False Positive Candidates

I’m not sure if there’s a better term or proper phrase for this, but I mean to describe engineers who have ‘tested’ well during the interview process. Candidates who have demonstrated competency technically and marketed themselves well nough to receive the offer letter but aren’t really performant in the day to day.

These are just my opinions and experiences.

Enter B

I started on the same day as this first engineer I’ll mention. I’ll call him B. His experience spanned decades and he was a really friendly, extremely knowledgable guy. We sat next to each other and worked late so I really got to learn a lot from him. Given his experience that was definitely real, the three months that he lasted with the company resulted in almost no work. Of the work that we were able to see, none of it was documented or organized. We threw all of it out.

The reason he was hired was because of his expertise in a domain that few of us had. We took his lead on everything and ended up with nothing. In retrospect, maybe we should have done more incrementally in regards to a knowledge transfer or something… We were a small team with much to do. That’s my excuse.

Anyway, B was a friendly, technically competent person who would come into the office late and spend evenings in our small office watching shows. That’s not to say that he wasn’t getting work done. I mean, it seemed like it! Meetings, moments of collaboration over other projects, and generally being present all checked out.

Exit B

Two “no show, no calls” happened, then a thid, and he was out after that. In case you were wondering about whether they were due personal or family emergencies, no, the reasons for the absence was not justified.

Of course none of us were really sure why B chose to roll the way he did. I personally found it crazy because of the perks, well, basically the salary. It was about 70% more than what mine was. We’re talking around the 200k mark.

Enter M

A few months later M was hired to replace B. We were undergo such a heavy workload and everything was GO GO GO. “We need another soldier!", as my former colleague liked to put it.

To improve on vetting a candidate, my team had M undero a much, much more strenuous interview process. She was interviewed by two of our Senior Software Engineers twice, my SRE team had created a kubernetes cluster on a laptop and gave her objectives to complete. I would definitely not have been hired if I went through it.

The director of engineering’s remarks were, “Damn! She seems like she really did well, but man I don’t even know if we can afford her!”

The team took a chance. To describe it along the lines that my friend used, “we wanted a soldier but we got someone who wanted to be a general.”

Note: Just wanted to say that I’m trying not to be so specific out of respect for these people, but it’s hard to convey a point without specifics, but anyways.

Exit M

M seemed to want to manage us than to work with us in getting shit done. This happened over and over. Weird games were being played, our productivity was hindered, and no work was being done.

I barely finished my deliverable on a months long project that I was thrown into last minute. As soon as we were taking our victory shot, I got pulled into a project with M where I was doing basically all the work. Once that was evident, she was gone. Time employed: three months.

There’s a deal with recruiters such that fees for hired candidates can be returned or partially refunded within a certain timeframe. I think three months was the time limit for a full refund.


I’m not a manager but I’ve been a part of the hiring process for candidates. While I’m not really sure of what more can be done to ensure that a candidate is the real deal, I’m also not looking around to see what other people are doing.

If I had to answer,I’d honestly look at who the person is as much as possible. If there’s someone with the heart and potential to serve the responsibilities and the company is in a position to take a chance, then why not? I get to work with one of the most well known, trendy, most lucrative technologies out there today, like Go, Kubernetes, Terraform, etc, for a very good reason. Moments of high growth came from situations where I had to prove myself, situations where I was the only one who could get things done.

I want to seek that out in people and help.

If we were vetting people for technical expertise, it definitely would be hard to vet a candidate since the actual expert is the one being interviewed, but I’d argue and say that part of the challenge in evaluations involves both sides: the candidate must be able to convey knowledge and impact in a non bullshit way, and the interviewers should work to try and get there rather than accepting fluff.

Part of the recent interviews I’ve been a part of involve lunch. As a team, we’ve elected to reject candidates becuase of a lack of culture fit, which is what the lunch mainly aims to determine.

To the advantage of both parties, there are also “contract to hire” positions where the employee and employer get a chance to collaborate professionally for some time before transferring to a full time commitment, should that be desired. I’ve personally benefitted from this in that I was able to be a contractor and leave without reprecussion.

I can’t find the article, but there was one company somewhere that asked interviewers to answer a hypothetical question of comfort level in coming into the office on a weekend with the candidate, in the event that shit hit the fan and both the candidate and interviewer were on the hook.

Would love to hear your experiences and input! Other than that, keep going.