by Geoff Cox

Software Craftsman. Guitarist. Folk Hero.

Insane Interview

I’ve probably interviewed over a hundred people in my career. Candidates varied from great to bad to strange, but this interview was pants-on-head crazy.


I was asked to interview a potential college hire for a software developer position at Microsoft. This was a typical hour-long interview and I had my range of questions good for just-out-of-college candidates. He came recommended through someone I worked with in a previous group. I read through his resume which contained a solid GPA from a decent school, a list of programming languages he knew, and the short summary about how he’d love to work for a company that makes great software - pretty standard.

The Interview

Here’s an account of the interview. My thoughts are in parenthesis, actions in brackets.

Me: Hi, I’m Geo….

Him: [interrupting me] Oh I’m [redacted] and so excited to be interviewed by someone of your caliber. I’m in awe of your experience and abilities. I’m sure I will gain a lot of wisdom just getting to be near you today.

Me: Uh..OK. (Weird, why is he laying it on this thick? Who knows maybe he’s nervous.)

Me: Alright, I see you have been working with C#. I’m going to start by asking some basic C# questions and I’ll get harder until you can’t answer. First, can you tell me what public, protected, and private mean?

Him: Sure. Well. Uh. I’ve never actually used C#.

Me: Oh…It lists C# on your resume here under expertise.

Him: Yeah. Those items are aspirations more than experience. I hope I get the chance to work with those someday.

Me: What programming language do you know from school?

Him: We didn’t really get into that.

Me: (Wow. Oh, he doesn’t have a CS degree. Maybe I’ll take a different approach here.) Tell me about what you are interested in doing here at Microsoft. What about software development excites you? What kind of problems do you want to solve?

Him: I’m really interested in business meetings.

Me: (Oh god….) What do you mean?

Him: I’d like to be the director of a group. Tell people what to do. You know…business stuff.

Me: (Holy mackerel. Seriously?)

Him: I’m sure someone of your stature is in charge of a bunch of people, right? You set the business strategy and then….

Me: [now I interrupt him] I’m a software developer. How about instead I’ll ask you some program management questions instead of developer questions? (Maybe he is in the wrong loop and should be interviewing for a program manager position?)

Me: Imagine you need to know how many taxi cabs there are in the greater Seattle area. What are some ways you could figure that out?

Him: I could Google it.

Me: Well, that’s not really the point. I want to understand what other kinds of information would help you approximate the number.

Him: No really. I have my laptop. I could Google it. [He pulls out laptop]

Me: (Am I on a prank show?) OK. Here’s the thing. Just looking up the answer isn’t what I’m asking for. And as a small point, if you are interviewing at Microsoft, maybe saying you would Bing it might be better than naming a competitor’s product. [I grin at him. Hoping he’ll see the humor.]

Him: [Opens his laptop and logs in] Well Google is way better, here let me show you.

Me: Awww..that’s OK. Hey, I’m going to step out into the hall for a second.

Him: Sure. It’s been awesome.

Me: [I never return and instead got the next person to terminate the loop.]

Me: (Did that really just happen? Yes it did…sigh.) [Shakes head sadly for rest of day.]