In the television show Masterchef there was an episode where the judges did a test on what they call “basic skills”. One of the judges often says that in order to be a “true chef”, you must know how to quickly and finely cut onions. It was really intense and they were looking for near perfection! I don’t know the industry well but I had a quick look on Youtube and cutting onions produced a lot of results.
So my immediate instinct, without thinking it through, was laughing and thinking: “hehe would they yell at me if I turned up with my onion chopper? Why does it matter how fast and how you chop your onions if the end result tastes good anyway?”.
I got an onion chopper because I don’t like how my hands smell after cutting onions, I don’t like how it makes my eyes tear up, I’m not very fast at cutting onions manually and I don’t have lots of space in the kitchen to set up multiple cutting boards.
This was really bothering me and I am stubborn so I wanted to win this fake argument really badly so I looked up why the way one cuts onions is important: as it turns out, the shape and even the surface area affect the end flavour. I thought the whole “chop chop chop” was about performance in the kitchen. Cut quickly to serve quickly! I was wrong.
It annoyed me, even more, when I realised how this applies to my industry: web development.
My onion chopper is great! Though, if I am being honest, it does affect the texture and flavour a little bit in the end. The thing here is that I prioritised how my hands would smell because the end flavour wasn’t really bothering me. And if we think about web development, I suppose that many tools that save us time… might output something a little bit different in the end regardless if it looks the same.
Back to onions! I can see why there was a dedicated test for it on this show (maybe I could dismiss the “quick” bit as part of the assignment, but I won’t get into that now). In real life, there will be people, like myself, who don’t know enough about the craft and won’t know why such tests exist and just buy an onion chopper.
You see where I am getting here? Anyway, analogies aside, my point is: front end interviews should really test basic skills like HTML, CSS and accessibility as it truly affects the outcome of a website. This also made me realise that the only time I’ve ever been asked in detail about HTML, CSS and accessibility in a job interview was when I was interviewing for a junior developer role. Since then, most of my interviews and job ads I’ve seen, completely gloss over basic skills and focus on tools/frameworks. And if we don’t know the basics, how can we know what is missing in the tools we use?