Although Brice hadn't been on the job for very long, he'd gotten pretty comfortable with leading technical interviews. He'd quickly compiled a stock set of questions that could weed out the hacks.

  • Questions that immediately disqualify you for the position if you get them wrong:
    • What is your first name?
    • Name a .NET language.
  • Questions that almost certainly disqualify you if you get them wrong:
    • What datatype would you use to store a string of characters?
    • Is it C sharp or C pound?

When Brice's company had five other developer positions to fill, he was called on for the technical portion of each interview. Not long ago, a candidate named Corey applied and was brought in for an interview. Brice couldn't put his finger on what it was exactly, but from the moment Corey walked in something just seemed... off.

Corey's résumé described him as a C# developer with some SQL experience, so Brice moved immediately to the easy SQL questions. He opened a new query editor window on his laptop and asked Corey to determine the number of rows in a table called "Parts." Corey looked down for a second, smirked, and looked back up. "I can't do it." Brice and his boss exchanged surprised glances.

"OK, well why don't you just get me all parts with a weight of 1.0."

Corey thought for a second, tapped his finger on the table a few times, and finally said "I can't do that either."

"How about getting a list of every part in the table?"

Corey shrugged.

Brice was stunned. He couldn't fathom what SQL experience Corey could possibly have that didn't require him to use a SELECT query. Anyway, even if he wasn't good with SQL, they needed good C# guys, so Brice, Brice's boss, and Corey went out to lunch to chat further. After ordering their food and some awkward small talk, Brice got back on topic, asking which features Corey liked in C# that aren't available in Java and C++.

"Well," Corey began, "I couln't really tell you. I've only done VB, never any C pou- er, sharp."

Brice was puzzled again. "I'm sorry, I thought it said on your résumé that you were a C# developer in your last job. I must've been looking at the wrong one..."

"No, that was mine. I noticed that typo after I sent my résumé out. I do VB." That's a heck of a typo, Brice thought.

"OK... well..." Brice was off his stock question list, and just asked the first technical question that came to mind. "In VB, how would you validate an XML document?"

Corey paused, and almost looked as though he was trying to gauge whether it was a trick question. Finally, he answered, "I'm not sure, I've never used XML. Is it new to the latest version of .NET or something?"

On the long drive back to the office, Corey shared a bit more of his background information. Not in regards to his experience as a developer, mind you, but his experience as a human being. "You know, it's been hard for me to find a job," Corey said. "After getting fired from my last job, I was kind of down in the dumps, you know? It was at the end of my probationary period. Plus, you know, the whole custody thing." What 'custody thing?' Brice thought. "My wife and her new husband are fighting for custody of my kids. And it's been hard to find a job. I mean, you guys are 90 minutes away from my house, but I'm kind of stuck there, what with the court orders keeping me in the county where I live."

When Corey started volunteering information about all of his personal crises, the interview moved past 'ridiculous' and into 'hidden camera TV show' territory. It was such a frightening and spectacular failure of an interview that Brice couldn't help but laugh. Brice and his boss reflected on the interview.

"That was odd," Brice said.

"Yeah, he's a little weak technically, but... you know... we really need another body..."

"Don't even joke about that! I mean... you're not serious — you can't be!" His boss's expression didn't change. He was serious. "I don't know about this. I really don't think he'd be of much benefit to us."

"I think I have some work he can do."

A few short weeks later, Brice had a new officemate. After working side-by-side with the guy, Brice can confirm that Corey had been honest during his interview — he really had no SQL or C# experience. Sharing an office with Corey, combined with his boss's decision to hire him in the first place ultimately led to Brice's departure. No doubt he's been replaced with another body.