Give it a ReST.

One term that comes up significantly too much in interviews is the highly applauded and highly misunderstood [1] [2] [3] ReST.

I’m not sure why it comes up in interviews, but here are a few guesses:

  1.  As an indirect measure of how one stays up-to-date with the developer community.
  2. The interviewer is actually caught up in the trend himself, and that this “paradigm shift” is a crucial practice that can’t be learned in a matter of hours.
  3. They don’t know what else to ask, or they were asked it when they interviewed.

I think this particular question, and this type of question (even though I now know ReST so well I nail it every time) are a bad idea.

  1. By sheer virtue of the fact that it comes up so much, it can simply indicate the candidate has done so many interviews that they just happened to look it up the particular idea after stumbling when hit by it before.
  2. It’s not a direct measure of a candidate’s skill. Just as using browser version to infer a browser’s capabilities is inferior to simply directly testing the browser’s capabilities, such indirect measures of people are more error-prone.
  3. Staying absolutely up to the minute with the developer community isn’t important. In fact, by lagging behind a little (not too much) you miss out on a lot of flash-trends. Even if these trends do stick around (RoR, node.js) early adoption comes at a steep price.
  4. Knowing acronyms isn’t necessarily the best measure of being up-to-date. I think a question I hear too little, which is more important, is What’s your process for debugging an application?

So I recommend ditching the ReST question, and really any question on specific acronyms or designs that could be learned in a matter of hours.

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