José knew exactly what he expected from the interview. The company was a startup, located in one of those up-and-coming urban industrial parks. They claimed to want the "best and brightest", and warned about long hours but promised interesting and exciting work. In other words, a typical startup. José was willing to roll the dice and see where they went.

Their building reinforced those expectations with 25,000sq. ft. of warehouse-turned-office-building, decorated in late-modern-artsy-fartsy furnishings. The receptionist showed José to the break room, wedged him into an uncomfortable but attractive chair, and offered him some coffee. "Your interviewer should be out in a moment."

José waited fifteen minutes before flagging down the receptionist.

"Oh, we don't know where Matthew is. We're waiting for Nick or Lisa to get in."

When Nick finally arrived, he apologized. "But, do you have a copy of your résumé? I wasn't expecting to do an interview today." Nick didn't have any prepared questions, either. He danced across a few topics, like, "So, what sort of databases are you familiar with?" and "What do you do at your current job?"

It was less an interview and more a conversation. It didn't tell José much about how the company did things, but it also didn't seem to have provided them very much information about him. At this point, the only thing they knew about his technical skills was that he knew what his résumé said.

When Nick took him down to Lisa's cube, José assumed Nick was just the casual pre-screener for the interview. Lisa, one of their database people, had to be the technical screener, right? After the first minute, though, José discovered she was as unprepared to do an interview as Nick. She covered the same, "So what do you do?" territory Nick had, revealed meaningless details, like the fact that she liked pie, and then took a hard left into Wacky Park.

"We're thinking of storing table names and columns in a database table. It's an idea we've been floating around."

"You… wait. Instead of actually creating tables in the database? You just want a table that defines what a table should look like?"

Lisa nodded. "Yeah! Then we wouldn't have to define structures or deal with any of that mess."

José assumed this was a trick question. "But there'd be no normalization. And how are you going to report on this and enforce relationships? You've already got a tool that lets you define columns and tables- it's called a database. Implementing a database in a database is probably more awkward than it's worth."

Lisa's smile sublimated into vapor. "Well, that's one opinion."

Lisa dropped José off at Matthew's office. The errant lead-developer had been found, and was ready to do an interview. "Now, I'm going to ask you some technical questions," Matthew said, "so just let me know if this makes sense to you. What does it mean to 'shard' a database?" José explained paritioning and its benefits. "And if you were building a CDN, how would you manage performance and updates?" José explained edge caching and a few high level approaches for keeping data synchronized. "So," Matthew said. His casual demeanor cracked. "How do you guys handle these things at your current employer?"

José replied, "We use a third-party to provide our CDN. I can't really go into more detail- our actual methods are company property, and I'm not really comfortable discussing that. But if you have any specific technical questions?"

"No, no, that's fine," Matthew said, although his tone communicated that it was anything but. "Let me go introduce you to our CTO, 'J.K.'."

J.K's office looked more like a mezzanine than an office. It was like a loft in a library. "Thanks for coming in, Joe. We value community here, and I need people that will be my team players. Are you interested in being a team player?"

"Well, I certainly could be," José said. "Everyone I've met's been really great."

"Well, there's a bright future here." J.K. went on to talk about how great his company was and how great his plans were. "I don't know what Lisa told you, but we're working on a really original approach to data management that's going to change the way we do business. It's going to be our core product."

A few days later, the company called to tell him that while they appreciated his time, they wanted someone who was more technical. Given J.K.'s enthusiasm for their database-in-a-database, José agreed that he probably wouldn't be a good fit.