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Sherry Day
Sherry Day

Posted on

Have you ever seen anyone "fake" their way into a software development position?

Are there instances of people who make it through the interview, get hired, but seriously can't do the actual job?

Top comments (54)

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I've worked in a company where a programmer was hired based on agency recommendations. They turned up for their induction and then worked from home, and something was up. Turned out they were outsourcing the work to someone in another country and knew only enough jargon to get by.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

Woooaaa! πŸ˜…

Well you know what they say, fake it til you outsource it to someone else who will make it.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Pithy!

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mabubakarriaz profile image
Abubakar Riaz

i have once worked for someone similar like this on upwork. She was working in a software company but was tasked with difficult and expert level task. so she outsourced it to me and I was happy to guide her and complete the task. Afterwards she also gave me a bonus on upwork. :)

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bradtaniguchi profile image
Brad

How long did it take for them to "get found out"?

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Not long, a couple of days I think.

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efe profile image
Efe Ertugrul

same thing happened to a bank here.
a group of noob coders outsourced their work to india.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

Of course there are!

The problem will always exist as long as candidates are being recruited based on skills that are unrelated to doing the actual jobs.

Asking candidates to be good at selling themseolves on LinkedIn is smart if you hire sales people, because that's kind part of their job, but doing the same for developers?

I don't really care about companies that are so bad at detecting the incompetent candidates that are good at selling themselves to be honest. That's on them.

The real problem is more the other way around. Talented potential employees are stuck at bad companies or even jobless while shitload of companies need them in the real world.

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ivorator profile image
ivorator

The thing is you don't actually need to be that great at linked in, and you will get plenty of interest, and headhunted.

When you have been in sw development like 15 years, the various things you did will be quite some. Problem is people are idiots, pick the skill they are looking for and go - "5, 10 years of experience in x".

So the expectation is sort of like having 5-10 years just that thing, from the 5-10 things you bothered to add. Meaning collectively 50-100 years :D

So most of your interviews switch to explaining how less you know than they hope, and actually interviewing them to figure out what the job is.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

what about the many talented devs that never get their career right in the first place because they are been recruited like sales men, which they are not?

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ivorator profile image
ivorator • Edited on

I am not sure what you are referring to. Obviously if you are sitting in your cave and noone knows you are looking, noone will find you.

Other than somewhat diversifying my skill set and explaining to some extent my skill levels, I haven't had the need or expectation to "sell myself on linked in".

How you sell yourself on linked in is pretty simple, look it from a tech perspective

  1. Have marketable skills. If you have (and as a tech person you do have demonstrable skills) - the whole "how to get noticed on linked in" is irrelevant.

  2. Fill your profile, especially skills - and picture - so your profile does not look abandoned. There is absolutely no need to do the " achievement resume" bs

2.a Talk with few recruiters and add them in your contacts. This is where the linked in (dark) magic happens.

  • They have network to other recruiters, and most importantly employers - so you show up as indirect connection.
  • So you will get the occasional call/message/add to network and also sort of see things they are advertising and generally in what direction the job market is going. You will also learn the usual salaries. Basically play along for a while, answer even if you are not interested, and thank them.
  • But even employers will start to actually message/call you for interviews. Even if you are not interested - ask them to add them to network.
  • Some will be sw consultancies - which often recruit and cast wide net for interviews - these have a lot of contacts themselves - so add them.

2.b Use the official "open for work" if you are actually looking for work - then it's like blood in the water for the sharks in your network.

There is nothing in particular you need to do on linked in, other than to piggyback on recruiters network.

But that will get you interviews - it won't get you a job, and even less a job which you ca do, and is worth it.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

I don't disagree wit your list of tips, it's pretty good and I'm pretty sure it works for you.

For information, I received something like 15 recruiter emails in 48 hours this week.

Interestingly you use the word obviously at the start, which is a pretty famous equivalent of a code smell in communication.

Every single time someone use the word obviously, I ask some naive questions, and it turns out that what is obvious to him is actually not obvious for her, and that missing context was actually crucial.

If you think your tips are quick and easy for everyone, please do me - and more importantly a friend - a favor:

  • pick a friend you know is good but struggle in her career
  • tell her your tips to fix the problem
  • watch that it actually doesn't seem to work for her
  • now actually listen to why that might not be the case
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ivorator profile image
ivorator • Edited on

Good one mate, teach me about communication. Attempted insults about ones choice of words are just the best way to come out as a great communicator. Sure let's do spelling next.

Now, I am neither yours or our friend career advisor to make holistic analysis and dispense advice on what might or might not help their case. Or assess if they are actually talented, or feel entitled.
Anything I say here can be refuted with "well that won't help since they got that issue solved".

If you are inundated with interest "being bad at linked in" is probably not your issue. As far as our hypothetical friend with great skill, but linked in trouble - my advice stands.

Bosses hiring people for telling them what they want to hear, or "personality" rather than actual skill has always been a problem.
For example me being in the office (and spending 15hr/week in commute), is completely pointless, but my willingness to do that is why I have that job as opposed to someone with greater skill. Boss wants people on premises, take it or leave it.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

Good one mate, teach me about communication. Attempted insults about ones choice of words are just the best way to come out as a great communicator. Sure let's do spelling next.

Regarding spelling, if you have a look at some of my previous articles you can easily notice I make lots of them. I'm pretty sure you can find some in this comment.

It was never, is not now, and will not be tomorrow my intention to teach you a lesson, come out as the winner of the argument or insult you in any way.

I said your tips are good because they are.

In fact you got the gist of my message.

Some people are OK-ish in one area and need tactical/technical tips on how to improve. I said your LinkedIn tips are good because I do think they are good in this case.

Others need a career advisor (like you intuitively said) or as a starting point a friend who is ready to listen.

I used to be that friend who badly needed a career coach or a friend willing to listen.

I'm often silly, sometimes I'm awkward, but on this particular topic I care way too deeply about the importance of making the right choices in your career to be distracted by my hurt ego.

Now, I am neither yours or our friend career advisor to make holistic analysis (...). Or assess if they are actually talented (...)

If your friend already has a career advisor then you don't need to do that. But if she hasn't one, like almost everyone, of course you can assess if she is actually talented. It's your friend! You know her better than a recruiter who asked her how many windows there was in Manhattan or made them pass a stupid inverse binary tree shit on a leetcode-like website. You have spent way more time with her than they have. You like her and want to help. You have more patience than they will ever have understand what's really going on.

Bosses hiring people for telling them what they want to hear, or "personality" rather than actual skill has always been a problem.

The problem will always exist yes, I agree with you. But it could be slightly better or slightly worse, so I don't see that as a reason to do nothing.

For example me being in the office (and spending 15hr/week in commute), is completely pointless, but my willingness to do that is why I have that job as opposed to someone with greater skill. Boss wants people on premises, take it or leave it.

I don't know your context, but a career advisor might tell you that you were probably right to accept doing 15h/week of commute when you did that choice. Something like let have stability an get the money problem out of the window first.

But he - maybe, again this has to be indivdual - could also help you to see that today is somehwat different. You may be able to find another job more easily than you think. Given that fact, you may have more leverage than you think to renegociate with your currrent boss, even if you don't want to quit. And that in fact if maybe the right thing to do because wasting so much time with commute is one of the few tings scientifically proven to make people unhappy over the long run.

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ivorator profile image
ivorator

Yeah, pointless and unsustainable commute, either would need to move somewhere closer or failing that, move jobs, eventually.

Presenteism, get paid more with noticably less skill. Is it unfair, well whoever thinks it is, they are welcome to chase a job far from their location, in unaffordable part of town, spend a lot of money and time on commute. Boss thinks there is some value in people being there, pays extra for that.

Ironically one can be both overpaid and underpaid in the same time.

And lots of other jobs are much worse. Vacancies are usually vacant for a reason.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

Would you say you have no alternative job, no negociating power,
or just not right now the skills, time and energy to look out for them ?

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ivorator profile image
ivorator

Well you know how it goes, no job is perfect. Commute sucks, pay is fine, I'd say above average for that skill level and actual tasks. Can't be hopping jobs every time a marginally better one shows up, given the risks involved.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

Right and I am not telling you where to work, that's a very personal choice. This is not incompatible with learning how to negociate better so that a few months from now you are maybe ready to have a conversation with your boss on how to spend less time commuting. Obviously this is hard, and that's why searching for a new job is useful, even if you don't plan to change. It helps you realize that you have opportunities out there, it gives you a BATNA, it gives you leverage.

In negotiation theory, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA refers to the most advantageous alternative course of action a party can take if negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. The BATNA could include diverse situations, such as suspension of negotiations, transition to another negotiating partner, appeal to the court's ruling, the execution of strikes, and the formation of other forms of alliances. BATNA is the key focus and the driving force behind a successful negotiator. A party should generally not accept a worse resolution than its BATNA. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that deals are accurately valued, taking into account all considerations, such as relationship value, time value of money and the likelihood that the other party will live up to their side of the bargain. These other considerations are often difficult to value since they are frequently based on uncertain or qualitative…

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ivorator profile image
ivorator

Well no job is perfect, and at this point I can trade but not upgrade.
So you know, it is what it is.

But yeah I agree on BATNA, that's why I'd advise developers to diversify their skill, build a bit of a network and so on.

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ivorator profile image
ivorator

Sorry for wall of text.
Actually yes, absolutely happens all the time, it has happened to me too.
Why do you think tech recruitment is such a big business.
But it's probably not what you think.

The thing is they probably did not fake it, their skill does not match the job, and that is much more of a HR problem. Sometimes, or rather often actually, whoever is hiring doesn't really know what the requirements of the job are, and it's very likely the developer might not care to learn, or be opposed to doing things in some certain way. Even after a rigorous tech test, you can have a big mismatch. Its most infuriating experience for everyone involved.

It's pretty unlikely the job one applies to to be more than 40-50% match to where their skill is (or what they want to do). Mind you, most experienced developers are having a job they are switching, so taking a huge gamble just to "fake it".

Or a generalist got hired, where a specialist is needed.

For anything sufficiently complex, new hires would be pretty darn useless for a long time, months for sure. And a generalist is unlikely to abandon all else and specialise for single thing. So they will never reach top skill.

Say one gets hired to do React:
Ts or no ts? How do you do state and data management? Redux (with or without toolkit), mobx, react query something else? What component libraries are you using (and what version). How do you do the css, bootstrap, tailwind, some sort of css in js (not a single way)? What do you use for testing, especially e2e testing? Then you have different specialised libraries, such as MapboxGL, react flow (and thousands minor ones).

And if we talk about backend, let's say python - you have django, fastapi, socketio, numpy, pandas, and similar things most people sort of know to some extent. But it's even much broader. There are various ORMs for both sql and nosql. Add to that serverless, bunch of third party apis one needs to integrate with...
Looking just at a single project I currently work on, the libraries in the requirements.txt are over 20...

And there is lots of devops involved on top of that. Most backenders are expected and know how to use docker, but there is k8s (and different ways to do that), lots of gcp and aws specific stuff.

Now consider we are talking about person who spreads their skill as fullstack between react, vue and few backend frameworks.

And on top of all that, there is the actual "system" e.g. company code to learn.

So granted I could so easily type a "wall of text" just like that, how much of this is generally discussed in detail in a typical interview process?

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ivorator profile image
ivorator

To expand on my own writing,
HR or recruitment agency does not have an initiative to find you the perfect match.

The HR person does not get sacked or bear any cost if they do a bad hire, the developer which switched jobs does pay the cost in frustration, lost income and black mark on their resume.

The recruiting agency might lose some reputation, but in the end of the day if they found perfect matches, nobody ever would switch jobs - so their core business (skilled and experienced devs) would become victim of their success.

Unless we are talking about a junior dev (in which case it would be expected they are clueless), and they went for a hail Mary, there is very little sense in faking it, and setting themselves up for disaster.

What is incredibly common however is to get hired for a job, and then wonder why they hired you with certain skill, but the job is something quite else than what was discussed and tested.

I have been hired with react, and then the project I got was vue without ever using it before, any guesses how that went?

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nubunto profile image
Bruno Luis Panuto Silva

I landed my second jr job back in 2015 and started at the same time as this person. It's not that they weren't... suited to do the actual job. They had trouble turning on the computer. Heck, one time they sent an message in the company's whatsapp group at 2am saying they were leaving the office (already a red flag) and couldn't turn off the coffee machine. They were a CS grad from the same university as the company's owner, which is an amazing programmer, so you'd expect the same bar or, you know, at least basic computer knowledge.

Anyways, they were let go in one month, and I took the opportunity to create a simple interview test for the next candidates.

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tiguchi profile image
Thomas Iguchi

Does your interview test involve switching the coffee machine on and off?

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ivorator profile image
ivorator

It involves two coffee makers. One is filled but not on, while the other has about a cup of coffee left. The candidate is sent to get a cup of coffee...

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tiguchi profile image
Thomas Iguchi

That's a tough test 🀣

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aarone4 profile image
Aaron Reese

And the test is to see if they are a team player and turn in the other machine or are selfish, self absorbed, and anti social and just walk away so the next dev has to waste 10 mins waiting for it to brew, be kaye for a meeting costing the company 100s or just being grumpy for the rest of the morning?

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alonedatascientist profile image
alonedatascientist

the PC "greatest hits" right there.

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puritanic profile image
DarkΓΈ Tasevski • Edited on

To be honest, I've worked as offshore dev, and have seen utter disaster in codebases made by onshore devs.

Problem here are the C-level people, trying to hire as cheapest developers as possible, which never ends up well, no matter from where they are sourced. :)

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varadan13 profile image
Aneesh

That is racist. Cheap offshore hires doesn't mean they are talentless. It is just that American companies exploit their offshore talents by offering them cheap prices for the work they do. Besides there are bad apples in every tree. It took a pandemic for the market to correct itself in terms of the basic pay for a dev.

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

I often saw advice to oversell yourself, maybe based on the assumption that many good developers used to be regarded as too humble or introvert or just to host and factful, which is not what marketing and business people expected.

I would still say many developers underestimate themselves and tend to be too critical, while most recruiters have not chance to bridge the communication gap, even more so if hiring companies don't know or are unable to communicate the skills they actually need. So many fellow developers kept doing frustrating employment jobs just out of fear they might never get another job quite es good / comfortable / whatever.

Faking and overselling on purpose either not very developer-like, or just did not happen in the teams that I chose to work with in the past. But I saw a lot of incompetence and fake in middle management positions, including team leaders, product owners, and scrum or whatever "masters".

I liked this post as there are many valuable answers in the comments. This discussion should be a must-read for any recruiter and anyone about to hire developers!

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warwait profile image
Parker Waiters

It seems most common in management 🀣

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theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring • Edited on

Yes.

Reflecting on my last decade in engineering, 1-2% of hires in my orgs have been fakers. I'm using this term somewhat broadly - to me a faker is anyone who is quickly offboarded upon joining a team. It's possible that some of these situations may not be true faking (ex: Got a better job offer after accepting ours) but when you ghost a company (most common behavior) - you can only speculate.

Some examples of what I've seen:

  • Ghosting within days or weeks of joining
  • A stream of absence excuses shortly after joining
  • Ambitious individuals who are simply not ready for that role (engineering lead)
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mabubakarriaz profile image
Abubakar Riaz

Hi there, meet me; the faker :)
I am pure .net core developer with 11 years of experience. But switched to a pure public cloud DevOps role. I have never used Linux for more than 2 mins and all my platforms are on-premises.
Got hired, just might be due to a shining LinkedIn profile. but I genuinely want to learn DevOps and nobody was offering me this role. so I had to fake it. My employer somewhat knows this and they are willing to give me a shot with a senior role.
I am passionate to learn Azure & AWS so let me get back to you on my progress after 3-4 months.

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thenickest profile image
TheNickest

Yes. Seemed to have been because of his PhD in Chemistry. Was really successful in making others do his work. And bloating up whatever he was going on the side. Partly a reason why I left this very team.

 
davelapchuk profile image
Dave Lapchuk

I haven't seen much lying at all by consultant devs themselves once in an interview setting, but have definitely seen the consulting companies pass them off as more relevant than they are before getting to that point.

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davelapchuk profile image
Dave Lapchuk

My experience with this in the past has not been that the offshore person can't be a competent or even great developer eventually, but rather that the business just turfed somebody with a decade of relevant experience and very specific business knowledge in favour of a new grad with 6 months or maybe a year of experience programming in a completely unrelated industry.... and then considers them to be an equivalent asset.

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sale4319 profile image
Aleksandar Stojanovic

I have few examples, in my previous company I had a group of 4 ppl that were hired through a workshop selection process. They were assigned to me for mentorship. One of them was kind of untrainable, he was rude and stubborn, doing his own "freestyle learning" which was basically just asking random questions that had nothing to do with the job, I tried to explain even those questions but we would just end up with conclusion that he does not understand but he aspires to be the best programmer that ever walked the Earth... Eventually he left the company on his own and after few months asked to return but was denied.

Second example was in my current company, we hired a guy that passed technical interview, he started onboarding process and soon after he opened a sick leave. When he returned after 3 months, we tried to engage him with tasks and we quickly realised that he had no programming knowledge whatsoever and had to be fired.

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gtanyware profile image
Graham Trott

I qualified in electronics and electrical enginering way back in 1971 and then discovered microprocessors about 5 years later, so I missed the opportunity to get a "proper" education in software. However, being self-educated didn't stop me getting and holding down a succession of software jobs over the years and decades. I always had a mild feeling of being an impostor but in general I was no better and no worse than anyone else. We all made mistakes and we all got some things right, which as far as I can see is all one can really expect.

The following may be a bit of a diversion, but I was left with the belief that the software industry loves to make things more complicated than they need to be, which restricts the pool of talent available. I base this belief on the fact that even after more than half a century of development, software projects continue to have a poor reputation for achieving their aims, staying within budget or even working at all, in spite of massive efforts to ensure that this can never happen. Ordinary human brains are poorly equipped to truly understand computer code, and rather than devising ever more exotic coding structures for the benefit of computers, perhaps we should spend comparable time and effort getting computers to understand the way we think and talk. SQL, HyperScript, Excel macros and other domain-specific products point the way and low-code is promising, but we still have a way to go.

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