Hiring Perl Developers – how hard can it be?

All the roles I’ve had during my time at Sanger have more or less required the development of production quality Perl code, usually OO and increasingly using MVC patterns. Why is it then that very nearly every Perl developer I’ve interviewed in the past 8 years is woefully lacking, specifically in OO Perl but more generally in half-decent programming skills?

It’s been astonishing, not in a good way, how many have been unable to demonstrate use of hashes. Some have been too scared of them (their words, not mine) and some have never felt the need. For those of you who aren’t Perl programmers, hashes (aka associative arrays) are a pretty crucial feature of the language and fundamental to its OO implementation.

Now I program in Perl sometimes more than 7-8 hours a day. For many years this also involved reworking other people’s code. I can very easily say that if you claim to be a Perl programmer and have never used hashes then you’re not going to get a Perl-related job because of your technical skills. With a good, interactive and engaging personality and a desire for self-improvement you might get away with it, but certainly not on technical merit.

It’s also quite worrying how many of these interviewees are unable to describe the basics of object-oriented programming yet have, for example, developed and sold a commercial ERP system, presumably for big bucks. Man, these people must have awesome marketing!

Frankly a number of the bioinformaticians already working there have similar skills to the interviewees and often worse communication skills, so maybe I’m simply setting my standards too high.

I really hope this situation improves when Perl 6 goes public though I’m sure it’ll take longer to become common parlance. As long as it happens before those smug RoR types take over the world I’ll be happy ;)