My Worst



Every one of these occured just as you read them here. One of those times when truth is more bizarre than fiction. And people wonder why I'm a bit strange.

When I Was Interviewer

At a Traffic Engineering Firm's systems group

As low man on the totem pole in an extremely small, growing company, I soon got to do everything related to interviewing and hiring except making the final hire decision (I finally got that, too, years later, but by then was ready to leave). The following stories are part of my learning curve & good times in interviewing people.

Candidate lost it on learning she didn't have the job

The third or forth person I ever interviewed was clearly not capable of handling the position. I had always hated being strung along, so I told her thanks, but we were looking for more experience in certain areas. She began bawling, and was still sobbing as she drove out of the parking lot, a few minutes later. A secretary had to come talk me out of shock.

Candidate tried to browbeat me into hiring her

A woman from another culture got half way through our test (which was only a basic programming test to eliminate BS artists and made allowances for people who just don't take tests well), and stopped working on it. During the interview she refused to let me see it, and demanded we hire her - since she had an advanced degree, it would obviously be discrimination if we didn't hire her. She demanded her resume back ("that contains personal information"), which she then left with the test (which I insisted she leave) when she stormed out.

Candidate's brother tried to bully me into hiring her

A woman from another culture was brought to the interview by her brother, who made it plain that if we didn't hire her it would be because she was a woman or because of racial discrimination. She later called to apologize, explained she had no choice but to stay with him while in the country, and withdrew her name from consideration. She planned to sneak away and try another city where her brother wouldn't be able to find her.

Candidate desperately needed a valium

Candidate missed chair when sitting down. Candidate knocked over coffee on my desk. Candidate kept biting nails, loosening/replacing tie & top shirt button. Candidate called me by his name, refered to himself by my name at one point. Candidate repeatedly said, when he goofed up, "Sh**! Oh, excuse me!"

Candidate argued politics

Candidate continually changed subject to political themes, looking for excuse to argue.

Candidate argued as a marketing ploy

Candidate argued with everything I said, & later explained this was a clever way to differentiate himself from other candidates. Guess it did. Still didn't hire him.

Candidate was a hunk of burning lust, and better than us to boot

Candidate kept ignoring me, or stopping in mid-sentence, to stare at women walking by outside window. Candidate explained he expected to work in office of well-dressed, cultured, wonderful people, where he would teach us quite a bit. [Hired against my recommendation, he began to chase women walking by outside, for lunch dates. Began wearing jeans ("now I'm serious about my work"), and spending time at his desk cutting toe nails, brushing teeth, etc. We finally fired him after he told a customer (for whom we were bending over backwards), and I quote "you realize that [Company] is screwing you over big time."]

Candidate knew more than everyone

Candidate explained why our basic programming & software engineering test was flawed, why his answers were right and ours were wrong, and how he looked forward to coming in & straightening the place out (it was an entry level position).

Generation gap-enabled candidate

Candidate 20 years older explained how he would have no problem working in shop of younger people, including taking direction from younger manager. He spent most of the interview with me, explaining how everything I/we did was wrong.

The Old Stale Technologies Game

This occured elsewhere, where everyone in the department interviewed a prospective new manager.

Candidate had lost soul to ibm minicomputer division in 70s

Candidate looked forward to working in different environment from IBM, and proceeded to tell us how to restructure along IBM lines, including how we would be far more professional and proficient if we dressed up and added several more layers of management. [Candidate was hired against everyone's recommendation, and 15 out of 20 people under him quit within one year.]

When I was the Interviewee

Interviewer was a tough guy

I had no degree, but I had about 10 person-years of experience. I asked for slightly more than I had made at my previous job. "Don't you think that's rather outrageous for someone without a degree, Mr. O'Neal???"

Appearance as the goddess of interviewing

I was pushed into interviewing with a small firm by Nick (a friend). I ended up not getting any sleep the night before the interview, so I called in and explained to the receptionist, apologizing, and indicating that if they were still interested, we could reschedule. She suggested I call later that afternoon.

I got up about 12, and took off for the day. I called them about 3:30, and the following conversation ensued.

"Oh, hellloooo. Where WERE you this morning?"

"I explained to the receptionist this morning that I couldn't make it. I didn't get to sleep until 7 this morning, but I set the alarm and called at 9." (Great. Sounds like I was out partying, when I was helping a friend who needed some counseling.)

"Oh? I never got anything."

"Well, please check with her. She said she would leave a note."

"Hang on..." <minutes pass> "She swears she left it, but I never saw it."

"But you understand that I did call in..."

"I never saw a note. But, yeah. So when can you come in? Right now?"

"Uh, right now? I don't think...hold on."

At this point Nick was waving and giving me the evil eye. I explained to him that (a) I was in shorts, (b) I was sweaty (we had just played tackle ping pong for a couple of hours), and (c) since he had driven, I didn't have a car. He explained that I could use his shower, his clothes, and his car. Since he also threatened to set up the interview for me the second I hung up, I acquiesced.

"I couldn't be there until nearly 5."

"OK, we'll see you then." <click>

I showered, found some clothes that sort of fit, & Nick tied my tie (it had been years). I loosened it, slipped it off (I felt strangled), and took the keys. Almost an hour later, in 99 degree, 95% humidity weather (this was Atlanta in the summer - what else would it be like?), sans air conditioning, I arrived at the interview, looking for all the world as if I had just stepped out from under a waterfall. In the heat and my haste, I forgot the tie. I had offered to bring code samples the first time, and fortunately had a few at Nick's since we were working togther on a couple of things. Naturally, I forgot them, too.

The interview was rigorous. (They had hired a good BS artist before, and weren't taking any chances.) I was sweaty, tieless, hadn't brought the code I promised, etc. We talked about attitude, about keeping commitments, and such things in addition to the hardcore technical stuff. I was rigorously honest about what I did and didn't know.

I went back to Nick's depressed, we went for dinner, and he drove me home. My wife worked at a hospital, and often had overtime, so I wasn't surprised that the apartment was dark & the phone was ringing at about 8 or 9 PM.

"This is Craig - where have you been? We've been trying to reach you ever since you left!"

"Oh - did I leave something there?"

"I don't think so - why?"

"Well, I wondered why you were calling..."

"Oh, right. Well, do you want the job or not?"

Yeah, Craig was a bit spacy at times (so was I!) It was, incidentally, the best job I've ever had (sorry, Ed, Frank, et al). For the record, this is the job where I also had most of my weird interviewer experiences above.

I got even with Nick, though - I did the same thing to him, and he got hired under similarly silly circumstances.

Last updated: 14 June 2015

Copyright 1995 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514