From time to time, my job allows me to be a part of the hiring process for our technical positions. Unfortunately for some of the applicants, I repeatedly come away from these interviews amazed at the responses I get from pretty standard and basic technical questions related to Web Development.

Recently we were looking for a front-end web developer that was good at UX and design and proficient at HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. One of the things that we tend to ask everyone is to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 as to how good they are with each technology. The majority of responses are in the 5-8 range with the corresponding answers to the questions about each techology falling about in the range you would expect. A couple of applicants were brave enough to rate themselves at a 9.5 out of 10 on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, leading us to believe they were “exceptional applicants”.

Intrigued, we began to delve into the technical questions about each technology. One of the first questions centered on the applicant writing a snippet of CSS that made the text in a div blue. The typical applicant would attempt to write the appropriate CSS rule with a couple of slight syntax issues, but would successfully complete the task. It never failed that the “exceptional applicants” would look at the sample HTML for a couple seconds and then proclaim that they didn’t remember how to do it. A common excuse for not knowing how to begin to answer this simple CSS question was that they didn’t memorize anything since you can easily just go look it up on Google or Stack Exchange when working on a real project. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a non-entry-level front end developer, I am not envisioning an employee that has to look up on Google every line of JavaScript and CSS that they write.

This may make me sound old, but I’m willing to risk it. There are way too many people out there that believe that they don’t have to learn, or ‘memorize’ as they refer to it, anything as they can always go find it on the Internet. Unfortunately for people like these “exceptional applicants”, writing CSS, JavaScript, and HTML by hand is something that you should be able to do the vast majority of the time without consulting Google or Stack Exchange for the way to do it. If, however, you attempt to write the code by hand first, determine it doesn’t work the way you anticipated, and have exhausted things to try to make it work correctly, then it is time to look online for the answer.

A competent front end web developer should be able to perform their major job duties, which includes writing CSS, JavaScript, and HTML without the need for any internet or network connection on any of their various devices. Even without a connection, they should be able to create a mostly functional webpage that is ready for peer review and testing.

Since it seems too rare, the Never Stop Learning motto should become the motto of more professionals eager to climb the occupational ladder, lest we forget that there is more to learning than wrote memorization.