The Best (from Chris)
A while back, I helped interview for a programmer position on the web team. After talking to a number of candidates, we finally settled on an older gentlemen, probably in his late 50s. It wasn't an easy decision. Not only were his salary requirements above what we planned to pay, he had a few personality quirks. For example, a large part of his interview entailed him describing how he was a master composer of music, and had published songs in nearly every genre, including country, rap, pop, etc. But no matter, his experience and technical skills were top-notch.

After making an offer that met his salary requirements, the candidate made a counter offer: fifteen-thousand dollars more annually plus a signing bonus. Unfortunately, our budget couldn't accommodate that, and we declined. Negotiations after that failed, so we formally rescinded the offer for employment so we could talk to more candidates.

Later that day, the CEO of company received a rather childish email from the gentleman. He rambled on about age discrimination, made other accusations, and stated that he "knew" that we were hiring the "other" man that he had met when leaving his interview. His closing words were: "you could have had the best, now you'll just have the rest!"

The "other" man he referred to was in his early 30s, and was interviewing for an entirely different position (business analyst) in an entirely different department. Looking back, we were all pretty happy that he didn't accept the position.

The TDWTF Interview (from Christian Riesen)
Two years ago, I was on the job hunt, and one company that looked interesting was a university spinoff. At the interview, I learned that they dealt with some specialization software that had to talk to a few different systems. Most of the code was in PHP, but there also were some .NET and Java components that were used to interface with the hardware's proprietary drivers.

One thing they were particularly proud of was the fact that the system was recently rewritten from Perl into PHP. Their pride came from the fact that none of them had coded PHP before that, but they had a strong theoretical knowledge, being university guys and all.

Next, they told me about the environment that they work in. As it turned out, the five-man crew worked all in the same room we were interviewing in: a factory attic converted loft style, with one wall made of glass in it so the conference "room" we sat in wouldn't disturb the others. Each employee had their own desk that was about twenty feet from another, which meant there was a lot of yelling going on. In addition, everyone used whatever the hell they wanted to code on whatever operating system they wanted: Windows, Linux, Mac OSX and one even swore on FreeBSD.

Then came the general technical part of the interview: how I would setup a class, what I would do with a certain language construct, how I would solve a certain problem or assess a situation, all the fun things. Then they showed me two half pages of code in PHP. They told me to look at the code carefully and, if I wanted to change anything, write on the paper what I would change and why. As that would take some time, they left me to it for about twenty minutes. I was certain that they had set me up with a TDWTF-style interview, where they'd pick out a fun code WTF (actually, it looked like this one) and have me turn a convoluted two-page mess into a two lines of code.

When they came back, I complimented them on the clever examples of bad code and presented them with my rewrite. One of interviewers — the chattier of the two — didn't say another word; he was clearly upset, and I was half-concerned it might get physical. The other guy was a bit better, but he also wore a rather large frown on his face. "This is from our production code", was the reply.

I left the interview shortly after that, with a short bye from the one guy, and just a short nod with some nasty stares from the once-chatty guy.


The Storm-out (from Joshua Armstrong)
I've always dreamed of storming out of an interview, but I've never actually realized that goal. That is, until my interview with a certain "tech recruiting" firm.

First things first, I was lured in under the guise that I'd be actually interviewing for a job, not being primped for another interview. The firm's client was, as the technical recruiter put it, "an ISP like Yahoo! or Google." I thought to myself, neither of those companies are ISPs, but I didn't say anything.

When we moved on to the technical portion of the interview, his first question was "do you had any experience working at a server." And just to be extra clear, those were his actual words: "working at a server."

"Well, yeah of course," I diplomatically responded, "I am a network admin, after all... and I'm physically at servers all the time. That's what you meant, right?"

"No no," he clarified, "were any of the businesses you've worked at servers? That is, would you consider them to be a server?"

I said, "Err, uhh.... I don't know," and things went downhill from there.

"Have you ever connected to the database?" he asked next.

"Huh? Do you mean in code? Admin tools? Which database platform do you mean?"

He paused for a moment and said, "sounds good to me. Do you have experience working at an ISP?"

"I think you're using a different definition of ISP than me," I responded, "what I mean is... I wouldn't have considered Google to be an ISP, but a search engine. Can you clarify?"

"No, no. They're actually both ISPs, as they allow people to access websites. Would you consider any of the companies you worked at to be an ISP?"

"Uhh... I guess not."

He scribbled something down on his paper mumbling something about how a bank is probably an ISP and added, "have you troubleshot IIS?"

"Not, but I have maintained several Apache servers."

"Oh good, then you have since Apache is IIS. Moving on, what's the diff—"

"Err," I cut him off, "they're both web servers, but Apache is not IIS."

"No, no. It is. Apache is actually a kind of IIS, so yes, you have troubleshot IIS. Anyway, what's the difference between layer 7 routing and layer 4 routing?"

Finally, an answer I was prepared for. "Layer 7 is the Application Layer, and routing focuses on requests to resources that will be fulfilled in the shortest time. Layer 4, the Transport Layer, routing focuses on ensuring that all paths to a host are utilized proportionally to their bandwidth and response"

"Actually," he gave a confused look, "I was looking for an answer involving, uh, DNS pools and host headers. Shall we just say that was your answer?"

I was pretty frustrated by that point, as I knew this interview was going nowhere, and the "technical recruiter" was grasping at straws and hoping to get me in front of thier "ISP" client. I said, "actually, I was just looking for the door," and got up and left.

Later that day, I just got an e-mail from him thanking me for his time, and asking me to forward two references from each job. He also said that he'd taken the liberty of rewriting my resume to include a couple of things about my experience troubleshooting IIS, and that he was planning on submitting it to his client as soon as I got the references. I ignored the email.


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