Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interview Warnings for the Interviewee

story.bad.interview.giWe’ve all read a lot of things to watch out for when interviewing potential candidates for filling position vacancies.  There’s plenty of horror stories to go around, and most of them are based at least in part on fact. I’ve experienced my share of bad interviews from the side of the employer and doing some questioning. 


Some of my personal favorite lines from candidates include the following:

“What do I know about [product]?!  It’s more like, what do I NOT know!”

“I don’t write scripts.  That’s for minions to do.”

“Why do I got to know how to speak clearly? I’m applying for a IT job.”

“I can tear apart and fix an iPod and an Xbox 360 on my own.”

But what about the things to watch out for in a potential employer?  You know, the small, even subtle clues hidden within innocent comments strewn throughout your interview discussion that may reveal a horrific nightmare awaiting you on your first day of work.  I’ve learned many of these first-hand, so I can vouch for their validity.  Here’s a few to take notice of:

“We do not write any code here. Everything is off-the-shelf or out-of-the-box”

Translation: We are too ignorant and scared to death of tinkering with our precious technology.  We might break something.  Change is evil.  Things should remain unchanged forever.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by dangerously unapproved forces which must be prevented at all costs.

“This position requires a wide range of software, hardware, networking, storage, database, programming, web development, and helpdesk expertise.”

Translation: We are going to dump a mountain of shit on your head and pay you less than what an expert in any one of these “skills” would normally earn.  It also means our top priority is cutting costs (one person, many hats) rather than accomplishing a meaningful improvement.  You will work insane hours and either burn out or check into a rehab clinic within a year.

“We are a 100% [vendor name] shop here! We don’t even consider other vendors.”

Translation: We have drank (or drunk?) the Kool-Aid from the crotch of our vendor masters. We expect you to do the same. Making bold claims is higher priority than searching for a truly optimal (and cost-effective) solution. If the interviewer also happens to be wearing vendor apparel (shirts, ball caps, coffee cups, underwear, tampons, etc.) be especially careful. This is not going to be a very open-minded shop to work in.

“We are strictly a nine to five operation here”

Translation:  Hours trump innovation and quality.

“We let the last guy go because he lacked the skills we needed”

Translation: We will talk shit about someone you don’t know in front of people they don’t know.  What will they say about you later on.

“Training?  That’s something you do on your own time”

Translation: Run for the door.  Don’t say another word.

“I know the position you applied for is [x], but we really need a [y]”

Translation: We are desperate!  DESPERATE! We may have had several key personal up and quit suddenly and we are doing everything in our power not to look scared shitless.

“Have you worked with Excel databases before?”

Translation:  I am a complete idiot from the Human Resources department, who was chosen to interview IT candidates and I have absolutely zero knowledge of IT terms, and concepts.  I probably won’t even remember this interview when you leave.  Good luck!

“How would you approach this project we just described?”

Translation: We are fishing for help by pretending to interview you, but really we are just picking your brain to do it ourselves and have no intention of hiring you or anyone else.

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