LO!, all those decades ago when I was but a high school graduate preparing for my college experience, a sage (uncle) once told me something that I've NEVER forgotten ..... "the fundamental purpose of a college education is to teach you to THINK!" (He told me some other things too, but I can't repeat them in mixed company! Ha! Ha!)
I-B-M thought so much of this concept of thinking that for a long time they distributed throughout their facilities various-sized desk ornaments w/ the one word, "THINK" inscribed on the brass placard. And, anyone in this audience who is old enough should remember seeing photos of the I-B-M 360 main console w/ the THINK placard proudly displayed on the top surface.
I have to agree here. The question is not specific enough for engineering. You might have well have been asking "Where did they bury the survivors..."
The purpose of the interview is not to see how well the candidate guesses, but how well they think.
I put together a test of 20 questions for an engineering candidate. However, the purpose was not to give a piece of paper to the applicant and walk away, but to sit there with them and have them talk out their thought process for each question. I never graded the test on right answers but how they were thinking. Sure, we're all too busy to do this, but if you want to find a good candidate, you have to put some work into it. It's either that or hope you get lucky.
The problem with onesy questions like this is that they get out and then everybody, even the biggest idiot, knows the answer. Don't go for the answer, go for the thought process.
I am not too sympathetic to corporate world complaints of lack of qualified personnel. It is not neccessarily true that the point of college education is to support the corporate world. People go to college for a variety of reasons. The corporate world basically bailed out on training and developing people after the '90s. Besides, like everything else in business, it's all relative to competition. Hire the best people available for your purposes based on a comprehensive evaluation, not trick questions. If you are more successful at getting the best candidates than your competitiion, you will benefit in the free market.
I also look for hobbies on resumes when I have to interview. I still do the testing and the interview, but I sometimes look at a weaker resume because the candidate may have listed a useful hobby. As you can tell by my screen name I tend to be partial to car guys. But this also translates into a person who has some basic hands-on skills that may not always be related to the target job. But hobbies are usually self taught or mentored. This means the person can learn!
I like your approach, Greg. Candidates should definitely have a core understanding of the foundational principles and theories, and sure, a co-op and hands-on practical experience is a huge plus. But those coming out of school likely aren't going to have deep expertise in many of the skills needed in today's jobs. Yet as long as they demonstrate a hunger to learn and a willingness to role up their sleeves and dive right in, I think that's half the battle. I think some coming out of college have expectations that they don't have to start at the bottom and work their way up through hard work and hands-on training. They want the big job right out of school and all the perks that go with it.
" I think you dismiss PhDs a bit too swiftly in too general a manner."
Point taken. I didn't mean to be swift and general in dismissing PhD's. I was really trying to make the point not to be swift and general in dismissing non-PhD's, and even non BS's.
I believe a lot of productive talent is overlooked by indiscriminately filtering candidates by degrees. There are many people who have the raw material to be very good engineers, but they don't have the guidance around them, or the financial resources to seek the "appropriate" education. They might, however, find their way get through a 2 year program at a tech school. I think our current HR structure overlooks these people (by "degree as a litmus test" practices), and does so to the detriment of everyone involved.
If you need a PhD because of the nature of the position, by all means, look for a PhD to fill the position. Most work that needs to be done doesn't need to be done by PhD's, however.
I completely agree with your differentiation between PhD's who only went to school, and those who went back after/during work.
ttemple, I think you dismiss PhDs a bit too swiftly in too general a manner. I would look very differently at a PhD holder who earned it in one continous educational period, from B.S. to PhD, than I would someone who worked in industry for a time with a B.S. then went back to school to earn the PhD.
That second candidate is likely to be much more grounded and useful, and the PhD itself more useful to your company.
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In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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