It Depends (from David)
Several years back, a "small startup on the verge of explosive growth" emailed me back after I had sent over my resume. They were interested in an interview. I went there, and their "office" was an old house in some shady downtown neighborhood that had four home-built computers jumbled together on an improvised table in the dining room with two guys in wooden chairs sitting around it. For a startup, I didn't think it was that bad, as many start up that way.
One of the two guys told me that he was "one of the CEOs, the President of the Company, and Head of Research and Development." I suspect he might have also said "and supreme leader of the world" if the other guy at the table, i.e. the other CEO, hadn't been there. I grabbed a wooden chair and sat at the table for our interview.
The interview was fairly straightforward, and the CEO (and the other CEO) didn't seem to disagree with my salary expectations. He told me the company had lots of "biiiiiiig" clients and was just starting to really grow. To gauge my technical skills, he asked me to do some simple coding tasks which were printed on a sheet of paper.
The first exercise read something like this:
Write a program in C# that receives a number N via console, and then prints the first N primes. Example: 6 1 2 3 5 7 11
"Quick question," I asked the interviewer, "the task tells me to print the first N primes, but then lists '1' in the output."
"Okay," he said, inquisitively raising his left eyebrow, "so...?"
"Err," I stumbled, "'1' isn't a prime."
"Hmm," he replied, "well, that depends."
"It depends?" I questioned, unsure if this was some sort of trick question, "it depends on...?"
"Well," he responded, "there are times when '1' is prime, and times when it's not."
I was tempted to ask what it depended on, but just decided to leave it at that. I quickly finished the exercise and left shortly after that.
Too Good to be True (from Greg L)
In an effort to find top-notch candidates, my consulting company put up a website that had a pretty difficult, broad-scoped multiple choice quiz on it. Anyone could take the quiz and, upon completion, had the opportunity to submit their score, some basic contact information, and a résumé. It was a pretty tough quiz: the company’s brightest guy took it, and he had only scored 84%. We figured it'd be a great benchmark.
The website got some great exposure, and next thing we knew, résumés came flying in. Most scored between 65 and 75, and were all very good candidates. As time passed, the influx of résumés reduced, and so far, no one scored higher than that magical 84.
One night, just as the contest was coming to a close, I received an email from the website proclaiming that someone had scored a 92. I eagerly pulled up his resume to see what he’s done in his past to warrant such a high score. I started perusing through it, only to find that he’s had one job listed on his resume, and it looked like it was just some website he’s done as a hobby. Looking at the dates of schooling, I could gather he was in his very early 20s. This didn’t quite make sense. The test was designed to gauge experience, not book smarts.
Sensing something was up, I pulled up the web logs to see what had happened. After seeing an entry point from Google, I noticed he pulled up the test page, submitted the test, pulled up the test again, submitted it again two minutes later, submitted yet again 40 seconds later, and again, and again. He took the test over and over and over for a period of two hours a grand total of 140 times!
The next day, the candidate emailed me to see what I thought of his score. I politely replied, saying that taking the exam 140 times wasn't quite the behavior we would expect from a consultant. He replied with the following.
Hi Greg, Anyone with 1 or more years in .Net could probably pass that quiz. I was trying to learn from it. Is there another quiz that I could take? I am not sure I took it over that many times. I took it maybe 20 times but your number is overboard. Regards, C------
I considered replying, but decided I shouldn't waste anymore time with this clown. No matter, a full 18 minutes later, he followed up with another email.
Dear Greg, I really apologize for taking the test so many times. As I said I was trying to learn from it. I hope this does not affect my possible future employment with ------- in the past. It seems to be a very great company. Is it still possible to apply in the future? Sincerely, C------