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Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent Hardcover – May 31, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1590598382 ISBN-10: 1590598385 Edition: 1st

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Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent + Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity + More Joel on Software: Further Thoughts on  Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, ... or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Apress; 1 edition (May 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590598385
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590598382
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

From the reviews:

"Programming-employment decisions are a critical managerial process. … Spolsky asserts that ‘the real trick to management is to make people identify with the goals you’re trying to achieve.’ … Spolsky concludes with the self-designed ‘Joel Test,’ which rates the quality of a software team. … Managers, recruiters, and programmers will enjoy this easy read." (Brad Reid, ACM Computing Reviews, September, 2008)

About the Author

Joel Spolsky is a globally recognized expert on the software development process. His web site Joel on Software (JoelonSoftware.com) is popular with software developers around the world and has been translated into over 30 languages. As the founder of Fog Creek Software in New York City, he created FogBugz, a popular project management system for software teams. Joel has worked at Microsoft, where he designed Visual Basic for Applications as a member of the Excel team, and at Juno Online Services, developing an Internet client used by millions. He has written two books: User Interface Design for Programmers (Apress, 2001) and Joel on Software (Apress, 2004). Joel holds a bachelor's of science degree in computer science from Yale University. Before college, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a paratrooper, and he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Hanaton.

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Customer Reviews

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I found the book to be an easy and enjoyable read, insightful, and very relevant.
Dan Burleigh
I tried many things from this book in practice and it does work or at least provides a good framework to think within.
Amazon Customer
I started thumbing through this book at a local bookstore and then decided I had to read the rest.
Michael Stahnke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
After driving cross-country in 49 hours, I returned home to find this book waiting for me... Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent by (of course) Joel Spolsky. Since I wasn't in the mood to start a large 300+ page novel, I figured this book would bridge the gap between naps quite nicely. It's a no-nonsense look at how Spolsky thinks hiring in the software industry should be done. While I may quibble on a few things, I think he's pretty accurate.

Content: Hitting the High Notes; Finding Great Developers; A Field Guide to Developers; Sorting Resumes; The Phone Screen; The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing; Fixing Suboptimal Teams; The Joel Test; Index

Spolsky takes the hard line that you should only be hiring *great* developers. In his terms, these are the people who are "smart & gets things done." Using the observation that a great programmer can be 10x as productive as an average programmer, he feels that the additional cost in salary and recruiting to find the gem is more than paid back in the work product produced. In fact, hiring average programmers (or clueless ones) actually lose you money in the long run due to rework and inferior quality. Spolsky uses a number of techniques outlined in the book to filter out average developers in order to concentrate on the few that show real potential. In fact, he maintains that you should be working at getting interns and contacts before you need staff, so that you can have a good idea as to what potential hires can accomplish in the real world. If an intern shows real talent and is happy with their internship, the hiring process is streamlined and little risk remains.

In some ways, I tend to disagree with a few of his attitudes.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Pitts on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the read, and one side of my brain (not sure which Side) cheered and said I want to work for a company that hires like that. I want to fly first class and be treated like a star. The other s side of my brain says we cannot treat everyone as a star, Maybe If you are a Boutique maybe you can do so. My own experience says that small elite groups of architects may come up with great Ideas, but you still need to lay the bricks, or frame the house. If you are building Custom Homes that might be fine, but if you are building tract homes, you need lots of brick layers and framers, and if you pay and treat them like architects, you are going to have a lot of issues on your hands. Stalin said that quantity has a Quality all of its own! I gave it a 5 star read but 3 stars for practicality.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book represents Joel Spolsky's approach to hiring programmers. Smart and Gets Things Done is based on Spolsky's weblog, like his previous book, Joel on Software.

The main thrust of the book is to state that you should only hire the best. While many people would think this is reasonable and obvious, Joel takes the advice much farther than most. He describes in detail his methods for recognizing top talent, convincing them to join your company, and keeping them once you've got them. Joel is not talking about some useless slogan ("We hire only the best"), he is really talking about identifying the best and doing whatever is necessary to hire them.

His advice will probably annoy many managers and some people in human resources. Most programmers will probably love his advice. Whether the approach will work for a company different than Joel's is another question altogether.

One surprise to me was the fact that this book contained new material that was not on Joel's weblog. The book is extremely readable. Whether you agree with Joel or not on the specifics of his approach, the book is definitely worth reading if you are involved in any way with hiring software developers. It will give you insight into the people that you are innovating and show glimpses of what you may be competing with.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. MCADAMS on October 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Though I don't always see eye-to-eye with the writings of Joel, I always do enjoy reading his material. This collection of his articles is no exception. Some of the claims and lines of reasoning are a tough sell, but they do call out important things to consider in your organization's hiring strategy.

Just realize before you buy this book, there is a chance somewhere between slim and none that you'll actually be able to implement all of Joel's recommendations. Still, you're sure to find a few areas where you can take action and improve the quality of your new hires.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steve Dakin on July 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Written in Joel's typical "light" fashion the book is a quick and easy ready (as advertised). There are some useful insight amidst the many long-winded passages. Overall I enjoyed this book and felt it was worth price.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Mara on January 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a quick read at 169 small pages and engaging. The book meets its intended goal of finding the best rock star technical talent for product development. He acknowledges that rock stars are not needed for many types of development (page 16).

Knowing that he was concentrating on rock stars, I bought the book anyway, looking for tips that I translate to my world where my customers are late adopters of technology and development is usually mixed in with O&M.

I did find some tips. Some just confirmed what I already believed to be true. The most useful chapters for me were Chapter 4 - Sorting Resumes (3 of my 6 dog-eared pages are in this chapter), and Chapter 7 - Fixing Suboptimal Teams.
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