76

Following this question, what is the worst interview answer you've gotten from an interviewee in a technical interview?

310

(From a very pleasant Nigerian national who came in for a technical interview)

"Would you like to hear about my implementation of a mass e-mailing program?"

I laughed.

224

I'll never forget it.

I said...

"So tell me a bit about yourself...

and he replied...

"I recently invented the div inside a span."

He had it listed on his resume too - just like that - invented it.

211

"Will you write out a little function for me on the whiteboard here?"

"No."

196

Q: So write a method to convert a string to uppercase

A:

double string;
int main{
         cout >> "Please Enter an uppercase string >>;
         cin << string;
}

....sadly I am not kidding and this is exact.

183 accepted

I can't tell you how often this happens in phone interviews:

Me: [asks interview question about a specific technology]

Them: [repeats question as I can hear them typing]

[short delay]

[I hear a "ding" from IE when Google gives them a list of pages, "click"]

Them: [reads from a web page]

Me: OK, well, thank you for your time. Don't call me, I'll call you.

174

The setup: "I'm an expert web programmer, was a DBA for a few years, lots of background in security, yeah I know all about that"

The lowball: "Okay, so how would you go about preventing SQL Injection?"

The fumble: "Weeell, thats not really the type of thing I've ever dealt with... What is it exactly?"

Priceless.

170

Q: "What makes you like programming?"

A: "I don't"

Didn't see that one coming! The interview was for a senior developer position so a certain enthusiasm for the subject matter was more or less assumed.

163

My favorite was a candidate that told me object oriented programming was "Where you drag the components from the toolbox in Visual Studio onto the form"

I cut the interview pretty short after that and reviewed our pre-screening process.

144

Q: "Can you explain how AJAX works?"

A: "It's a new version of web pages that doesn't need HTML"

144

In an interview not too long ago, I was starting off the discussion by giving my sixty second introduction to our group with a quick sketch of the major data flow components when the interviewee interrupted me with: "Too many words!"

I think I stared at him for a good thirty seconds before I was able to speak.

143

A colleague of mine interviewing someone:

  • "Do you know ActiveX ?"

  • "Yes, I do."

then my colleague started having doubts about the sincerity of the interviewee, so he improvised this question :

  • "Do you know ActiveZ ?"

  • "Yes, I do."

He didn't get the job.

128

I once asked a candidate "what do you consider to be your forte?". His reply: "I like variables".

111

We were conducting interviews for a .NET web programmer as a team (just 3 of us) and one of our team members made the mistake of asking a personal question instead of sticking to the predetermined set.

Q: So, what do you like to do in your free time?

A: Well, I like praying... and I like chainsawing.

WTF?! This is why we stick to the standard set of questions!

110

In interviewing for a entry level tech position, I was asking a candidate to point out various components in an open PC. When I tested him to see if he was guessing and asked him to show me the "flux capacitor", I was amazed he immediately found one! Sadly, it turned out to be a video card.

105

We once had a student here who had about 5 different programming languages on her CV. I started asking design questions, but she knew nothing. So I asked simpler and simpler questions, until I finally asked "Why do you have Java and C# on your CV when you cannot write a single line of code?" She stared at me and finally said "I did not write that I have experience!" So all her knowledge about programming was that there exist 5 programming languages that she could name.

94

Me: "What are some differences between static and dynamic type systems?"

Him: "Look, I never needed to know that in my career, so I'm not going to answer that for you now. You ask me how to make money for you and then we can talk."

Me: "How would you make us money?"

Him: "I write the Java codes"

Me: "Thank you for your time."

-m

86

We asked people to rate themselves from 1-5 on certain topics with 5 being "Guru Level". A candidate rated himself a 5 on network programming. When asked what the difference between TCP and UDP was, he said "I dunno". We realized that anyone who rate himself/herself a 5 was an immediate rejection. They were most likely liars, unaware of their own limitations or were too good (i.e., expensive) for us.

84

Tell me what you know about Object Oriented Design and Development?

Yes I know all about that stuff. I studied that in my last year of college.

So tell me a little bit about what you learnt?

I learnt all that complicated stuff but it's far too complicated to go into right now.

74

I once went for an interview at the European Commission in Brussels. Towards the end of the interview, which seemed to go very well, they asked me how I felt about learning another language. "Great!" I said, "I would like to learn Java." (I was programming Perl and VB at that time.)

The two interviewers looked at each other with bemused/amused expressions, which I realised as I left the building was down to the fact that they were referring to a natural language (all Commission employees are supposed to speak three European languages).

72

Q: What is the extent of your experience in programming?

A: I know HTML and I'll learn the rest as I go along.

68

OK, this isn?t worth reading, but I was stunned by this guy, so here goes.

About 10 years ago I was doing all the tech interviews for a company hiring C++ developers. We were heavy server side lifters and were writing lots of abstract mathematical calcs for Actuaries, and we had some fairly obscure abstraction going on. I had a standard question on the lines of ?You?ve an RDBMS storing a representation of road maps for Great Britain, each record has data for length of road, and its end points. Each end point is a name, latitude and longitude, so you can tell if the road goes North south / East west? (basically a simplified sat nav db, but something everyone can get their heads around).

The question I ask is ?Design a proof of concept prototype, including what objects you?d need and the relationships they?d have, to calculate routes for from and to 5 different points?.

Basically I was looking for three things 1) problem solving ability and 2) basic OO knowledge 3) design patterns.

Now, I want to stress, I?d be stunned if in 15 minutes in an interview someone whipped out a full and concise design for this, but you can learn a lot from watching people flounder.

I had one guy, 5 years of c++, and he rated his knowledge as excellent. I had explained that we were mostly server side, pose him the problem. And he goes ?Huh?, what do you mean?? I say something on the lines of ?If you had to write this from scratch, what objects would you use, what kind of methods?.

Him : ?Well, will the UI maintain the records?

Me : ?There is no UI, you?ve to use the data to calculate the routes, and display the results to the console?.

Him : ?Console??

Me : ?Yeah, in a command prompt?

Him: ?Okayyyyyyyy . . .?

Me (being kind) : ?OK, what objects would you need??

Him: Well, what objects do you have to start with?

Me (pretending this is a normal question) : You don?t have any objects, you?re designing this from scratch

The guy then smiles knowingly and says ?This is a trick question right? You have to have a class to inherit from, you can?t just, like, magically create a new class?, and sits back, all smug with himself.

I?m stunned, 5 years of C++ and he?s pleased with this answer. I?m still interested to see if there?s more than one developer in the room (his CV read really well) so I say ?OK, lets pretend you can, how would you do it?. To which re responds ?Look, this is purely theoretical and fairly nonsensical, and I don?t see the point persuing it. Can you give me something more real that I can do something with??. I wasn?t sure I could, so terminated the interview there.

I found it hard to believe how he could be so dumb and arrogant at the same time.

MFC, the ruination of many a C++ developer

EDIT: Replies

Boofus: I'm not sure what you're saying dude, are you being sarcastic, ironic or straight up. Assuming straight up.

You can learn a lot about people by giving them an impossible task. We hired people that didn't "do well" with that question. Watching them work at it can tell you how they approach problem solving, do they think in terms of code, data or design. Do they freeze when under pressure, do they become aggressive or defensive, or - like the feckwit above, do they crash and burn spectacularly :)

The most interesting interviewers I've had have thrown curve balls, and these often lead to more challenging and interesting work.

68

This happened a month ago:

Q : How do you rate yourself in JavaScript (out of 10)?
A : 8/10?

Q: Great! Could you write a function to validate an email address?
A : (... few minutes ...) Well, I would rate myself as 3.

66

Q: What do you understand by the term "object oriented development"?

A: If you don't use object oriented development, you won't meet your objectives.

59

Note: These questions were asked back-to-back

Q: What are the benefits/reasons for normalizing the database used by an application?
A: Performance. The application will run faster against a normalized database.

Q: In what situations should denormalizing the database be considered?
A: When you need more performance, the application will perform better against a de-normalized database.

Q: So which is it? Does normalization help or hurt performance?
A: I'm not sure, but everyone knows that normalized is better.

Q: Why?
A: Because it performs better.

50

"I think that's a really dumb question - why would that matter?"

Yes, that's a real response.

50

My answer, for the record... The worst interviewee answer was from a CS major who had written pretty much every buzzword in Electrical Engineering on his resume. It turned out he didn't know what any of them meant. When I asked about his undergrad project (a SQL server) all he could tell me was, "you give it a query and it gives you a result. My partner did the internals"

Naturally, he didn't get the job...

50

Q: What is a Linked List?

A: I don't really remember my data structures from college. Could you ask me something about the Java collection classes instead, as I know those really well?

(For the record, this was a fellow interviewing for a job at another company (leaving). He got the job there even after that answer, with a substantial raise. Yes, the Java collections classes contain a LinkedList implementation... sigh.)

49

From the .com heyday...

Q: What is ASP and why do you like it?

A: I like it because it's processed on the client side.

Needless to say, the interview ended there (and that was only the second or third question).

47

My favourite is interviewing contractors and you pose them a programming question to write some code.

At least 60% in our experience will reply with "Sorry, I don't give free consulting". Ummm, so now what? Goodbye. ;)

46

This is the worst and the best answers I got from an interviewee.

I was searching for a web programmer, so I did a couple of interviews.

One of them had the experience and scholarship needed, but there was something about him I didn't like. At some point the interview went something like this;

Me: What's your favorite programming language ?

Him: You mean the one I'm the best with ?

Me: Not necessarily, let's say you have a personal project at home.. which language would you chose ?

Him: Why would I want to work at home ?

Me: You never code at home ?

Him: No, why ?

Me: Well, hmm .. okay..

I wasn't impressed at all with the interview, but I decided to hire him anyway since qualified candidates seemed to be a luxury around here and I was overwhelmed with work to do.

Days passed but I never stopped searching somebody else because I was appalled by his level of ignorance and ineptitude. I have never studied about anything close to computer, let alone programming. I have learned it all by myself and yet, I felt like I was light years ahead of this guy, who supposedly had more work experience and scholarship than me.

Then one day another guy walks in for an interview. He had not a single programming experience nor he studied in this domain. He was just interested in programming and started playing with it at home, you know.. just for fun.

At first I didn't take him too seriously, but hey you never know. So I gave him a chance and it went more or less like this;

Me: What's your favorite programming language ?

Him: You mean the one I'm the best with ?

Me: Not necessarily, let's say you have a personal project at home.. which language would you chose ?

Him: Well probably LISP or Python

Me: OK you start on Monday.

When I showed him one of my biggest problem I had to resolve at the time, he said he was not sure he could tackle it. I replied I knew he could and within a week my problem was completely solved. The first guy was fired shortly after and two years later we still work together.

I'd go as far as to say that we are now friends and a helluva team.

45

Q: "So, why do you want this job?"

A: "Well, I don't really have anything else to do."

39

This topic reminds me of an old irc joke:

Myrf> I was giving some guy a job interview today, and it turned out he didn't know who the Beatles were.

Myrf> So, of course, I had to turn him down :P

bozz> wtf, a bunch of people don't know who the beatles are

bozz> whyd you have to turn him down just because of that

Myrf> Dude, I work at a RECORD STORE.

37

The worst ones aren't where they say anything in particular: they just don't want to answer. They'd rather give up on a question than explain what their thinking is or to ask for clarifications if they're not understanding. It's a total waste of everyone's time.

37

Q: What is encapsulation?
A: I'm not sure. You start answering the question and I'll follow up.

Q: You haven't a clue.
A: No.

33

This was a little while ago, but I still remember it well...this was an interview for a server administrator, specifically for our externally facing website server (in-house), so security and how to handle/configure dual-firewalls and hosts was required.

Now, this was a BIG guy, not fat, but the sort you wouldn't want to go up against in Rugby...I'm no lightweight, but he towered above me...

Me: I see here that you've been a sys admin for 4 years, is that correct?

Guy: Yes, mainly NT4 server, I know everything there is to know about NT4

Me: raises eyebrow I see, so you can tell me what the hosts file is and what it does, yes?

Guy: The what, what hosts file, I've never heard of that.

Me: It lives in c:\winnt\system32\drivers\etc, there's a hosts file and a sample hosts file (hosts.sam)

Guy: I don't understand the question.

Me: It's quite simple, there's a file called hosts and it does something with IP addresses and names...have you come across the term "localhost" before?

Guy: Yes, it maps to 127.0.0.1

Me: thinking 'finally some progress'* Ah, so now can you tell me what the hosts file is?

Guy: Look getting agitated, leaning forward I really DON'T like your interviewing style, I don't understand the question, can you re-phrase it?

Me: (not wanting to look like a wimp) I've already re-phrased it twice.

Guy: You think you're funny do you?

Which reminded my of Goodfellas a bit and he leaned right over and I swear he was about to grab me by the throat.

Me: No, not at all...not at all...

...at which point I made my excuses and left, telling a security guard that I wanted him escorted out of the building.

I ordered panic buttons for all interview rooms shortly after that...

31

I was invited for the interview to ask technical questions for a general web development post in a non-IT company.

q: "Have you done much development?"

a: "Yes. I studied computer science at X university"

q: "Great, how about web development?"

a: "Yes, I studied that too."

q: "What is your favourite web server?"

10

a: "Um.."

q: "Ok tell me about a web server you have used"

a: "Um.."

q: "Can you name me any web servers?"

a: "Um.."

q: "Ok have you heard of Apache?"

a: "Um.."

q: "Ok let's move on to databases.."

20 GOTO 10

boss: "Ok enough of this technical crap, your salary will be Y and you will start on Z..."

30

Me: Are you familiar with any content management systems?

Candidate: (Pause...) Ruby on Rails? Is that one?

And I once fell for:

Interviewer: (Asks quickly, offtopic) What's half of 99?

Me: (Panics) 44 and a 1/2!

30

In an interview for a mid-level firmware position, we started asking about memory mapped I/O. As the candidate had listed several embedded projects on their resume (in C and assembly), we figured it would be a softball question.

His answer was kind of shaky, so we asked if it would be easier to explain on the whiteboard.

He went to the board and stared at it. His hands got shakier and shakier, he started to sweat so much it was dripping off his forehead and he was hurriedly wiping it with his hand. I really can't convey how radical the change was - the man went from calm, happy, and collected to a complete wreck in just a minute or so.

Honest to goodness, 10 minutes at the board produced a function name and an open curly brace. The room was disturbingly quiet. We became concerned and tried to help, asking for just pseudo code, trying to form smaller questions, asking about bit masking, etc. Eventually one of the other interviewers asked how you could get the memory address of a variable in C. The candidate turned around, sat down, and said, "I won't be able to do that." From the time he went to the board until he left the meeting room, he never looked at any of us.

After the interview was over, the other interviewers and I were very confused. I talked with my supervisors about trying to come up with a better way to interview him. Turned out that, despite a strong resume, they couldn't get any sort of technical read on him via e-mail or phone, so they had decided to fly him in. Considering the flight cost and the poor interview, they didn't want to invest any more effort in him.

30

The line "You said this was a Technical Lead position, how dare you expect me to program?" is still something of a personal winner.

Close second was the guy interviewing as a Senior Developer who couldn't explain what an if/else clause did.

29

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I'll be retired by then...

(after negotiating on a quite large budget for personal training as well)

29

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Outta rehab, for sure!

(I didn't hire him, but we both had a good laugh at his answer)

29

good looking girl came in

me: "hello - tell me something about you"

girl: "I work at a local 7-11"

me: "okay - do you have any experience in developing software?"

girl: "no"

me: "have you ever worked as a developer? or with computers?"

girl: "no"

me: "okay - so why are you here?"

girl: "I want to work 20 hours a week and receive a full month developer loan"

me: "!?!?!?!?!!??!!?!?!"

that really happened to me ... I was a bit perplexed ;)

27

Interviewing an experienced programmer and one of the questions was "How would a typical day go at your previous job?" Answer: "Got coffee in the morning as I'm not much of a morning person...so we would mainly just talk about the project or whatever. I'm not much good at night either as I get tired. I'm really good only between 11 and 3. Plus I like to golf so I would want some afternoons off."

26

In the job description, I specified an understanding of GOF design pattern (not as a religious position, just to make sure that the applicant wasn't an indiscriminate hacker and had some concept of order and reuse)

When I asked if she knew about them, she actually answered

"Yes, I saw that on the description so I looked them up."

Me: "Oh, good, what can you tell me about them?"

Interviewee (looking proud): "I looked them up."

Me: "Anything else?"

Interviewee (still looking chuffed): "They are on the internet"

My boss insisted I hire her as she was cheap, she ended up costing the company heaps in lost time, huge bug fixes and 'mentoring' (for want of a much less positive word) time. Working with her was like pulling teeth.

24

Q: What is a virtual function?

A: You mean, like, virtual memory?

24

Background: Recruiting a QA candidate that made the mistake of claiming during the interview that he did a lot of programming in his spare time and hoped the position we were hiring for would lead to a developer job.

Q: So what programming languages do you use/like best?
A: Windows?

Q: [Thinking I had been unclear] No, I mean specifically what programming LANGUAGES are you familiar with, not the platform.
A: Uhm. Unix?

Q: [Trying one more time]. I am really trying to ask about programming languages, not platforms. You know like Java, C++, or C#?
A: Yeah, that's the one I use.

21

Q: So what editor did you use for the PHP forum that's on your CV?

A: mmm ... I don't really remember the name

Q: Was it notepad?

A: (laughing) No it was definitely not notepad

Q: So what was it? Were you writing straight into the web server?

A: I am sorry - I really don't remember the name

Interview ended there.

This was a few years ago and sadly I was the one being interviewed, and the correct answer was Dreamweaver (my fellows from college I did the PHP forum with reminded me when I got back form the interview).

20

Applicant for java ee programming job:

-What is JPA? AND What is HIBERNATE?

-It's in notebook, button to put it into sleep mode.

19

I once referred a friend of mine to a position where he was being interviewed by someone on our team. Unfortunately, the interviewer didn't really know much about about web developing even though she was employed as a web developer. I told my friend about this and in the interview he was asked about AJAX and if he'd used it.

He said "yeah, I've used it, what about you guys?", she says oh yeah we have and he inquires as to what they've done with it, to see if she even knows what AJAX is. She says "oh you know, sort tables and stuff" heh. A bit odd since he was the interviewee, but funny nonetheless.

18

My own answer.

I was interviewing for a position and after having gone through my five years of "professional" programming experience this is the transaction that occurred...

--(Paraphrased of course)

Interviewer: So what is it you would really like to be doing?

Me: Oddly enough... Art, 3d models and music creation.

Interviewer: You wont be able to do much of that here.

Me: Yeah. I know...

--

I still got the job as a Software Engineer, but I figure is was probably not a great answer.

18

Interview #1

"I haven't really worked with events"

Promptly followed by one of our developers slamming down his notebook, getting up, and leaving without a word.


Interview #2

When I realized the candidate was Googling/BS'ing all the answers I threw him this gem:

me: "Have you ever worked with the XnetCookieManager class, if so, what do you think of it?" candidate: "I've used it before, it works pretty well"

This is an in-house class that he could not have ever seen before

16

I was asked to join in for a panel interview with about 10 minutes notice so I scratched a couple of questions on the back of an envelope and waited for my turn. After the software architect, let's call him Bob, had finished with questions about OOP (what is is-a, has-a etc) and the candidate had done fairly well, I tried "Can you tell me what know about big-O notation?"

I say tried because Bob, the software architect at a startup building a database engine to handle terabytes, interrupted and said "well, I don't understand that stuff myself".

I left soon after.

16

Q: How many constructors does the SqlCommand class have? (ADO.NET)

Me: (in my mind : why the f... should I know their count?!) More than one :P

15

The worst one I've had was when a candidate had WCF on his CV. I quizzed him about it and he said "Oh I haven't used it but someone at work recommended it and I might be getting to go on a course"!

15

To someone who'd written SQL, Database, DBA and similar terms all over his CV:

"Could you write a SQL query that does <problem>?"

"Most of my query development has been in Access' drag-and-drop editor"

15

I was looking for good all-round Linux engineers at one point. One guy came in, we made nice, then I cut to the chase and asked him to describe his Linux experience. He gave me an unknowing look and I showed him the bits on his CV where it said X years of Linux programming experience. He looked a bit puzzled and then said "Oh, you know what? My brother must have written that in to get me more job interviews."

He was a bit surprised that I lost complete interest in resuming the interview.

None of the above is in any way a fabrication. I was even nice enough to suggest some community resources if he really wanted to learn something and to call me again in 6 months.

14

Q: "Oh, interesting. Your resume says that you've used .NET Remoting. So, how did you use it? What was your project like?"

A: "I have never used .NET Remoting."

14

Question to a slightly gray-haired interviewee:

"So what keeps you still interested in programming?"

"Programming? Umm.. I am here for the sales manager position"

This happened to me as I was interviewing candidates for a junior developer position and didn't know that the sales dep. also was interviewing so I grabbed the first candidate I saw. Yeah yeah I was new at it. :)

14

Q: What are your top 5 programming books that you reference and/or liked to read? [keep in mind we didn't have internet at this site]

A: HTML Bible, and the Bible

Hmmm...Can't count to 5 and I'm fairly sure the Bible doesn't have any programming languages in it. I'm guessing you could pray for your code.

13

We once had a candidate who had failed to answer any of our questions convincingly through the interview. At the end, we gave him a last chance to shine and asked if there was some part of his CV we had overlooked, anything he was expert on that we hadn't touched upon.

He thought for a minute and answered that what he was really good at was "thinking outside of the box". Naturally, we then followed up by asking for an example of where he had thought laterally to solve a problem, but unfortunately he couldn't think of one.

13

When asked to explain Object Oriented Programming:

"A bunch of subroutines or computer code that does something".

Then tried to explain that OOP is bad because different objects don't combine well together, giving the example that you can't use multiple javascript libraries together.

Later, when asked about testing:

"I never had any code come back...that I wrote..that failed any kind of unit test"

12

"What's a variable?"

12

I had a candidate tell me he had been programming in C# since 1999.

(To all you Gen-Y'ers - version one was released in 2001)

11

I interviewed a recent college graduate (her degree was in Computer Information Science) for a job developing VB applications back in the late 1990s. Here's how the exchange went.

Q. How do you get records out of a database?

A. You use the database thing, ADO.

Q. Ok, so using ADO, how would you just, you know, get some data?

A. Um, the Recordset object?

Q. Right, so you have a Recordset object, how do you get data out if it?

A. I think you can look inside it, you know, it has records in it.

Q. Yes, how do you do that? Would you use a loop?

A. I don't know what a loop is.

She still got the job, just with different expectations, and she grew into quite a good junior developer. But I'll certainly never forget that interview.

11

After asking a question I happen to really like, and have asked a number of times, after puzzling on it for several minutes without making real headway, a senior candidate busts out with:

"I think I'm bored with this question."

And as it turns out, I was bored with his answer, so we were in complete agreement. It's a good thing you can only work on the problems that interest you when you work at a startup.

Needless to say, not someone we hired.

10

I asked an interviewee to declare a data structure that he would use as a phone book. He first writes the usual C++ class PhoneBookItem with a couple of members, and then:

PhoneBookItem phonebook[100];

Me: Um, ok, but what if I wanted to have two hundred contacts in my phone book?

Him: That's really easy, you just change this number here, and put 200 instead of 100!

10

I once had the following conversation in an interview:

Q: So have you ever written a sort?

A: No

Q: Ok so how would you put a list of integers in order?

A (on whiteboard):
for (i = 0; i < MAXINT; i++)
for (j = 0; j < sizeof(array); j++)
push sorted_array, i;

Q: Uh.. Ok can you see any way to make this more efficient?

A: No

10

We'd reached the "what can I tell you about us?" point of an already shaky interview and he asked "Will you hire my girlfriend when I start?"

This from a guy interviewing at KPMG Consulting for a customer-facing position in flip-flops, dirty t-shirt and corduroys with what looked like battery acid holes in them.

10

This was a woman who was friends with the production manager. The interview was for Flash developer position. Apparently she had "been learning" ActionScript and I asked her the same questions I asked all applicants. She didn't make it past the first question.

Name three different types of loop in ActionScript.

(hesitates)

Ok, just tell me one type of loop.

Well... I know I know this one... Just give me 10 minutes with a book and I know I can tell you...

(Puts conference call on mute. Everyone in room busts out laughing)

Ok, just send us a sample of your work. Kthanks.

She followed up with a file that wouldn't even compile, and was full of unintelligible code. Lesson learned, personal friends of employees aren't always the best bet.

10

I was interviewing a guy who had 5 years Smalltalk experience for a Senior Smalltalk developer position.

Me: What's the difference between = and == ?

Him: I don't know so I always use == .

I don't know which was more horrifying -- that he didn't know the difference or that he knew he didn't know and never bothered to look it up.

In Smalltalk = tests equality and == tests identity. They are definitely not interchangeable.

9

Gave a candidate two lines of C and noting that he had put "wrote Pascal compiler" on his resume, I asked him if he could build a parse tree of the code.

"Um...not really."

9

The worse answer I've ever received was:

"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh............." and then silence.

9

I have written about my funny experiences here. The best one was this

Me : You said you are working with VS 2003. How do you rate yourself in .net?

Candidate : 7 out of 10

Me : Great! Why are you not using VS 2008 which is the lastest verion?

Candidate : What? we have VS 2008? I thought 2005 is the latest version.

9

I asked someone who listed himself as "expert" in OO-design on his CV:

Me: What is the dependency inversion principle?

Him: The depen... Come again?

Me: The dependency inversion principle.

Him: Is that where you can run multiple versions of the same assembly by putting it in the GAC?

8

Me: I see on your resume that you have been using NUnit for nearly two years.

Interviewee: Yes, I even mentored a number of developers at my last job and introduced them to unit testing.

Me: Oh, excellent. Can you name some of the asserts that NUnit provides?

Interviewee: Uh. Hm... I don't remember.

8

Me: "You say you have 2 years experience in Java?"

Interviewee: "Yes that's right"

Me: "Can you explain to me the concept of object inheritance?"

Interviewee: pauses "Well it wasn't exactly Java..."

She didn't actually know the first thing about java. Or javascript. Or programming...

8

[Me] - We see you currently work in a different state. Are you willing to relocate to this area?

[Them] - I have a restraining order taken out against someone.

While I'm glad they were trying to leave a bad situation, a simple "Yes" would have sufficed.

Edit

As an aside, I have nothing against someone trying to leave a bad situation, and the candidate was not dinged for their statement. Rather, it was the "unasked for answer" to the question - we were looking to see if they were willing to relocate, not why they wanted to relocate. The fact that their answer only invited questions that we legally could not ask in an interview is what makes it such a horrible answer to a question.

8

Two good ones, different people:

Q (Me): So what was your first programming language?
A: (In a very, very confident manner) Oh, HTML!

Q (Me): So I noticed you wrote JavaScript as a skill on your resume. Can you tell me what this means?: document.getElementById("someId").
A: Oh see that's JAVA. I don't know JAVA.

Both interviews pretty much ended after that.

8

In an interview for a junior ".NET Developer" position:

Me: "What would a function look like that checked that a string was a valid postal code?"

Interviewee: "Well, I'm not really a programmer."

Me: "Ok..."

(Turns out they were actually a rather talented young DBA, but still.)

That resulted in a heated (but productive) discussion with the HR department.

8

Question: "Describe how you think an IT department should be perceived by the organisation?" (Or something like that)

Answer: Long rant about how he has gained weight, how fat people are lazy, how IT people are usually lazy/fat, and how he isn't lazy"I live just around the corner. I've gained a lot of weight recently. If I get the job then I can work out at the gym before, during, and after work. It would be really convenient for me. So yes, I would love to work here."

I should note that he didn't once mention anything about the job, only about the perk of having a free gym, and that he looked fine. Given his attitude about laziness & IT, I was happy to see him go.

So in summary - he should have just answered the bloody question!

7

From an interview I was in as one of the interviewers:

Interviewee: "Is this job for such-and-such" (Note - this was an MS product)

Us: "Yes, this is a new version of that product"

Interviewee: "Ah, well in that case I'm not interested in working here then."

Us (confused): "Why?"

Interviewee: "I don't want to work on MS products. I don't want to be associated with MS."

Us: "Actually, it's being published by some-other-publisher."

Interviewee: "Oh, that's OK then."

Needless to say, the type of job he was after would require him to use Windows, Dev Studio, VSS (but I guess it's OK to hate that) and so on.

Skizz

7

I asked a candidate for a programming position what he knew about database to which he replied "Oh no, that's not my job. That's the DBA's job. I don't do dumb stuff like that." Needless to say he never got the job.

7

[me] On your CV you say you have experience of J2EE. Can you elaborate?

[interviewee] I wrote a JSP page.

7

Q: How did you learn at university?

A (cross oneself): I'm graduated and Thanks God!

7

Me: "What are some of the benefits of using stored procedures?"

Interviewee: "I'd rather do it in code"

Me: "Ok...but if you were going to use them what might the benefits be?"

Interviewee: pause..."SQL Injection...they're the best way to do SQL Injection."

Me: google.com "laughter methods restraint"

6

Oh, this is a good one.

Recently I was interviewing people for a '.NET Architect' position. One of the candidates told me that he had worked briefly with VB.NET before 'specializing' in C#.

So I asked:

Can you name some C# feature that doesn't exist in VB.NET?

His answer:

.... uhmm, I really don't remember...

wait! yes I remember there was one....

but I think they fixed it already.

EDIT: Thanks everybody for the comments, but you are missing the point: the WTF is that the guy didn't even know what the meaning of 'feature' was. He thought I was asking about something that was wrong or missing in C#, like a bug or something. I would not think it is a bad answer if he had just said 'I don't know'.

5

After going through all of the .NET technologies we were using heavily (threading, remoting, reflection, etc) and the guy didn't answer a single one correctly it was painfully obvious to both of us that there was no way he was going to get the job. So .... he started talking about how he didn't really know anything about what we were doing, but don't let that make me think he wouldn't be good for the position, and he's a really hard worker, and a really fast learner, and if you just give me a chance I can prove that I'm really a good fit, and ......... AHHHHHH! STOP TALKING! (or as another said before "Too many words!").

I wanted to say "Dude, you're NOT a good fit. Get over it."

4

When asked what his goals were he said:

"I'm just looking for a paycheck."

When asked if he was willing to work extra hours sometimes if there was an upcoming deadline:

"I worked 50 hours in a week once and got really stressed out."

But then the kicker (not really a question but still), when I described a co-worker as "hacking" something. He proceeded to tell me I shouldn't use the term "hack" because I did not know what it meant and it had "negative connotations. When I tried to explain the difference in definitions he flat out told me I was wrong. I guess he didn't want the job.

4

Interviewer asked me " why do you think constructors don't have return types ?" i answered " why should they?" ( still believe it is apt answer, got rejected though :D).

4

Interviewer: Explain your approach to designing software.

Me: I see software design as an art...

I didn't get the job. Four years later, and I can now confidently answer the question!

4

I once was asked a quite nice question from a lady in the HR department while being at an interview with her and the CTO:

HR: "I will not ask you what you think your biggest weakness is. I will ask you another question: What will a good friend of yours say when I ask him what your biggest weakness is?"

CTO: "Yea, that's really a completely different question."

ME: "And that was the answer ;-)"

All of us started to smile.

3

My own answer...

I was working for an outsourcing company (let's call it Helping Hands), and went to so many interviews I could do it in my sleep (by the way, great skill to have... when you're looking for a job, go to as many interviews as possible, even those you really aren't interested in). I wasn't looking to leave my job, but I needed to ace the interviews.

Many times the interviewer, unaware of the fact that I was interviewing for an outsourcing position, asked me:

"So why do you want to leave 'Helping Hands'?"

and I would retort with a smile:

"Who said anything about leaving them?"

At which point the interviewer would look at me all baffled for a minute, look through his/her papers and try to figure out what had just happened. All this time I would sit there smiling, which usually makes the interviewer even more nervous and confused. I knew that's a bad answer and a nasty thing to do to, but I couldn't help it...

Yuval =8-)

EDIT: Just to make things clearer, I wasn't going to these interviews for my health. Part of my job at the time was to go to interviews and be accepted to work on client projects, usually at the client's office. The process is similar to being accepted as a regular employee, and the interviewer wasn't always aware that I was interviewing for an outsourcing position. My answer above to the automatic question would shake them awake.

3

Q: So, why are you motivated to work with us?

R: Because it is close to my home !

3
  1. Q: Are you familiar with design patterns?
    A: Yes, I am.
    Q: Tell me about some patterns that you know about.
    A: Singleton.
    Q: Anything else?
    A: Well, I didn't find myself in need of other patterns and forgot about them.

  2. Q: What's the difference between Session Bean and Entity Bean?
    A: Entity Bean stores its state in the DB while Session Bean stores its state in the web server's session.

3

Q: What data structure would you use to implement a list of words for a spell-checker?

A: Linked list?

Doh!

3

This happened just last week (keep in mind the resume of this candidate showed 7 yrs of experience)

Q: How would you call an Oracle stored procedure in your java code?
A: I would use JDBC technology to call the stored proc.

Q: Could you please elaborate on the exact steps/code how would you do it in Java?
A: Well, I will write a Java program and there I will write a 'main' method and from the main method I will use the JDBC technology to connect to oracle and call the stored procedure.

Q: Don't you think this is a very generic answer? Would you like to elaborate a little more on exactly how would you do it?
A: I will use Java 1.5 and JDBC 2.0 to connect to the database and call the stored procedure.

2

I interviewed a guy to fill out the position of Django developer once online over IM. The interview was general in nature, and at one point not too late in the interview, the following happened:

Me: "Have you ever toyed with ModelForm in Django?"

Him: "brb"

... and that's it! I guess I was asking for it.

2

I think the worst interview answers I've had have been non-answers.

I've asked candidates tough questions, not with the intent that they get the answer right, but that they talk through it, and apply their knowledge, making progress towards understanding the problem and getting closer to an answer.

But in several cases, the interviewee just locked up, stammering, "ummm.... wait.... umm.... I think..." and never saying anything more.

Really, if you're being interviewed, and can't give the answer, start saying SOMETHING. Basic statements of fact, simple observations of the problem, statements of what won't work, are all better than saying nothing at all.

2

My favorite was I had a candidate for a "Senior Software Engineer" position tell me unprompted and openly that he loves to UML diagram his work in Rational or whatever, and have it auto-generate all the code, and that he always does this on all his work.

Um, no thanks... that's fine for your own personal project, but not in a team environment where we have our own style guides and templates etc... and definitely not at a "senior" level.

I also had a candidate that was obviously googling every answer as we talked to him over the phone. We thought there was just a 4-8 sec phone lag or something, until the 'thank yous & good-byes' when replies started coming immediately.

1

When interviewing people for a tech position (read "IT Position" - not for a developer position), I was going over the requirements with one guy. I told him that occasionally he might have to run some cable, to which his response was:

"Don't ask me to do that, cause I won't do it."

1

I often ask interviewees to be introspective. I ask them a question like, "If you had your last project to do over again, what would you do differently?"

What I usually expect from this question is for the person to identify some risk item that bit them severely. Sometimes when added to their other answers, you can establish a better idea of their team dynamic (do they admit mistakes, deflect blame, notice their surroundings, pay any attention at all to the project, etc)

About the third time I used this question in an interview, the candidate intimated to me that he would do nothing differently. He wasn't a candidate for much longer after that.

I guess I must have been more polite in my younger days. I'm pretty sure today I would have stared slack-jawed or laughed. Instead I asked a couple of perfunctory additional questions and thanked him for coming in.

1

Have you ever heard the Jerky Boys, the one were he's interviewing for a mechanics job?

I had a candidate show up for the interview start to drill me (the interviewer) about what he wasn't qualified for. "He clearly met all the requirements listed in the job description" (in his mind). He was very confident in himself and assertive, but...

All I could hear in the back of my mind was the Jerky Boys' "..I'll be here tomorrow with my tools, I'll work circles around you, cupcake!..."