Working in the business side of adult entertainment isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but these companies are often among the leaders when it comes to aggressive use of technology and closely following best practices. It’s a dynamic that fascinates us: That’s why we wrote about the adult website Kink.com some months ago, and why we went back to its CTO, Steve Morgan, to find out how he goes about hiring developers for his tech team of about 25 people.
For obvious reasons, it’s especially important for staffers to be comfortable with Kink.com’s oeuvre. But when he’s evaluating a prospective hire, Morgan’s real focus is on their technical strengths and weaknesses.
“Obviously, we screen first when we bring them in for our first-tier interviews,” he says. “I always ask about large-scale challenges in the pre-screenings. Those basic things get taken care of early on. After screening, we do group interviews with our developers. We’ll ask people to write some simplistic code but don’t necessarily get deep into the details, because if it goes well, we’ll bring them back for a written test. Written tests are one of the best practices that are emerging. That’s our general process.”
Here are a few of the questions candidates are likely to be asked if they get to the next step, and the answers they should consider.
How Do You Build a Bicycle?
“We’ll ask them how a bicycle works,” Morgan explains. “If you’re designing a bicycle, how would you put it together? It’s a brain teaser and exposes where a candidate’s thought process is at. How would they describe how the gearing would work, etc.”
What Project Have You Worked on that You’re Most Proud Of?
“This one is relative to sustainable pace and weaknesses,” Morgan says. “I’ll ask what project they’re most proud of, because what often comes up in that answer is their weakness. To get there, I’d also ask what they’d most want to change about their work on the project, and what they learned from it.”
What do you Think of Pair Programming?
To further delve into a candidate’s ability to work closely with others and be unafraid of working on their own weaknesses, Morgan sometimes follows up with a question about pair programming. Your reaction will give him a wealth of information about how well you play with others, as well as how you’d fit in with the company’s Agile practices.
“Are they open to pair programming?” he asks. “One developer is typing and writing the code while the other developer is actually asking questions about the code. It’s almost as if you’re trying to tell somebody how to create decisions, but you don’t have your hands on the keyboard.”
The Answers He Wants to Hear
Ultimately, Morgan is looking for thoughtful, flexible team players.
While the bicycle question may reveal a great deal, there may be no right or wrong answer, just one that allows the team to know if your process would fit in, or not.
“For the project question that may reveal a weakness, I’d want to see if they’re able to step back from the big picture,” Morgan says. “Does it seem like they’re self-aware, or do they seem like a solo artist? I want to see how much they learned from other members on their team in identifying their own weaknesses, versus how much they’re trying to suss it out by themselves.”
You need to be open to pair programming, too, since Kink.com is gravitating toward the practice. Morgan mentions that he’s talked with some very senior developers who told him they hate pair programming, though they learned an incredible amount while doing it. That’s not a bad answer.
The Answers That Never Work
“Candidates who consider themselves to be Superman” won’t work for Morgan. “Anyone who gets their energy around coming in and solving a big problem outside of a team context won’t be a good fit for us,” he stresses. “When I ask about how they handled a project and they respond with, ‘I stayed all night for two days and I did it all with no help, etc. etc.,’ that’s a red flag for me. Inside tech as a whole, it’s kind of a red flag. There are startups that look for that kind of person, but we’re too large. We need a team effort.”