So what should a developer job interview look like then? Simple: eliminate the exam part of the interview altogether. Instead, ask a few open-ended questions that invite your candidates to elaborate about their programming work.
- What's the last project you worked on at your former employer?
- Tell me about some of your favorite projects.
- What projects are you working on in your spare time?
- What online hacker communities do you participate in?
- Tell me about some (programming/technical) issues that you feel passionately about.
These questions are designed to reveal a great deal about the person you have in front of you. They can help you decide whether the candidate is interested in the same things as you, whether you like their way of thinking, and where their real interests lie. It's tougher for them to bullshit their way through here, because the interviewer can drill deeper into a large number of issues as they present themselves.
What about actual coding ability? Well, take a few moments after the interview and look into some code the candidate wrote. Maybe for an open source project, maybe they have to send you something that's not public, doesn't matter. Looking at actual production code tells you so much more than having them write contrived fiveliners on the whiteboard.
I'm sure you can come up with even more questions and other ways to engage the interviewee. At this point, pretty much any idea will be an improvement.
I don’t think there is one right developer interviewing technique. It is worth mastering a variety of interviewing techniques and then adjusting based on the job requirements, team composition, manager style and company culture.
Here is an initial (incomplete) list. I’ll update with new content from comments & conversations.