It’s an uncomfortable truth in our enlightened, 21st-century utopia, but we often don’t know how to deal with people that deviate slightly from the norm. Jim knows a thing or two (or three) about this, because he has a Bachelors of Science with three majors: Computer Science, English, and Mathematics. Let’s not dwell on how such a thing could be possible; consider instead the strangest reaction Jim ever encountered to his unusual credentials.

Cauchy Sequence

The developer position at Competitive Telecom Systems seemed straightforward, and a good fit for Jim’s skills and experience. When Jim’s interview time had arrived, a man found him in the reception area and shook his hand.

“You must be Jim. I’m Ted. We’re very excited to have you here today!”

Ted led Jim through a maze of beige corridors to a nondescript conference room and took a seat across from one of his associates.

“This is Fred,” Ted said, indicating the man across from him. He then nodded towards the third man, sitting between the two at the end of the table directly across from Jim. “And this is Crispin. We asked him to join us especially to meet you.”

“That’s right,” Fred said, “he came as a favour.”

Jim greeted Crispin, who said nothing, never raising his eyes from the document he was reading.

Ted began the interview with a simple programming question that Jim correctly identified as a string-reversal variant before describing an effective solution. Ted nodded, but paused for a moment before asking,

“So, what, did you take a few CS and English electives as part of your Math degree?”

“Well, no,” Jim said. “My school offered a triple-major track, and I took it. I’ve fulfilled the requirements for all three of my majors.”

“Of course, of course,” Fred said, taking the reigns from his colleague, “we just want to get an idea of where your focus lies. Would you say you consider yourself more of an Arts major that dabbles on the Science side of things, or the other way around?”

“I suppose if I had to choose, I am applying for a developer role. So I see myself as a Computer Scientist first and foremost,” Jim furrowed his brow, trying to determine what his interlocutors wanted to hear. Were they afraid he didn’t have what it took to be a developer? That the variety of subjects he’d studied meant he couldn’t commit to a given task? The conversation went back to typical questions, Ted alternating with Fred, each of them unable to resist circling back to Jim’s unusual degree. All the while, Crispin remained absorbed in the document. He turned it over and over, as though trying to memorize the words on each side of the single sheet that Jim eventually recognized as his résumé. When Fred and Ted had run out of steam, and Crispin still seemed unaware that a candidate sat across the table from him, Jim leaned forward and asked if they had any other questions for him.

Ted and Fred turned to their grim colleague, the one whose presence in Jim’s interview had been specially requested. Crispin let Jim’s résumé flutter to the desk, raised his head, narrowed his cold, grey eyes.

“I have a question, Jim. A Math major would know about integration and differentiation, right?”

“Of course,” Jim nodded. “Basic calculus…”

“Yes. And a Computer Science major would have encountered the concepts of black-box and white-box testing?”

“Yes, black-box is where you test the external interfaces of a given module without assuming knowledge of its internals, while white-box—”

“Good. And, as an English major, you must have spent a lot of time drawing comparisons between works?”

“I did, yes…” Jim leaned forward, peering at Crispin, unsure what these questions were building to.

“Okay Jim,” Fred said, “Now, listen closely.”

“This is why Crispin came today,” Ted added.

Crispin cleared his throat and glared at his lackeys. “Here’s what I need you to do, Jim,” he said. "I want you to compare the concepts of integration and differentiation with those of white- and black-box testing.

“In your own words, of course.”

Jim gaped. Ted and Fred sat back, arms crossed, expressions indicating their satisfaction.

“Crispin spent two days with your résumé, just to come up with that question,” Ted said.

“That’s right; no one comes up with questions as challenging as Crispin’s,” Fred said. “When we saw your education history, we knew we had to call him in.”

“Yes, yes,” Crispin waved them aside, “that’s fine. Well, Jim? What do you and your three majors have to say for yourselves?”

Jim racked his brain, trying to conjure anything that could relate seemingly arbitrary concepts from different disciplines to one another. He was on the brink of muttering… inverse something, when reason asserted itself. He politely explained that he saw no way to compare those particular concepts. Glowering, the triad informed him that they had no further questions, and they would let him know their decision. The attentive reader of this publication will not be surprised to learn that Jim failed to get the job, and, though his career has since taken him elsewhere, he is still considering a new course of study to determine, with academic rigour, what an acceptable answer to Crispin’s masterstroke might have been.

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