Interviews are bidirectional in that you are supposed to be culling as much information about the prospective team, co-workers and management as possible, in the same way that they are trying to size you up.

There are all sorts of interviewing styles; the reasonable back-and-forth conversation that actually allows you to learn about each other, the written test to see if you can do a ten line program that you had as a homework assignment back in CS102, the keep-guessing-until-you-come-up-with-the-solution-I'm-thinking-of torture test, and so on. However, this tale centers on an interviewer trying so hard to come up with the perfect question, that not only was unanswerable, but there was no way for the interviewer to judge if any answer given was correct.

WWII pamphlet warning soldiers against Tamaro, Mosquitos and Japanese Soldiers

Adam had an interview for a developer position with a cable and networking company a while back. It was a fairly standard interview; three guys asking various questions ranging from past experience and schooling to technical questions. They did however seem to have a problem with his degree. You see, Adam had a Bachelors of Science with three majors. Yes, three majors; Math, CS, and English. Normally people are either surprised or impressed, but never before nor since has he actually been questioned about it so thoroughly.

It seems that none of the three people that interviewed him believed that he had three majors. They seemed to think that he had a major and two minors, or a major with two focuses. They grilled him a little about how many and which classes he had to take to get these "majors". So he was really a math guy that took a few programming and English classes right? Every few questions, the topic circled back to his majors.

Although he was able to answer their technical questions, it should have been clear that having a CS major qualified him for the job, but they seemed obsessed to make sure that he had really had three majors.

Finally, one of the guys dropped what has come to be known as "the bomb" on him. It was by far the single most ridiculous and impossible question anyone has ever been asked at an interview. They had received his resume a few days before, and apparently liked it. The interviewer told Adam that it took him a few days to come up with a question to really find out if he really did have three majors, and then let fly with his ultimate creation:


Any person who got a Math major should be familiar with the concepts of 
integration and differentiation, right? Any Computer Science Major should 
be familiar with the concepts of black box and white box testing, right? 
And you should be experienced as an English major with doing comparisons,
usually of literary works, but your own ideas, right? Okay, great, then
what I want you to do for me is to compare the concepts of integration
and differentiation to the concepts of black box and white box testing
in your own words.

Was he serious? He told Adam that he was indeed, serious. After a minute, Adam gave some kind of BS answer, but it really didn't matter.

Many years later, Adam was still not even remotely sure how he could have "properly" answered that question, and if he did, how the interviewer, who did not have those three majors, could possibly have evaluated the value of the answer.

It goes without saying that Adam didn't get the job, but after a question like that from a potential employer, Adam doubted that he would have wanted to work there anyway.