It's been a long, long time since I've run interview stories. Too long. Here's a few of my favorites; feel free to send in some of your own for next time.

The Wanderer
From Peter Szymonik, the VP of Technology Operations at a technology company ...

A sharp young programmer who came highly recommended to us came in for interview. His suit didn't fit well (at least he had one) and he wore sneakers. Normally this would put me off, but he was a young guy so I looked past it.

The initial introductory interview with me went generally well, so I suggested that he also meet the senior members of my staff. I asked him to wait in the interview room for a few minutes while I gathered up my team leaders. We arrived back at an empty interview room; the programmer had up and disappeared. I check with the receptionist, look in the bathrooms, the lobby -- no one has seen him. On the way back to my office, an employee stops me in the hall and asks "Who's that guy in Scott's office?"

Sure enough, the tight-suited, sneaker-wearing programmer started wandering around the hallways and stopped in a manager's office. As he was reading a programming book off the shelf, I asked "Excuse, me, what exactly are you doing?"

"Oh, while I was waiting I figured I'd walk around to check out the place and read some of these books to see what kinds of programming languages you guy's use here."

While we decided not to hire the programmer, we did make immediate changes to our interview and security procedures.


The Apple Solaris Expert
From John, during his tenure as an IT Director for a small internet services firm back in the dot-com days ...

I was interviewing a candidate who, on paper, was an experienced developer with some strong Linux administration skills. When I asked the candidate to tell me about the operating systems that he had experience with, he quickly responded by saying that he was an expert in "Apple Solaris".

After an awkward silence, it hit me -- he was joking! I thought I'd take it one step further and asked, "What version?" Again, very quickly, the candidate responded with "2.0". Then it hit me again -- he wasn't joking. That didn't stop me from uncontrollably laughing though. Needless to say, the rest of the interview was very short.


The Whiner
Also from Peter Szymonik ...

This programmer had several years of experience, a stellar resume, was very well dressed, and well spoken -- almost too well spoken for a programmer. The interview was going extremely well, until we asked the standard question of "What didn't you like about your last employer or boss?" Apparently, I asked this question at the exact moment when his medication wore off.

Within seconds, his personality changed from calm and reserved to irate and foaming at the mouth. He bad-mouthed his former company, saying how stupid their business model was. Then he started trashing his former boss, ridiculing his lack of technical knowledge. He griped about the former office and how it was the worst working environment ever. The cleaning staff, too, made the list of Things He Hated. Even the restaurants surrounding his former workplace weren't spared.

Sure, I could have stopped his tirade halfway though, but it was pretty fun to watch him go on and on about the most minute detail. I almost lost it when he blurted out:

"And on top of everything, they paid me way too much money!"

While I enjoyed this guy's candor, it scared me that he might do something like this at an executive or client meeting. Despite his great skillset, we passed on him


Are You an Astronaut?
From the interviewee for a junior programmer position who asked to remain anonymous ...

Having just finished interviewing with HR and then with my would-be supervisor, I sat down for an interview with my would-be boss's boss. Things were going pretty well in the interview until there was a brief awkward silence. I get incredibly nervous when this happens, so my eyes darted around the office until they came focused on a framed collage of NASA paraphernalia. It was the perfect conversation piece!

"So," I said, pointing at the collage, "are you an astronaut?"

I didn't realize how ridiculous I sounded until that last syllable "naut" came out. My foot went immediately in my mouth.

"No," he replied, looked at me like as if I was retarded, "I'm a project manager here at NASA."

Despite that blunder, I was still offered the job at NASA and have been working there ever since. Thankfully, I don't have to talk with boss's boss very often.


I Didn't Want to Pay the Subscription Fee
From Jonathan Sampson, a software engineer, interviewing a candidate for a programmer position ...

"How often do you read tech-related news and blogs online?" I asked

"Well, technology isn't really changing," he replied, "the more things change, the more we realize they stay the same."

I restated the question. "Okay, but how often do you read tech news to keep up with the latest in security exploits and application compromising?"

"Well, applications will always have security holes" he said.

It was the long way to say "I don't read tech news," so I moved on and posed a simple question: "If you were presented with a SQL-injection bug that allowed unfettered access to any user's account, how would you go about fixing this problem?"

"Well, if you're using Windows," he replied, "these problems will always be around."

Perhaps that's the long way of saying "I don't know." I tried another question: "how familiar are you with the .NET Framework?"

"Well," he said hesitantly, "to be honest, I didn't want to pay the subscription fee for it so I never was able to download it."

"Subscription fee," I questioned, "you know it's a free download, right?"

"Oh," he said, a bit confused, "neat! They must have changed that."

Which interview story was your favorite? The fine folks at Sumo Lounge will send the submitter of the winning story an Omni Lounge; I've got one myself and have to say, it's a pretty neat chair/lounge/floor-pillow/bean-bag. Sorry, bean bag girl not included. Maybe next time.

Vote Here: Results will be announced on Wednesday. And the winner is .... Are You an Astronaut?

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