It was 1992 and I was fresh out of school trying to get a job. My Political Science degree wasn't doing anything for me, so I decided to try out a new field: information technology. I eventually landed an interview that went surprisingly well until we got to the technical part ...
Interviewer: So, would you consider yourself to be technically proficient? Sam: Well, I enjoyed putting models together when I was little.
Needless to say, I never got the job. Almost fifteen years later, though, I'd be able to answer it differently: For the past dozen or so years I've been in various stages of technical positions from network management to database administration to project management to application development. I still like to put models together, too!
Interview By Proxy From Stephan ...
After digging through a pile of resumes for a junior developer position, I settled on a few for an in-person interview. When the day came around for one particular candidate's interview, the receptionist told me that there were two people in the waiting room wanting to see me. By all accounts, a husband and wife. That was a bit confusing, but I called them into a meeting room and had the following conversation ...
Stephan: So what is it that I can do for you?
Man: Yes, we have come for the interview.
Stephan: Interview? For the programming position? Man: Yes, we come to do interview for our son Rajib. Stephan: Excuse me? You're here on his behalf? Man: Yes, we do interview. He's very good boy and he do good job to you. Woman: Yes, very good boy. Stephan: Ummm ... err ... I normally talk to candidates directly ... Man: Yes, we here for him. You interview with us.
I wasn't really sure what to do, so I did the interview. I asked all the technical questions I had and I'm happy to report that not only were they answered very well, but Rajib was apparently more than willing to work long hours, be a team player, and contribute a lot. After all, his father told me so. But unfortunately for Rajib, an *actual* candidate turned up and secured the position.
The PROBOL Expert From Jeff L ...
To help with client customization, my company developed a proprietary language called PROBOL. A major downside to this is that it's almost impossible to find programmers that are willing to spend most of their day developing in it. Because of that, I always made it a point to bring it up early on in the interview so that we didn't waste eachother's time.
One enthusiastic candidate waited for me to finish my disclaimer on the language, then immediately said, "Wow, that should be fun. I just finished a book on PROBOL last week!"
Never mind that he might not have been lying outright, but might instead have been confusing the language with either COBOL or PROLOG. Back then, the hiring pool was pretty big. "NEXT!"
The Quintessential Übergeek From Rob ...
After four grueling interviews (HR, the CFO, the Development VP, and the Product Manager), I was told that I would wrap up the day with Leonard, the company's resident "technical guru." The HR manager warned me that "Leonard "can be a little difficult at times," but assured me that I'd do "just fine." Not knowing exactly what to expect, I was ushered in to a conference room and left to await Leonard.
A short while later, in walked the quintessential übergeek: hair sprouted wildly from everywhere (head, face, arms), overweight, filthy khakis, a shirt that was probably bright white when Jimmy Carter was president, and the obligatory sandals. I felt relieved: finally, someone I could relate to.
Leonard spent the first thirty minutes talking -- without a break -- about all of the incredibly detailed nuances of database query optimization. I could have easily walked out, grabbed a bite to eat, and returned without him ever knowing: he was practically oblivious to me. After he finished a diatribe on poorly designed hash-bucket join algorithms, he finally said: "oh yeah, I'm supposed to evaluate you technically."
He spent the next five minutes asking one of the most ridiculous questions I've ever heard. It was something about replication parameters for a slave database server. Fortunately, he was so excited with his brainteaser that he immediately launched into a ten-minute answer. After that, he stood up, thanked me for coming, and walked out the door. Throughout the entire interview, I said a total of maybe six words.
I waited for a couple of minutes and nothing happened. I finally left the conference room and strolled down the hall, eventually finding my way back at the reception area. Freaked out by all of this, I just bolted, never to hear back from them again. I was happy with that.