I was doing a bit of online research today for work (in the brief moment when I got sick of looking for porn) and I saw a banner ad that I thought was funny. Proudly atop the home page for a corporate IT news site was an ad for “Securing network infrastructure for dummies”. Now I know the “for dummies” books are a massive worldwide success and I’m just jealous that I’m not making millions telling people they’re stupid (I’m stuck doing it for fun rather than wealth). But seriously, who buys these books?
And, more importantly, what do they do with them after they buy them?
I suspect any professional (or aspiring professional) who buys these books hides them better than they do their porn. Imagine seeing “Securing network infrastructure for dummies” on the desk of someone actually responsible for securing a network. How secure would you feel?
I started imagining what would be the most disturbing “for dummies” to see in someone’s possession. Then I thought, why make stuff up? Go right to the source! Early front runners for most disturbing were “Cosmetic surgery for dummies” and “Forensics for dummies“. Then I thought, you’re hardly going to cheer someone up by giving them “Depression for dummies” or “Grieving for dummies“. And I wasn’t a fan of “Living longer for dummies” or “Sex for dummies“. I want them to die quickly without procreating.
But then an evil plot started to form in my mind. Working in IT, a common complaint is that management don’t actually understand technology. The footsoldiers of IT are frequently resentful about having to answer to people who don’t have a clue about what’s actually required to get the work done. So how much fun would it be to conduct interviews for programmers while surrounded by “for dummies” books.
And I’m not talking about one or two. I’m talking about filling bookcases with ’em. Put them behind you when you’re interviewing so the interviewee is constantly distracted by their garish yellow and black spines. Have all the titles related to the technology field you work in and watch a look of terror slowly spread across the interviewee’s face as they realise the horror they would be facing if they worked for you.
Along with all the titles about programming languages and hardware, throw in some frighteningly basic ones like “The internet for dummies”. And really throw them for a curve by throwing in some left-field titles they won’t miss, like “Breastfeeding for dummies” and “The historical Jesus for dummies“. I think that interview would give you a good indication of how the candidate copes with unexpected situations.