviewed for a front-end programming position and got asked how to do something in JavaScript on a white board. The specifics are vague, but it’s crystal clear how stupid it made me feel and how little it had to do with the actual job.

Since then I’ve rarely heard a kind word about the parlor tricks of programmer hiring, but I’ve heard plenty of scorn. There’s certainly a minority of puzzle solvers who love to get their fancy tickled like this, but I sure wasn’t one of them and neither have most programmers I’ve met.

I’ve known fabulous programmers flame out in the quizzing cage and terrible ones excel. So unless you’re specifically hiring someone to design you the next sorting algorithm, making them do so on the white board is a poor gauge of future success.

The only reliable gauge I’ve found for future programmer success is looking at real code they’ve written, talking through bigger picture issues, and, if all that is swell, trying them out for size.

(If you need help posting a comment, feel free to use any of these samples: “You make todo lists, you don’t need real software engineers”, “Math is actually really important, you know!”, “Google is worth one gajillion dollars and they use quizzes, so there!”)