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IBM Survivor (from Reid Maynard)
In the middle of the dot-com bust, I interviewed at IBM for a contract position. I can't remember exactly what the position was, but I'll never forget the interview.
My first clue that the interview was a bit different the fact that another candidate was waiting in the lobby, and was scheduled for an interview at the same time I was.
Fifteen minutes later, I found myself in a medium-sized conference room with a dozen other applicants. The interviewing manager entered, and informed us he liked to do things a little different. He then handed us all a short, one-page test. As soon as we all fill out the paper and handed it back, he passed out another. Soon after, a rhythm developed: he'd review one set of tests as we worked on the next.
"Jim?" the manager said, not even looking up from his paper, "we appreciate you coming in, but you're not exactly what we're looking for."
We all looked at one another until our eyes focused on the guy with the most stunned and disgusted look. As the manager continued to flip through pages, Jim sheepishly collected his things, stood up, and quietly left the room. The rest of us continued to work on our test.
Twenty minutes later, the manager asked Mark to leave. An hour later, Brian. Then Ahmed. Each time he called a name, I half wished it was mine so that I could leave. When lunch time rolled around, there were only six of us remaining.
"Well everyone," the manager announced, "congratulations for making it this far. Let's break for lunch, and then we'll do some one-on-one interviews."
As I quietly ate the catered lunch with the rest of the group, I grew more and more nervous of the one-on-one with the manager. I was certain I didn't want the job, but wasn't quite up for a public humiliation by the manager.
And then it dawned on me: I could just leave. So, I got up, grabbed a cookie for the road, and wished my colleagues the best of luck.
The High Road (from Alasdhair)
Many years back, I was a hot-shot contract developer in my early twenties, looking for a new gig in London. I was called to an interview at company that built hotel management software and, since I already knew a great deal about hotel software, it seemed like a great fit.
The interviewer was blonde, in her late 20’s, and had an impressive bust that was barely constrained by her buttoned blouse. She’d clearly put on a few pounds, but hadn’t admitted it to the extent of buying newer clothes. As a guy in your early 20’s, you tend to notice that kind of thing.
The interview was progressing pretty normally when, all of a sudden, one of her buttons came undone. I forced myself to focus on her questions and, for a short while, answered them impeccably. And then a second button came undone. That completely threw me off and my mind raced about, trying to figure out what to do.
Should I tell her? She’d probably be a little embarrassed, but certainly she’d appreciate the heads up. And at the very least, she’d not have to go through an entire interview unbuttoned.
Should I ignore it? At some point, she’d realize that her blouse came undone, and would think that I was a pervert for not telling her.
Both options put the contract at risk, but clearly, the high road was letting her know. I cleared my throat and subtly gestured towards her chest. She looked at me strangely for a moment, and then looked down. Instantaneously, she clutched her blouse, blushed red, and fled the room.
As I sat alone in the conference room for the next few minutes, I wondered if there was a third option that I didn’t consider. Eventually, the interviewer came back, but this time, she was wearing a sweater on top of her blouse. Without even sitting down, she told me that the interview was over and that they had all they needed to know. And although I didn’t get the job, I did learn a valuable lesson: just ignore it next time.
Find the Function! (from Ramiro Q)
Not too long ago, my company was struggling to find an Actionscript developer, and finally came across a candidate with a rather impressive resumé: Mr. Expert. He breezed through the first round of questions, and had only a few technical questions to go before being offered the job.
The first technical question was something to effect of, write a function to center an image onto a larger stage. It’s a pretty easy one: set the image’s “Y” to be half of the difference between the frame’s height and the image’s height, and the “X” to be half the difference of the widths.
Mr. Expert, however, asked for a few examples. We responded with dimensions like, a 120x300 image on a 400*500 stage, and left him alone with a piece of paper.
A short while later, I came back to check on Mr. Expert’s progress. In addition to his previous notes, he added "FIND THE FUNCTION!!!!", with each exclamation point being bolder than the previous. The examples we gave him were written hundreds of different times in the margin.
“I know there is a formula for this,” Mr. Expert said, exasperated, “can you give me the formula? Then I can write a function for each size you gave me, and thousands of other functions for other image sizes if needed.”
I explained to him that we were really looking for someone who could find those kind of formulas out, and that we preferred to let the computer handle the thousands of different sizes.
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