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Job Interviewing Circa 2012

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 by Mike Ficco

I recently had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while.  He was still at the company where we’d worked together some years ago but had started looking for a new job.  After ten years at the same company he was no longer excited by the projects.  He wanted something new and more exciting.

I was entertained for the first half hour by his stories about the craziness of job interviewing.  One company told him he didn’t have enough management experience (he has 20 years) and another told him he was too management oriented and they wanted somebody more hands-on.  A third told him he didn’t have enough background in Java (he has over 10 years) while another was disappointed to learn he had never designed a low noise 10 GHz receiver front end.  This disappointment, in a face-to-face interview, was despite the fact that his background is computer science and his resume makes no mention of any RF work.

Together we laughed at the silliness of the interview process.  We were able to laugh because, right now, we both have jobs.

He then mentioned an interview he’d been to only the day before.  It seemed like a good company and the interview process was very thorough.  He was interviewed by human resources, three staff members, and an executive.  He was concerned, however, that three of the interviewers (HR, one staff member, and the executive) focused heavily on his skills at keeping projects on schedule.  He thought such focus on one issue might indicate a widespread problem in the company.

Not necessarily, I said, but it might be good to know why there was an opening.  Was it from growth or had they let someone go because of their scheduling problems, or did they WANT to let someone go?  As we discussed this, an excellent question came up.  Did they want to keep projects on arbitrary and perhaps artificially accelerated schedules or did they want a skilled and experienced manager to create a realistic schedule to efficiently guide the work?  He decided to call back the executive and find out.

The executive took his call and immediately explained they were very impressed and were putting an offer together.  My friend thanked him, then asked the question.  The executive explained they wanted aggressive schedules to keep the staff highly focused.  My friend asked if it might be possible that shortcuts taken to meet an aggressive schedule were responsible for causing downstream delays.  The executive explained that it was the manager’s job to keep the project on schedule.

So far my friend has not received the promised offer.  Even if he does, his answer will be “no”, because he can’t fix the executive’s broken thinking process.  This was clearly a corporate culture that had, and would continue, making the same mistake.  He’ll let some other person try to keep projects on aggressive and arbitrary schedules.

2 Responses to “Job Interviewing Circa 2012”

  1. Bob Paddock says:

    I recently went on a job interview. I arrived ten minutes early, the Head Cheese arrived forty-five minutes late. Her first words to me were “I did not know I was the first to see you.” During the interview her phone rang and she said “I have to take this text”, and spent the next ten minutes staring at her phone. None of the questions she asked me really made any sense for the design position I thought I had applied for, despite my resume being within her reach.

    I found out later that she actually thought I was someone else, and was interviewing for a position in Quality Control. I must have done a good job as I got an offer. Yet that was not the end of this Interview from Hell.

    After Head Cheese departed I was left setting in the interview room for any other forty-five minutes (are all clocks 45 minutes slow in this place?) before my new perspective Boss came in. All went well there, we went out to lunch with my perspective new team.

    After lunch I was shown where I’d be working. It was a large noisy open area and I was going to be setting at a desk that formed a pinch point for the walkway into the room. Everyone in or out would have been a distraction from the work, if not out right physical contact with my chair due to the small walkway.

    Next up was an interview from the head of Quality Control. From my perspective everything seemed to go well. He left and again I waited for far to long.

    My perspective Boss came back and said with an angry tone “I thought [Mr. QC Guy] would have you longer”. Some how it was my-fault.

    Ultimately I was offered a position, at twice my currently salary, but I turned it down. I felt that if the head of the organization was that disorganized, and the Boss was already directing angry at me for reasons unknown, that these were not people I felt I’d be comfortable working with, in that physically environment (Ever had someone kicking the back of your seat in a movie or airplane?).

    Interviews are always two way events. You are interviewing them as they are interviewing you.

    Two interviewing tips:

    1) The fellow that ran The Skunkworks long ago took all of his prospects out for lunch. If the prospect put salt on his food without tasting then you were not offered a position. He explained that if you are making assumptions about your food, without the data of tasting it, then you were likely to make other unvalidated assumptions in your designs.

    2) When going on an interview make sure your car fits the job you are applying for, and is clean inside and out. In discussing this on a LinkedIn Group a lady that made the assumption all HR people were females (are they?), said the car advice was bad. A lady would never never get any place near your car.

    In this interview not only did the person that ran the office see my car, she actually got in when I arrived to direct me through the complex maze of parking to their hidden underground garage. So do make sure there are no dead French Fries laying around on Interview day.

  2. GroovyD says:

    Sounds like a company in California from my recent experience… Did they also make him write a thesis on why he should be hired and give a powerpoint presentation to the team during the in person interview? Was that all after 6 technical phone screens including 3 coding challenges?

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