Got tales from your own interview? Then share them, why don'tcha!

The Raybinator (from Ray Smith)
My first interview after university was with a small local finance company applying for the position of "database engineer". Having only a little experience with Access, SQL Server and MySQL, I wasn't too hopeful of getting the job, but figured that the both the general interview experience and getting an idea of what would be expected from database work in the workplace would be worthwhile anyway.

Surprisingly I got an interview the following week and turned up on the day in the usual straight-out-of-school ill-fitting suit. I was greeted by a giant of a man who met me with a handshake, a crude joke about a prostitute in a bar, and a manly slap on the back that nearly knocked me over. A little odd, but I guess that's just the crazy world of business, thought my young naive mind.

We went through into his office and I sat down on the chair opposite him, across his stereotypical "big boss" desk with him in his big "evil overlord" chair, and we got down to the nitty-gritty of the interview. Did I live locally? Did I like the town? Was I involved in any sports? Did I go out on the weekends? What was my favorite beer? He must have sensed my nerves and was easing me into it a bit.

After about ten minutes of small talk, we were interrupted by someone walking in. Well, not just anyone, but a "certain" someone named Steve that I had gone to school with. Although his tribal tattoo wasn't visible through his shirt, his spiked hair and orange tan were unmistakable.

"Wha'sup Ray-bo! The Ray-binator, Ray-man!" he said, slapping my shoulder. I quietly let out a "hey" as he picked up some file off the boss's desk and walked out. Whatever little enthusiasm I had left at this point was gone; working in a small company with Steve was not part of my career plan.

"Aha, I see you know Steve then?"

"Yes we were at school together", said I.

"What was he like in school then?" It was really starting to turn into a top class interview.

Not caring much at this point I replied with "Bit of an idiot really, never got along with him."

"HAHA! EXCELLENT!" boomed my interviewer, who pressed some buzzer on his desk. They still have those? I wondered, Did each employee have their own dedicated buzzer? I never found out.

In walked Steve, to be met with a finger pointed at him and "YOU'RE A GREAT BIG IDIOT STEVE!!! GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE AND GET BACK TO WORK!" followed up with bouts of laughs and desk-slapping.

At this point, had there been a startled deer in headlights nearby, the aforementioned deer would have admitted that even by his standards I looked utterly bewildered, terrified, and confused.

"So anyway, on to the more technical part of the job. Access... tell me about it."

"Well," I replied, "ummm... it's Microsoft's database program, great for small scale purposes, but not really designed for bigger scale—"

"Good, good, you're right. It's what we use here, it's excellent isn't it?" he interrupted. Then his eyes narrowed, one hand rubbed his chin for what seemed like a minute, followed by "Now, do you know about..." and his hand flew away from his chin to point straight at me, "MDE FILES???"

"Eeek. Yes." I squeaked.

"EXCELLENT!" he shouted, slamming his hands down on the desk in front of him. "When can you start?"

"Umm... I'll let you know", I replied, and the interview was, thankfully, over.

Later that night I get a call at home, "I'll have to pick you up tomorrow morning at eight, something's gone wrong and we need you to start looking at our system right away"

I made my excuses - something about accepting another job in Russia or Nigeria - and fortunately never heard from him again. Nor did I as I halfway suspected I would, ever see my first interview on one of those "hilarious" hidden camera TV shows.


Copy & Paste Error (from Ray Smith)
I work on the documentation team at my company and was tasked with bringing on a new team member. One candidate in particular stood out and did fairly well during the interviews and had decent writing samples. But she did have some strikes against her on her record – namely, jumping around between IT and non-IT jobs – and that made me question her ability to create good documentation from scratch.

For those that do not know, documentation that goes beyond API calls and command-line regurgitation is not all that easy to write well, and poorly written overviews and "How To" documentation can be really horrible for customers.

I express my concerns to her and asked if she'd be interesting in a writing challenge to see how well she could write technical material. She agreed, so I gave her a list of potential topics and told her to work on them over the week as a way to prove that she could write the topics well and from scratch.

The following Monday, she turned in her work and it seemed pretty comprehensive and complete. But then I noticed something strange: there was some key terminology that she used that was not in any of the source material I had given her. Looking closer, I realized it was our old terminology used in a previous version of our software.

Curious, I did a quick search and discovered the source: someone had posted our product’s documentation on their website, and the candidate had simply copy/pasted the entire section. She even left in the original typos and grammatical errors.

I'm not sure why she didn't think that maybe, just maybe, the documentation team might recognize their own documentation.


Yes, I know (from Ika B)
A few years back, I applied for a System Engineer position at a mid-sized start-up company. After a brief telephone interview, they invited me to come in for a technical interview. I of course accepted the invitation, and came in a few days later to meet with the technical lead and another system engineer.

"Do you know Linux?" the technical lead inquired. Before I could finish saying the word "yes", he cut me off, "that's good, good. We've been using it here since day one, and are generally pretty happy with the set-up."

"Let me ask you," he said, somehow cutting himself off, "what about Solaris?"

"Yes, I do—"

"Wonderful! It's not something we're hugely in to, but it's good to know. Now let me ask you... do you know how to allow certain subnets to access to particular fileshares?"

I thought about the question for a couple seconds to formulate a good response. Just as I was about to answer, he blurted out exactly how he did that task a few weeks ago. I simply nodded and smiled.

The rest of the interview progressed in a similar manner, with him either telling me what he's done in Linux or asking me if I knew the answer; he didn't seem to want the actual answer, just if I knew what it was. He could have just as well asked me a question about quantum physics, and my nod would likely have the same effect. When the interview ended, I thanked them for the time and wondered if I'd ever hear back; after all, my only technical response was "yes, I know the answer."

A day later, I received a call with a job offer. Apparently, the team leader was very satisfied with my skills.

I did end up accepting the job, but I never had the heart to tell the team lead that it was far the easiest job interview I had.