Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Superlative

I've been interviewing devs and testers frequently lately, and I noticed I was doing something that in retrospect seemed kind of odd:

I almost always asked about superlatives.

"What's your favorite bug?"
"Tell me the thing you most disliked about the test framework you built."
"Describe the coolest project you ever led, and who you worked with on it."

Most, biggest, best, worst, least. All of it is extremes.

Extremes are memorable, but most of life is NOT an extreme. Most of life is somewhere in the middle. You're only going to have one best and one worst at any point in time. You're going to have lots of in between.

So why don't I ask about that? After all, most of the time working with this person will be spent on the stuff in the middle.

Let's talk about the best and the worst, but let's also talk about the things that happen the most.... all the stuff in between. There's no adrenaline rush, there's no despair, there's no exultation and cheering. I want to know you and I can work effectively together when all those extremes are absent. What do we do on an average Thursday? Now THAT's interesting.


  1. I dont think it's odd to ask superlatives in an interview situation, it can be a good way to get the candidate to show their passion and enthusiasm as they describe their favourite bug, cleverest test. If they dont get excited or cant think of a superlative then that might be a clue about them

  2. Phil, I don't think it's wrong to ask about superlatives; your point about excitement being a generally positive trait is solid. I just want to make sure that's not the only thing I ask about!