The Company Pond (from Adam)
Our company had one of those decorative ponds located in front of the building where people can gaze out their cubicles and dream of being outside. It looked nice enough, but it was disgustingly dirty with runoff and probably about half full of goose droppings.
I was interviewing a nice-enough woman for a position with our company when my receptionist sheepishly burst into the room.
"Uh, I hate to interrupt, but I have to ask if you happened to leave your children in your car during the interview?"
Horrified, the woman said yes, that she hadn't arranged childcare, she was sorry and if they were okay.
"Yes," said the receptionist, "but it looks like they've decided to go swimming."
We looked out the window and sure enough, there were two naked children swimming up and down the pond. The woman excused herself and didn't come back to finish the interview.
The Sixth Guy (from John)
Having done an hour long technical phone screen and then a five-question programming test, I was feeling good about an in-person interview. It was scheduled from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, with six interviewers in succession – nothing unusual, at least for this particular big-name company.
I've gone through my share of interviews, and I was able to get along with the different interviewers and get good response from them. Things were looking up great. And then came the sixth guy.
Aside from constantly checking his phone, not making any eye contact, and positioning his legs on the table to give me a full frontal view of his crotch through his shorts... he really seemed to have a facination with hardware.
"Can you describe the physics of a transistor?"
"Hmm... I think I studied it back in school, but I don't remember any of the specific ."
"So can you describe the physical structure of a Flash memory cell?"
"Not really; my background is in systems design. Semiconductor device physics are not my strong suit—"
"Ok, can you at least tell me how DRAM memory cell works?"
"I don't know."
"Moving on, why would one choose a power generation using the relative motion of conductors and fluxes instead of the modial interaction of magneto reluctance and capacitive duractance?"
"I don't even know what half of those words mean."
It went on like this for the entire hour. But it was the last line from the interviewer that was the real kicker. His true ace in the hole.
"So did you actually prepare for the interview at all, or did you think you can just wing it?"
I'm almost certain he put together that entire line of ridiculous questions just so he could use that line.
You Just Do It (from Lawrence W)
In the early 90's I worked for a large bank managing a fairly complex software application for the cash department. This application was written in COBOL on IBM AS/400 and made extensive use of the built-in AS/400 relational database (it wasn't called DB2 then). Unfortunately, no one on my team had a whole lot of experience on the AS/400, so it was a bit challenging to truly gauge candidates' expertise.
We explained our predicament to everyone we interviewed, and one particular gentleman was very receptive to that, and said that, if nothing else we'd learn a few new things about AS/400. He was significantly older than my team and had a solid five years of experience on AS/400 and over ten on the previous platform (System/38).
The guy was certainly likeable, but when we asked him technical questions instead of giving direct answers he usually would answer "you just do it!" So questions like "what command would you use to compile a COBOL program?" or "how would you select certain records to be processed from a file without coding the selection in your COBOL program?" were answered with "you just do it!"
We didn't hire him. To this day I still wonder whether he knew the answers but couldn't communicate or if he just didn't know the answers.
The Exclusive Search (from Jason)
A little more than a year ago, I was on the job hunt and had sent my résumé to a handful of different companies. I scheduled a few first interviews and went on to have a handful of second interviews. In retrospect, there was one opportunity I should have stop pursuing after the first interview.
My first warning, which I pointedly ignored, was driving to the very center of the largest industrial park in the state. My second warning, also pointedly ignored, was the half-finished building with tarpaulin stretched across one side of it and the stickers still on the glass. My third, fourth and fifth warnings came in rapid succession with the open-plan office ("my" office as it were), the drastic age differences (median age was 60 years old, and I was in my twenties), and the "we use COBOL because it is stable" comments – but all of these I ignored. I was willing to try a second interview, despite having only the barest grasp of COBOL and not really caring for the travel time each day.
A few days before the second interview with this company, I received a compelling offer from another one and decided to accept that. Out of courtesy, I called to cancel the second interview. That's when things got weird.
Never in my life, before or since, have I received such a tirade of abuse at the declination of the position. Apparently, I was throwing away my career and giving up the opportunity of a lifetime. I explained that the commute was too long and that the technology wasn't for me, but they responded that I could simply move closer and reminded me that COBOL was very stable.
Then I mentioned that I accepted another offer, and things took a turn for the worse. "How dare you pursue other opportunities while we are talking to you," was the friendly version of what the recruiter said to me.
About six months later, I found out that they filled the position - I pray for that poor soul every night.