Jay was excited: he finally landed a job interview for a developer position. While for many of us such an event registers pretty high on the “big deal, that happens to me all the time” scale, it was pretty rare for Jay. Like many of his young peers, Jay lacked experience in the industry. But unlike his peers, Jay did not have a college degree. And he lived in Mississippi, a state not exactly known as a hub for things high-tech. Or really even tech.

“Just work with what you’ve got,” a friend told him, “and you’ve got a damn good GPA from a damn good upstate New York public school. I mean, compared to the schools down here, that’s practically a college degree!”

“Yeah, I did go to a great high school!” Jay said, feeling pumped up. “Heck, it was rated in the top ten in the whole nation!” Jay recalled all the conversations he had with his friends and colleagues from the area, and they would often regale him with horror stories of their public schooling. His education certainly trumped theirs. Jay was feeling good and definitely ready for his interview.

The interviewer was Jay’s prospective boss, and the company seemed great and surprisingly laid back. With his newfound confidence, Jay aced the first half of the interview. When the time came to discuss his education, he was prepared.

Jay: … and that provided me with a much better education than, say, one might get in Mississippi.
Boss: I went to school in Mississippi.
Jay: Well, I… errr… um…

Jay stammered and tried his best to recover. But things just mostly went downhill from there. Jay knew he had completely blown it. At the end of the interview, Jay tried to do more damage control by being personable:

Boss: So, do you have any questions?
Jay: No questions regarding the position, but I would like to hear more about your Mississippi public school experience.
Boss: Heh, actually, I went to a private school in North Carolina.

His prospective boss winked as he said that last bit. Jay certainly learned few lessons on interviewing that day. And although he wasn’t hired for that particular position, Jay was able to land another position at the same company with the recommendation of the prospective boss he'd almost unintentionally insulted.