It's All About C Now (from Dan M)
Last year, I saw that a certain founded-and-headquartered-in-the-Netherlands electronics company was hiring web developers in my town, so sent in my résumé. Like most résumés, mine contained the standard skills & buzzword section:

Languages and technical writing: PHP, MySQL, AJAX, JavaScript, PRADO Framework, MSSQL Server, C#, .Net Framework, Perl, C/C++, Visual Basic, ASP, HTML, DHTML, XML, SOAP, CSS, Java, UML

I was pretty excited to get an interview. Well, that is until the interviewer took one look at my resume and said "Why is C so far down on your list?"

"Well," I tried to carefully explain, "I'm not as skilled in C as I am in the other languages on the list. That, and I really prefer web development."

"Hmph," she scoffed, "take my advice; you should really get with the program and learn C!"

I laughed nervously. "Get with the program, huh?" I said, hoping it was a joke.

"Yeah, you're way behind here, none of this stuff matters," she said excitedly, "it's all about C now!"

Figuring that the interviewer was getting her acronyms mixed up, I responded "Err, wait, do you meant C-sharp? Because I've worked quote a bit with the .NET Frame—"

"Uhh," she cut me off, "no, I mean C."

There was an awkward moment of silence. "I'm sorry," I said sheepishly, "there must have been some mix up. I was under the impression this was a web development position. I assume you're looking for an embedded systems developer for, like, TVs and other electronics?"

She blankly stared back. "This is for the web developer position," she angrily responded, "we do everything through C modules on our website!"

The interview ended shortly after that, with us both realizing it wouldnt be a good fit.


The CIA Interview (from David)
Back in 1998, while I was finishing up my undergrad in computer science, my school held a pretty large career fair with all sorts of different companies. The idea was, you could drop off your résumé, meet the HR reps, and get a feel for what work would be like.

One booth that looked particular interesting was the CIA's. The had lots of openings for cool positions (intelligence stuff) and support positions (application development). After speaking with one of their interviewers for a bit, I decided to give them my résumé.

"Hmmm," he said after taking one glance, "I'm not going to lie to you David, but you likely won't be considered for any jobs."

I was pretty surprised to hear that, as I would be graduating with honors from a top computer science school and already had a wealth of work experience from internships. While I probably wouldn't have been cool enough to be an agent, I figured I'd at least be eligible for a support position. I asked what it was they were looking for in a candidate.

"Let me show you something," the interviewer said, pulling out another résumé from his folder, "we get a ton of these here, and if you don't truly stand out from the rest, you won't make it."

I briefly pursued the résumé and noticed a 3.1 GPA, a single internship, a flagship skill of Microsoft Word, and not a single extra-curricular activity. It was, however, very nicely formatted with diagonal lines and triangles in the background. I asked the interviewer why this was a better candidate.

"Just look at it," she responded, "it's everything, all around. For example, you used dots for your bullet points and he has these nice arrows."

I never ended up getting a call about a position at the CIA.


We Don't Need People Like You (also from Dan M)
Many years back, when I was fresh out of school, I decided to apply for a job at the United Stated Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO had started to grant patents on computer programs and, as such, was looking for Computer Science Patent Examiners.

After filling out the requisite stack of application paperwork, I was granted an interview. When I arrived for the interview, there was a small waiting room for candidates for the position. Half an hour later, my name was called and I entered the interviewer's office.

I sat there in silence for roughly 8 seconds until he turned the résumé around and pointed to the second line, "what is this?" he demanded, jabbing roughly at the education section.

"Uhh," I paused, wondering if I had misspelled my degree. "Umm.... Bachelor of Computer Science... Carnegie Mellon... School of Computer Sci—"

"That's what I thought" he said scornfully.

I blankly started. After a few moments I responded, "I'm sorry?"

"Do you have any idea what we do here, Dan?"

"Yes, I do", I stuttered, "you examine patent applications on a variety of systems and...whatnot. Right?"

"Exactly! We don't need people like you here," he said, tossing my résumé back at me. "We only accept Math and Engineering majors here!"

Obviously, my career aspirations at the USPTO died shortly after that. Though, after the experience, I tend not to be as surprised as others when we hear the latest story about somebody being granted a patent for "inventing" the scrollbar or something.


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