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I Hate Linux

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Games on the interview front - Part 1

After leaving my job of 3.75 years back in February I didn't think I'd have much down time (due to surgery) in terms of being able to work so decided to use the intervening time for some job hunting and interviews. Later, when it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to work just as soon as I wanted, I decided to quit looking but talk to those who wanted to talk to me.
In both of these categories I've had a number of interviews, some good, some bad, and all certainly memorable and some... worthy of tale... such as this one.

After seeing a job listing looking for a software engineer with my credentials on Monster, I applied for the job with the company DT whose home base was a near by town via their and after a few days received an email with some forms to fill out (background check authorizations, etc) and was asked to send them back just as soon as I could... which was about 10 minutes later.

Nearly a week and a half later, I got a call from someone at DT named M asking if I'd had a chance to fill out the forms yet. I'd told her that I did and had sent them back just minutes later at 9:21 am. It took her a few minutes, and she thanked me for it and said that they'd get back to me.

A good week later I did, got a call from a gentlemen we'll call D and asking me to come up in about a week for an interview with 6 different people. I agreed.

Funny thing about this call was I got it while on my way to another interview which to is tale worthy.

Come the day of the interview, I accidentally arrived a little early and brought a book to read while I waited in the lobby and when interview time came around I kept it with me... which turned out to be a pretty important decision in retrospect.

At the end of the 6th interview I was told that they had one more person they wanted me to talk with, J from HR who would have some follow-up questions for me... and was told by the last interviewer that if he couldn't find her he'd let me know.

20 minutes went by and there was no sign of J... being a little cramped and what not from the previous 3 hours of interviewing, I stepped out of the room for a moment to go to the bathroom and upon returning got back to waiting.

A full 45 minutes after the previous interviewer was last seen or heard from, I checked in with the front desk to see if I'd been forgotten... they couldn't explain it. J should be around... but was no where to be found and after a few more minutes of waiting with them to track her down, they told me to go home and that she'd call me.

So I did... and heard nothing.

If memory serves, this interview with D was on a Monday morning... and on the following Saturday afternoon (~1:30) I got a call from S in the D HR department, asking me to come back again for an interview with 4 new people.

It had seemed that while the 6 folks I spoke to on Monday had really thought well of me, they thought I'd be even better in a separate group they have, one that was not represented the first time around.

Being puzzled about repeats I asked about who I'd be meeting with and found there'd be no repeats... and that the mythical J would be the 4th and final person.

I agreed.

Come the following Wednesday when the interview was scheduled for, I showed up on time and interviews with the 3 tech people 1 at a time (which is the way D normally does their interviews). #1 had read my resume but brought neither it nor anything else with (ie nothing to take notes upon). #3 had not even read my resume and took a few notes and #2 had brought both the resume and something to right on and we had a great discussion.

All in all despite the unpreparedness of #1 and #3, I thought things went pretty well... and once getting done with #3 one of the receptionists came by to give me the programming test.

Programming test? I'd known it was going to be forced on me... but I had no idea just how trivial it was.

Call me crazy... but when you've got a few years of programming experience under your belt and a couple degrees in the subject... if you are going to give a programming test, at least have it have some meat to it. Don't ask me to write some code to sort oranges by size and color, nor write a set of classes that inherit from one another (ie automobile, motorcycle and car).

After receiving the test I'd asked about J and was told that she had gone home early ill and that she had some follow-up questions for me and would call me soon.

Really? I've heard that somewhere before.

Fast forward nearly a week and I did receive a call... not from J mind you but from D on the following Tuesday... asking me to come up for yet another round of interviews. That was about the time I ended things.

I'd told him that I'd been promised a call from J not once but twice, and given this poor communication and the sense that there were some games going on... even if not deliberate, I had no interest in continuing to pursue a job with them... and even mentioned that this was not the first time that similar stunts had been pulled (more on that later).

I purposely left the phone call with D in such a way so as to evoke a call back from someone higher... such as the mysterious J... who I began to suspect midway through didn't actually exist.

I never received such a thing... not that I really expected it. D was a bit of a timid person and had the sound of being an intern to him... so I figured it unlikely that he was listening as carefully as I was talking or taking notes of any other kind other than my new found lack of interest in any kind of job with DT... which did seem to surprise him.

I'd mentioned that this was not the first time that I'd encountered some shenanigans with D... it was back in 2002 that I learned about a hiring process of theirs that I later had confirmed by several other people who'd been treated similarly.

Back in 2002 I'd had an interview with them for a programming intern and was drove up there to talk to them about the job... only to find out that the job had already been filled and was told by the interviewer "but I still really wanted to meet you."

There was a lovely waste of gas.

The 'interview' went well enough... and was assured towards the end that if/when they have such a position open in the future, that they'd call me.

They did... sorta.

3 weeks later I received a job offer from them... not for a coding one mind you, but for one of their unskilled minimum wage manufacturing jobs that are normally filled by students from the local university. My understanding is that these jobs tend to have a pretty high rate of turnover given the lousy wages and mind-numbingly dull work.

How can they get away with it? Plenty of the local students need resume experience in the industry and are willing to put up with a few months of such a job. The obvious problem though is that with a decent turnover rate, they'd need to draw in as many as they can even if each only lasts a few months.

In the months and years afterwards, I'd heard similar stories from people who went up applying for job DT, but were instead offered a manufacturing job and while I cannot say for sure if this is an official policy of theirs, it does at least seem to be a pattern.

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