|Perl: the Markov chain saw|
Greetings fellow monks,
First off, thanks for the helpful feedback. Yes, you guys are completely correct about the job postings. They were written by HR before I came on board, and we are in the process of rewriting them now. Hopefully this will help in our search. I also agree with the PERL vs Perl thing. It's one of many things that will change in the description.
Regarding the Perl test, however, I have to disagree with the prevailing opinion that it's better to ask for samples. I realize any test is not going to give me a completely accurate idea of someone's skills, but it's going to give me a good idea of what they know, their minimum abilities. Certainly, anyone with a Perl interpreter and access to Google (and PerlMonks) will boost their Perl coding abilities.
The reason I'm against code samples is that I've been burned by that in the past at previous companies. In a couple instances, candidates submitted beautiful samples. One was copied from a CPAN module by a different author. (Google saved us on that one.) The other was a few 100 lines the person had been working on for many moons. After hiring the candidate, we learned that while his code was usually OK, it took him an eternity to write it. With the exception of the scary magic merlyn writes in his columns, I think it's fairly easy to read good code and explain what it's doing; so asking a candidate to walk-through their samples with us won't be an obsticle. Besides, the samples won't be as subject comprehensive as a good test. A locked-down test proves conclusively whether the candidate knows how to code at a basic level. During the interviews following, we ask about architectural design and good coding practices to fill in the gaps the test leaves.
However, ultimately our testing and interview process isn't the problem. We're just not able to attract a lot of qualified people in the front door. The job posts are certainly to blame for this, but I think also the market is very strongly a candidate's market. Once we get candidates in the door, they see how cool a place we have and want to stay; our problem is getting them in the door.
DISCLAIMER: I mentioned this before, but just to be clear, we're getting many resumes submitted, but the vast majority of candidates are underqualified or ask if they can telecommute from some place not nearby. I love telecommuting, and I let my team do it frequently, but the problems we face are complex enough as to require people in the office more often than not.