It Seemed Like too Much Work
We interviewed a candidate for a developer position once. This guy was a character. His resume was great, his code samples were great, but the total package was somewhat - unusual. At one point in the interview, he mentioned, "That was about the time I drove my car off a mountain." Interest piqued, we had to ask, "Why did you drive your car off a mountain?"
The story was long, but it boiled down to a lesson in stupidity. He drove half way up the mountain on day 1, camped out that night, and by the next morning his car was covered in dust. The morning light blazing down on his dust-covered windshield made it opaque at best. Instead of wiping the dust off, he just drove blindly up the winding mountain road and over the edge. When queried about why he didn't clean his windshield, he just said, "it seemed like too much work".
Somehow he cheated Darwin on that deal and wound up in our office, and we struggled to rescue some positive aspects of our candidate from that story (we failed), but we continued on with the interview anyway, perhaps just to see what he'd say next. We gave him a simple database schema design question (written out on paper) with 3 requirements and asked him to draw his database design.
He scribbled for 5 minutes or so before proudly mumbling, "I guess I'm done". He managed to satisfy 1 of the 3 requirements and when asked about the fate of the missing 2 requirements he huffed and puffed for a bit, looked exasperated, then said, "Well, to be honest, I didn't really read this thing."
Before he left, never to be seen by us again, we made one last request. "Please, drive safely". Our office was on a dirt road and cars had a tendency to accumulate dust during the day. We couldn't have any of our employees being run over by this candidate on the way out.
A Nice New Pair of Kicks
From Martin Burns, during his tenure as recruiter for an actuarial search firms ...
I was working for a national contingency agency, and our specialty was actuarial search. Once of our major long-term clients was one of the top employee benefit consulting firms in the country (name withheld for all the usual reasons).
For this search, they were looking for a top-level actuarial consultant. For those of you unfamiliar with the actuarial field, well let's just say that finding an actuary who's comfortable in front of people is kind of like finding a Leprechaun who doesn't lie about where their pot of gold is hiding.
So when I sourced a guy in Texas who was personality+ with phenomenal scores on the grueling actuarial exams & open to relocation nationally, I did the foolish thing of assuming I'd already made a placement. We got on the phone with our client immediately. They loved what they heard; phone screened him for a role in Chicago, and booked flight up while they were still talking. I started doing the money dance in my head, thinking about the new Bang & Olufson speakers I would buy, all of that. This would be a 6 figure salary at a 35% fee (ahh, the idiot 90's).
I phone prepped him, but since I was cocky about this one, didn't do more than say to him "make sure you wear a suit", to which he said: "Don't worry Martin, I've got a new blue one with a nice new pair of kicks." I'm from Boston. I though "kicks" meant shoes.
They met him at the airport with a limo & two senior consultants. The called me the minute the car pulled up to their office and one of them could cut away. They didn't yell, but I think that would have been better. In a (very) cold tone, they said: "He's wearing a powder blue leisure suit with cowboy boots."
Shockingly, I didn't get my Bang & Olufson's. I still don't have them.
I'm a Perfect Ten!
From Deanna Peugeot ...
I was interviewing a candidate for a testing position. The product was a linux based embedded system, so, obviously, Linux skills were a must. This guy had a decent resume, and interviewed reasonably well, until I got to the subject of Linux...
Me: How would you rate your Linux skills on a scale of 1 to 10?
Tester: Ten, definately.
Me: What command would you run to find a file in Linux?
Tester: I don't know
Me: Would you still rate your skills as a ten?
Tester: Of course
The scary thing is that he was the best of all the interview candidates and we hired him!
I Forgot to Introduce You
From the interviewee for an entry-level programmer position who asked to remain anonymous ...
After graduating, I was fortunate enough to know some one (my cousin) inside of a fairly large organization. He offered to help me get a job there and set up an interview with Mark, a senior development manager. Before the interview, he warned me: "Whatever you do, don't go through HR. They are completely useless. They don't know how to judge a candidate." We both laughed; I guess that was a funny joke.
When I arrived for the interview, I was met by the receptionist, who escorted me to Mark's extremely large and lavish office. Mark welcomed me and asked me what was up. I decided to reiterate what was apparently a very humorous joke, and told him "I'm looking for a job. I thought of going through HR but everyone says they are useless. So I came to you."
Time stopped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the receptionist stiffen up as if imitating a wooden plank. Mark fixed me with a steely gaze. Hours (probably seconds) passed.
"I'm sorry; I forgot to introduce you," Mark said, motioning to the receptionist, "this is Betsy; she's VP of HR here."
Several more eternal seconds passed as I began to understand the magnitude of my faux pas. It became clear that Betsy was simply waiting for me at the receptionist's desk and wasn't actually the receptionist. I tried to decide if I should simply bolt from the room, or try to sort things out. I went for the tactical retreat: "Err, maybe I should just leave?"
"No," Mark replied, " I think you should actually explain yourself."
At this point the blood is racing, so I'm not sure exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of "It's not that HR is bad. It's more that you know me better than they do and are more capable of assessing me." A minute or so later I stumbled out of the room gasping for air. Despite all that, I still received an offer. Thank goodness for nepotism.
From Don B ...
In the late '90s, the company I was working for was trying to hire a technical writer. Our boss thought it was important that the developers, all four of us, interview each candidate as a group. Since I'm terrible at conducting interviews, I figured I would sit back and let our manager and the other developers do all the work. My plan back-fired.
When my manager asked the candidate if she had any questions for us, she responded with a fairly tame question: What do each of you like about working here? Yup, I blew it. Not being prepared and trying to come off as casual and funny I answered, What I love about working here is Pants-Free Fridays.
Stunned silence was followed by forced laughter. After a few more quick and awkward questions the interview was over. I was politely, and thankfully, asked not to sit on any more interviews. We ended up offering her the position but for some reason she turned it down.