I recently took an online AbillityScreen through TrueAbility for a remote position, and one of the tasks was to program some generic automation scripts to do various file operations and so on. In the description, it stated to complete the task in whatever language you wanted as long as it worked.  I set about doing it in Bash, foregoing the usual considerations of context, scale, or use because I was under pressure.  I also saw one other technology I didn’t have experience with (yet) and needed the extra time for.

Unfortunately, the statement “whatever language you are comfortable with” came with an unknown prejudgement of my skills as an IT professional, after completing the task in X instead of Y.  In this case, using Bash instead of another sexier language such as Ruby or Perl or whatever didn’t provide the required number of geek points to proceed in the interview process.

Whatever, I’m not too bitter about it, but unfortunately it leads me to write this post and give the following bit of advice in case a recruiting professional ever reads this page.

If you hired a design/build company to build you a house, do not say “Use whatever materials you want”.   If they then took the time to do a good job with materials at hand, can you fault them? Is it fair to say “sorry, that’s not what we were looking for” after completion of the project, considering it met the specifications as stated?

That’s sort of how I felt after the scripting part.  I had no experience with Chef, but since it was expected and specifically asked for in the AbilityScreen, I learned it within a few minutes and was able to complete that part of the screen.

Had I been asked specifically to script/program some simple file operations in a specific language, I’m sure I could have gotten that part up to their expectations, also. But, please, don’t tell me I have free reign to complete a project in whatever language, and then tell me I don’t qualify.

Rant over, lesson learned.

Advice for job seekers that, in retrospect, should probably have been common sense: before typing that first #!/bin/bash, read through the job posting and consider scale, usefulness, and pick up on the keywords.