back to article What is your greatest weakness? The definitive list of the many kinds of interviewer you will meet in Hell

Having shown you some top tips on how people screw up their CVs and interviews, we now move to the weakest link: the interviewer. This article draws on my own experiences from grunt programmer, CTO to headhunter with many years in the recruitment game. Names have been obscured to protect the guilty. The Status Manager A common …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My greatest weakness... my need to restrain my Fist Of Death from delivering a much needed smash to pound the stupid out of buzzword bingo spewing bullshit artists that think they know enough to tell me how to do my job. If you can stand there & spout bollocks to tell me how to improve the quality of my work then you can bloody well do the job yourself. Now go away before my ability to restrain myself vanishes like your competence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My greatest weakness...

      The "greatest strength / weakness" question always reminds me of Spud's job interview in Trainspotting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My greatest weakness...

        I once had an interview for a job I really didn't want but I had to take the interview. So I did a Spud, literally, and talked total shite at a million miles an hour with a manic look on my face. Interview successfully failed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My greatest weakness...

        I was asked once by the director who was in the same room as the second less-technical face-to-face interview about who from my last job did I find least pleasant and why. What a bizarre question, not sure if that's also one of the popular ones. I didn't think of any of my colleagues as pleasant or otherwise at all and didn't take that job as it looked like everyone in the room was really in awe of the Directors Very Presence. (Which was unfortunate as the tech lead who I've interviewed so far with was such a nice guy)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My greatest weakness...

          I'm guessing to understand how you deal with people you don't like and whether you have self-awareness to consider that the trait you don't like is actually your problem not theirs.

          Asking to name someone you don't like at current place is a bit ugly though.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: My greatest weakness...

            I had one twat of a bully nasty rantaing and aggressive bell end in my job. I dealt with it by refusing to take part in any meeting that he was involved in.

            He's gone.

    2. circusmole

      Re: My greatest weakness...

      I went for a job interview with a company a was not really sure if I wanted to work for them. Anyway, I thought "What the hell". I turned up and was kept waiting for over an hour, not even offered a machine coffee. Went into the interview room with some sort of business manager and an HR person - where's the tech person I thought? Anyway, they asked me 3 "trick" questions in a row and were just starting on the 4th when I told them I have a life to live and needed to go and live it and walked out. That final act was so satisfying!

      1. Martin

        Re: My greatest weakness...

        My worst job interview was for a contract for a security firm. I arrived at the office, and checked in with the reception. To be fair, they didn't keep me waiting more than five minutes - but during that five minutes, a member of staff came into the office, and paused at the keypad to the entrance - the keycode had obviously just escaped their memory temporarily. So they looked a question at the receptionist, who laughed and said "4 1 7 3"....remember I said this was a security firm?

        Anyway, I got upstairs, and shook hands with the interviewer. He started by saying, thanks for coming in, and asking his first question, which was the standard "Where do you see yourself in five years time?" So I said, rather surprised, "I've no idea, but it's unlikely to be here." We continued in this way for a couple of questions, with me getting more and more puzzled by his questions, and him getting more and more puzzled by my answers. Eventually, I said "You do realize I am a contractor, don't you?" And he said "A contractor? We are looking for a permanent employee..."

        We shook hands, and I left. I certainly gave the agency an earful, and I bet he did too.

    3. Gwaptiva

      Re: My greatest weakness...

      standard answer to the "what is your greatest weakness", I now always answer "Marzipan"

      1. goldcd

        I prefer

        That I am not immortal and I fear that this job will consume my limited life without providing me the opportunity to make a lasting mark on the path of humanity.

        Oh - and sarcasm in the face of pomposity.

      2. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

        Re: My greatest weakness...

        My greatest weakness... Agreeing to interviews for which I am way over qualified.

    4. Ordinary Donkey

      Re: My greatest weakness...

      My greatest weakness is medical and you're not allowed to take that into account.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: My greatest weakness...

        I have an addiction, I need to eat at least once a day.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: My greatest weakness...

      BOFH answer: Weakness? Here, let me show you. You know, over here. By the window...

    6. Bruce Ordway

      Re: My greatest weakness...

      Advanced age and being a product of my time.

      I don't know about the rest of you but I find it increasingly harder to get interested in many of the new directions.

      Seems like not very long ago I went back to school. I know I should probably repeat that exercise one more time but... I'd rather go on tinkering with "stuff" I like personally.

      If only I didn't need to "make a living"?

    7. Anonymous Coward

      Re: My greatest weakness...

      My greatest weakness... is that I have no idea how to rescue a gone wrong IT project - mine simply never go wrong.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    One of the most damaging attitudes companies can have is that if you really want to work for them then you will put up with anything for the privilege.

    Something I will never understand. Why would you want to put up with anything just to help someone make their dream for a pittance? Most of big and "glamorous" corporations avoid taxes, pay pennies and exploit their workers.

    1. DailyLlama

      Re: Dignity

      I once interviewed for a lowly tech position at a financial company, and they made me go to Central London 5 times in total, getting through technical tests, interviews with various engineers, managers, and HR types, and on the last one spent two hours talking absolute nonsense about how great they were.

      This was after 3 months of being out of work, so I put up with it, because I didn't feel like I had any other choice.

      I had an interview for another company that afternoon. It lasted 45 minutes, and they called to offer me the job before I'd even got home...

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Dignity

        and on the last one spent two hours talking absolute nonsense about how great they were.

        It's good to say: Is this an MLM presentation or am I tripping? What did you add to my coffee! HELP!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dignity

        Back in the late 80's I worked for Tandys part time while I was a college. A couple of engineers came in from the Sutton Coldfield transmitter site and I ended up having a good chat with them and was invited to an initial interview and a tour.

        That went really well so I was invited to London for a second stage interview. My dad took me down and the weather was horrendous. He parked just inside the tube area and I made my own way in.

        I got soaked, found the place and immediately got grilled by Grotbags the receptionist as to why I couldn't give her my inward ticket to reimburse me - she was really fucking horrible. I was nervous and wet.

        Didn't get the position as trainee transmitter technical assistant - at the time it was my dream job, but I'm glad I stayed in education and came out the other side working in the semiconductor industry.

        Had I gone into that field my career opportunities would have been stifled as the transmitters got sold off to Arquiva and the industry would have been a dead end.

        Sometimes shit happens and it is good for you. I also managed to dodge HP before it went shit and Hitachi / Renesas. I've made some mistakes in my time but the ringpiece of the great architect has pretty much illuminated my path.... :)

      3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Dignity

        It's great when that happens isn't it.

      4. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Dignity

        This sounds so familiar. Had an interview once with a company out in the West Country where the interviewer clearly was expecting superman or something, who cut the interview short with a "I think we'll terminate this interview as this is clearly a waste of time", and seriously had me questioning my skillset (granted, given my specialism, it wasn't quite the super-duper C++ OCD kind of obsessive you'd probably want). A day later a call from a recruiter who thought I'd be perfect for a job at a facility whose interviewer was a proper boffin who had a great relaxed style, took me on a tour after, and who called the recruiter the minute he got back to his office to tell him he was offering me not the job I had interviewed for, but a slightly different one that was completely out of left field.

        Well, I'm glad for that boffin, who turned out to be an awesome boss for the time I was there, and who clearly appreciated my skillset more. The other bloke probably was right in saying that the interview was a waste of time, because quite frankly it was excruciating and worse than any financial industry job interview I ever had.

    2. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: Dignity

      Yes, but what is interesting is that some firms that pay *very* well do this also.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Dignity

        I think (pretty much) all companies participate in labour market fixing. They offer "market rates" or "competitive salary" that has nothing to do with the actual value the worker provides for a company.

        I am yet to see 7 figure salaries for developers... and majority still pay 5 figures.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dignity

          That's a low 5 figure sum at that! I earn £10 per hour (after tax). Market Rates or Competitive in a job ad basically means they're screwing you.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Dignity

            "I earn £10 per hour"

            Good grief. I earn nearly that much as a cleaner in a factory! I used to be a nerd half a lifetime ago, but it was such a horrible soul destroying experience that I vowed never to do anything like that again. So I became a care assistant in a nursing home for a while (a fun job, and loads of people even crazier than me!), and then (after moving to France), this. My pay isn't great, obviously, but there's practically no stress, I clock out and forget everything until the next morning. If manglement are tearing their hair out over something, NMFP. I know I'll never called in the early hours because of a "hygiene emergency". Plus, for a very introverted person, it's great because I mostly work alone and I pretty much don't exist. Yes!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Dignity

              It is interesting that web developers are the new factory works, I'm a senior developer too! its definitely time for a new job, my stress levels are low but the low pay is beginning to elevate them.

              1. bombastic bob Silver badge

                Re: Dignity

                If not already done, I suggest learning C programming _and_ mastering the language.

                Knowing Linux also helps.

                Web development is, in my opinion, the "entry level" of software development. Nice stepping stone to a better career, But if you STAY there, you're gonna be stuck in a quagmire.

                But if you're good at screens, the 'droid dev kit is free. And it uses Java (don't bother with Kotlin)

            2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

              Re: Dignity

              I'm sure being in France helps! Now imagine doing that job in Slough.

              1. Rich 11

                Re: Dignity

                Try imagining any job in Slough.

                1. MrReynolds2U

                  Re: Dignity

                  I'd rather not

                2. Korev Silver badge

                  Re: Dignity

                  > Try imagining any job in Slough.

                  Come lovely bombs...

                  Yes, from orbit -->

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dignity

          "Market rates" - yeah that old chestnut!

          I've been tax avoiding, erm, tax efficiently self employed, for 7 years and tend to avoid listings without rates published.

          The other day I responded to one. The discussion with the slave consultant went something like:


          "What's the rate?"


          "Market rates"


          "Umm... That can be mean your client has no budget or wants to place an offshore resource..."


          "Yeah, it can hide a lot, who can work for xxx inside!?", " The rate is around (1.9*xxx)."

          I think I managed not to gasp audibly. Suffice to say I will be earning the most, net, I have ever earned when I start next week. (even though its an inside gig!)

          /anon, obvs!

        3. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Dignity

          labour market fixing

          I believe there was actual collusion in Silly Valley a few years ago, "non-recruiting" agreements between several large corporations. As I recall, it was uncovered and rectified in some kind or lawsuit and federal investigation...

          there are many other fingers in many other pies on this topic. It's like several hornets' nests glued together with africanized honeybee combs with ready-to-hatch baby bees in them, floating out in the middle of the La Brea tar pit.

          1. Woodnag

            uncovered and rectified?

            "In the January motion to settle the case, the companies continued to deny that they had done anything wrong or violated any laws."

            So, not really rectified.


    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dignity


      Quote Something I will never understand. Why would you want to put up with anything just to help someone make their dream for a pittance? Unquote

      I think that if you was out of work, had a mortgage to pay, bills to pay and a family to keep, you would maybe understand that people don't "want" to put up with shit, it's a case of "needs must".

      If you are ever unfortunate enough to be in that position, I think that maybe your cup of understanding will overflow.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Dignity

        Yes, when I had a mortgage and young kids and silly debts I did used to put up with shit and worry about jobs. Once you've crossed the ocean and have the retirement option, you don't have to give a shit and it becomes a lot easier to pick and choose. I also think being free allows you to do your best work too.

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    It's a two-way street

    While some company worker-ant is interviewing a candidate, that candidate is also assessing them. And by extension, the organisation that thought it would be smart to have that individual project an image of the company. One that is almost entirely superfluous, to people who neither know nor care about its products, ethics, "work-life balance" or anything else except the number on the offer letter, if their manager is going to be a complete 'hole (or just a partial one), whether they will gain any marketable skills and whether the coffee is any good.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a two-way street

      Had one ring me about doing an interview - 2:30pm, which was very difficult for me. Tried to negotiate with him, see if I could get an earlier or later time. He was getting quite shirty, so told him if that's how they treat potential employees, hate to see how treat the current staff.

      Looking back - was I being unreasonable?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a two-way street

        no you weren't being unreasonable.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: It's a two-way street

      "to people who neither know nor care about its products, ethics, "work-life balance" or anything else except the number on the offer letter, [...]"

      Mostly agree, but I really do care about their work-life balance. I currently work a normal working week and I know how to request time off (and it's easy). If they want me to work long days or weekends, they'll have to pay me a lot more if I agree to go through that at all. Sadly, even though I care about this, I've never heard anyone tell the truth about the balance. Nobody ever comes out and says "To take time off, you must submit three forms through the complex portal with at least two months notice then wait for manager approval which should take about seven weeks", even if that's the case. If they ever did tell me, I would be listening with close attention.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That Meme

    "What do you see as your greatest weakness?"


    "I don't really see that honesty is a weakness."

    'I don't give a fuck what you think.'

    1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: That Meme


    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: That Meme

      "So why do you want this job?"

      "I always felt passionately about not starving to death."

      "Right, tell us something about yourself."

      "I was born at a very young age"

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: That Meme

        Why do you want this job?

        I need money to obtain food and shelter

        What's your greatest weakness?

        Without food and shelter, I die

        1. Uncle Slacky
          Thumb Up

          Re: That Meme

          Reminds me of this classic SMBC cartoon:

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: That Meme

            That's what I couldn't find - smbc's search is terrible

            There is also one about dressing as Clarke Kent then saying "kryptonite"

        2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: That Meme

          Similar question:

          "Why do you want to work for this company?"

          Answer - "Well actually I don't have any great desire to work for this specific company, I just need a job and am applying to lots of companies in this business. You know who your competition are."

          Amazingly I actually got the job after all. (The management was awful, but it did pay for the mortgage, car and a few other necessities for a few years.)

    3. devin3782

      Re: That Meme

      "What do you think you could bring to the company?"

      "My skills listed on the CV; but, really, you tell me, you work here."

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: That Meme

        That's the sort of question I ask at interviews (although, more politely), after all, I'd like to know what I might be letting myself in for.

        Plus, if you keep mentioning things in the vein of "if I worked here", it's gets them into the right mindset of imagining you working there, which is one step loser to them giving you the job.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: That Meme

          phuzz: "... one step loser to them giving you the job."

          Was that a Freudian slip, or did you mean "closer"?

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: That Meme

          Okay, I'll ask. What is it that you want to hear when you ask that question? I've seen a few basic answers, either listing qualifications of use to the position (you already have that in front of you) or platitudes about a hard-working, motivated, interested, team-working self-starter (useless). This becomes even worse if it's the kind of interview where someone might end up in a few positions, because now they're not sure what specific qualification you're hoping they'll tell you about.

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: That Meme

            I should have been more clear, I meant that I ask as a candidate, and I want to know what sort of role they are actually hiring me for. Part of that is asking what the job entails, eg "what does an average day look like here?". I'm looking for more information on things which never make it into the job description, like, am I usually going to be going home on time? Am I expected to socialise with my co-workers? How flexible is the dress code? Quality of life details basically.

            There was one job I interviewed for, where according to the job description (and salary) I was a good fit, but through talking to them I realised what they actually wanted was an IT Manager, rather than someone hands on. We had a bit of a chat and I told them some changes they could make to the job advert to better fit the role they actually need filling. I think we both parted happy, I avoided a job I wouldn't have enjoyed, and they understood better who they were actually looking for. (And a week or so later I got my current job, which is a good fit).

    4. Efer Brick

      Re: That Meme

      Humorous take from mock the week.

    5. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: That Meme

      Once told the interviewer that I do find this a stupid and completely dishonest question. I could giv them a calculated, dishonest answer, I'd never tell them I was an axe murederer. So, really, this is a stupid question. My weakness is that I have a very short temper when it comes to objectively stupid questions, and people f'ing up statistics.

      Much to the glee of the professionals across the table.

      Mgmt didn't like it...

      Apparently they often ask stupid questions and have no clue about stats.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That Meme

        Not my story, but reminded me of one I read on the internet -

        Ex-army bloke applies for job

        HR Bod - "And what skills can you bring to the role?"

        Bod - "I can kill a man with my bare hands"

        IIRC, HR bod was shocked, but the technical bod thought it was funny and ex-army bod got the job

        1. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: That Meme

          "Ahhh yes right, well lets file that under "ability to deal with difficult customers", shall we?"

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: That Meme

          Half our dev team are Israeli - and so ex-IDF

          They are also devs so literal minded when it comes to questions

          So visiting the USA and asked - have you ever been involved in espionage or sabotage activities ?

          1. WhereAmI?

            Re: That Meme

            You are so not joking about the Israelis being literal-minded. I think our dev team have had the sense of humour lobotomised out of them.

            I'm self-taught, mostly. That makes getting some interviews very difficult because... you know.... self-taught. After being in IT (and related fields) for 23 years went to one interview where I was asked almost word-for-word: 'do you have an qualifications to prove that you can do the job you've been doing for the last 23 years?'. To which my response was 'I'm quite obviously only a list filler here and I don't appreciate having my time wasted' and walked out.

        3. EarthDog

          Re: That Meme

          Keep them around for a reduction in head count.

  5. UCAP Silver badge

    Interesting previous interviews

    One time (many, many years ago) I was interviewed for a C++ programming job. At the start of the interview process they basically gave me a test to do, with 45 minutes to finish - the test basically covered a lot of edge cases that trip those who cannot breath an program at the same time. Having been working intensively with C++ for at least the previous 8 years, I finished the test an about 20 minutes. The company concerned structured the rest of the interview as a discussion of the mistakes you made in the test ("why did you think X occurs in this situation"), which proved a problem since I was the first person they had ever interviewed who got 100% on the test. They basically floundered around the rest of the interview; I did not take up the job offer that subsequently came through.

    Nearly 2 years ago I started the interview process with another company. I pulled out when one of their directors failed to attend my 5th interview (all done using Zoom because of the pandemic), and the HR droid decided to step in and asked the same questions they had asked for my 3rd interview the previous month. Not surprisingly the company appears to have started to collapse a few months after I refused to continue the interview farce.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting previous interviews

      > They basically floundered around the rest of the interview;

      Years ago I floundered through interviewing someone for exactly the opposite reason. I had written a nice C programming test that started fairly simply, got steadily harder and ended with a couple of quite tricky questions. The easy ones were to give candidates a bit of confidence and how far they progressed was a reasonable sign of how good/experienced they were.

      This one candidate failed to get a single question right. But his answers were so poor I really didn't know where to start: even a kid who'd done an 'O'-level computer studies project in C would have done better. With hindsight I should have terminated the interview immediately but I was young, lacked the intolerance I now have :-), and having explained the interview process to him felt I should stick to it.

      Needless to say, despite having told HR we wanted to see people's CVs in advance of them being invited to interview they kept ignoring us and, sure enough, this guy's CV was indeed an accurate reflection of his abilities.

      1. Tom 38

        Re: Interesting previous interviews

        The opposite for me - I interviewed a guy last month, he had been working for 12 years as a Java consultant after graduating with a CS degree, and was interviewing for a senior programming role.

        We started the interview with discussing some of his projects, how he'd managed them, how he'd designed solutions etc. No problems. We then moved on to a really simple programming exercise; read some JSON data, and tell us various things about it. We had 5 questions that ramped up in difficulty; get to #3 and you're being considered, get to #5 and you're a double thumbs up (plus other metrics; its not just code golf, so if they're starting off by writing tests etc, another big thumbs up).

        This guy couldn't parse the JSON - longest hour of my liife.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Interesting previous interviews

          "read some JSON data"

          The problem with these whiteboard programming tests is the same buzzword bingo in the other direction.

          "WTF's JSON?"

          Real world: google. Ah, that stuff I did last year, so that's what it's called, what was the library I used? look in notes or use online resources.

          Interview: blind bambi

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Interesting previous interviews

            There's always the risk, as an interviewer, that you are referencing a subject that the candidate knows tons about, but hasn't recognised that this is what you're asking about. Which might be a valid reason not to hire, but more likely means loss of a potentially knowledgeable/able candidate.

            While perhaps being immodest about my strengths by saying this- I got caught by that as a young, almost qualified teacher interviewing for a first post, with the ILEA in 1981.

            Interviewer: What can you tell me about the 1981 education act?

            I waffled and said nothing of worth. Because The new 1981 Education Act was just the framework I'd been trained under. , To me it was just normality. I should have remembered that it was the 1981 Education Act, but just didn't connect the title to the actual substance. The interviewer didn't ask a probing question - so didn't ever find out that I knew that stuff really well. Didn't do me any harm in the long term and I still ended up working in a senior role within the ILEA until its abolition, but it was stupid interviewing ( by both of us tbh).

        2. Warm Braw

          Re: Interesting previous interviews

          This guy couldn't parse the JSON

          Half the libraries purporting to parse JSON can't parse JSON.

          Warning klaxons should start whenever anyone thinks about writing their own parser, sorting or search algorithm - let alone any kind of encryption.. They're hard things to get right and they're hard things to test if you don't fully understand the corner cases.

          It's not the purpose of a job interview to try and assess whether the candidate's university gave them the correct grade, but to see how they'd approach the actual problems they will encounter in the job.

          1. StargateSg7

            Re: Interesting previous interviews

            Nowadays, the current state of the art in parser development is multi-stream parsing (i.e. multi-threaded ones) that use single or multiple GPUs (i.e. graphics processing units) to do all the ASCII and/or UNICODE character search and differentiation in parallel and put the results into shared on-GPU memory banks so that the end-user CPU-based database systems can grab the required data on an asynchronous basis (i.e. no need to wait for anyone else or other applications to finish their parsing task)

            Using GPUs, I can create a C/C++ parser that can parse and compile to assembler OVER ONE BILLION LINES OF CODE AND DATA PER SECOND !!! (i.e. at 255 ASCII or 128 UNICODE characters per line) or a Database Management System (DBMS) that can, using multiple racks of GPUs, complete over ONE TRILLION IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) for those MONSTER EXABYTE+ sized databases.

            Writing a decent PARSER is one my specialties having done it for decades now (Graphics/Machine Vision are the others).

            This technology is KEY to writing your own custom compiler, assembler and DBMS!

            THAT takes some serious skill and experience! It would also be applicable to JSON scripts as well but most end-user systems don't usually NEED to parse at a BILLION LINES OF CODE OR DATA per second!


      2. rnturn

        Re: Interesting previous interviews

        ``Needless to say, despite having told HR we wanted to see people's CVs in advance of them being invited to interview they kept ignoring us and, sure enough, this guy's CV was indeed an accurate reflection of his abilities.''

        Wow. I would never again trust HR's judgement with respect to the candidates they've decided to bring in for interviews.

        I was part of an interview team for data center types (Wintel, UNIX, storage, etc.). HR sent us one candidate for a mainly Solaris role whose resume showed that he had a lot of experience with other UNIX variants. My boss looked at me and said "Looks like we might have finally found a backup for you". The interview team was unanimous: we wanted him on the team. Sadly, *because* he had all that experience, his salary requirement was above "Market Rates" and HR flat out refused to hire him. So we still had *two* open positions. Idjits.

        1. Scott Wheeler

          Re: Interesting previous interviews

          It can be worse: technical types not involved in interviews at all. I was in a small R&D team in the early 90's. We needed someone with C skills. One day I turned up for work to find an unexpected new hire - who had used C Shell.

  6. Kitschcamp

    Oh yeah…

    Two particularly memorable interviews this brings back to me.

    One about a decade ago, the company had me come over from Scandinavia to the UK for an interview where they told me the job was on hold and therefore they couldn’t pay any of my expenses after all as the job didn’t exist, but they wanted to interview me anyway to see what they would have potentially got and put it in a filing cabinet. No doubt with signs saying “beware of the leopard”.

    Another just recently, where after 3 Zoom interviews and 1 physical interview, I saw what a mess things were by the government openly badmouthing the company’s whole contract and threatening the whole multi billion dollar contract with termination that I decided to say nah to a 5th interview, no matter how fun and interesting it sounded.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Oh yeah…


      They got you to pay to travel across the North Sea to be told you didn't have a job?

      I hope you sued them or at least sent a very snotty letter to their board level management, to 'The Times' about that.

    2. adam 40 Silver badge

      Name and shame!

      I think we should be told....

    3. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: Oh yeah…

      As someone who advises on careers, I both see your point and radically disagree with it.

      Finding out what the max you can possibly get is hard, but in the case of horror projects it is worth asking for far far more than you would normally get.

      Either you get enough to compensate you for the crap, or you walk away at no cost

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Oh yeah…

        That's fine if you're at the offer stage when you decide you don't want to do that job, but if you're still in the interviewing stages, the costs are higher. Especially if the later interviews have time or location costs for you. Taking a day off work to travel somewhere to interview for a position you don't want in the hopes that you can suggest a ridiculous salary and they'll accept it is not very useful and certainly unpleasant. For similar reasons, I don't automatically start interviewing for positions when recruiters find me--having a bunch of one-hour initial interview calls isn't that hard, but it's often time wasted.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh yeah…

      "Another just recently, where after 3 Zoom interviews and 1 physical interview, I saw what a mess things were by the government openly badmouthing the company’s whole contract"

      If that was also in the UK, I'd guess it was the track and trace program. I was interviewed for an Indian outsourcing firm involved in that and it sounds familiar. The HR consultant told me the outsourcers were looking to recruiter UK based developers, since all the work being done in India was being rejected. She also warned me that previous candidates had told her that the initial online test was "difficult". That was an understatement. It had been created by the outsources themselves, with explanatory text full of spelling and grammar mistakes. The "tests" were a mix of questions on the dustier corners of long obsolete Java technologies (such as EJB 1.0 and dead frameworks like Avalon) or nonsensical exercises to implement something to do with a story from Hindu mythology.

  7. TonyJ Silver badge

    I've had some horrible interviews

    I've faced the interviewers who were determined to prove that they knew more than you, at whatever the cost.

    I also once drove about 4 hours for an interview, which was held in a boardroom. The two jokers doing the interviewing sat opposite me but at each corner of the huge boardroom table - so big in fact that if I was facing one of them to talk, the other wasn't in my direct eyeline.

    They then proceeded to argue between themselves whilst occasionally snapping a bad tempered question my way. I stood up part way through, told them I didn't know what the hell game they were playing and thanked them for wasting my time and walked out. The agency called me to say they'd offered me the role. I told them not in a million years, and exactly why.

    Another one that stuck in my mind was the guy who would ask a question then not give me time to think about the answer - would just go "No? Ok moving on" before I had to say hang on fella - I like to think before I speak, how about giving me the courtesy of letting me? Didn't get that one.

    Oh and one I had that went extremely well. Was the personable kind of interview that had no technical content. The manager shook my hand and said "You'll be a great addition to our team". The agency called me whilst I was still in the car park to say the manager didn't think I was technical enough... I actually asked him to call him back and check that he hadn't confused his candidates. I explained what he'd said and that there had, in fact, been literally zero technical questions in the interview.

    He called me back a few minutes later to say yeah.. he is adamant it's you he's thinking of. Oh well.

    I always use the interview process to assess the company and the people I'll be working with/for and I'm not afraid to say "nah". You spend a long time at work. It's important to be happy there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've had some horrible interviews

      I went to one place for an interview where they had a big HQ with a 2 or 3 storey car park. I missed the turn for the visitors car park and did a circuit through the staff parking first.

      The staff were rammed in but near the entrance there was a swathe of empty spaces reserved for management - all completely empty. I took the view that they liked their perks but didn't like turning up to do the job so I just drove out again.

      (Also I'd had a reasonably good interview the day before with someone else so I knew I could be picky!)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've had some horrible interviews

      I find it difficult to tell sometimes - interviews that I thought went well, I don't get the job. One interview, I turned up late, got the bloke's name wrong (Easton / Weston ?) and was offered the job next day.

    3. theloop

      Re: I've had some horrible interviews

      I had one at an MSP with a total helmet lead tech who would have been my boss.

      He acted like he was the be-all and end-all of IT knowledge and his opinion was the only right one.

      He would ask me a question and after I gave my answer, he would ask "what's another way of doing it?" when it was totally irrelevant. eg using powershell or a a snap-in

      Asked me about what I'd been working on recently and then proceeded to tell me it wasn't possible to do what I had described (active/active san controllers) and insisted it must not be working correctly.

      The role was about 50/50 on the road and included a company car or allowance, so I asked about the travel and said "I like driving so that won't be a problem", he then looked at me funny, dismissed by question and said "No one likes driving".

      Finished the interview and the recruiter phoned to say I didn't get it. I told him that's fine as I would never work for that guy and what I honestly thought of him. The recruiter laughed and said "yeah you're not the first candidate to say that"

  8. Detective Emil

    I hold no brief for SOAS graduates, but …

    Some of this lot surely have some understanding of something.

    1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: I hold no brief for SOAS graduates, but …

      I think it start with exactly my point. They start with SOAS grads who are important because their mum shagged somenoe important and when we look more closely, less impressive than town cryer of a small Dorse village.

      Then they go go to a war criminal, coomplicit in a genocide.Aung San Suu Kyi, who I guess is important but not in a good way.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I hold no brief for SOAS graduates, but …

        If we hire you, how much notice will your village need to find a replacement idiot ?

        1. UCAP Silver badge

          Re: I hold no brief for SOAS graduates, but …

          I've interviewed one or two people over the years that I'd swear could not get the job of Village Idiot on account of being over qualified.

        2. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

          Re: I hold no brief for SOAS graduates, but …

          I do it freelance now, my rates are very reasonable.

  9. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    The Faddist

    One type of interviewer unaccountably not mentioned is the incompetent faddist. This is when there is a new 'fad' or 'buzzword' for assessing someone's general competence by some COMPLETELY UNRELATED character trait.

    So, for example, the rumour is that IBM had a fad where they'd take the candidate to lunch, and if the person put salt on their food before tasting it, they didn't get hired. In another case the two interviewers had arranged the chairs so that the interviewees chair was pointed slightly away from the iteriezwers. If the candidate didn't mover the chair to face them, they were rejected.

    One interview I had there were two interviewers, who sat on different sides of the table, with me on another side. Apart from simple questions like "would like a cup of coffee?" and "Did you sign I at reception?" one of them interrupted the answer to every question the other asked and vice versa. The only time they did not interrupt was when I gave my '5 minute presentation' on "Identity"*. These two were an awful double act. After about an hour I left knowing that whatever happened I would not be working for them, and went to the National Gallery to recover. Could I really be that bad at my job? I'd done security reviews of many government departments and agencies, I'd successfully advised on security for secure IT systems and been complemented by the government accreditors on several occasions. No, the interviewers were crap, but oh they clearly thought they were 'the bees knees'. I did even consider writing to their manager and complaining but then I thought "why help the opposition?"**

    *In InfoSec that was the standard topic for a presentation by the candidate for years. I always started with Newton's anonymous answer to a problem of Daniel Bernoulli for which he received a polite thanks. When asking Daniel how he knew it was him, Newton got the reply "You recognise the lion by the stroke of his paw". I never got hired, but that's another story.

    **If you did this, consider the purpose of an interview - it is to determine whether the candidate's CV is accurate, and find out what they are good at, and what they are not so good at. If you interrupt every answer they give, you are interviewing them for a press officer position facing a hostile room of journalists, not a technical IT job, you wazzocks.***

    *** Yes, I'm STILL pissed off at you. I took a day's leave to attend that interview and you didn't even have the courtesy to be polite.

    1. FIA Silver badge

      Re: The Faddist

      *** Yes, I'm STILL pissed off at you. I took a day's leave to attend that interview and you didn't even have the courtesy to be polite.

      Oh, don't start. I interviewed for a company that had been recently been taken over by a 'large tech company'. I had to take 2 days off work, travel 200 miles to their head office, for a half day interview for a job IN THE CITY I LIVE IN. (And of course, the interview starts at 8:30, so you've got to have 2 days off to make sure you're there on time).

      Got hotel and travel paid for, but still ended up out of pocket for a deeply unsatisfying interview experience.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: The Faddist

        FIA: "*** Yes, I'm STILL pissed off at you. I took a day's leave to attend that interview and you didn't even have the courtesy to be polite.

        Oh, don't start."

        Well, I'm a sensitive flower :o(

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Faddist

        > "Got hotel and travel paid for, but still ended up out of pocket for a deeply unsatisfying interview experience."

        Several years ago I was to be interviewed for a fixed-term (1+ year) employment "contract" with Huawei for a project they were doing on-site at a Mobile OpCo in another European country. I was told Huawei would pay for the flights and hotel for my trip to their office.

        Showed up for the meeting and it was a mess, it was disorganised and started late,6+ interviewers who didn't seem to know what exactly they were interviewing for/what skills were needed. About 15 mins into the interview the door swung open and a senior person pranced in and started asking me various technical questions (about areas that were not mentioned on my CV) and as I couldn't answer them he starting shouting at the other more junior staff about how I was wasting his time and he swanned out of the room.

        Once home I sent in my expenses claim for the flight and hotels and never heard anything despite chasing them several times. I was told by a friend (who worked for Huawei) that this was standard practice - unless I continually chased the finance department for 3+ months it would never be paid.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: The Faddist

          You should have told them that if they don't respond you'll take them to court and apply for winding up order if they don't pay their debt.

          It always works.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Faddist

            It was Huawei in another EU country, not Huawei UK, so to take action would have involved doing so in another language and in another legal system.

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
              Big Brother

              Re: The Faddist

              If that is their 'policy' how about trying a class action lawsuit across the EU? If they've done it to you, they probably do the same to everyone they can. Going for punitive damages would be appropriate were the case proven to be a general policy.

              Remind them the Big Brother really is watching them.

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: The Faddist

      I think you interviewed at the same company as TonyJ, above.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: The Faddist

        Maybe, but I didn't have the common sense to walk out before the end and tell them that I was not interested in working with them.

        Frankly I doubt if either of my interviewers had any idea how I'd managed to hold down a job in information security for 15 + years. And If you are an interviewer and cannot answer that question about the applicant, then you have not done your job.

    3. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: The Faddist

      Very good stuff, or at least awful stuff in a good way.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What have I been missing?

    A caveat to start with: not IT - my career started in engineering and evolved into QHSE consultancy and auditing (although all involved significant involvement in the application of acquired ICT skills).

    I recall three interviews where I was being interviewed as part of a paring process (i.e. reduce the short leat to the number of vacancies). They were back in 1974 when I was about to graduate with my BSc and seeking my first job. One was with the MoD (a formal interview panel, limited allowable expenses - 2nd class rail and bus, but no taxi nor meals), one with a large engineering group (that involved team exercises over two days), and one with an engineering company with an enviable reputation (where i was met by my prospective manager, followed by an "informal" discussion with members of the department's management team). I turned down offers from the first two and accepted the third; it was the company I really wanted to work for and they even offered the best starting salary (which I treated as a bonus). I moved on after a few years but their enviable reputation was well deserved.

    Since then, until retirement, all interviews (bar one) were by organisations who had approached me, and interviews were relatively relaxed. The "bar one" was an exploratory application I'd made, to investigate what they were offering, in case it was as good as it seemed to outsiders. The interview demonstrated several of the failings in the article: I had applied for a post as a contractor (per their vacancy advertisement), they started by thanking me for my staff application; they asked questions on situations that should never occur (and I told them so); the terms they offered were below my current earnings, and also required me to do some unpaid work for them (and at my expense) as a probationary period. Despite telling them what I thought, they still made their offer - that I happily turned down. Ironically, I later picked up a contract that involved auditing them on behalf of prospective customers - I don't hold grudges (though I I often take prior experience into account)!

    I must have been lucky in being able to choose where I worked.

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: What have I been missing?

      I have been similarly lucky. I did have one bizarre one but apart from that interviews have been friendly and on-topic.

      For my current job, I was welcomed then introduced to a contractor that the company used, and asked to talk to him for a while. We had chatted about technical stuff and other lighter-hearted topics and then someone poked their head around the door and said, "we have your wife on the phone and she wonders when you're getting back. She says she has to go to work and you're supposed to be looking after the kids!". Turns out we had been chatting for over 3 hours! Got the job and a great company to work for.

  11. lglethal Silver badge

    I've had two interviews that stick in my mind.

    The first was for a contracting firm, where they told me up front there would be 2 telephone interviews (I was living in a different country at the time and this was before the days of video conferencing) followed by an in person interview if the other 2 went well. No Problem, they were up front about it. The first Telephone interview would be with my would-be manager, the second with HR and a company Executive (to test company fit i guess). I had the first telephone interview and it was great, manager and I got on swimmingly.

    The next day I got a call to say I had the job, they'd be sending me the contract in the post today, and could I please start next week. And yes I did take the job, moved country and was in place the week later as requested only to find out they werent ready for me (they did pay me for that time even though they couldnt actually get me to start work, but thats a whole other story...

    The second was actually not a job interview, but a firm that would be using our contracting firm, wanted to interview the engineers that would actually be doing the work to check that they actually knew their stuff (smart, no?). So a dozen of us engineers are sitting around a table facing a handful of their staff, and they started going around the table, really grilling people. It got to me, the lead guy asked me one question with an extremely smug look on his face which he must have thought was a really hard, killer of a question, but which happened to be something I'd been working on not more than a week before. 30 seconds into my detailed explanation of the answer and with a shocked look on his face, he simply cut me off with a "You're fine. Next!" and moved on.

    If you ask a question of someone in an interview, you really should not be shocked when they know the answer. Thankfully, I never needed to work with any of the people aksing the questions and the engineers at the firm where top drawer. So all good! :)

    1. FIA Silver badge

      If you ask a question of someone in an interview, you really should not be shocked when they know the answer.

      This is fine in theory, but having worked in IT for a few years and worked with a few 'talented' contractors I can well believe the shock was real. If you're interviewing I bet you've seen even worse.

      I would expect that whole process you've described came about entirely because of this quality variance. (I might be too cynical though; but it does feel like there's just an assumption that all contractors are good, rather than good at blagging. :) )

      I once had to explain groovy smart properties to a contractor we'd hired when I found them studiosly generating getters and setters. (Okay, they were a Java dev, but the 'Intro to Groovy for Java devs' covers them quite well, I kind of assumed they'd have read that....)

      A good contractor is a wonderful thing, an asset to a team that will drive the whole project forward.

      A bad contractor is a reminder to your perminent staff that you don't pay them enough.

      Thankfully, I never needed to work with any of the people aksing the questions and the engineers at the firm where top drawer. So all good! :)

      To be fair, if that was the case, it sounds like the interviewers were pretty good too. :)

      1. Notas Badoff

        "A bad contractor is a reminder to your perminent staff that you don't pay them enough."

        That seems like the best possible warning that HR could take to heart.

    2. el_oscuro

      I am that lead guy

      With 30 years of Oracle DBA experience, I am only involved with candidates that are interviewing for a senior DBA position. The question I ask is always the same, and is extremely hard, but if you are a senior DBA, it shouldn't be:

      "Have you ever restored a database from your backups? If so, please describe what you did. There is no wrong or right answer."

      I have had exactly one candidate in 30 years answer that question, and she basically interviewed us. By the end of the interview, we were simply listening to her and learning, while trying to figure out how to accommodate her WFH requirement pre-COVID.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I am that lead guy

        Surely that's an extremely easy question. The answer is "no - next!"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I am that lead guy

        I'm a Project Manager from a technical background originally. As I manage complex implementations and migrations DB restores are often a requirement during the project. Until raid and mirroring became generally affordable it was often required after disk failures in live operation. I think I must be missing something if only one candidate ever answered the question to your satisfaction

  12. Fonant

    Given that the employer holds almost all the cards in an employment relationship, the most important part of the interview process is for the candidate to decide whether or not they've be happy working for that employer.

    The employer needs to make sure the candidate is competent for the job, and, hopefully, whether they'd fit in with their potential colleagues. Since every job is different, an ability to think, learn, and adapt is often more important than some particular technical ability or experience on their CV.

    As the article says, the employer needs to avoid anyone who is applying solely because they're desperate for a job.

    A good interview should be a pleasurable experience for everyone involved. Whatever the outcome.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      who is applying solely because they're desperate for a job.

      Do you think someone applies for a job, typically because they have nothing else to do and think that would be fun to do some 9-5?

      Sure, some people may have savings and they may feel comfortable interviewing for a position knowing they have a buffer for a few more weeks, but what would expect from someone who does not have such luxury?

      Current salaries are so low, people barely can save any money and you expect them to not appear desperate?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Given that the employer holds almost all the cards in an employment relationship..."

      They don't, though, unless you go into it believing this. This article is about the mistakes interviewers make, but that attitude is the single biggest mistake you can make if you have chosen the life of a salaryman. In a professional role such as engineering, the relationship must be businesslike and mutually beneficial; if it is not beneficial to one party or the other it needs to end. You the interviewee are not a supplicant, begging for scraps. You the interviewer are not a feudal lord tossing out boons to the peasantry. You are both businesspeople and must act like it. If an interviewee comes to my office acting like a charity case, I'm (a) unlikely to hire because we're not a charity and (b) if I do hire, it will be on ruinous terms because I'll be fairly certain that the only way I'll benefit from your services is by paying very little for them. Usually that ends up being a bad hire.

      This doesn't mean you show up and strut around like the cock of the walk, either. You're a professional, with valuable skills and experience. An important part of being a professional is being able to clearly articulate what you can (and will, and will not) do for a prospective employer. You should take pride in that, but not be obnoxious about it. If those skills and experience match what the interviewer needs, you are within your rights to demand and expect to be compensated accordingly. If they don't care to pay, move on. A job is not a gift; both sides should feel they're getting the better of the deal, but also that they're giving up great value to get it. Whichever side of the table you're sitting on, if you think you're dictating terms, you're making a bad choice. Weak employers tend to treat employees badly and even stiff them. Weak employees do little work, create turmoil, and even steal. People who are, or feel, desperate do desperate things. If you're sitting in a negotiation and feel that you have all the power or none at all, walk out. Immediately.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      "As the article says, the employer needs to avoid anyone who is applying solely because they're desperate for a job."

      I'm not sure about this. There can be several cases where someone does need a job badly and is also quite capable of doing the work involved. That someone is applying because they need a job doesn't automatically mean they lack the ability to do it properly. For example, someone who took time off to deal with an emergency which has also depleted their savings could be very desperate for an income stream, but that situation could also happen to any one of us given a sufficiently bad emergency. On another level, anyone getting their first position in a field will have faced some difficulty proving their qualifications without citing experience, and they could be very interested in finding a position, any position, so they can prove their abilities as a professional. Yet everyone here who has a job at one point didn't have any job experience but still had skills.

      As an interviewee, if you're desperate for a job, hide it. Many interviewers will follow this quote faithfully. To interviewers, I suggest you become the exception to that rule.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "As the article says, the employer needs to avoid anyone who is applying solely because they're desperate for a job."

      No one is desperate for a job. Desperate for money, possibly, but not for a job; that's merely a way of getting money. That is, I don't think anyone is desperate to be told what to do for 8 hours a day, but I suppose it's possible -- if that's you, please remember that help is available. Similarly, it's possible for a company to be desperate for some work to get done, but they're not desperate to hire. In either case each side is going to examine all the alternatives first, because paying labour isn't cheap and giving up 35-50 hours a week of your life -- the most finite and irreplaceable resource that exists -- isn't either. The extent of desperation in either case is expressed primarily in how little of what they need they're willing to accept for how much they have to offer of what the other party wants. But fundamentally it's a 2-way relationship in which neither party gets as much of what they want nor is able to offer as little as they'd prefer. Ideally each comes out slightly ahead of where they'd otherwise be. Having a job is not a win; at best, you lose nearly as much as you get.

      1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

        Actually *some* people are desperate for a job. They may be trapped in the "no experience -> no job -> no experience" loop or want to work in media (for whatever reason) and may be prepared to work for nothing.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          That is what unpaid internships at ITV and the BBC* are for. Basically rich people getting job experience and contacts that poor people who actually need to be paid cannot possibly do.

          *Other 'employers' offering unpaid internships are, I believe, available in the arts, law etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Working for free

            My son is now a successful contractor in the film industry working as a set electrician on location. Hes now working on large productions but having completed a vocational degree in media studies (this was a very practical course which included production, still and video camera work, editing and even camera maintenance) he could not even get paid expenses for the first 2 years. He did a lot of work with local bands for free borrowing equipment and that got his foot in the door for low budget professional productions but it was probably 4 years before he got paid a real wage. We are not a rich family by any means but could afford to keep him at home while he got on his feet.

            1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

              Re: Working for free

              A few years back I was acting as an expert witness at a bank They had to come collect me from reception ever day and I asked for an entry card.

              However I was being paid by lawyers, not the bank and the system simply could not give a card to someone they weren't paying.

              Free interns are why people in the media are so overwhelmingly smug middle class white people, That's why they are so hostile to "yuppies" or anyone else aspiring to have a better life than their parents. I recall one conversation with some BBC types about neoptism in banking, (yes, the BBC where it is a rule not an exception) and I asked the interchangeable Emmas whose father had had a manual job. One of them brightly answered her dad was a builder, like mine.

              Apparently being finance director of McAlpine counts as being a building labourer.

              I appreciate it was a struggle for you, and I admire your support for your kid but my parents would have stared blankly at the idea of supporting me for that long at that cost. We were actually poor.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I never thought I'd be desperate for a job (not just money), but after working 30 years flat out, only to be first furloughed and then made redundant during the pandemic, after 6 months I really wanted to be doing something useful, even though I was ok financially for another few months.

  13. steelpillow Silver badge

    Missing type

    The clueless idiot

    I always used the tea and coffee facilities as the litmus test for any workplace; if it turns blue then they value their workforce as human beings, if it turns red then we are just numbers on the balance sheet.

    One opening, the interviewer turned up at reception ten minutes late with a coffee in hand. Did not offer me one but ushered me straight in to the interview room. Colleague waiting there with hers did not blink. Time for the first question. As far as I was concerned, the interview was over before it had begun.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Missing type

      One British Olympic medallist, after retiring from sport, found life a bit tricky. She had concentrated so much on her sport that job prospects were ignored. She was down to her last £10 (literally), and was invited for interview in a cafe. The chap turned up late, ordered a coffee, was not the most considerate interviewer and left, without paying. She just about had enough in her account to pay for the coffees and get home.

      (She was interviewed on the radio a few years ago and I was shocked she had been treated so badly.)

      1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

        Re: Missing type

        Ther is not enough naming and shaming.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Missing type

      I am not sure if that's that straightforward...

      A coffee machine in the kitchen area is often a sign that workers cannot afford going for a coffee nor they can take breaks to get one outside.

      I mean, it is convenient for sure - especially if it is something commercial grade - but it sends a message, you better be at your desk whole time and don't you dare venturing out.

      Another way this can be deceiving is that often the employer won't give a flying toss about coffee facility and would expect workers to bring their own in a flask. So what workers do, they pool money together and buy a communal coffee machine. If this is your litmus test, it is good to ask who bought the coffee machine.

      Now if there is a coffee machine in the office, there are various systems. For example who buys the coffee or coffee pods? Sometimes employer does that let's say every week, but also workers create a "coffee fund", where each worker puts a fiver every week.

      But these arrangements create problems - for example, what if one worker drinks much more coffee than the others? That builds resentment.

      Furthermore, if there is a communal coffee facility and you want to get a different coffee outside, it may be awkward, like "why you go outside if the coffee is here? Do I pay you too much?"

      Employer provided facility also to an extent removes a choice from you - someone takes over part of sovereignty over your body, as no longer you can decide what kind of coffee you can put into your body.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Missing type

        Over here the quality of the coffee machine is the main recruitment feature.

        If the dev lead can't do fancy latte art when they offer you a coffee then they have no chance of recruiting prime talent.

        Although there are enough Indians employed that you can usually also get a decent cup of tea if you haven't gone native.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Missing type

        I don't think I've ever worked in a company where I could have gone out to get a coffee - but then, I've never worked in a city centre where the economy (going by the pleas from city-centre businesses) is focused on the office drones (drones, as in the broad sense of workers). Where I've worked, you're allowed out for breaks but it's not to breathe in the NOx, etc. Employers provide on-site facilities. Sometimes it's been through vending machines, sometimes local kitchen facilities, sometimes through cafes and restaurants (one firm had an on-site Costa and managers routinely turned up to team briefings with a tray of each person's preferred beverage - that was a good place to work).

        The facilities are often an indicator of company culture, though it has to be viewed alongside how they're used. I've visited firms where excellent catering facilities were totally offset by draconian rules on access and use. In one, cafes/restaurants were segregated for hourly-paid workers (shop floor), monthly staff (supervisors and office workers), management and visitors. Compare that to another where their cafeteria was shared by all, meals were free and the lowly apprentice could find they're sat next to, and having a friendly conversation with, the general manager (in that company, he spent a lot of time meeting staff and finding out views and areas needing improvement.

        There's never just one thing to segregate good and bad - there are pointers but you usually need to see the bigger picture.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: Missing type

          AC: "one firm had an on-site Costa and managers routinely turned up to team briefings with a tray of each person's preferred beverage "

          I worked for a small company in serviced offices. There was small area where coffees and teas could be made, and we would sort of take it in turns to make a round of drinks, each one carefully tailored to the recipient's precise instructions. Except of course when 'Dave'*, one of the Directors decided to do his once a month round (jut to show he was a man-of-the-people). Presented with a tray of seven mugs of variously coloured milky beverages, he told me to take 'the brown one'. I picked up the sole brown mug, only to be told "no the brown one". He meant the particularly brown liquid one, not the beige or dark brown or very dark brown or light brown drinks.

          Still, it is the thought that counts.

          *Actually his real name. Name and shame. And why not? It is not as if I'd tell you his full name or address or note that the company web site was last updated in 2014.

      3. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Missing type

        There's 3 large machines from 'Pelican Rouge' on the floor my organisation has. All 3 are rented by the organisation, and they also pay for coffee beans(2 different roasts), instant, chocolate powder and creamer, tea bags and even portion packed Buillon for those of us who need an energy replenishment in the afternoon.

        Not all office places have a nearby starbucks or other overpriced place to buy the daily coffee.

        And if the weather is bad, are you certain you want to run outside even if it's just across the street?

        The ONLY thing to look for on machines like these is if they have a coin slot or not.

        Then you can ask who owns it.

        If it's the building owner, or possibly the company's oldboys soccer team, it's probably OK.

        If it belongs to a third party, it's usually not OK.

        1. Toastan Buttar

          Re: Missing type

          "And if the weather is bad, are you certain you want to run outside even if it's just across the street?"

          Only if it rains...

    3. Plest Silver badge

      Re: Missing type

      Oh yes!

      After being invited to come through past reception and seeing what I can only describe as an office in downtown Staligrad circa 1945! I'd already decided I didn't want the job but I made the trip and the practice would be a laugh. As a systems admin job I asked them what their backup and recovery regime was, the answer..."Well we have one but...ermmm. Any other questions?". Couldn't run for the door fast enough before bursting out laughing!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Missing type

        >backup and recovery regime

        We shoot everyone involved and deny that the project/department/organisation ever existed

  14. Kristian Walsh

    Best interview questions I have been asked, and later asked:

    “What is systemd?”


    “How do you format your code?”

    Neither of these were asked to elicit a “correct” answers, but to act as an asshole trigger: someone who holds such strong opinions about either of these things that they’d let loose at an interview is not someone who will be a net benefit to any development team.

    Personally, I have never been asked to whiteboard a qsort algorithm or other sorts of dick-wavery, but a former employer did ask interviewees to write a trivial program (<10 lines of C) from a three-line spec in any language of their choice. You would be amazed how many people with “programmer” in their CV cannot form a simple loop and a conditional… (nobody ever offered to use a functional language)

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Haven't interviewed in years, but when I did I was fond of the "complete the doubly-linked list class" question I was given in my 1st year CS exam. Disturbingly high failure rate.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Depressingly, most junior programmers I've interviewed recently barely know data structures at all. Talk to them about big O notation and they just haven't got a clue. It seems the current crop of new computing graduates are being taught nothing more than JavaScript - lower level languages are at best glossed over in a one or two lectures. Even when computing courses concentrated on Java as the principle language in the earlier part of this century, there was at least a decent set of Collection classes to demonstrate the behaviour of differing data structures. As for algorithms? Forget about it :-(

        1. GrumpenKraut

          > It seems the current crop of new computing graduates are being taught nothing more than...

          At least where I live (and teach) this is not entirely true. However, students tend to switch off when it comes big-O and some finer points of computing/programming. Telling them stat stuff *is* important turned out to be fruitless. Nowadays I say something along then lines off "If you ignore this you will not get a good job, and you will totally deserve it.". Funny enough this seems to work.

          But yeah, I have seen the content of courses that are not even a joke.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > Talk to them about big O notation and they just haven't got a clue.

          I'm an oldie with a CS degree but I had to look on-line to check that "big-O" meant "order of growth" as I learnt it. But don't worry - "big-oh" doesn't look at all dumbed down from here. ;-)

          1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

            I became familiar with big-O in the 80's, and I hadn't heard of "order of" so I was curious and looked on Wikipedia.

            > In the 1970s the big O was popularized in computer science by Donald Knuth, ...

            > ... The big-O originally stands for "order of" ("Ordnung", Bachmann 1894),

            So just how old are you? :) No really - I think like all language there are dialects.

        3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Well, companies get what they pay for. Do you think people have motivation to study knowing that they won't make career out of it?

          Even the senior level salaries these days won't get you approved for a house in a reasonable area and often you can forget about getting a flat.

          It's an okay life, but certainly not worth the effort today.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > Talk to them about big O notation and they just haven't got a clue

          When I went to university it was called Computational Complexity (Sipser).

          1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

            Same here, it's now on the A level CompSci.

        5. Woodnag

          Java as the principle language?

          For moral and ethical coding, presumably...

    2. GrumpenKraut

      > “What is systemd?”

      > ...someone who holds such strong opinions...

      Well, that is me not getting the job then.

      Somewhat more seriously, I have had excellent colleagues (programmers) who had *very* strong opinions on certain things. Which was a plus because I knew exactly how to rile them.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        I don't think it's having the opinion that's the problem, but instead how you express it. If an interviewer asks what systemd is, they want you to describe what it's for and how it's used, not what you think of it. Commenting on its design decisions which you think are good examples of something you will avoid later is a middle area. Shouting that it's the worst thing you've ever seen is, even if they agree, not a great harbinger of your ability to accept things that you don't entirely agree with.

        1. Woodnag

          When to shut up

          With any techical discussion, there are usually multiple adequate approaches. If you know that nobody is going to listen to your probably slightly better way, just get pissy at the implied criticism of the other ideas, then it's usually a good idea just to keep schtum.

      2. dgeb

        When interviewing, I specifically try to elicit strong opinions - holding *and justifying* a strong opinion is a good indicator that the person has both actually worked with the tech in question, and cares about it. It's also a natural starting point to discuss their previous work, because the explanation almost invariably revolves around that.

        If it crosses the line into being arrogantly opinionated (e.g. not rationally justified by the evidence presented, unwillingness to concede that there should ever be a different conclusion, or an opinion copied from someone with whom they assume they should agree) then that's a cause for concern, but by far the more common issue is candidates seeming not to care about their craft.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      “How do you format your code?”

      Very nicely, thank you!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        “How do you format your code?”

        So it's easy to read.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        “How do you format your code?”

        I don't, the editor does it for me, to whatever format the company insists on!

  15. pmb00cs

    I was once turned down for a job because the interviewer didn't feel I wanted the job enough.

    A recruiter contacted me on linkedin, asked if I would like a good job, I said that I would be a fool not to consider the right offer, but I was happy in my current job. I went through a phone interview, then the face to face interview. I don't think the face to face interviewer got the memo that they were selling me the job, not that I was selling them my skills. So I didn't get an offer, instead I got a polite "thanks but no thanks" response.

    Two weeks later they got back in touch and asked if I was still interested. I wasn't. I guess no one else was either.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Many many years ago I cancelled an interview at BAe.

      They still called me on the morning of the interview and asked where I was, I explained that I thought the project they were working on was a fiasco that would obviously be cancelled and they would be shut down.

      Many Many billions of £/$ later the project obviously is a fiasco but strangely hasn't been cancelled.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      I had something of the sort, donkey' years ago. I can't remember much about it - not even where it was for. But someone from a similar education service to mine asked me if I was interested to moving to them. I said I was happy where I was, but I'd consider it. So they asked me to come along and discuss it with them. So I went. I expected a chat, with some inducement to join them ( and I guessed a proper paper application and an interview of some sort would follow to fill the HR requirements, of course). Instead I found myself in something that seemed more like an actual interview, with people I'd had no previous contact with and questions being aimed at me as if I was there to prove myself to them. And if my memory serves me correctly they were expecting me to start a lower grade or a probationary period ( or both). Though I remember very little of it almost 40 years later, I still have the "Why would they do that" surfacing through my fading consciousness from time to time. It just felt very strange.

  16. trevorde Silver badge

    Interview 2.0

    Interviewed at a company where one interviewer asked me:

    "How would you work out the tidal flow volume of the Thames Estuary?"

    WTF? I asked him how this was relevant to the company (they did inkjet printers). He admitted it wasn't relevant at all. I then asked *why* he was asking me this. He answered he wanted to 'see how I thought'.

    Luckily, I was a mechanical engineer in a previous life and decided to have a bit of fun with him. Turned out he didn't know *why* he wanted the information or *what* he was going to do with it. I pointed out that I could simply make up a number and he'd be happy.

    They ended up offering me the job but I'd found something more interesting.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interview 2.0

      > "How would you work out the tidal flow volume of the Thames Estuary?"

      "Net zero. Next question."

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Interview 2.0

      > "How would you work out the tidal flow volume of the Thames Estuary?"

      I'd use a SPL meter, but I don't see the relevance of how noisy the tide is.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Interview 2.0

      > He answered he wanted to 'see how I thought'.

      I would hire a team of consultants while I embarked on an extensive fact finding trip of other major estuaries in sunny regions noted for their excellent local cuisine

    4. el_oscuro

      Re: Interview 2.0

      If I were asked that question, I would get my phone out and give him the answer:

  17. GlenP Silver badge

    Been There...

    The most glaring contempt an employer can show a prospective hire is having a first interview with an HR or even a recruitment process outsourcer (RPO),

    I answered an ad for the IT Manager position at an Iceland (other cheap foodstores are available) warehouse. The interview invite clearly stated that it would be with an operational manager, not just HR, selection would depend on interview performance, etc. I turned up to find a room full of hopefuls, as the interviews were running behind schedule, and lo, the sole interviewer was an HR droid. Their only interest seemed to be how many days off sick I'd had (my answer was, "I think I had a day off with a bad cold* about ten years ago" which received the response, "We'll need exact details!")

    Having compared the salary being offered with the working conditions** I wouldn't have taken the job even if offered and made that fairly clear.

    *I could have worked but wasn't safe to drive!

    **The warehouse had three managers, IT, Operations and Warehouse. If one of the others was off you had to absorb their role, if both others were off you'd effectively end up working 24 hours a day.

  18. trevorde Silver badge

    Just add alcohol

    An interviewee (F) at my brother's work was asked for her greatest weakness and answered:

    "When I've had a few drinks, I get really flirty!"

    HR didn't give her the job.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Heh, heh. Yeah, that was something she probably learned to keep to herself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just add alcohol

      Very young and arrogant I applied for a systems admin role in Ops dept, the ops manager and dev manager were interviewing. Dev manager asked me what annoyed me most in a job? I said, "I hate developers attitudes...", the second I said this the blood drained from my body when I saw his face turn a delicate blood red! I then attempted to save myself from being literally crucified on the dev team's dept door, " devs do not have any real appreciation for systems management and the operation lifecycles of production systems. They expect production systems to be switched and tweaked whenever a new release is due.". The dev manager calmed down slightly but suffice say the interview ended quickly and the agency was not best happy with me. I learned to keep my honesty in check after that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just add alcohol

        I had one of those panel interviews where most of the members seemed to be developers (or their managers). Rapid fire question after question after question where nearly all of them were "How would you tune the system...". It got to the point where I was tempted to ask in response "What makes you think that tuning the operating system will make up for poor application design?" Didn't get the job and I kept seeing ads for open positions at the company -- for roles strikingly similar to the one I interviewed for -- for several years.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just add alcohol

          As a tech support manager I was constantly being told that my sys admins needed to 'tune the database' or I needed to upgrade the DB server to improve performance.

          My response was to get a DBA to identify the most resource intensive query, it was always in the devs code, she would then tune it and send it back to them with an instruction to go through the rest of the code making similar improvements.

          We could demonstrate the the hardware OS and DB were tuned within an inch of their lives, if the devs put crap code on top that was outside my control and I wasn't wasting budget I needed for training or admin tools to make their lives easier.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Memory Test

    I was once interviewed for a job by HR and the MD. The MD attended many interviews and his main criterion was whether the interviewee could pass his standard test - which was a jumble of objects on a tray which he asked you to memorize then he covered it and you had to tell him the contents - honestly. So, he explained this to me and I got a piece of paper and started writing the objects down. He asked me what I was doing - I said that this was clearly important, so I was going to make a list of all the objects to make sure I got it right, just as I'd write down anything important cos only a bloody idiot would rely on his memory for important stuff. I also told him that you can train a parrot to recognize a bunch of objects and name them and that a parrot would be much cheaper than an engineer if that's what he wanted. We ended up having a frank discussion about the nature of the job and, to my surprise, I got it but I chucked it a few months later because the MD was a micro-managing nightmare who thought he knew everything about everything and didn't give a toss for anyone else's experience, qualifications or advice.

  20. adam 40 Silver badge


    An A4 sheet of 50 TLA's and explain each one.

    That was memorable for being excruciating, after the first 20 it's tough, at 40 it's mind-bending.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      And the point was ?

      Was the job supposed to be repeating the acronyms all day long ?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        No they had no idea what an error message meant but were all too embarrassed to ask and so were doing interviews until a candidate could explain it to them

        1. hplasm


          No they had no idea what an error message meant but were all too embarrassed to ask and so were doing interviews until a candidate could explain it to them"

          So Microsoft, then?

        2. MrBanana Silver badge

          I had that when being interviewed for a Unix kernel programmer's job. The guy who questioned me went through the standard stuff for 5 minutes, then asked me a very specific question about the details of the nap() kernel call. Not something I knew at that level of detail, or could blag, so I decided to be honest and said sorry. He seemed disappointed and confessed they had been having a lot of issues with the implementation. Interview terminated a few minutes later - that item of information was clearly all they wanted. Probably having an employee attached to it would have been an unnecessary burden so why not just ask them at interview.

      2. adam 40 Silver badge

        It was more to find out what you knew.

        Some of the TLA's turned out to be ambiguous, so you could discern the 'technical bent' of the applicant.

        But -it was bizarre, and hopefully never to be repeated!

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: TLA's

      What did you say "TTP" stood for?

      Obligatory Dilbert reference:

      Seriously some TLAs have more than one meaning, depending on context.

      ECB - European Central Bank

      ECB - England and Wales Cricket Board

      FCA - Financial Conduct Authority

      FCA - Food Contact Additives

      ICC - International Criminal Court

      ICC - International Cricket Council

      FFS - Fuss Free Shaving (see if you don't believe me)

      TTP - Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (no, I don't know either)

      Technological el Reg Readers, feel free to add to the list.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: TLA's

        I once in a meeting where IP was discussed thrice:

        • Internet protocol
        • Immunopreciptitation
        • Intellectual property

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    more stories, here

    I definitely met the Winner (extra-trapped question about a programming language, I failed and of course didn't get the job, no remorse, though).

    I also met the height headed mgr. Interestingly, I went to the full process (8 or more interviews, can't recall, over 18 months, yes 1.5 year !!!).

    It paid off, I got the job, and stayed 5 great years there.

    Some interesting moments/facts over those 18 months:

    - at one point, probably was the last interview with the HR lady (the first was with her, and all others were with another person, different each time), being a bit upset about this, I asked how many more interviews there would be. She explained at Yahoo, where she was coming from, the process is 2 years. And no, this company was not even a fraction of Yahoo. Fortunately, this was the last one.

    - one of the dude interviewing me, I never met or heard about him after this, even not about the position he said he was holding since he was long gone when I officially joined. Apparently also his position. Doh.

    - I had to fly to another country for one of the interview. One vacation day spent. Of course, this was paid by me. Fortunately, this was with a good dude I had to work with after.

    - During one of the interview, with who became later my mgr, a Paris dude, he switched to english. Except he was speaking english with a very strong Paris accent, the whole "Hallo Hallo" style ! I had huge issues with such accent, and still have, despite being a native french, and one of his question, I simply didn't understand it ! I had to improvise, didn't want to offend him by asking him to repeat, and just answered "Yes". It worked !

    Why was I so patient ? I had a job, a fucked up one, but still one that was paying the bills. Also, I wanted to work there and had insiders stating they absolutely needed me, all this time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: more stories, here

      "She explained at Yahoo, where she was coming from, the process is 2 years."

      Wow. When I interviewed there it was fifteen minutes with the head of development in Europe and an incredibly simple programming test that required you to write a single function. With that low bar, I guess it shouldn't of come as a surprise to find out their codebase was a multi-million line morass of spaghetti code - mostly hacks to the Apache webserver and custom modules - in a single CVS repository.

  22. lglethal Silver badge

    A couple of funny ones I can remember hearing from mates

    One German mate of mine was interviewing with a British firm and they wanted to check up on his technical English abilities (apparently talking to him in the interview wasnt enough). So they handed him a one page Technical Report in English about something or other and asked "Can you read and understand this report?". He looked it over, and then declared with just a hint of smugness "Of course!", before handing the document back. Apparently the response was a stunned "Umm OK, next question...". Apparently they'd been expecting him to read out and then explain it to them. He did end up getting the job after all too.

    Another mate of mine had organised a telephone interview with a top firm on the other side of the pond, for a friday morning. On the Tuesday, he headed down to London for his brothers birthday and around 4am the next morning, he got a call from the firm asking if he would be able to do the interview in about 2 hours time instead. He rather stupidly agreed. So after an all night bender, and with no sleep he proceeded to have the telephone interview. Needless to say he did not end up getting the job. The lesson to take away from that, there really are times when you just have to say sorry, but No that's not an option.

    1. Efer Brick

      Re: A couple of funny ones I can remember hearing from mates

      Brilliant !!

      Very similar to

      Q: "How do the warp engines work?"

      A: "Very well"

      1. Uncle Slacky

        Re: A couple of funny ones I can remember hearing from mates

        I thought that was the Heisenberg compensators?

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          Re: A couple of funny ones I can remember hearing from mates

          Are you certain about that?

        2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: A couple of funny ones I can remember hearing from mates

          That's the transporters.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    One of the best interviews I attended was when I was consulting for a small FMCG company and the MD asked me to help him interview candidates to lead an ERP transition team. The candidates turned up, the MD introduced us, gave a 2 minute description of the role and then said "so, what do you want to know?". Most of the interview was the candidates asking us questions. It was an interesting way to conduct it; some candidates had hardly anything to say but the woman who got the job really put us through our paces.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Reverse

      Now that's an interesting way of conducting a job interview.

      Obviously, those with not enough experience will automatically weed themselves out, those with experience will be able to ask some pointed questions.

      I like that approach !

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Reverse

        I don't like that approach, or rather I only like it in a very restricted set of circumstances. Unless the candidate has already been told a lot about what they will be doing, they don't have a lot to ask about. After the obligatory question about what the job involves, and some necessary clarifying questions, the candidate is likely to know what it entails. So one of two things happens:

        1. The interviewers know everything about the details and are willing to share that information, so the interviewee has to ask about active tasks that they would be working with, essentially trying to solve problems without ever getting to see the system, code, or whatever else is involved in the problem. This is if the interviewers tell the interviewee that they're doing this, because most interviewers don't even know that stuff so the interviewee usually knows well enough not to interrogate them on the internals.

        2. The interviewers either don't know the details or don't want to disclose that to anybody who can get into the interview, so the interviewee has to come up with enough questions to fill the time. Instead of learning anything about the interviewee's qualifications to solve the problem, the interviewers learn of the interviewee's ability to improvise and fill time. While improvisation is a useful skill, it's not very useful if the more important qualifications are lacking. Filling time uselessly is a negative except in sales or law (and isn't necessarily great there either).

        By all means let the interviewee ask questions, but unless you give them enough information beforehand, which questions they ask isn't going to prove much about their skills.

  24. Jonjonz

    Ring ding ding ding ding...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Ring ding ding ding ding...

      Let me guess: you were sat on the handle bars of a push bike being given a lift by a mate and after being stopped by a policeman you pretended you were the bell?

      1. Jonjonz

        Actually Ring ding ding ding ding is from a classic Monty Python sketch about terrible job interviewers.

      2. Jonjonz

        Actually it is a reference to Monty Python satire of silly job interviews..

    2. hplasm

      Crazy frog!


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Favourite interview

    It was with the ESA near Leiden. I was flown there had the interview, about 20 minutes in I said I wasn’t the right man for the job, with reasons, they agreed but said they wanted to meet me in case a different job came up. They bought me lunch and I had a nice afternoon drinking by the canal before flying home. Technically it was a waste of everyone’s time but I had an offer from a bank waiting for paperwork to complete and would only have accepted if I thought this role was going to be more fun.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Favourite interview

      You were prepared to fly somewhere for a pointless meeting and then spend the afternoon drinking by the canal - sounds like you were the perfect person for ESA.

      You would also need to demonstrate the bare-faced cheek of claiming "foreign living allowance" after being there 20years and having a Dutch wife and kids.

    2. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: Favourite interview

      Long time since I have had lunch in ESTEC's canteen. Always thought the food was great; spent two years working there on a space mission in my youth.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Favourite interview

      Never worked there but they were our clients and I did have to go on-site a couple of times.

      At 17:00:00.000000 every day everyone suddenly disappeared, must have been some kind of matter transporter they'd invented.

  26. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Not easy from the other side of the desk

    Our current interview process:

    Do you know optical design?

    Have you used (main optical design package)?

    Do you have a pulse?

    We are prepared to be flexible on the pulse thing

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Not easy from the other side of the desk

      Re: the 'flexible on the pulse' quip:

      "Yes, the recent undeath plague was a BOON to our staffing levels- we've saved SO MUCH MONEY by hiring the recently undead. They don't need to take breaks, they don't need to eat, and when they've rotted away enough that they can no longer do the job, they are easily disposed of."

      (prepares to get downvoted into oblivion for this}

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Not easy from the other side of the desk

        What do you do with a workplace full of shuffling brain dead zombies muttering 'brains' - if you aren't management consultants?

  27. Potemkine! Silver badge

    They allocate three minutes, during which an RPO will ask you to describe a situation where you faced an ethical conflict.

    Once I made an interview to work for a financial service. Everybody knows they are all bastards in finance, working to get more money, whatever the mean. Could I work for such bastards, selling my souls for money in return? I solved that ethical conflict by choosing not to get wealthier but being still able to look at myself in the mirror.

  28. Trollslayer


    I did a little bit of contracting on set top boxes near Bradford.

    The contract finished after a couple months, money wasn't but I had money out of it.

    Plus there was talk of extensions but they never happened.

    A week or so I got a call from the agent saying there was another contract coming.

    And coming.


    When I got an interview for a permanent job in Bristol on set top boxes the contract agent called to try and get me to back to Bradford and it would be starting soon but he didn't have a date.

    Got the Bristol job offered and accepted so let the contract agent know he tried to get me to wait for another contract instead.

    Guess what?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: wait for another contract instead

      Sure ! How much will you pay me to wait ?

    2. GroovyLama

      Re: On/off/on

      Well...? We're waiting :p

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On/off/on

      had an agent that wanted me to give up a permanent job for a short term contract that was based at a site for a large bank - that was closing down......

  29. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Interviews from hell

    They never really bothered me : I always happily walked away, safe in the knowledge that only a fool would accept a job there, and therefore it would be a nightmare of incompetence and mediocrity.

    It cracks me up when I hear the regular moaning about how there's a shortage of required tech skills. I believe it may have something to do with the fact that there's an almost limitless supply of dumb HR people who've done nothing more than read the "how to be a HR person" book and think that qualifies them for recruitment to technical jobs. I gave up on the whole charade years ago. Almost felt sorry for one (very pleasant) recruiter who really tried to persuade me to go for a role. I told him him that the 3 stage interview process that the company apparently was very keen for me to attend showed that they loved their processes more than using their brains. And he understood that I wouldn't be spending 3 days of my life to confirm that.

  30. Efer Brick

    Why do you want to work here?

    Said the HR bot.

    I don't.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Why do you want to work here?

      You have money, I have the skills you are looking for, and I wouldn't mind having some of your money.

      I always find it strange that they think I have some burning desire to work for a company--there are companies I want to avoid working for, but I've never marked a specific employer as an absolute goal. This question becomes all the stranger if it's somewhere that contacted me.

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Why do you want to work here?

      So many years ago, was chatting with the woman at the agency about my next assignment, she related the funniest answer-pair she had ever seen.

      Q. Why do you want to work here? A. Need money.

      Q. Why did you leave the last place you worked? A. Had money.

  31. Efer Brick


    Has anyone ever said Kryptonite ?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: ...weakness?

      Regularly - apparently it doesn't feature in the new Marvel universe, because the PFYs employed as devs these days don't get it.

      1. hplasm

        Re: ...weakness?

        I think you dropped this? ------->

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...weakness?

        Kryptonite is not a Marvel concept.

        1. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: ...weakness?

          The usual management thing of 'not invented here'

  32. Chris the bean counter

    "lets hope you dont find out"

    Got me the job....Wish it hadnt

  33. trevorde Silver badge

    Why Symbian failed

    For those old enough to remember and care, 'Symbian' was the operating system for Nokia phones.

    Anyway, I had an interview with Symbian which turned out to be a *very* detailed technical interview around C++. I cut my teeth on C/C++, so it wasn't anything I hadn't encountered before. The interview went really well and they said "They'd get back to me". I had a lot of other irons in the fire and ended up accepting a role elsewhere.

    Fast forward 3 months later and I get a phone call from Symbian: "Are you still available?" WTF? Anyone who could answer those questions would be snapped up straight away. The only people still on the market after that time would be those that couldn't get a job anywhere (except Symbian).


    Bumped into a Symbian graphics dev at a party a few years later. He said the OS was a POS and his development builds were broken most of the time.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Why Symbian failed

      Another reason?

      I had an interview with Symbian (late '90s). The interviewer's comments constantly returned to how often and where in the building he would bunk off to take a nap whenever he felt like it.

    2. HmmmYes

      Re: Why Symbian failed

      Theres a good book on Symbian,. written by the CEO or CTO.

      Its good because hes written a quite honest overview of the start, the success - and the failure.

      They hired a lot of clever people to write software whod not written software. But they were clever, so there should be no issue.

      They choose c++ because thats what clever people used. ... for an un supported platform ... with a crappy c++ compiler.

      First problem they hit - limit of linker symbol names, so everything was named in a elaborate short notation -CxLL

      Rapidly downhill from that

  34. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Oh go on...

    I travelled six hours (it would have been my daily commute - the recruiter refused to tell me where it was until I'd agreed to an interview, but did insist it was a "short journey" for me to do each day) to an interview. They asked if I wanted a drink. "Yes please"... so they returned shortly later with a plastic cup of water. I think my lack of enthusiasm shone through.

    One company rejected me as "not being technical enough" - I'd asked a question about their shiny new product which they'd waved away and had decided that I didn't want the conflict of telling them they'd missed one of the reasons that sort of product was very hard to develop. It never did reach the market.

    Another company interviewed me for role X, went through the entire process of agreeing a contract for role X, then a day before the job was due to start sent a revised contract with X crossed out. Same pay, promises of same work and role, just not on the paperwork. Foolishly I took it, and spent the next year regretting it.

    After lockdown, quality of life is getting much higher priority, so if a recruiter offers a complicated interview process, I'll turn it down. Show me how I'm going to benefit from working for your company..

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career?

    Honest answer? "Dunno. Winged it and it all worked out". I guess that would be the honest answer for most. I flunked that question at an interview a couple of years back. Current company (where, strangely, I've been for over twenty years)? Just one, single, solitary interview with the department manager and his lieutenant, with such gems as:

    "Are you any good with hardware?"

    "Honestly, a bit phobic, but I did once install a Sound Blaster."

    "We'll take that as a limitation then. Are you happy to travel for a few weeks at a time?"

    "Yes!" (Lying through my teeth as I found the idea of flying quite scary; still a nervous flyer one million Avios, not to mention various other mileage programmes, down the line. At least they had the good sense to sell me on Sweden and Japan, conveniently forgetting to mention all the business in Africa).

    Having done a non-dom year on a pacific island, I think the "Few weeks at a time", on the part of my interviewers, might have been a bit of a porkie pie.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career?

      I took a contract with a n organisation with a retail chain in Germany to manage their Euro conversion implementation. I was warned that it would require a monthly meeting in Germany. I was then asked to spend a week setting up the test center. I ended up working in Germany during the week for the next 10 months. They did put me up in a 5 start hotel for the entire period so it could have been worse. The commute was deathly though 5:30 am check-in and I'd usually get to my office about 2 PM Friday was a 2 PM shutdown and home for 9 PM

      1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

        Re: What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career?

        Was this Commerzbank, U think we were on he same project ?

  36. john.w

    Free consultancy

    I had a frustrating interview in Cambridge for a Bluetooth company who had failed to get into the Wifi market for some years. To start they wanted me to present a detailed market analysis lasting 30mins including cost and price information whilst currently employed by a significantly more successful competitor of theirs. I presented what type of information I would have presented but no useful detail, did not go down well. They then went on to tell me all about their new focus on IOT, the latest fad and asked me to comment on their road map. It got even worse when I was then asked to talk to their board director privately, who had asked them to show me the company roadmap, as he had no faith the team's plans!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Free consultancy

      I had one like that in the 80s. I worked in the research labs of a big electronics company on RF integrated circuits. I went for an interview with a competitor who had advertised very good salaries. The whole interview was them asking me how I might solve very specific "hypothetical" problems and me giving them enough general information to make it clear that I knew but that if they wanted detail then they'd have to employ me. Eventually I found out that a couple of colleagues had also been interviewed but there never was a job - it was just a fishing trip.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Similar....

      Had one with a competitor where it was really just the competitor wanting to know what their competitor was up to. The business I worked for, at the time, was circling around the plug hole, but I made our (actually none existent) R&D sound like NASA. I didn't get the job, but I'd like to think this competitor ended up spending a small fortune fighting something that didn't turn up.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Similar....

        I had a 'brainstorming' interview with a now-defunct Cambridge technical consultancy where I came up with a new invention, and jokingly said "I should patent that"

        A month later I interviewed with another team in the same company and they described the same problem - I told them the previous idea and they answered "Oh we had some consultant suggest that a few weeks ago but we couldn't make it work"

  37. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Brian Hanrahan

    The BBC reporter, was supposed to have been interviewed for a job by a specific person at the BBC. But he wasn't available, for whatever reason, so someone else did it. Mr Hanrahan realised that this person thought he had already been offered the job, and did not enlighten him, os got the job, courtesy of not being interviewed by the right person. (When the person (my uncle) died, many of the newsreaders made a video for his widow saying how well respected he was, this is where I saw the story. Another one on the video was Nicholas Witchell.)

  38. GroovyLama

    The "interview from hell" that set me off on my career

    When I first graduated from uni, I was finding it a bit hard to find work. I originally wanted to go into web development as a PHP back end developer, but was always losing out to candidates "with more experience". After a few months I got a call from a recruiter about a job as a junior consultant for an IT firm that provided Billing Solutions for Telco/TV companies.

    I figured it couldn't hurt to apply, and the incentive of travelling the world was appealing for a recent graduate. Got through to the interview stage fairly easily.

    The interview was one of the worst I have ever been through, where I was asked a wide range of technical questions which I wouldn't have reasonably known. I had made it clear to the interviewer (the person was very soon became the head of consulting for the EMEA region for consulting) that outside of web development, I was not a strong C or Java developer. He proceded to grill me specifically on C and Java, and throw in other questions that even a person with a few years working experience would find difficult to answer. What was worse was he was "marking" me against the sheet he was asking me questions from, so would very deliberately get out a red pen to mark little X's when I got a question wrong. For the first 15-20 minutes that red pen was getting a lot of mileage, and I was starting to get a little flustered.

    "Let's move on to Databases shall we, which you claim to know" he said. Started off with a few SQL questions which I was getting right, so he decided to write up a fairly complex SQL query on the board, and asked me what I thought the result would be. He was pretty shocked when I got it right. After that things started to ease up.

    When the interview finished, as I was leaving I remember thanking them for the opportunity and making it clear I didn't expect to hear back after all my little red X's. Got outside to see I had quite a few missed calls and texts from the recruiter so I called him back, conversation was pretty much this:

    Recruiter: How did the interview go?

    Me: That was terrible, probably my worst interview ever. He kept asking me tough developer questions, nothing to do with the role.

    Recruiter: Sorry to hear that, so how late did the interview start?

    Me: It didn't, it started early as soon as I got there

    Recruiter: Ah right, so you waited til you got home to call me?

    Me: Nope, just walked out now

    Recruiter: Wait, how long were you there?

    Me: An hour and a half of torture? why?

    Recruiter: That's fantastic news!

    Me: ????

    Turns out most candidates don't last more than 15 minutes before they are rejected by this guy, and I was the only one out of the current crop of graduates who had actually made it to the end of the interview. The second round was 2 separate interviews with HR and the person who would be my line manager. They both said that if I had made it this far, I would have to come across as an axe murderer to lose out (why to axe murderers get such a bad rap anyway?)

    So I got the job, and set me up for the rest of my career so far, which I've been very good at and enjoyed so far.

    A while into my job I asked my boss why he interviewed me the way he did. He said working out whether I would be competent for the role from a skills perspective would have been too easy, so he wanted instead to try and push me out of my comfort zone, and see how I would react.

    At my current employer I was a line manager for a while, and have also been asked for a while to help out with interviews for various roles (testers, developers, BA's) to help get a feel for a candidate. While I've never gone to the level he did to grill someone outside of their comfort zone, I have learnt a few ways to weed out candidates.

    Note these are my own learnings from my own experience. I'm not suggesting anyone else has to use them or even like them.

    I'll let other people judge what sort of interviewer this makes me!

    - When a candidate finishes answering a question, leave a few deliberate seconds before moving on or responding. Maybe spend it writing some notes and then just wait a few seconds. A good candidate will be confident in their answer and not say anything further, or will at least ask if you are happy with the answer, or if they need to explain further. A BS merchant will get worried at the silence and will try and fill it. That is usually where they can be caught out

    - In the days of face to face interviews, I would either draw a basic API integration diagram, and ask the candidate to explain it, or get them to draw out their own diagram for a requirement. Very basic, and not expecting them to get it 100% correct. It's more to see how their mind works when working through a scenario, but it can be very telling. We had a candidate we hired once where we didn't do this, and it quickly became clear that while they could talk a good talk, they couldn't achieve something like this even if you gave them the diagram to memorise. that person did not last long with us (there were other issues with them too)

    - If the candidate decides to draw anything on the board as an answer when not asked explicitly to, be wary as it may be a rehearsed answer, and not something they actually understand. We had one candidate who wowed the people in the first round as a tester because they drew an integration diagram, albeit it to an audience of non-techies. They tried the same trick in the second round with me. I simply picked up the pen after them and drew two new boxes to represent some new supplier systems, and asked them how they would test and verify integration into their diagram. They simply could not answer it, even though it was their own practiced scenario

    - I haven't done this for a while, but I used to set small tasks for potential BA candidates where they would be tested to make a small Use Case/spec update ahead of an interview, or have to prepare a small presentation for a new requirement. Again, this can give you a much better insight into how they operate, than asking some of the standard questions

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best interview

    Best interview was as an DB admin for a very large outsourvng company. It was 7pm on a Friday evening, bad start! The interview was conducted in the canteen with 2 people who'd almost been forced to do it against their will. I did the written tech test, they marked it and were intrigued when I got 98% and carefully tried to suggest I cheated, they didn't have much of a clue about the tech subject matter but they did let slip that their own techs only scored 85%. OK.

    It got to around half way through the interview and we were all fed up with the conversation when it turned hobbies and we all instantly clicked over playing guitars in rock bands in our spare time! We spent nearly and hour comparing notes about playing and learning music. I got the job and during my 6 months we even got together a couple of times to jam after work in one of the meeting rooms! The job was too mindless in the end and I got a too good an offer to turn down, a bit of shame.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Best interview

      At an interview, the interviewer was talking about how their system was used at an opening of a very profile event. I mentioned that I had heard about it on the news that there was a delay. He was a bit sheepish and said that it wasn't anything to do with them, it was a printer problem..... Still got the job though.

      Was made redundant after a few years, but during an interview after that, I mentioned that I had visited the Harry Potter studios as part of my previous job to sort out some of our kit (didn't make it past the porta cabin by the main gates, but still counts). Rest of the interview was him waffling about Harry Potter. Part of the job was fixing printers, which I mentioned I didn't have much experience with.

      Got the job, still not a Harry Potter fan though

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Best interview

      All my best jobs have been those where the interview was not a test but a meeting of engineers.

      My best advice for interviews is to turn them around. Don't let them be 'can I fool this person into employing me' but 'will I enjoy working with this person and do I want to confer on them the privilege of working with me'.

      if you're only interviewed by nameless and pointless HR people and not the manager you'll be working with - or, better, the engineers - then run away as fast as you can. If that's the habit of your industry, abandon it and find one with actual people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Best interview

        Last century got invited to London for an in person interview after the phone interview, sat for a couple of hours in a locked room, being quizzed on my C for a supposedly WFH gig. Only given vague details of what I'd be doing. Never met any of the team or even saw the rest of the office, also ended up convinced I'd inevitably be spending some time on-site.

        They failed to convince me I wanted to work with them. I sent the rejection before going home. Wasn't in the mood to explain why when they called to ask either.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had one interviewer ask me some really weird questions. Almost to the point of being obscure. It was all centred around how he had managed to code a piece of software in relation to a very specific problem. Not something you're likely to run into in a day-to-day job. I couldn't turn him around to anything else covered in the job description.

    I didn't bother following up, and neither did they. I think I dodged a bullet there!

  41. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Interviews...... nooooo the memories

    Wheres my safe place and comfy blanket?

    2 stand out

    One was the usual fill out personality assessment test plus general IQ test. followed by a very hostile crowd of 3 interviews with my CV under a microscope.

    "I see you changed jobs on average every 2&1/2 yrs" one pipes up marking this as bad form

    I responded with "how long have you been in this job?"

    "I've worked for <redacted> for 8 yrs and held 5 positions in that time"

    "So you've changed jobs every 20 months or so and thats ok, I've changed every 2&1/2 yrs and thats bad?"

    Needless to say, got the rejection letter a couple of days later

    And the last interview was 3 yrs ago with a well known military sub-contractor who I quite fancied working for as I knew them by reputation and knew the position could be quite fun for someone with my skills.

    Spent a day at their site with HR and form filling out followed by an informal interview by the department manager, followed by a formal interview with the 3 senior people at the site.

    Still waiting to hear from them now the ignorant basts....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interviews...... nooooo the memories

      My company had an agency who pre-filtered candidates so we typically only interviewed half a dozen face-to-face for a given job. I always called the ones who didn't get the job just to let them know and in some cases I gave them a bit of feedback if I thought it might help them in other interviews. When HR found out I was doing this they went ballistic because I could be "opening up the company to being sued, etc, etc" and I was told to stop doing it. I ignored them.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Interviews...... nooooo the memories

        Do this - it's often a small world.

        HR pissed off the organiser of the local specialist X user group by ghosting them - your company name is now fertilizer among everyone in your city who is an expert in X.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: Interviews...... nooooo the memories

          Yep. the IT world can be a small place.

          [RedactedCo] used to use a specific backup and recovery application; the sales engineer who did a lot of the work in our area had moved onto a different company in the storage realm, which is an even small circle of people- a LOT of people who looked at our install afterwards said "Who was your sales engineer for this install originally; was it [engineer]? because this looks like their work." The first couple of times that this occurred I was worried, because I've been burned on installs that didn't go according to design but managed to function anyway until something else broke on them.

          We recently moved to a different system for backups and recovery, and the sales engineer for that was someone whom I worked with many years ago at a different job where I was an angrier version of myself. (I got better.)

  42. nextdoortotheBOFH

    Anyone else ever answered that their greatest weakness was answering stupid interview questions

  43. 502 bad gateway
    IT Angle

    Misty eyed recollections

    The point about interviewers and the absence of interview training is so true. If only interviews weren't necessary, I've had some real corkers including a full day with 2 conducted tours, passed around 4 heads of department for a 'friendly chat' before the grand finale... a panel interview with 3 people taking turns at asking questions while the rest take notes and sharpen their knives. If your lucky they may all join in for the extra fun. This was the mid-late 1980's, but apparently it can still happen these days... hint.. hint.. Amazon.

  44. Danny 2

    Civil service interviewer training

    I knew a clever Civil Service Senior Executive Officer who trained interviewers back in the days you had to pass an exam to reach EO. (Bring back the exams, that's what's gone wrong with the Civil Service)

    He hired students to pretend to be applicants. Now the first question without fail all his students would ask applicants was, "So why do you want to be a Civil Servant", and he had instructed the pseudo-applicants to reply, "I don't. I'm a student pretending to be an applicant to train you."

    He'd judge the interviewers by their next question.

    We used to have a fairly smart Civil Service. Like, in the eighties.

    1. Danny 2

      Re: Civil service interviewer training

      I sat the EO exam, got 97%. My brilliant sister only got 91%. My girlfriend got 77%. They both were offered jobs, I didn't probably because I'm obviously obnoxious. They asked me in interview why I was applying, and I admitted/boasted it was just to prove I'm smarter than my sister and girlfriend.

      Their next question flummoxed me. "What would you do with Africa?" I wasn't aware that the British civil service was in charge of Africa. I can't recall what I said, but obviously the wrong answer. Rejected.

      (I think I replied, "What do we do with Glasgow?", because the main interviewer was Glaswegian. )

  45. ecofeco Silver badge

    It all makes perfect sense when you realize

    When you realize that not one single company is looking for skills, but compliant ass kissers who excel at group think and who will make perfect, unwitting scapegoats.

    In the last 20 years, ANY job form or interview that used pop psychology assessment, got the big "up yer bum" from me. Same with personal life questions. My life outside of work is nunya goddamn bizness.

  46. ZekeStone

    What's my greatest weakness?


    1. MrMerrymaker

      Re: What's my greatest weakness?


  47. Richard Pennington 1

    Not in IT, and not a new story, but ...

    My late father, a school headmaster, once (1970s?) attended an interview for a position as a lecturer at a teacher training college. While looking around the place before the interview, he decided that he didn't actually want the job. This gave him a certain amount of freedom during the interview ...

    A bit of background ... my father had a master's degree (MEd) in the philosophy of education. During the interview, he noted that "philosophy of education" was one of the subjects taught by the college. So he asked a sequence of increasingly searching questions on the subject. Eventually the interviewer bit: "Mr. Pennington, do you really think that our students could handle the kind of philosophy of education you are talking about". To which he replied: "If they can't, why are you awarding them degrees?".

    1. Woodnag

      Re: Not in IT, and not a new story, but ...

      You are obviously a machine code programmer, because your dad is Richard Pennington 0.

  48. Danny 2

    50 bad interview stories

    Tip of the tongue

    First job. "What's a memory array?"

    "An array is a table of numbers."

    "So what's a memory array?"

    "An unforgettable table of numbers?"

    Got the job, guy had a sense of humour and very few other candidates.

    Silicon Glen starts closing down. Went for a job at the missile testing site at Kyle. First question:

    "You drove through our security gates without stopping in a car with terrorist stickers, why?"

    "I was late and the gates were up. Terrorist stickers?"

    "Greenpeace stickers. They were involved in the bombing in Auckland."

    "Aye, as victims. The French secret service are the terrorists, you want to watch out for them. Plus it's my girlfriends car and stickers, not mine."

    Offered the job, refused it.

    Roslin Institute, three man civil service board, height of summer and me in a wool suit. Quatermass weird, ties askew and mad scientist vibe. First question, "You're sweating, why?"

    "Because nobody told me I could turn up in my underwear." All their junior staff were in their underwear in the corridors.

    They explained the two parts of the job and I said I'd do the half that didn't involve killing chicks. They offered me the job. Refused it.

    British Energy, and this is where my career ended. A couple of weeks after 911 I'd dropped a hitch-hiker off at Faslane Peace camp and was blacklisted for that, but I was already due an interview at British Energy as a packaging guy. First question, "We're a nuclear company, does that fit with your politics?"

    Weirdly they still gave me a tour and showed off their vulnerable systems.

    Last Scottish job, at a place the recruitment consultant said only the creme de la creme got in, three interviewers all flapping away. One said, "You are not right for here."

    I agreed and walked out as I had a guaranteed job elsewhere. They ran after me and offered a 20% pay increase. I shouldn't have taken it, but money flatters.

    1. Danny 2

      Re: 50 bad interview stories

      British Airways Cadet Pilot

      Fifth stage of testing, first interview, with three psychologists. (Why always three?)

      "So, you all had to build a Lego tower yesterday, and it didn't go well"

      "Ach, don't blame the others, none of them are engineers or capable of listening to advice. I'd say it went well given their interference."

      "We paid for you to have a drink with the others last night, which ones would you recommend us to hire? "

      "Paul, the posh guy from Manchester Uni flying club."

      "And which shouldn't we hire?"

      "The Royal Navy pilot. He's maybe just a virgin but he over compensates and is borderline rapist. I wouldn't sleep easy in a dorm with him."

      "So why do you want to work for us?"

      "I don't particularly. I have a good job, a mortgage, a girlfriend. I just like tests and interviews. Frankly I don't see how we can make this work for me. It's pretty sad that out of tens of thousands of applicants you've selected me so far, that and my fellow finalists does not inspire confidence in flying with your airline in future. I do love flying though so would consider an offer."

      Closing interview, with two pilots, one of whom doesn't speak just like in the cockpit.

      "We see you only have one half hour flying experience so we can't ask you about aviation. Explain how your car carburettor works."

      "Well, my carburettor either works or I get my Haynes manual out and replace it, who cares what it does. I'm not applying to be a mechanic. I've studied intensively for the past few months on flying and planes and would rather you questioned me on that. I do only have a 30 minute discount flight under my belt because it's expensive, but I told the trainer what it was for and he let me stall the plane and do other cool stuff. I know what you want here. You want a truck driver in the sky. Someone smart enough that they can fix any problem, but not so smart that they get bored on the job and start drinking. You want someone who will not screw or demean the rest of the flight crew. That's me to a tee."

      Apparently not. I think I mucked up most when I inadvertently stole a large white towel from the hotel. In my defence I left a large white towel that I'd brought.

      1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

        Re: 50 bad interview stories

        "first interview, with three psychologists. (Why always three?)"

        If it's an even number, the vote might end in a tie. They've decided that one isn't enough. I presume there's a rapidly diminishing return at five or more.

        The number of the judging, therefore, shall be three.

  49. Brad16800

    Actually met a competent recruiter (unicorn?) he used to work in IT. No idea why he'd choose that career path but he lined me up with a nice job.

    2 interviews, IT manager and CIO.

    I've found it's not about the tech skills but about a good fit in personality. Both those 2 we just had a chat and while we did go over work history and skills it wasn't the majority of the conversation.

    1. Woodnag


      I work well with the smallish (15) bunch of people in our group, wouldn't jump for 50% more dosh...

  50. martinusher Silver badge

    Maybe this is old school thinking

    For a time at least.

    We've been aware of a very serious skills shortage here in the US (California) for some time but post pandemic its gone critical as lots of people who were hanging in there counting out the clock to retirement or just looking for a change of pace have left the high skills workforce. Managers are, unfortunately, ten a penny so many of them haven't caught on to the seriousness of the situation yet, they still think that they're in those halcyon days where they can just hire and fire as the spreadsheet (and personal whim) dictates.

    I was chatting to an old friend yesterday we met at a concert. He's an 'active search' recruiter, his company's been operating for many years both as inside and outside recruiting consultants. He filled me in about the current situation and he wants to get back to me for some advice -- a "long spoon" job since I'm retired, definitely, and definitely do not want another job. I worked past official retirement partly to help out, partly volunteering to train people but my employer never did anything (its not that I needed the money, either) but eventually you have to put your foot down.

    So, people with skills, rejoice for now -- all those pseudo psychologists who have been in the habit of either treating you like a droid or just plain patronizing you -- they're really the redundant ones. Let Natural Selection Reign!

  51. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Something missing?

    The second paragraph under the heading "The Cheap SQL Interviewer" doesn't seem to fit. Was something dropped out of the story?

  52. UCAP Silver badge

    Flip side of the coin

    I've actually done a lot of interviews myself, and have been shocked by the quality of some of the candidates - good and bad! But one always stands out in my mind.

    I was working for a highly skilled technical consultancy company, and we were looking for someone who could come in to lead a load of software projects (we had rather more work than we could cope with at the time), and basically crack the whip over the softies and keep them honest. The role was partially project management, but also needed someone with dep hands-on knowledge since they would be expected to sort out any messes as they occur (either directly, or by guiding the softies to the solution). We had someone apply for the job who looked just perfect; they currently worked for a certain three-letter company where everyone wore blue shirts, but were looking to move to pastures new and fields greener - they had been at their current company for a good two decades.

    My boss held the interview, with me backing him up to provide the technical muscle. However during the first 30 minutes of the interview, I began to get more and more uncertain about the candidate - his answers simply did not stack up in my mind. Eventually I asked my boss if I could interrupt him with some of my questions, and was given the go-ahead.

    Me: In your CV you said that you had done X, Y and Z over the last few years. Did you, personally, do these?

    Interviewee: Ahhh ... no, people who worked on projects that I was responsible for these.

    Me: Did you have any input when X, Y and Z was done?

    Interviewee: Ahhh ... no, the project leads dealt with all of that.

    Me: So you have lied on your CV then?

    Interviewee: Ahhh ...

    The interview only lasted another 5 minutes before my boss closed it and sent the interviewee home with his tale between his legs.

    1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

      Re: Flip side of the coin

      "...sent the interviewee home with his tale between his legs"

      I can't decide whether that's a typo or a brilliant pun.

  53. JohnSheeran

    It's obvious that everyone is rushing to relate their experiences in regards to this articles subject matter but how are we looking past the fact this entire article is a mess? It's almost as if we are coming on the back end of an argument where the author is answering a lot of questions that we haven't actually heard or soap-boxing about their own personal experiences in the job market that may or may not have relevance to anyone else at all. The whole thing is almost incoherent.

    That's not to take away from the actual experiences and I'm sure that all of us have seen these examples in some forms over the years but man, what a mess of an article.

  54. jason_derp

    Only hiring the best

    So if you take only the top 10% of any field, and every company does this, you end up with 90% if a field unemployed. Sounds like the employment rate of a field I'd like to enter, where 9 out of 10 have wasted potentially 4 years of time.

    so they move into another field. Then what? They make 10% of their expected salary out of school, have no money to spend, and suffer crippling student debt? Sounds like a healthy economy.

    How about every company does this and now only 10% of anyone skilled is employed, and the rest are in service, hospitality, and unskilled labor

    That sounds like a tenable economy, too! I'm sure those neighbourhoods (that house 90% of the population) will be crime free and safe. No wasted taxes going there for sure.

  55. s. pam

    Additional category required: Interview from Hell

    With more than 20 years under my belt, I have twice stupidly been brought in for interviews at the UKs biggest (based in Hatfield), fully automated food warehouse/delivery company. After the interview from hell the first time 4 years agi, I made it extremely clear I would not go throught that again last year.

    What happens? I rock up on Zoom, undergo 7 hours of non-stop interviews (vs. F2F previously) only to have it sprung on me, you've still got to do our panel interview. Said company panel interview gives you 1 hour to prep, then you present and through totally B.S. decisions invisible to you, they give you the thumbs down with NO feedback.

    Total. Utter. Moppets.

    On every level.

  56. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    "and even your watch (for our younger readers, in the last century people would spend thousands on a clockwork toy on their wrist if one a bit like it was worn by a golfer on TV)."

    In other words, the same as an iPhone.

  57. adam 40 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    One of my strangest interviews

    I went for an interview at Voice Systems International in Cambridge many years ago. The software director, let's call him "John M", asks me a bout my previous (first) job and my degree etc.

    Abut half way through the interview, before I had had a chance to ask more detailed questions about the role and the company, he holds out his hand and says "welcome on board!".

    Well, that had me wrong-footed for sure. I think I asked sheepishly whether I could think it over!

    Long and short though, I did join VSI and enjoyed every minute of it...

  58. Dropper

    Been there

    Seems like covid has brought out the worst in hiring practices, and for some reason interviewers still don’t understand that the candidate is also interviewing them.

    As for the 8 interviews saga. Every idiot company does this now, or so it seems.

    “We noticed the guy that delivers sandwiches hasn’t had an interview with you yet, so we’d would like to line just one more.”

    I had one company suddenly contact me after 6 weeks of silence, to see if I could do one more interview. Besides the fact I’d long since started a new job, that length of silence means one of two things. Someone quit on the first day and they’re now contacting a 2nd or 3rd choice - or they’re a disorganized, dithering bunch of morons.

    I’m now done at 3 interviews. If they ask for more I tell them I’ve chosen another company who was better qualified for the position I’m interested in, but I’ll keep them on file should I need a new position in the future.

  59. Johan Bastiaansen

    No no, this can't be true

    There's on war on talent going on remember?

    Sorry, war for talent. For, not on.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strange how there are so many parallels around here...

    A few years ago, when I was looking to leave a major US software company and get something a little more focussed than my role at the time, I put in a hopeful response to a company in the Chilterns for a manager role. Hiring bloke was a friend of a friend and they seemed keen to talk to me, so keen that, despite me having to go to the US for two weeks, they wanted to see me before I left.

    No chance on that, I had stuff to do before the flight. How about a skype interview at 0900BST on the tuesday? Errrr, what? I'll be in the US with a five hour time difference and jetlag. Ok, how about 1000BST?

    Long story short, I did the skype interview jetlagged to hell, wearing a shirt over shorts because I was still mostly asleep and looking at a frozen picture of three people because skype just, well, froze. Despite all that, it went well and they invited me for a face-to-face and offered me the job.

    Sadly, for one reason and another, I turned it down. They seemed like good people to work for though.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whiteboard programmers

    I attended a senior/lead interview where I was asked to code on a whiteboard. I asked if all their coding was done on whiteboards because my experience was programming computers. They laughed at me rather than with me. I explained I'm quite happy explaining problems, algorithms, domain models, etc on a whiteboard but not code.

    We then had a 5 minute argument about the benefits of whiteboard programming, which I think we all knew they lost when the manager said "Google does this". I nearly called a stop to the interview at this point because clearly I wasn't going to fit in.

    I asked what they wanted me to code and it was a standard sort of algo that could be solved with a bit-shift. Well, f-you, I thought. I'd done a lot of bit-shift algorithms in Assembler on the 68000 during the 8 years I spent at University so I checked that I could use any language, stood up, grabbed the pen and started specifying registers. I got about 2 minutes in before they asked me to stop and do it in a C based language. I marked an entry point at the top of my Assembler (so that it can be called from C) and carried on until they wanted to move to the next question.

    I was offered the job, I declined.

  62. chivo243 Silver badge


    I haven't had one since 1985, in a totally different sector... and that was pretty much just a formality. In 1999, I was the sole applicant for a job, I've been with the company in many different facets of IT.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In a previous role they let that word creep in. Boss to his boss: "I'll see if we have a resource available," while all his 'resources' sat at the same table. First it seemed like just a very poor choice of words. But no, it slowly crept in and then it became commonplace. What's worse, it wasn't just a word. There was a noticeable shift in how that company treated their 'resources'. Needless to say it wasn't for the better. The time to move on had come.

    In a subsequent job interview for a new role elsewhere, one of the interviewers, who was holding a big speech about how that company was so diverse and inclusive, and how they look after all their... resources! I challenged him: "Why do you call human beings, who spend a significant time of their life to contribute to the success of your company 'resources'?" Blank stare. Awkward silence among all interviewers. I just got up and left.

    On a related note, some interviewers would be well advised to remember that any interview is not just for the interviewers to assess the candidate. It goes both ways. The interviewee wants to find out if it's a company worth spending time and energy on as well. And the more specialised or high profile a role, the more likely they have a choice and don't depend on the interviewers' good-will. They may well end up doing a sterling job for a direct competitor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Resources

      I've watched companies interview programmers to write clinical software and they are always looking for a good programmer but have virtually zero interest in considering anyone with good clinical experience in the field that they will be working in.

      The result is excellent applications that have buggy issues internally that can take a long time to find - and when clinical users complain about the problems they are told that it's a feature, not a bug, and the programmers usually just complain about stupid users - this comment is anonymous because I've emailed a story to oncall.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Resources

      Beats a company I don't work for and never have who decided that "resources" wasn't impersonal enough. They decided to call their skilled employees "human capital". I don't know how they treated those employees, but that always struck me as unnecessarily honest. Yes, it was a financial company.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another unpleasant interview story

    Most unpleasant interview I had.

    I told the recruiter as well as the person who referred me repeatedly "I do not have skill X. I say this because it looks like youre looking for skill X. I can learn skill X, but I dont want to show up and get grilled on it for hours. That would be a waste of everyone's time. Also, I will be very blunt, I am exploring opportunities, not desperately looking. If those caveats are a problem, no harm, no foul. Just dont want mislead people here"

    They insisted that this was totally fine, they understood, they actually wanted my skillset Y to round things out, and that they understood I was testing the waters.

    Long story short, interview day arrives. I get grilled on skill X for literally hours, and predictably faceplant. I also get yelled at (no really) by a different HR person about wasting their time and if I obviously didn't have the skills and wasn't interested so I should have just walked right back out the door.

    Needless to say, I consider that place a bullet dodged.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another unpleasant interview story

      I do not have skill X. I say this because it looks like youre looking for skill X.

      Had the exact same thing happen too. But "That's no problem. They are much more interested in the other skills you have." Why was that particular skill the first in the job description and elaborated on at length then? "Oh no, don't worry, they've assured us that it doesn't matter."

      Then you show up for the interview, and almost everything revolves around that one single skill you made clear you didn't have. Bloody waste of everyone's time.

  65. error 13

    only job I never got was the one I never applied for. Working as a contractor for a city bank just after the millennium and my role got outsourced to global outsourcing company X. Interview, as well as it could went OK. Questions like "why do you think you are qualified to do this role" were met with "well, i have been doing it for 24 months and I know as much about it as anyone can, because it's, er, my role" were brushed off.

    Final question - because we don't have your CV to hand (mostly because I hadn't done one) - what degree do you have. None, I answer. Working in IT since I was 17, didn't go to university. "oh" they say, this will be a problem. We only employ (I was a contractor - mind boggles) graduates.. "Never mind", I say, "probably wouldn't want to work for you anyhow"

    As it transpires, this didn't go down well, but in an entirely unrelated and coincidental event, the role that I was doing was reclassified as no longer being an IT role and hence outsourced to company X, but a business role that was still under the bank's control.

    A second twist of fate later and the same bank then introduced an across the board, "immediate 10% rate reduction or walk" policy. I was less than a month away from contract renewal and expressed my displeasure at this underhand tactic and said I would happily take a renewal at 10% less - however they wanted 10% now. I think I had something like 28 days to agree to the reduction so I ignored it, got a new contract at an old client following on from the day my one at the bank finished, and simply left my desk and didn't go back. I got a number of "where are you" calls, plus offers of rate+10 rather than rate-10, but I suspect that they still haven't learnt the lesson that if you have key staff or contractors , those people have other options if you piss them off. Only the smart ones leave.

  66. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    I tell them I'm a perfectionist, and that it's a burden burden being this way. Worked every time.

    1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

      "I tell them I'm a perfectionist"

      That's both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness -- and I've told interviewers as much.

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