All Over the Map (from Peter Banner)
On paper, the candidate looked like a perfect fit. He had a very impressive résumé and seven years of experience in C#, C++, VB .NET, SQL, Oracle, and pretty much every other technology under the sun. Obviously, I had high expectations, as did my co-interviewer.
However, five minutes into the interview, I got the feeling that the candidate’s résumé was a just a bit padded. For instance, when I asked him why he enjoyed programming in C# more than VB .NET, he answered “I like those things… the… umm… you know!” and then proceeded to draw a couple curly braces in the air with his forefinger.
Feeling cheated, I began to lose interest in asking any further tech questions, and let my colleague take it from there. After an excruciating twenty additional minutes, with each and every question answered with “well I know so much, so what can I say…”, I asked him if he had any questions for us.
To his credit, he could tell that the interview didn’t go all too well, largely because he couldn’t answer any of my technical questions. In a last ditch effort, he took the last minute or so to describe how he had worked on a very complicated project, and solved hard problems with team members from different cultures.
I was not sure where he was going with that, when I realized he was looking at me the entire time. You see, my parents were from India, I was born in Europe, and I grew up in the southwest United States. With my light-brown skin tone and jumbled accent, I’m often mistaken to be from Latin America or the Middle East.
“I have worked with people from so many different countries,” the candidate added, looking at me quizzically, “Brazil… Israel… ummm India… and, err…” He leaned in closely and smiled, “of course, Greece! I know so very much about those countries, and love them too. Especially Greece!” Sure enough, the interview ended shortly after and we never ended up hiring this connoisseur-of-everything.
Odd Shaped Container (from James V)
One of the hurdles that developer candidates must overcome before making it to the next round of interviews is a logic test. I know a lot find these tests to be ridiculous, but it wasn’t my decision and it certainly isn’t my call to change them. I just ask the questions.
A problem we often use was borrowed from Die Hard with a Vengeance, which in turn was borrowed from every single logic problem book in the world, even those silly little puzzle books at the grocery store check out. Everyone’s heard it, and it goes something like this.
There are two water bottles. One can hold exactly three gallons and one can hold exactly five gallons. There is no scale, no dividing lines, and the bottles are odd shaped, meaning no visual measurement is possible. You can, however, empty and fill the bottles with water as many times as you want. How would you get four gallons of water?
For HR reasons, we’re not allowed to even mention the Die Hard bit, so it’s a lame puzzle that everyone knows how to solve. We may as well put a mirror under their nose to see if they can fog it up. At least, that’s what I thought until we posed the question to a somewhat promising candidate. His response was this.
You cannot put four gallons into these bottles because they are odd shaped.
I was hoping for a “ha, just kidding,” but it never came. I guess the test actualy worked.
The Ideal Pair Programmer (from Ariel)
I was browsing the jobs on Craigslist and came across this rather... unique position (emphasis added).
Pair Programmer is an apprenticeship position whose primary responsibility will be to support one of the company's founders - whom we'll call the Senior Programmer for this description - in the design and implementation of software products. The Senior Programmer will dictate code in python, C++, or other languages to the Pair Programmer.