back to article How not to attract a WSL (or any) engineer

A copy of a letter sent to an applicant – which they say is for a lead role at Ubuntu developer Canonical – went viral over the weekend, giving some insight into the Linux outfit's apparently extremely lengthy questionaire processes. The company, seeking a new member for the firm's Windows Subsystem for Linux engineering team …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Oh recruitment, don't you ever change

    Thank you for sending in your CV, please transcribe each of the sections into our web form (which will fail to work due to faulty verification

    Why yes we are a major software company with a mission statement of making the world's information available

    No we can't transfer the data ourselves

  2. Warm Braw

    I had a couple of interviews recently preceded by a "copy your CV into a different format because we say so" step. It was clear the initial interviewers hadn't read either of them and I declined the opportunity to move forward to the next stage. Never mind a bit of basic respect for the candidate, what does it say about the potential employer?

    I can understand companies being cautious in places where it's difficult to undo a hiring decision that's not worked out, though not to this freakish extent. But in most of the US, where they have employment-at-will, the risk is pretty minimal. I think part of the problem is that a lot of tech companies don't really know what they want but feel their image is improved by making it so hard to work there candidates think it's a privilege even to be interviewed: it's as much marketing as recruitment. In which case they're likely going to be really dreadful to work for. Difficult to imagine a more prominent set of red flags.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      If you are a crappy food outlet / Arkansas based superstore and you get 100,000 applications from people with no qualifications and you are just trying to filter those that can read = this makes sense

      If you are a global technology company paying a head-hunter for a world class subject expert, perhaps modify the process ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A fail on both counts

        Even if they intend this as as the retarded version of a touring test, its a red flag that the company will use a screwdriver as a hammer. Even in the example you give, the place posting the job is throwing out both good and bad applicants. Though it makes sense when this happens, as the same idiots probably used the same process to hire the people currently running the process.

        Welcome to the hell of human/machine hybrid machine learning, where people don't realize they are the algorithm, the feedback loop, and the problem all at the same time. A system that once it hires on idiot, is immediately weighted to hire more idiots that will make the hiring process more idiotic. A process that unchecked will until the hiring process goes full Monty(as in python) and the HR drones are missing their own meetings because their walks have become quite silly.

        Companies may grill the hell out of me, but if the hiring process isn't resolved in two contacts, it's a red flag. If the company isn't ready to tender an offer after I interview with the person I will report to, I'm moving on to other interviews. It's another big red flag when the person that needs to have my back and go to bat for me (and I will either make look very good or very bad) hasn't been empowered to make those calls themselves. That also means they will probably be just as ineffective making sure I get a salary bump in a timely fashion, how projects get handled, or what my chances to move up in a company are.

        1. Mike_R

          Re: A fail on both counts

          s/touring/Turing/ (note capital T)

          Too much trust in your spellchecker?

          1. Tom 7

            Re: A fail on both counts

            It'll be earning more that you soon!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A fail on both counts

            Perhaps a touring test identifies the people who really get around?

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: A fail on both counts

              Or people with decent performance, plus a comfortable ride and ample room for cargo.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: A fail on both counts

                Ah, so you've met my wife? Anon for the obvious reasons.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: A fail on both counts

          "If the company isn't ready to tender an offer after I interview with the person I will report to, I'm moving on to other interviews"

          Too many companies have you interview with HR and you may never get to interview with the person you will report to. Try getting to the next step if you don't have a social media account that HR can snoop on. They don't like that.

      2. Tom 7

        f you are a global technology company paying a head-hunter for a world class subject expert, perhaps modify the process ? Or get them to advertise for someone to do it for you?

      3. JoeCool Bronze badge

        No it does not make sense,

        No one has the right to abuse anyone's time like that, ESPECIALLY if it is someone needing an entry level job.

        You don't need to spend a year interviewing all 100K applicants. You just go 5 at a time, until you get someone that you feel will work out. It's service work FFS. and in N.America most of those jobs are disposable.

    2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Even when it's hard to fire people, it's usually pretty straightforward to hire people on a probationary basis (I think we do 90 days, but I've seen longer). These probationary recruitments have two purposes: the first is to see if the candidate is a good fit, and the second is to motivate the line managers to train the new recruit so that (a) they can see if the fit is good, and (b) so that they don't get a bloody nose when the failed recruit explains to HR that the reason they failed was lousy or non-existent training...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        The cynic says there's a third - they have a task that needs expertise they don't have but they reckon can be done in 3 months.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > so that [line managers] don't get a bloody nose when the failed recruit explains to HR that the reason they failed was lousy or non-existent training...

        You'd indeed hope there'd be some fallout from that situation, but reality + history usually shows us:

        a) many line managers are useless goobers, and yet they still have jobs

        b) HR practically never sides with "recruits" (failed or otherwise) over management

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "Even when it's hard to fire people, it's usually pretty straightforward to hire people on a probationary basis (I think we do 90 days, but I've seen longer)."

        I wouldn't accept a probationary period longer than 30 days. If we haven't figured out we're a good fit in a month, another 2 isn't going to make a difference. Well, not if management knows what they're about. Too much of an ask?

    3. jotheberlock

      Canonical is based in the UK, where you are not able to go to an employment tribunal in the first two years of employment except for the most obvious of reasons (e.g..being outright told you're being fired because you're black) - so until you hit the two year mark you can be fired about as easily as in the US although your notice period is more likely to be a month+ than two weeks.

      A 'reform' introduced by New Labour at one year and then doubled by the Lib Dem/Tory coalition, so thanks to all three major UK parties there.

  3. iron Silver badge

    high school

    I've never been to "high school," I attended primary school, secondary school, 6th form college & university. I wonder if they would accept that as an answer to these questions because it's either that or "30+ years ago, not bloody relevant" and I would need to really want the job to even write that much.

    1. Mike S

      Re: high school

      You: “30 years ago, not relevant”

      Recruiter: “we weren’t going to hire you because of your age, but now we’re going to not hire you because you didn’t humor us to answer the question.”

      1. Irony Deficient

        Re: high school

        In the States, age is one of the protected classes regarding employment discrimination; lacking the ability to humor an employer’s recruiter is not protected. (There are all sorts of legal but ambiguous reasons which could be told to someone whom the employer doesn’t care to hire.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: high school

        Oh come now, that's complete bollocks.

        You know perfectly well they would *never* tell you why they didn't hire you.

        And, it's more than likely you'd simply never hear from them again, possibly excepting an automated form letter from their ATS.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: high school


          How many GCSEs do you have?

          None. I have 'O' levels.

          ...and why are you asking about qualifications from 40 years ago... awooga! awooga! applicant too old!

          1. Man inna barrel

            Re: high school

            My former boss actively sought more mature candidates. I think I was the first. The company was started by some clever bods in their thirties. I was in my late fifties. Later, we employed an excellent welder about the same age as me, who is considered one of the most productive workers. The intention is to buy in expertise, rather than take novices and train them up to your satisfaction. As the company developed, quite a few functions that used to be subbed out were brought in house. This meant buying in the necessary talent.

            There is an opposite approach, where you want to build your team from interchangeable components, and maybe you actively avoid talented individuals. I think this approach results in some of recruiting process silliness.

            It should be noted that recruiting more mature workers does not always work. When I was a contractor, a major client started up an electronics factory in N. Ireland, and recruited three experienced assembly workers, to act as mother hens to bring the young workforce up to scratch. These women were pure poison. What they were experts at was doing as little work as possible, making the jobs needlessly complicated, and claiming compo for unfair dismissal when they were found out.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: high school

              "These women were pure poison. What they were experts at was doing as little work as possible, making the jobs needlessly complicated, and claiming compo for unfair dismissal when they were found out."

              You can get that with young hires too. Younger employees may also be more apt to jump jobs if they find something they fancy more or pays 5% above what you are offering them. Older workers are more likely to have family responsibilities, own a home locally and are looking for stability more than other things.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: high school

              "My former boss actively sought more mature candidates."

              A big bonus with more experienced workers is they've made or seen many more mistakes in their working life that they know better than making again. There is a balance between creativity and going with what's worked in the past.

    2. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: high school

      40+ years in my case, and my secondary school was closed and replaced (by a sixth form college) maybe 30 years ago.

    3. Usually 1027309

      Re: high school

      Can you not think of any legitimate reason for them asking that question? The question could simply be to establish an individuals hunger/work ethic; habits and values are often instilled at a young age.

      Just because you left School 30+ years ago, does not mean that every candidate did.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: high school

        The point is, the term 'high school' is largely meaningless except in a couple of countries. It shows the recruiter is an idiot, to put it mildly

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: high school

          maybe the recruiters were extemely unpopular in school when they were teenages and are secretly out for some warped kind of revenge (like an extreme grudge coupled with cancel culture) ? You know, TW[A,I]TTER [ab]users!!!

          "*I* am in charge now, and *I* can EXCLUDE YOU now, because *I* have *Da POWAH* !!!"

          (or something else equally psychotic)

        2. MrReynolds2U

          Re: high school

          Also, the idea of "your rank in high school" shows an apathy or ignorance towards non-US education systems.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: high school

        The person to whom you replied was complaining about the term "high school", not the question. I do have an answer to your question though. First, I don't have a problem with the term; I assume this was written by and for a country where that is the typical term and that they could easily translate it if they wanted to inflict the same questioning on someone in a different country.

        But now, no, I can't think of a legitimate reason for any of those questions. "How did you get on at high school?" is stupidly generic and has no right answer. "What would your high school peers remember you for?" isn't going to receive an honest answer, and I'm assuming they want an answer along the lines of "That guy who only wrote kernel drivers and so we don't remember them", which just isn't true; I wrote code but I did other things, but I have a feeling that playing in a jazz band isn't going to win me the job.

        Asking specifically about mathematics is a little more relevant, which still means not relevant. If they want to hire someone who has advanced skills in that area, ask them to solve some typical mathematical problem. Even looking at their university courses in the area would give you more information. A person could rank highly in math due to being in a small school or could rank low if they're being compared only to similarly advanced students. Also, nobody knows that number now and in most cases, they didn't get one at the time (I got As in all of them, but I don't know how many people had those so I can't give you a ranking). What's more, they're looking for a developer. That probably includes a bunch of mathematical skills, but they're not even asking this of someone being hired as a mathematician.

        1. Usually 1027309

          Re: high school

          Of course it has a right answer... Its just harder to understand the hiring managers reason for asking it, which is often the case with personal values questions.

          I'm not saying it's a good question or that it is well thought out, but I can think if a number of reasons for asking such questions.

          If I were interviewing candidates I would have questions like "what would your close friends/family say is your most annoying trait". There is a very specific reason I would ask that and it's nothing to do with me wanting to know their annoying traits are

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: high school

            If I were interviewing candidates I would have questions like "what would your close friends/family say is your most annoying trait"

            If someone asked ME that, I'd probably say something with the words "Fuck" and "OFF" embedded within. You should ask something relevant like "How would you solve a problem like ...' and skip the amateur psychology.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: high school

              Got it in one.

              Some interviewers might fancy themself as schooled in human behavior and psychology et al, but the (bad) ones I've experienced were usually just twerps with a dash of pseudo-intellectual junk science from a "how to do the management 101" book or course they probably paid too much for.

              On top of that, they often also had little (or mis-) understanding of the role they were trying to fill, and had done a bare minimum (or no) preparation for the candidate, even as much as, oh, say, reading the CV before the interview.

              "Oh, I'm teh bestest judge of people, I don't need to look at resumes."

              The good interviewers were the opposite of all that -- prepared ahead of time, had a handle on the job and usually the whole team the candidate might be joining, and could converse about both.

              In fact, that was usually a sign of a good interview: we ended up having a _conversation_, about me, the job, the company, the team, etc. Not some silly game of 20 questions and "guess who I am".

            2. Usually 1027309

              Re: high school

              Sure! That sounds like a good question to asses function skillset. But I'm sure you will agree, "soft" skills or personal qualities are equally as important as tech skills.

              When it comes to assessing culture fit... What's really quite important to me, is that someone can recognise their flaws or things they do that would get people's backs up. We all have them right? Basically I'm looking for self awareness... Would this person cause havoc in the team without realising it?

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: high school

                "When it comes to assessing culture fit... What's really quite important to me, is that someone can recognise their flaws or things they do that would get people's backs up. We all have them right?"

                Absolutely, and if you asked me this question and I didn't want to leave, I would do all I could to not tell you what they were. An interview is where I convince you I'm good at this job, so bringing out a list of things to see if any of them are stuff you hate is not on my list of priorities. My teams tend not to hate me. I've been complimented on my group interaction by lots of colleagues. I'm more diplomatic than many developers I've known. You don't find that out in half an hour, so, since everyone who is not is going to act that way, I will too.

                More importantly, the self-assessment part of this isn't the important part of this. You would like to know how people react to having this pointed out and changing things, because an annoying person who doesn't want to be and acts to change their ways is better than a mostly fine person who refuses to consider anything could be wrong. You also have the problem that what a friend might consider annoying might not apply to work (my friends might not care about many of the things I know a lot about and consider me boring, but I tend not to make my colleagues talk about irrelevant things). I have a feeling that, if I (a complete stranger to you) asked you to catalog your flaws to me, the resulting list would be hard to create and would probably not have a ton of relevance to you in your actual life. Your interviewers are complete strangers too, and they'll act the same way.

          2. Kane

            Re: high school

            "If I were interviewing candidates I would have questions like "what would your close friends/family say is your most annoying trait". There is a very specific reason I would ask that and it's nothing to do with me wanting to know their annoying traits are"

            And of course you totally failed in disclosing what that very specific reason was in your post, thereby undermining your own argument?

            1. Usually 1027309

              Re: high school

              I guess the point I was trying to make is just because you don't see a reason for the question, doesn't mean one doesn't exist. But fair point!

              The reason I ask that is to assess a person's self awareness. We all do things that annoy people**. for a great team dynamic, it's important we can recognise these traits in ourselves, can admit them, be challenged on them, can openly discuss them in a team.

              ** Mine seem to be asking annoying interview questions :)

          3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Of course it has a right answer...

            Unless the goal is to see how potential candidate handles being asked embarassingly stupid questions, then, no, it doesn't have a "right" anwer.

            Any answer would be entirely subjective, making it pretty much useless for evaluation. It's a stupid, pointless question that has no place in a job interview.

          4. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: high school

            You want to tell us what reason that would be? Because from the face of it, it seems like a way to indicate to someone that they don't want to work for you. Maybe it's a test of how quickly they can come up with a fake annoying trait that seems to speak in their favor--you didn't think they were answering honestly, did you? Or are you just seeing whether they can be insulted (with the stupidity of the question, not the content) and not show their displeasure?

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: high school

            'If I were interviewing candidates I would have questions like "what would your close friends/family say is your most annoying trait". There is a very specific reason I would ask that'

            Identity theft?

            More likely "trying to determine how much nonsense the candidate will put up with, because there will be a *lot* ...."

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: high school

          playing in a jazz band isn't going to win me the job.

          From MY perspective, you should gain a LOT of points for that one (creative people do creative things, and Jazz implies improvisation, which is EXTREMELY creative In My Bombastic Opinion). But the way in which the questions were framed leaves too much ambiguity as to what they're looking for. You could add to your Resume/CV that you are a musician and achieve the same effect.

          1. Mark #255

            Jazz and improvisation

            It's interesting that you believe that Jazz implies improvisation.

            I played in several jazz bands and big bands from High School into uni (aged 13-20), and improvisation was rare; there was a greater expectation in the university groups, but one could get by only ever playing notes already written.

            1. Man inna barrel

              Re: Jazz and improvisation

              I recall listening to a trad jazz band that insisted on playing stuff note for note as it was in 1910. This annoyed a trumpeter friend of mine. "Good grief, this isn't Mozart!" The music was indeed rather formally presented, like a polite string quartet at a rich people's party. I would suggest that is the opposite of the original spirit of the music.

              Actual improvisation is quite a difficult skill. The key is plenty of preparation in advance. And when you play a bum note, make it sound like you meant it that way. I used to practice guitar improvisations consisting entirely of bum notes. This is more difficult than you might think.

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: high school

            I thank you for the sentiment, and improvisation was definitely my favorite part of being in that band. However, I don't think most hiring managers take the same view which is why I don't include any musical credentials on my resume. Maybe I just don't know how they think (actually, I know that is true), but whenever I've mentioned something that's not directly in line with the job they're going to ask me to do, many seem to take it as a negative. Anywhere I could go at least accepts all my technical projects as assets, but most other things appear to be ignored.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: high school

          "What would your high school peers remember you for?"

          No idea. Feel free to ask them. Meanwhile I'll be interviewing elsewhere....

  4. herman Silver badge

    Abort Retry Fail

    I noticed the same Ubuntu jobs advertised for over a year. I was thinking about applying for one of them, but thanks for the heads up. Now I won’t bother.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: Abort Retry Fail

      You missed the I)ignore option in your comment title, which you clearly selected.

      Please send your personal details. We are interested in offering you a job at the magical operations department. You seem to fit the imaginative description.

    2. DrewWyatt

      Re: Abort Retry Fail

      I had an interview with Canonical a few years ago. It is still the only interview I have ever had where the interviewer called me "Dude" the whole way through...........

      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        Re: Abort Retry Fail

        saves reading your name

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No high school here either, UK schooling.

    Doubt they would be impressed if I said as a top memory my close friends would all mention a party where I (& an acquaintance I met a few minutes earlier) were found going at it like hammer & tongs and my friends took great pleasure in slapping my arse (we were in mish at the time) to try and put me off... pointless as takes more than that to put a horny teenage lad off the act.

    I imagine these days its hard for people at school to get away with the drink, drugs & sex fuelled parties young people of my generation enjoyed as, though stories of some choice behaviours would spread like wildfire, with it being in the era before mobiles there was no incriminating footage to spread across social media & haunt people for years to come.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      "High Schools" used to exist in Scotland, but I think that was before England got universal public education (1948), so there will be very few people still alive who went to one.

      1. Citizen of Nowhere

        High Schools continue to exist in Scotland, though I personally did my Highers* in an Academy (many many moons ago)

        *Scottish Certificate of Higher Education

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          I also did my highers in an academy, many moons ago. And many moons before that, it was known as a high school. Within living memory of very elderly people at that time.

          Not in any way equivalent to an English academy.

          1. Citizen of Nowhere

            There are lots of schools in Scotland currently bearing one or other of those titles. They are only names applied to secondary schools once you're north of the border after all.

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Except for example Paisley Grammar School or Hamilton Grammar School.

              Hamilton Grammar used to be an "Academy", and despite its name, it was never a selective school.

              1. Citizen of Nowhere

                Just as Madras College isn't a college and the Nicholson Institute isn't ... a great place to go play rugby when there is a gale blowing -- I remember quite a few of my team mates being quite ill during the crossing ;-) Regardless of name (Academy, High School, Grammar, College) most schools catering for pupils from 11 up in Scotland will be non-selective secondary schools.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This process is widespread at Canonical

    A couple of months back I applied for a global quality strategy lead position at Canonical and received a similarly long list of questions (purportedly from the inbox of Shuttleworth himself). Suffice to say I took my time and dignity elsewhere.

    Some of the questions seemed more like they were fishing for ideas from applicants on future company/product direction so they could steal it and use it themselves without ever hiring anyone.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

      I mean, to be fair, that seems to be a fairly high-level position and most of those questions strike me as reasonable and well-thought-out ones for somebody interviewing for that position.

      The "Education" ones, though, are just weird. I don't understand what possible use any of those answers would be in evaluating somebody for such a position, given that you'd have all their answers to the much more useful questions from later sections too.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

        I'm wondering if 'Education' is a path to a certain job offer, or a decent settlement. Simply answer them a way that includes one or more protected characteristic. Each answer then becomes grounds for a discrimination case.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

        I have to ask who is wasting time reading the responses to those questions... and what silly questions were THOSE PEOPLE asked in order to be hired to read people's answers to even SILLIER questions... and it goes on and on and on and on in my mind, like a bad bureaucratic nightmare from HELL...

        (how can a company like this make money?)

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

      This kind of recruitment bollocks harms companies. It more or less guarantees that anyone they'd actually want to employ never bothers applying in the first place. I've seen other examples where "recruitment consultants" were essentially guaranteeing that absolutely no one worthwhile would persist past the first minute of telephone chat.

      Plus, when this kind of thing becomes public, applicants start wondering what sort of folk already work there; the one's desparate enough to have actually stuck with such a process? Would one really want them as colleagues? Worse still, unimpressed don't-wanna-be's also can be potential customers, proably quite influential in their existing line of business. If they've been put off applying for a job helping make the product, why on earth would they want to buy the product?

      Look at Google. We all know that they're idiots when it comes to how they manage capability, incentivisation, progression and reward. Is it any surprise that new stuff they attempt to launch falls flat on its face? Similarly for Apple. I don't know about Microsoft, but I'd guess from their more coherent approach to a tangible, reasonably well thought out product catalogue means that employment and recruitment are slightly more sane (willing to be corrected by anyone in the know). I know Amazon are hard task masters, makes one wonder how careful their devs are if they're only planning on being round for a short while...

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

      The blatant use of "singular 'they'" (i.e. BAD GRAMMAR in the name of political correctness) would have put me off immediately.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

        Example by someone to a similar grammatical wrangle a little while ago: "See who's at the door and ask what they want." I don't think it's assumed the reply to the first half would be "Jehovah's Witnesses".

        Having said that it can still be jarring.

      2. Mark #255

        Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

        Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Austen all used "they" in the singular.

        You can dislike the usage, but the "bad grammar" label for this was invented by Victorian grammarians (the same ones who decided that split infinitives were something up with which we should not put).

        1. ROC

          Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

          Ah, a bit of Churchill there?

          I also remember reading William F. Buckley, Jr, a similar master of the language (and founder of National Review in the US in the mid fifties, and with that, "modern" American political conservatism), justifying they/them usage in singular references. I was surprised then that he did not advocate singular pronouns for referring to individuals. Your historical antecedents make it much clearer as to why he took that stance. Thanks.

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

        Singular "they" is not bad grammar.

        * There's somebody at the door.

        * What do they want?

        It's bog standard third-person-unknown.

      4. Swarthy

        Re: This process is widespread at Canonical

        Roses are red

        Violets are blue

        The singular 'they"

        predates singular "you"

  7. Mike 16

    The motivation?

    I suspect that in many cases the gauntlet set up by HR is to make sure a hiring manager will never see the CVs of competent applicants.

    After all, if you allow hiring qualified folks, how do you create the crisis which can only be remedied by a large consulting contract let to a firm that by pure coincidence is owned by the CEO's brother in law?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: The motivation?

      or WORSE, demands a LARGER HR DEPARTMENT managed by the same people who think up questionaires like this. After all, if they're not finding enough applicants, they just need MORE PEOPLE in HR to read and filter MORE RESPONSES!

      Wow a train wreck! Let's fix it, by sending MORE TRAINS!! (saw that in a Futurama episode when every human except for one got really stupid when the giant brains invaded)

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The Register contacted Canonical regarding its questionnaire, but we have yet to receive a response."

    They're probably trying to hire someone to reply to you so you'll have to wait until they've answered their 40 questions and gone through all the other stages. Don't wait up.

  9. Giles C Silver badge

    I’ve come across interviews like that before, so many stages you give up before getting through them. One firm refused to discuss salary until towards the end and had a question along the lines of “why do you want to work for x” when I gave them the answer I need a job the interviewer stated that nobody had ever given that as an answer (I think they wanted a load of hot air about how it was the best place to work etc).

    My current contact was a 20 minute phone interview which was followed up an hour later with a message you have the job. Must have done alright as they have extended my contract until the end of the year….

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aren't they "getting" the fact that techies are in short supply and that they don't WANT to put off qualified people?

    I certainly wouldn't put up with such nonsense just to be a wage-slave!

  11. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Its more likely

    they have exactly one candidate for the job and are just waiting for his current employer to annoy him too much so they can hire him when he finally snaps and gives his current employer the finger.

    Stranger things have happened....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Try the Apple RTL engineer interview

    On a very similar line

    web that kept falling over

    seems to be better in safari than in chrome !

    then run into the pointless questions

    on line interview, with a machine,


    I gave up when the machine interview was offered

  13. Paul Herber Silver badge

    looking at the

    Looking at the picture associated with this article, maybe they want someone who can work outside the tickbox.

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I see they've updated their logo. Good to see they've got their management tasks well prioritised.

  15. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Can confirm

    A good friend of mine interviewed with Canonical for a customer-facing technical support position. He was admittedly pivoting back to tech from being a community college professor, but he has kept his hand in with regard to technology and knows quite a lot about Linux. They put him through this same rigmarole and ultimately flunked him, which just seems nuts. I don't imagine there are lots of highly-qualified individuals beating down Canonical's door to do tech support.

  16. I am 4til7


    #YarmFU - Yet another reason to migrate From Ubuntu

  17. bazza Silver badge

    From the article:

    "...nor would the amateur bit of homebrew wiring in a 1972 Mini Clubman that resulted in a minor conflagration during the 1980s."

    Well, you must have got something right. The chances of the standard 1970s factory electrics exhibitting any spark of life come the 1980s was exceedingly slim. Mark it up as some kind of engineering miracle and call it a success!

  18. Marty McFly Silver badge

    It is a company culture test!

    Checking the candidate's ability to shovel large amounts of bravo-sierra.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It is a company culture test!

      This is very often true of recruitment but not deliberately so. Sometimes there may be an attempt to hide the company culture. These are the ones to worry about but you're not likely to find out until too late.

  19. Shocked Jock

    This is a model of how recruitment works in many fields - and at times even required by HR (in order to satisfy the UK Home Office' rather suspicious hunger for private data) when hiring people (OK, me) to do a one-off job. Yes, at an age when many normal people are collecting a pension (my former employer was too stingy to make it worth staying, but not upset enough to pay me lots of dosh to leave), I can't be bothered with corporate questions about my schooldays either.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do your school friends view you now?

    > How do your school friends view you now?

    I'm pretty sure that they'll be looking down on me. Literally looking down on me. Not because I've swallowed my pride and applied to Canonical but because I killed them all in a revenge spree!

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: How do your school friends view you now?

      If you really don't want to be hired, leaving it blank is equally effective.

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: How do your school friends view you now?

      I can't even remember most of my school friends/acquaintances. It's 30 years ago now, and it was the sort of school that went by surname which is handy for anonymity purposes here - let's see, I am still in frequent touch with Roose, I am aware that Pritchard-Jones is doing extremely well for himself, but as for Ormerod, Willis, Sims, Bengree... not a clue beyond an occasional Google search for the more unusual surnames.

      On such a job application, I'd be tempted to just Make Stuff Up. Not like they're going to check.

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: How do your school friends view you now?

        I am not in contact with anyone I was at school at, nor anyone from the first 3 companies I worked for.

        I am still in contact with a couple of people from my last but one job and a few people who used to work for the company before that (they don’t work there anymore).

        It just seems like an advert for a author of fiction, who will verify any of this junk.

      2. ROC

        Re: How do your school friends view you now?

        Did you all pass your O.W.L's and N.E.W.T's at Hogwarts?

        (Sorry - just finished re-reading the Harry Potter collection after getting by with only watching the movie collection for the last 10 years, or so, and those names in a Brit school context just looked as though they would have fit right in...).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How do your school friends view you now?

      > How do your school friends view you now?

      ...through a haze of age-induced dementia

      (Apologizing for lack of PC)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I made it through initial screening for a robotic taxi company. Then in order to qualify for an interview, I had to fill out a diversity questionnaire asking my race and skin color and demanding a video interview. Red flags. My competence in AI didn't matter, my skin color did. I told them to go perform kinky practices on themselves, in different rather coarse words that one of their parent company's Alexas might misinterpret either as being hostile, or an order for a purple jelly appliance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Would they have seen the funny side if you'd accepted the video interview, but done it in blackface/paleface, or with a horse mask or a paper bag over your head? :)

    2. Ace2 Silver badge

      They demand that info as a CYA to prove their own compliance with nondiscrimination laws. They can say they interviewed X members of class A, Y members of class B, etc., and then show that their hiring is roughly in line with the applicant pool.

  22. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    What use is it?

    I would hate to be the one that has to read the answers. I bet they had an idea to search for unexpected correlations between good and bad candidates but never bothered to maintain it.

    The high school questions I see on the Canonical application shouldn't be asked in a professional environment. They're literally asking about your activities as a minor. I'd inform them of my withdrawal for consideration. All interviews are two-ways.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small companies did it better

    Some 15 years ago, about the same time as I noticed recruiters saying "We only accept CVs in MS Word format" (they rapidly got dropped from my list), I was given a hint that the small local company was looking for an engineer by someone I met at a linux user group meet. Posted them my three sides of A4 CV and a covering note and promptly forgot about it.

    Saturday night some four weeks later, got a phone call from the company director, he liked my CV and could we talk about it? I explained I was too drunk to talk sensibly (it was Saturday night) but agreed to an interview Monday morning. Walked through the door and realised I'd already got the job, the interview was just about terms.

    Anonymous coward to spare the company's blushes.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Small companies did it better

      "We only accept CVs in MS Word format"

      I happily ignore requirements like that. The city I live in got slapped around in court for providing required disclosures in M$ formats and switched to posting them as PDF's. There's no need to put the minutes of the council meetings in an editable format that takes an expensive office application to process (yes, I have a free office application package that doesn't make too much of a mess of M$ files).

      My Resumé was done in an obscure program called Ragtime from a vendor in Germany. I've used it for years and know my way around it rather well so it's fast for me. I save files I'm sending to people as a PDF. If they want to send me edits, they can, but I don't want them editing what I send directly.

  24. trevorde Silver badge

    Interviewing for charity

    Applied for a job at a fintech startup where they wanted me to do a tech test which they estimated would take 8 hrs (!!). I said I would do it if they paid me or made the equivalent donation to charity. I also pointed out the algorithms to solve the tech test had no relevance to their business and I had *exactly* the experience they were looking for. They said they didn't want to be accused of getting work done for free and it was an 'exciting opportunity' to work at a fintech startup. It was the third fintech startup I had applied to that week.

  25. disgruntled yank

    Not just tech

    An acquaintance of my wife's once had an interview with a small publisher. The interviewer asked about standardized test scores, though I no longer recall whether they were from the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) or SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). Americans commonly take the GREs in late college, aged about 21, and the SATs in late high school, aged 16 to 18. The woman was in her early 50s, I believe, and couldn't see the relevance. My guess is that one of the owners had scored very well on one of the tests, and so thought it an excellent measure of everything.

  26. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    In fact the local comprehensive school here styles itself as a high school. So does my old grammar school which also became a comprehensive in the 70s so maybe those questions aren't out of line in that respect - just in all others.

  27. 7layer

    I always hated Ubuntu, I never know why but it felt like it's always I wanna be RedHat or Debian, but I cannot I'm just a stolen property...

    E.G.: adduser, asking for the 10 other unrelated shit that was never important to any sysadmins. Country, email, balblabla.

    This is not a Widows, didn't you know that?!

    I'm dealing with Ubuntu and I must admit it's just horrible.

    The whole lot expalins this article. The system based on an investor who has zero IT knowledge just like the HR department.

    Like the Monthy Phython footballer sketch "I'm going to open a butic, I'm going to open a butix..."

    I like money, I got money, so I'm going to insvest in IT, cause my neighbour made his first 20M in IT...

    Oh man, same story again.

    HR advert, has experience in DHPC, not DHCP... I heard about PC, so it must be PC, not MAC...

  28. Imhotep

    When You Reach That Point

    At one company, I kept being called back for interview after interview. At the last one, one of the interviewers mentioned the number of times I'd been called in and must be tired of trying to answer the same questions in different ways, and I repled "Yes, I've exhausted the truth and I'm going to have start lying now."

    And they hired me. It was a great company to work for. I was lucky those final interviewers happened to be the people they were.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My first job interview after leaving Uni was great.

    I was interviewed by the newly appointed head of IT of a large financial organisation. He had only been in the job a few days himself. He said "Your CV was in my in tray so I guess we must want you. When do you want to start?". I said "Next Monday" and he said "OK. See you Monday." And that's all there was to it.

    I had another good one about 10 years later.

    "So, I see you worked at <company>, do you know Mark <surname>?". "Yes I worked with him for several years". "He recommends you very highly. When can you start?".

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "So, I see you worked at <company>, do you know Mark <surname>?". "Yes I worked with him for several years". "He recommends you very highly. When can you start?".

      Many times it's who you know and who they know as well. This is why it's a good idea not to be a big D at work.

  30. chololennon

    They lost their way

    IT companies and their respective human resources departments have lost their way. This is insane. That's why in my Linkedin profile I encourage recruiters to read (they never do by the way) the following:



  31. JPeasmould

    What went wrong?

    I was interviewed for a technician job at an English University a few (20) years ago. The interview panel was the head of the department, the person who would be my manager and an idiot from HR.

    All seemed to go well until the HR guy, who had been glaring, silently at me the whole time, said "I see from your CV you did well at school. What went wrong after that?" (I had been chucked out of university after first year).

    I thought my answer of "I discovered drink and drugs" would ensure me not getting the job but the idiot had pissed me off.

    Both the head of the department and the manager grinned and the HR guy looked incredibly angry.

    Two hours later I got a phone call to offer me the job.

    Two months later the HR guy lost his.

    I loved that job and the people I worked with (even some of the more annoying academics).

    P.S. I still work in a University but in a completely different role.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What went wrong?

      > and an idiot from HR.

      ... but you repeat yourself.

  32. Blackjack Silver badge


    What's that? Honesty, first time I ever heard about it.

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