How not to interview a software developer

Yes, I'm aware I may never be considered for another job with this company, but that's ok.

A contracting agency lined up an interview for me with ShareBuilder. They called me for the standard technical phone screening, and that was the first tech screen I have ever passed with confidence. Normally, there are several questions that I cannot answer. In their phone screen, I was able to answer everything with confidence and exactness.

Then came the in-person interview.

3 people (2 were definitely developers, the third may also have been) sat in a conference room and grilled me. About programming, right? Well, no.

About my memory.

They wanted to know what I've done. I told them. They wanted me to walk them through exactly how I put something together in a previous job. I tried.

They were not satisfied.

That's too damn bad, because they asked me about something that I worked on over three years ago. I do not remember exactly how the app was put together. I am glad that I don't remember, because that means I can remember important things like my new phone number and my daughter's current weight and what is a design pattern, not trivial things like what I worked on for nine short months before the half of the company that included me got laid off.

Imagine my surprise when an hour goes by and these three guys finish the interview! Hey, wait! When were you going to ask me what I can do?

They kept asking me about what I did years ago, and I kept telling them that I don't remember.

It does not matter what I worked on three years ago. What matters is what I can build now.

They just did not understand that.

The only problem they asked me to air-code was how to link a table of investors with a table of the investors' accounts. They did not care that all of the investor information was repeated, even though I started to work through how to link the tables to minimize the data returned.

That says a lot about their level of programming sophistication.

Written by Andrew Ittner in misc on Thu 10 March 2005. Tags: commentary, programming, employment