How not to attract a WSL (or any) engineer

Canonical purportedly seeking expert who can remember high school


A copy of a letter sent to an applicant – which they say is for a lead role at Ubuntu developer Canonical – went viral over the weekend, giving some insight into the Linux outfit's apparently extremely lengthy questionaire processes.

The company, seeking a new member for the firm's Windows Subsystem for Linux engineering team, asked the applicant to jump through so many hoops that the candidate – and the rest of the world – took to various social media platforms to ask: "What's the point"?

Users familiar with processes at the Ubuntu dev firm corroborated that the recruitment effort was the work of Canonical, although the company itself has yet to confirm this.

Once past the opening fluff of the letter, which celebrates both Microsoft's newly found enthusiasm for Linux and Canonical's developer experience, one gets to the nitty-gritty. While the candidate's resume had attracted the approval of the team at OrangeCo, the applicant was told, four steps remain between them and that coveted role, starting with a list of nearly 40 questions as part of a written interview.

For some, the questions veer toward the ridiculous. How did you get on at high school? What would your high school peers remember you for?

We fear an ability to down a yard of ale nearly 40 years ago would do us no favors in the eyes of Ubuntu, nor would the amateur bit of homebrew wiring in a 1972 Mini Clubman that resulted in a minor conflagration during the 1980s.

The letter also covered topics including how the candidate "ranked in mathematics during high school"; what their peers thought of them as a teenager; their presence on Twitter, YouTube, Medium, and the world of blogging; their public speaking experience; and in which area of tech they consider themselves a "thought leader". While there are also technical questions, this massive 40-query questionnaire is not even close to the end of the process. In fact, it is the second of five steps.

After this, applicants can still look forward to a "Standardized aptitude and Personality assessment", "Culture, HR, peer interviews and tech assessments, and, finally "Hiring Manager and senior lead interviews."

The level of detail being requested is impressive and, we fear, could well be enough to put off the people Canonical is after. It is very much a case study in how not to recruit in a competitive marketplace.

As one joker on Reddit observed: "It certainly [will] weed out people. Just not the right people."

The Register contacted Canonical regarding its questionnaire, but we have yet to receive a response.

Hayden Barnes, Windows Subsystem for Linux enthusiast and former Canonical employee (now at SUSE) did, however, confirm the authenticity of the problematic paperwork in a tweet.

Ben Hillis, Microsoft manager of the Linux on Windows team, was similarly taken aback by the requirements.

With companies facing recruitment problems in certain sectors, the practices employed by IT interviewers have come under scrutiny. Potential candidates, when faced with multiple hoops to jump through or days of work to answer questions, have been correctly demanding compensation for their time or simply going elsewhere. As yet, we don't know how well this approach is working for Canonical.

At least, we suppose, its need for a Lead in its WSL team has been well publicized. Along, sadly, with the manner in which it intends to recruit one. ®

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