I was interviewing candidates for a junior web application development position. The candidate had, so far, seemed very knowledgeable and more than met the requirements of the position. I had, in fact, almost made my decision that I would make Joe an offer, but I had to ask just one more question.
I'm a big believer in wide-ranging open-ended interview questions in an interview, because they make the candidate think AND talk, and can often reveal insights into their personality or work styles. I asked the candidate, "we've all had projects we've worked on that didn't go exactly as we might have liked, for any number of reasons. Maybe the project got pressured to finish early and you had to rush your work, for example. Or maybe technology has changed since, giving you a much better way to complete a task, or you've learned a different way to accomplish the task. Tell me about a project that, in hindsight, you wish you could go back and re-work, and why?"
This question has been very helpful for me in interviews. I learn about the candidate's humility, or lack thereof, as well as provide an opportunity for them to perhaps highlight some thinking process of theirs that they feel I haven't yet witnessed, or to talk about something they learned, or to brag on how they continually read and research into new technologies. It once again did not disappoint me.
I have never had an opinion on a candidate reverse itself so completely and quickly. Joe first won the humility points by saying "No, no, never, when I finish a project, I know I've done it right. It's done the best way possible!" (wouldn't we ALL love to work with this person on a team project?) and then dug his grave even further by telling me "besides, I couldn't go back and rework a project anyway. As soon as I've finished and installed the application, I delete the code. I like to start every project with a clean slate, I don't believe in copying from what I did previously. I just start it over brand-new!"
This is from an actual resume that we got for a Receptionist position...
Lowering Standards (from Eyal & Hila)
The company I work at takes the search for new employees very seriously. We pride ourselves on having immensely high standards. For example, the last position that had to be filled on the C++ server team took literally months and several dozen interviews to fill. So when a developer left, no one was looking forward to starting a round of interviews again.
All new interviewees are first given a written test for basic C++ competence, that includes such questions as "What are const member functions?" or "What is wrong with the following code sample?"
Once a person has answered reasonably some of the questions and managed to have an intelligent conversation about those he did not answer with whoever is going over the test with him, he is sent up to higher management for an actual interview.
I was sent in to go over the test with a person who shall remain nameless. She was greeted by my boss, given the test, and left alone for the mandatory half hour. I went in to see her without having a chance to look at her resume, so I just went straight at it.
The first third or so of the test was relatively uneventful. She managed to define some of the basic terms, and get the trick questions wrong, as did most people.
Next was the most informative question of the test: pointing out and correcting the myriad of flaws in a short program. The most obvious of which is a function receiving a string parameter by value and non-const, so it was no surprise that she had circled "std::string", a standard library string object, probably to note that it should be passed as a const reference.
"What's this?" I asked her when we got to talking about her changes, hoping for the first intelligent answer of the interview.
"Oh, that..." she said, "I didn't know what this 'std' means."
"I see," I said, and ended the interview immediately.