Secrets to Filtering Fraud Engineers and Proving You’re Not One

Inspired by YCombinator Post

Reading YC’s “Why every company is terrible at firing ineffective engineers”. I I felt a familiar frustration. This isn’t a revelation we’re uncovering like the next cryptocurrency.

We’ve all experienced the Engineer that knocks the interview out the park. Then forgets how to play ball. Why is filtering those almost fired engineers not a simple task?

Many engineers bounce around every 6–18 months. Bad and the good. Probably due to the fact that it’s exceptionally hard to hire engineers. Good and the bad. The demand still outweighs supply and some engineers abuse this privileged position.

We’re too British when it comes to firing. The ineffective engineer continues to thrive...

You may have experienced this from a more capable colleagues perspective; “Surely not firing at will is a good thing? Firing at will can’t be a good thing. It creates a dangerous culture”.

But as the YC post reaffirms, it’s common for engineers to move around every 6–18 months. Once that bad engineer has freeloaded for a year on the self organising, dodge accountability ethos. otherwise known as Agile...

Soon enough, he’s banked himself a year at your company. Now on paper he looks to have done just as good a job as you. Prospective employers have no idea that he caught a bug once then put his feet and never wrote anything production worthy.

You’re convinced he thought that ATDD stood for After-Thought-Driven-Design.

Let’s say your startup has let everyone go. You find yourself interviewing for some of the same companies as you’re colleagues. Should be easy, you were the backbone of the team.

The other guys were lazy. Wait. Hang on… “Thank you for your time interviewing. We regret to inform you on this occasion we have selected your ineffective colleague.” They are being selected over you!

A talented coder but bad employee will look good in interviews. Since the current interview measures; coding tests, technical/scenario questioning. These test ability over an hour rather than a year.

Once you get to know people’s reputations, you see blissfully ignorant hires. You’ll see bad engineers getting jobs at good companies.

Should we fire him?

The inevitable end result — 9 months of “should we fire this guy?” But when you look at the measures for interviewing, it’s not to imagine how they impressed.

It’s frustrating for recruiters. But It must be even more so for good engineers that do care about their reputations. They lose out. When that talented but lazy developer your old company was on the verge of firing for 9 months is hired over you. A group of people know you’ll add more value over a year but you can’t get this across in the interview.

An Angel once justified an investment by saying “I have the best measure of success. I worked alongside him for 6 months.”

His best long term performance metric — a first hand reference. So why aren’t references working to filter bad engineers? Simple, they aren’t being done. We surveyed the UK Tech market and just 27 percent of companies are asking for references.

The few that are conducted are ineffective. These few are employing this useless date checking tactic. Only after offering someone the job. Don’t fall off that high horse, a late date check reference is no use to anyone. The answer to the problem is… Start referencing again. Or start doing it better!

As diagnosed in my last post the demise of referencing came from..

Data Abuse by intermediaries and red tape led to this tool becoming a Useless Check… If you think of referencing as a check, you’re not doing it right. The key to resolving these problems are just as simple.

1. Transparency

2. Trust

Companies are shooting themselves in the foot. By not using this simple long term competency tool. Is it their responsibility to resolve this? Yes it should be. But there’s an impact on every good engineer out there.

These fraud engineers are getting the jobs you want. You’ve gone the extra mile, waking up at silly o’clock on your honeymoon to get the system back up. Whilst he pondered bigger problems.

Like which edge case he could milk the most during standup. All this to look after your reputation and it’s useless when job hunting. If you’re not letting every prospective employer know about your references, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

What can you do to prove you’re not a fraud? The ideals are transparency and trust throughout.

~ Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Disclose everything possible. You’re good faith in that recruiter will be rewarded in most cases.

~ Commit to providing referees along with every application. Separately to your CV. You’ll instill trust and notice that you get more credibility from the off.

~ Offer to be referenced at interview stage. That social proof can make the difference between you getting the offer over someone else.

~ Look for mutual connections when you’re doing your interview prep. If appropriate make them known. There’s nothing more powerful than an off the record reference from a mutual connection.

~ Collect references or recommendations on social sites. Share these with every application.

If you’ve taken the time to read this far you’re probably one of the good ones :) Make sure you employ these tactics when you’re next searching. You’ll find your reputation and references go from doing nothing for you, to becoming your biggest asset.

If you’ve got this far and your a fraud, why don’t you apply this commitment to your day job? Or find a new profession you can be passionate about.

If you’re a hiring manager or company then stay tuned. We’ll be publishing a post on how companies can get better at referencing. So you can filter out the frauds. Don’t be afraid to let someone go and give someone else a shot.

We’re working on a free Blockchain based referencing tool. We’ll publish our solution later in this blog series. Engineers that do care about their reputations. Or companies that want a long term success metric. Sign up for early access to this free tool >> <<