Persistence is Key

After two years, Thomas B. had become somewhat bored with his job. He was the first developer the small TV station had ever hired, and while he enjoyed building a PHP-based CMS that they'd use internally, over time his job had essentially been reduced to babysitting the web site. He accepted another offer and told his boss about his plans to leave.

Since the CMS had been built from the ground up and Thomas was the only one who knew everything about the system, he was an integral part of the interviewing and hiring process. His boss delivered him six résumés and told him that all six of those candidates would be in that day. Thomas hadn't been given much time to review the résumés, so he just had an opportunity to skim them before the first candidate arrived.

Five of the résumés sounded like they'd all make at least decent candidates, but the sixth almost seemed like it had been submitted as a joke. It looked completely unprofessional, and when Thomas scanned the page for "PHP," "MySQL," or even "JavaScript," he couldn't find any of them. Her most recent work experience was essentially "stay at home mom."

Thomas asked his boss if it was too late to cancel her interview, but his boss stubbornly insisted that the interviews would go as scheduled. So one-by-one, he interviewed the candidates until the last interview of the day – Joyce.

Joyce arrived dressed like a sorority girl – white, fur-lined boots matching her white, fur-lined coat, which she wore over a leopard-print blouse – though the getup probably would've been more appropriate on a woman less than half her age. Joyce had a very cheerful disposition and was clearly excited about the opportunity to work at a TV station. After introductions, Thomas's boss asked an easy question. "So, tell us, why did you apply for this position?"

Joyce's smile grew larger. "Well, I want a challenging job, and making web pages really interests me!"

"So, how many web sites have you worked on?" Thomas asked.

"None yet."

There was a brief moment of silence in the room.

"OK, so..." Thomas was eager to get things back on track. "Ours are built in PHP, XHTML, and CSS. Have you worked with those?"

"Yes, I know HTML and the CCS."

Really, did she just say "the CCS" instead of "CSS?" "And what about PHP?"

"No, I don't know that yet." Her smile faded a bit, as she must have understood how the interview was going. "But I'm very motivated and I'm a fast learner!"

She had spirit and a great attitude, but almost no qualifications. Thomas all but checked out at that point, letting his boss take the reins. Thomas was hardly paying attention, but did hear one last amazing answer. His boss asked "Joyce, what do you think qualifies you for this position?"

"Well," she began, seeing this as a chance to turn things around, "I use a computer every day, for seven, eight hours! And I have lots of programs installed on it!"

A few minutes later, they said their goodbyes and thanked her for her time. Joyce was polite and cheerful until the end, even though it was clear she wouldn't be getting a call back.

By now it was after 5:00, so Thomas was about to get ready to go home. Still, something was bothering him.

"So Mike," he asked to his boss, "I don't understand why we brought her in for an interview. Her résumé was terrible, and her interview wasn't much better."

"Well, for one," he began, "I admired her persistence. She's called about the position several times and showed the most genuine interest out of all the candidates."

"I see," Thomas responded, still thinking that it had been a waste.

"Also, we don't want a sexual discrimination lawsuit."

 

The Nightmare Dream Job

It couldn't have been a more ideal position. It was an ad for a company just over 100 miles from his small town, but they'd allow Kirk S to telecommute. Since his wife's job wasn't very portable, this was very important to him. Still, if he ever had to go to the office for any reason, it was within reach – less than a two hour drive. Plus the skillset they were looking for synched almost completely with what he'd been doing for the last few years. Excitedly, he took the drive to their office for his interview.

The technical interview was going well, so one of the interviewers started to give some detail about their operations. "So what we're doing is going to revolutionize subscription monitoring." He went on to explain that they worked with hundreds of magazines and newspapers with millions of subscribers. They were working on an application that would push information about subscribers' accounts and subscriptions to the subscribers' computers, assuming they had the desktop software installed. Kirk was dubious, as he'd never cared that much about a magazine subscription to require a monitoring service for it, but whatever. The pay was good and they seemed to know what they were talking about.

"So," Kirk asked, "how often are you feeding this information to subscribers?"

"Once per minute."

Kirk's jaw dropped. "Seriously? How often does this information change?"

He dodged the quesiton. "We feel that the customer deserves to know current information about their transactions. Don't you agree?"

"Well, what if their information hasn't changed in the last minute?"

At this point, the two interviewers exchanged a glance that Kirk could only interpret as meaning "he's an ignorant outsider, and he totally doesn't 'get it.'" Defiantly, one of the interviewers contended "Look, we already have the service written. It sends updates once per minute. That's how it works, and that's how we want it to work, and that's how we'll want you to keep it working. Our millions of subscribers deserve the best!"

They'd said "millions" earlier, but it hadn't really registered with Kirk before. "What kind of bandwidth do you guys have?"

"A T-1. Why?"

Some quick mental math revealed to Kirk that there was no way a single T-1 could handle a minimum of a million packets (roughly 17Mb/s) dispatched every sixty seconds. He told this to the interviewers, who clearly hadn't thought of it before, and sent him on his way to someone in HR.

She assured Kirk that he'd done well in the interview and that they'd probably make an offer. "So when can you start? Do you have a place in Omaha yet?"

"Um, no. The ad said this was a telecommuting position."

"Oh, right, it is! After the first year, you'll get to work from home for a day or two a week!"

Between the misleading job posting, the utter futility of the project, and the fact that they were betting the company on a service that would be mathematically impossible to provide, he wished them luck and started the long drive home.