The PHP Candidate (from Tony)
Before bringing people in for an interview, we give them a simple questionnaire about PHP. While this might turn off some folks like Big Picture Thinker, we've found that it tends to weed out those certain developers.

The questions are no-brainers for experienced PHP developers, and require half a brain to Google. Following is a response I got to the question, What causes the PHP error 'Headers already sent' and how can you fix it?

To solve this follow these steps

  1. Download the file mentioned in the error message.
  2. Open that file in a notepad.
  3. Check that the very first characters are <;?php
  4. Check that the very last characters are ?>

To be sure about the end of the file, do this:

  1. Place the cursor between the ? and >
  2. Now press the DELETE key on your computer
  3. Keep that key pressed
  4. For at least 15 seconds
  5. Now type > and
  6. save without pressing any other key at all.

 

The High-Security Interview (from Dave Williams)
Back about ten years ago I interviewed with a company in the next town. Their ad offered a pay rate of about 75% of the local average, but I was between jobs at the moment, and their location and hours would have made it simple to share a ride with my wife on her way to work.

The first interview was with the Chief Programmer, who actually seemed to know what he was doing. The company was maintaining some oddball vertical market software called "CALDRIN", which was written in dBase (a platform that, for the record, was pretty much dead even back then), and my role would be doing various bug fixes and upgrades.

"I should mention," the Chief Programmer added, "the advertised pay rate was for developers already experienced with CALDRIN; since you only have dBase experience, we wouldn't be able to pay you at that rate." vUpon further inquiry, the salary I could expect would be about 50% of the market average. I told him that it was already a stretch, and that I'd have to decline. As I started getting ready to leave, the Chief Programmer jumped up.

"Wait, wait," he said, gesturing for me to sit back down, "let me go check on something." He then dashed out of the room and, a good ninety seconds later, returned with another man.

"Great news," the Chief Programmer said, smiling, "I've secured a second interview with The Owner." He said those last two words with an eerie emphasis. The Owner took a seat in the small meeting room, and the Chief Programmer left the room.

Before he even said a word, The Owner reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and set it on the table. As he pulled a cigarette out and lit it, he muttered "hope you don't mind if I smoke." While this was a whole ten years ago, no one smoked in their office anymore.

Over the next two hours, The Owner sucked down one cigarette after another and talked about how secure his operation was. "We have a lot of competitors who would just love to get their hands on our work," he said, "we've even had a spy or two -- so we have to be extra careful. You're not a spy, are you?"

I joked that, if I was a spy, I certainly wouldn't admit to it. The Owner didn't find my remark funny, and it took a whole fifteen cigarettes (or fifteen minutes) to convince him that I was just a regular job seeker.

"You just gotta keep on top of things," he said, taking a long puff, "e-mail was a big security risk, so I've restricted it to internal-only. And there sure as heck aren't any floppy disks. Anywhere. In fact, I've glued the drives on all of the computers shut -- even if you snuck one in, it wouldn't work."

I was tempted to joke about USB keys, MP3 players, CF cards, or digital cameras, but I'm certain that would have made everyone's job there even worse. Needless to say I didn't get the job, but I did get something from the experience. I've used it many times as an example of how you can get tunnel vision on a problem. And who knows, there may still be someone out there who is certain his installation is secure, since he has the only key to the cabinet with the blank keypunch cards...

 

Overqualified
It was my first-ever "real" job interview, and I was pretty nervous. Across from me sat a man in what was clearly an old, worn-out suit and we were in a very cramped room in a very cramped office with very cramped workstations. Not that these conditions were unreasonable, I was willing and able to get any experience that would be offered to me.

"Were you the best in your class?" was the first question he asked.

"Well, my GPA was 3.7, but no I was no—"

"I see," he cut me off, "are you hard working?"

"Of course, and that's actually why I wasn't first in my class. I was involved with a lot of extra cir—"

"But do you get along well with others?"

The non-technical questions in this Interview From Hell continued for what seemed like an eternity. When the barrage ended, I was led to one of the cramped desks and given a stack of papers. Finally, it was the technical portion of the interview, where I'd really shine!

Or not. As it turned out, the papers were a psych-analysis composed of multiple choice answers and silly questions. It was by far more like a personality test that they blatantly plagiarized from some teen magazine.

Fortunately, the quizzes took no more than an hour to complete, and within another fifteen minutes or so, I was back in the cramped interview room.

"I get the feeling that you're stuck in your ways and ideas," the interviewer told me, "we really need self-starters who can think outside of the box."

"I'm sorry?" I was rather surprised by his comment, "I don't exactly have any 'ways or ideas' to be stuck in; I'm twenty years old and have only college experience."

"Well that's kind of it," he said, scrunching his nose, "your C#, SQL, and IT courses set you down the wrong path. We started this company right out of high-school and learned everything as we went along. That's the spirit we're really looking for."

A few years later, I looked up the company as I was curious to see how they were doing; turns out they weren't. In fact, one of the founders decided to go to university.