16 July 2014

At one of the recent user groups, I had an interesting conversation with Nick, a senior developer from San Francisco who is responsible for hiring a remote team here in Nashville.

Developers have a reputation for being difficult to work with, and this is especially true in coastal cities. As part of his interview process, Nick included a filter test for rudeness.

One of the measures for testing this is that Nick will interrupt an interviewee in the middle of a discussion. If the candidate continues talking over Nick, that’s generally a bad thing. If the candidate stops and politely waits for Nick to have his say, that indicates someone who is willing to give way when necessary.

According to Nick, no one in Nashville failed the rudeness test. In fact, Nick is now concerned that he needs a different approach for folks in Nashville. How can he be sure that they are aggressive enough that they will interrupt someone if they drone on and on?

As an aside: when I lived in New York for a short while, this cultural difference was a tough one for me (a native Southerner) to adjust to. There were many situations in a group where one person would start talking over another. Meanwhile, the original speaker, unwilling to give up the floor, would continue talking. I generally try to make eye contact with whoever is speaking to me, so if two people are talking at once I’m trying to figure out who I should be looking at and paying attention to.

Of course, this is a very simplified view of cultural and regional norms (I certainly learned to appreciate the bluntness of friends from NYC), but it’s still an interesting illustration of how different cultures can have different issues when hiring for a cultural fit.