After the latest round of managerial Three Card Monte, Chris found himself reporting to Judith, on a newly formed team. That team was short-handed, which meant Judith needed to interview a lot of candidates. She sent Chris a steady stream of resumes, and he gave his feedback: “Bring this person in,” or “Don’t bother with this one.”

With Lisa, Chris knew they’d discovered the perfect candidate. She had the skills they wanted, she interviewed well, aced the technical screen, and was personable and compatible with the team. He gave her the thumbs up and waited for Judith to make the offer.

“Well, about that,” Judith said when Chris dropped by her office. “There’s a slight problem.” She clasped her hands together and stared seriously across the desk at Chris. “When I took Lisa out for lunch during the interview, she revealed something quite concerning.” She paused for dramatic effect. “Lisa is getting married this summer.”

Judith waited for this proclamation to detonate with the desired impact, but Chris just blinked and said, “Um… congratulations ? Do we need to adjust her start date or give her an extra week off or something?”

“Well, no,” Judith said. “But if she’s getting married, she’s probably going to get pregnant soon. We just can’t afford that.”

“That… that isn’t a valid reason to not hire someone,” Chris said.

Judith waved that off. “Oh, HR rules are just there to CYA. I mean, you remember Carole?”

Chris remembered Carole. Carole had vanished after a sudden illness, and in the aftermath of her departure, Chris’s old team had to pickup the slack. “You don’t mean…”

“Well, after she got pregnant, she wanted to work part time for six months! Can you believe the gall?”

While Chris kept fighting to get Lisa hired, another candidate, Roy, came through. Smart, with three decades of experience, he’d kept his skills sharp, impressed all the technical people, and clicked with the team like a Lego. Unfortunately, Judith didn’t feel that he “fits the dynamic, energetic team that we’re trying to build.” When Chris pressed her on that, she admitted: “That’s just HR, CYA stuff. He’s simply too old.”

Judith kept finding more candidates, and the demographics started to bias increasingly younger and increasingly male. Unfortunately, young kids fresh out of college didn’t have the experience or skills Chris’s team needed, which meant they flunked the technical screens. The smartest ones might have trained up quick, but Chris wanted someone who could start contributing on the first day.

“This is incredible,” Judith complained during Chris’s next drop-in visit to her office. “I’d almost think you’re doing this to spite me. I’m going to sit in on your next technical screen, because I don’t believe that none of these candidates are any good.”

Judith brought in Billy. Billy stumbled through a few of the basic questions, but eventually blundered into a comprehensible, correct answer. Chris was ready to chalk that up to nerves, until he asked, “Walk me through a method that reverses a string.”

“Well, you can’t, not really,” Billy said, grinning at his clever ability to identify a trick question. “A string is a linked list, so you can only traverse it going in one direction- front to bottom. But what you can do, and this is really optimized, is take a two’s compliment of the least significant byte of the list, append that to the traversal pointer, and boom! You can read the string backwards.

Billy smiled, Judith nodded, and Chris nearly choked to death on the stream of expletives that he held down. “Well, that’s great,” Judith said. “You really know this technology. When can you start?”

“Um, excuse me?” Chris said. “Judith? Can I speak to you alone?”

“Not now, Chris.”

“I think we need to have this conversation now.”

Judith huffed and turned to Billy. “You’ll have to excuse us,” she said with the sweetest, most teddy-bear-like smile she could muster. When she and Chris were out in the hall, with the door closed, that teddy-bear smile turned into a viper’s bite. “What the hell was that? I have never, never been so humiliated in my life.”

“Judith, this guy is terrible. He doesn’t know anything.”

I don’t believe you,” Judith said. “You keep flunking these candidates, and every time I give you a resume, you send back some stupid message about whether or not I should bring the candidate in. I’m not asking for your opinion, you arrogant little worm!”

Chris pointed at the door to the conference room where Billy waited. “Then why am I even in there? What’s the point of me doing technical screens if you’re not going to believe my feedback? Why do you even bother sending me resumes if you don’t want my opinion on them?”

Judith shrugged and huffed. “I don’t know, just courtesy, I guess. Now will you get out of my way and let me run my team, my way?”

“Yeah, y’know what? I think I can do exactly that.” Billy got hired, but Chris made sure Judith had one more senior developer position to fill.