Hypothetical Question from Simon

I’m usually pretty good with interview questions, but this one threw me for a bit of a loop.

“Hypothetical question,” the Interviewer asked, “you have an irate customer on the phone. He says the server is not working correctly. He is demanding that an engineer goes on site to fix it. So what do you do?”

“Well,” I responded, “I arrange a time to go on site to fix it.”

“The customer demands that it’s fixed now.”

“Okay… I clear my schedule and arrange to meet today whenever he— ”

The interviewer cut me off, “customer says he can’t meet today.”

“I guess I’d offer to talk to an engineer on his side, and talk him through the system diagnosis.”

“No can do,” the interviewer shook his head, “customer wants you on site.”

“Umm,” I questioned, “but you just said he wanted it fixed now. If he’s still objecting, then I can offer to meet him tomorrow morning.”

“Oooh, right right.” The interviewer smiled, “Okay, good. So now you’re driving there, and – oh crap – you’re stuck in traffic and won’t make the meeting on time. Now what?

Figuring I had it aced I responded, “but the thing is, I would have left plenty early to ensure that I was there on time and—”

“No, no,” the interviewer cut me off again, “big traffic jam. Tanker overturned. You are so stuck in traffic.”

I sighed, “I guess I would ring ahead to let him know I’ll be late due to the tanker accident. I’d also try to give him an ETA.”

“Uh huh, uh huh. Okay, but the customer says that’s not good enough. He’s threatening to cancel the contract. Now what?”

“I suppose I’d call my manager and let me know about the situation.”

The interviewer snapped back, “nope, you can’t ring your manager. He’s not reachable!”

“I don’t know, I’d ask the customer to ring the office to discuss the contract issue?”

“Ah ha, but he refuses!”

By this point, I was at a complete loss and knew that, no matter what I’d say, there’d be another roadblock. I responded, “Well then, I would just ring you, since you appear to have the correct solution.”

He glared at me and shrugged. “Ok,” he said as he scribbled something down, “that’ll be all. Thanks for coming in.”

As it turned out, I never got called back for another interview. To this day, I still wonder how I could have solved that hypothetical question.


Tales From The Dump from Shawn G

When the day for my interview came, I faithfully followed the Google map directions only to find myself right at the gates of the city dump. Inside, there was a small shack with a city worker collecting fees and big bulldozer packing garbage into the ground. And the smell… it was incredible. Fortunately, I allowed for plenty of time and drove back to the freeway to carefully follow the directions again.

Ten minutes later, I found myself at the city dump once again. Looking a little more carefully, I noticed a tiny little office building butting up against the outside fence of the dump. “Surely,” I figured, “no one would ever rent space in that building.”

I drove up to the office door and, sure enough, the address number matched. And the smell… it was still incredible. I had a passing thought that, if the owners ever went bankrupt, they could just open up the fence and the bulldozer could simply shove the building off the ledge, right into the dump. With a chuckle, I told myself that it’d take a lot to convince me to work here.

When he clock struck 1:50PM, I entered the building and told the receptionist that I had a meeting with Mr. Kekacorkian. As I sat and waited, I noticed that the office was decorated in the usual, nondescript office style, with the typical poorly hung pictures, industry literature, and random awards. There was one thing, however, that was a little off: the little green tree air fresheners were hanging all over the place. Still, the smell… was incredible.

Eventually a gentlemen came out of the back and looked at me. “You must be Mr. Kekacorkian,” I stood and said, “I’m here for the interview at 2pm.”

He gave me a cold stare. “You just mispronounced my name,” he gruffed, “that’s one strike against you. My name is Mr. Kekalorcian.” He pulled out a red, felt tip pen from his pocket and made mark on his clipboard.

He led me through the back, where I got a glimpse of the programming department. Everyone was seated perfectly in their cubes, silently typing quietly away. They didn’t even turn to look as I walked through. There were also those green air fresheners hung from the cubes. They didn’t help with the… incredible smell. Eventually, we ended up in his office.

With each question I answered, Mr. Kekalorcian would gleefully shout, “That’s wrong! One mark!” and put it on the paper. He would then tell me the correct answer he expected. If I didn’t agree, another red mark would appear. Fortunately, he cut the interview off promptly on the hour.

“We’ll be in touch,” he scowled, “actually, probably not. You did really poorly. Either way, do *not* call us!”

Later that day, I shared the story with my friends, and we all had a good laugh. I figured that’d be the end of it.

Two months later, however, I received a follow-up call from an HR person at some company. It took me a little while to connect the company’s name with the “dump” company. She offered me a full-time job at a fairly decent pay rate.

“Let me guess,” I responded, “you’ve offered it to everyone else who interviewed and they turned it down? And I’m the bottom of the list?”
Sheepishly she replied, “Yes, that’s it” and sighed.

I politely declined.

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