I think Tales from the Interview are always a special treat, in part because we don't run them very often. It may also be because at my last job, I was notorious for once making a candidate cry and have a panic attack, but I'm an incredibly nice interviewer! I swear!

Enjoy this veritable smorgasbord of terrifying interviews from 2012. - Remy

Trouble with Founders (from Ben C.)
A few of my friends (all CS people) were attending a startup mixer hosted at a little airport near our university. At one point, we all got kind of bored of talking with everyone, so we stepped outside to look at the planes. Soon enough, some business people in suits noticed the nerds talking outside so slowly started approaching.

They started talking with us, trying not to be too obvious about their intents. They asked where we were from and we told them our college. We asked what brought them here, and they said they were starting a company. We asked what it was for and they responded "Data Analytics". At this point, we were a little curious, so we tried to get some more information, and then they gave us their wonderful pitch.

"Ok so you know Star Trek?"

"Yes." most of us replied - after all, this was a group of CS geeks after all.

One of the suits laughed, "Heh. Great! Ok, so imagine you're Kirk, you turn to Spock, your technology officer and tell him, Spock, we've got a problem with the warp drive! And then Spock will plug data into his machine and tell you what's wrong. That's what we want our machine to do. It's going to like Siri but for data analytics."

Then, the other suit piped up, "Ok, here's the kicker: it's going to be agile coded, entirely in HTML5!"

At this point, my friends and I started glancing at each other, trying to keep it together.

One friend in the group decided to ask another question, "So, are you guys technical?"

"Oh no man, we're dreamers, we're entirely conceptual, although my friend here(One co-founder points to the other), he's much more technical than I am."

At this point, the technical fellow seems to want to show that he knows how to talk to us nerds.

"So ya, it's entirely in HTML5, all in the cloud, except, one thing I want to do, I want to kill this whole cloud thing, it's all just a network of computers, it's been around for ever, I hate that cloud name, just call it a network, but our network will be different. It will be an intelligent network that will be completely client-focused...Network 3.0. By leveraging the social web, we'll redefine the semantic web, and then get filthy rich!"

At this point, we just smiled and nodded, waiting for our opportunity to sneak off.

Moral of the story, if you're pitching a startup to CS people, first off you should get your Star Trek facts right, and also, you should really not suggest coding up one of the most advanced data analytics programs in a markup language.

Wasted Candidate (from Marcus D.)
A promising candidate for an open coder position emailed his CV and it was so good that we invited him to a half-day interview the following morning. A spoken interview proceeded by a 1 hour written test.

So this candidate comes and I am called by entrance people to pick him up. He is 5 minutes early, which is good. When I get there I was told that the candidate went back to parking lot to secure his bicycle and to just wait for him to come back. I see candidate from the window, hesitantly going one side near the loading dock (we are in a private park with lots of buildings, so it's common for people to be a bit disoriented), then another side near the parking areas(may be i should help him find his bicycle), then a third side around the garbage bins where I finally lost sight of him. I waited a total of 25 minutes when I received a call from Human Resources:

"He said he won't stay for interview, because we didn't treat him with enough consideration."


"He said he didn't appreciate we didn't tell him main entrance was closed"

I was dumbfounded. There's a huge map at the gate telling everybody where the current entrance is, (with a bicycle, it's a 2 minutes trip). For crying out loud, he actually spoke to someone who was in the building.

"And he said he came for an interview, but not for a technical test, he is not prepared for that"

Despite his credentials, I decided that it was best to accept the loss of this potential candidate.

What's the Square Root of Stupid? (from snoofle)
I applied for this job to upgrade an antiquated legacy system to modern technology. I expected all sorts of "How-would-you xxx?" type questions, but not like this:

Interviewer: How would you calculate a square root (java)?
Me: Math.sqrt(double)
I: What if there were no square root function?
M: I'd Google for John Carmack's formula to calculate it.
I: What if you couldn't use Google?
M: Assuming you mean no access to the internet, since I don't happen to know how to calculate a square root, I'd ask someone...
I: What if there were nobody to ask?
M: I'm not a math whiz; I'd drive to a bookstore and get a book on how to do it.
I: What if there were no bookstore?
M: Ok, so you want me to come up with a formula I've told you I don't know, in the next 10 seconds, without access to any of the usual reference sources?

I thanked him for his time and got up to leave when the interviewer countered "we're not through". I pointed out that he knew nothing of my skills, but I now knew everything I needed to know about him, that HE failed the interview, that he had wasted enough of my time, thanked him for his, and walked out.