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Not entirely certain this is the right place to ask this however looking through StackExchange I couldn't find an alternative.

In a couple of days I will be running through 10 developer interviews for a remote site. Our normal process is a technical test with a follow up interview. However as this is a remote site, and there is not likely to be frequent management presence there, I need the successful candidates to be more "engaged" than a normal head office developer. These kinds of aptitudes can come out of a normal interview, however I am also considering running some sort of group exercise to see how they work together.

Is this generally considered to be appropriate/a good idea?

If such a course of action would be beneficial, what kind of activity might be the most effective for this? My current line of thought is to give them a fake 3rd party API technical specification and ask them, as a group, to comment, review and create a series of questions that they would take back to the author. However this is more a single person, rather than group, exercise so I am not entirely convinced of its value.

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    Questions that ask for a list of answers have been defined as not constructive her at SE. The reason is there is no "Right" answer to a list question and we are looking for questions where there is one right answwer. This question it self is really too broard to be answered here. I suggest you focus the question on "How can I achieve X in a group interview?" I do not know what X is for you but this topic could spawn several good questions. Do not be afraid to ask several different questions about the same topic if they are good focused questions. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 1 '13 at 12:46
  • @Chad I edited the title for MrEyes, hopefully that helps. – MDMoore313 May 1 '13 at 12:53
  • @MDMoore313 - I think the question needs more rework than just a title change. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 1 '13 at 12:58
  • @Chad perhaps, but I understand what he's saying, maybe because I'm a developer. It may be a better fit for the Programmers.SE site though actually. – MDMoore313 May 1 '13 at 12:59
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    I disagree - I think it's possible to generalize here - if you have a team in a workplace that will be working with no proximity to management or the greater organization, he's asking will a group exercise work to vet candidate success - not a bad or overly specific question... – bethlakshmi May 1 '13 at 13:18
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My thought is that a group exercise will show you a lot about how the group functions, but not necessarily give you the greatest test for how an individual functions within that group.

A small change in a team - like replacing a single team member - can have a huge impact, or a relatively minor impact depending on all sorts of variables, include the other factors on the team. Doing a group exercise may give you an accurate perception if what you end up doing is hiring everyone who participated in the exercise. But if you plan to use it as a way to choose which n out of these 10 people will be the best fit, I think you won't get the info that you want. It's too easy for someone who might actually be a standout in the right personality mix to get obfuscated in the wrong personality mix.

Perhaps using this as a final vetting tool is better? You could pick your target team and use the exercise as a final "did we get it right?" check.

Also, if you're looking for a hands on demonstration, how about trying something individual but focused around remote communication? Presumably this team will need stronger written and verbal skills with their lack of proximity.

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    MY other concern is that these people are compteing for the postions, their behavior with other people they are competing against may not be the same as with people they are working with because the stakes are higher. If possible I would group them with people who are already hired for such a test or with people brought in from the home office. – HLGEM May 1 '13 at 13:41
  • +1, this is exactly what I said. Use the normal hiring process and then use this after the fact. Good note about written and verbal skills. – MDMoore313 May 1 '13 at 13:44
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What is being proposed is very close to a recipe for disaster. You may be training a team for an Antarctic research station, or a shift for the International Space Station, or a team of developers - the details matter very little. What matters is you're proposing to have no real manager on-site and expect the team to perform diligently and seamlessly. Please be aware that such miracles happen very rarely.

There has to be one person on the team with more authority than others. Such a person can be either selected by internal dynamics of the team or appointed by you. Ideally, s/he would combine both sources of authority, and work for the benefit of the company and the team. But the requirement for finding a team leader is glaringly absent from your description. You have to work to fill that vacancy from the start.

Now, the whole process of setting up your team is naturally subdivided into two parts - first, individual selection, second, group dynamics test.

During the first section you cull out candidates who are not able to work in a team, and rank those who pass the sieve according to their suitability for leadership.

In the second part, you can organize a group exercise where natural leaders can emerge, opportunistic behavior can be detected, and interpersonal compatibility is determined. However, you have to put a bit of ingenuity into this exercise and be prepared that it won't be the real thing (TM) and that the time to complete selection process will be longer than usual.

The expected outcome: one person will become a team leader; all team members will meet the necessary proficiency, interpersonal compatibility, and diligence criteria.

Whatever the process please don't leave the team without effective monitoring and feedback, with site inspections if possible.

  • +1 for "flat" teams where no one has authority are frustrating for all developers, on site or off. – Amy Blankenship May 1 '13 at 14:58
  • Someone has to do the grunt work of maintaining focus and keeping the team on task, but there is nothing to say that this point-man can't change up between projects or phases of the project. A rather extreme example is how valve has structure'd their organization with no managers: businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-27/… but it can work at a smaller scale within teams. The guy behind dilbert has a interesting take on this concept and why it can (and often doens't) work. dilbert.com/blog/entry/the_managementfree_organization – Ape-inago May 7 '13 at 23:01
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I'll give my take.

During your initial interview process (follow up interview), I would bring up working remotely: If they've ever done so in the past, and if they'd be willing to do it now. Following your normal interview process initially, and also bringing this up in the interview will help to ensure only appropriate candidates make it to the next phase of the interview process.

What's the next phase you ask? A group exercise is okay, but if you want something that is going to mimic what they actually be doing once hired, and how they perform once hired, then the group exercise should reflect that. So, for example if they'll actually be developing APIs, then as a group exercise they could develop a small API with multiple levels of abstraction, documented, and an example application that would use the API. I know that sounds like a lot for 10 devs, but again, that's just an example and it should mimic the demands of the real-world. You also have the option of giving directives from management, or allowing the group to micro-manage themselves and just giving the requirements of the API.

An example like this will allow you to see how they work without direct supervision, whom the leaders in the group may be, and also their thought-processes and workflow processes.

Disclosure: I'm not management, just a developer who loves to teach others.

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