Thursday, May 14, 2009

Seattle Weekly Nails Pacific NW Tech Interview Style

I love this one, if you've never gone through a Seattle style tech interview, Seattle Weekly pretty much nailed it this week.

I've been doing these ever since I personally interviewed with Bill Gates and Paul Allen when they interviewed every programmer at Microsoft, and then Steve Ballmer when he interviewed everybody. (Unfortunately, I was never quite "right" enough to actually get in as a full timer, though I've done a few contracts there since). If you do these, don't get discouraged, sometimes you'll need to do a few before landing a job.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,
I'm a tech guy who recently had a job interview with a large online retailer. The usual crew was tag-teaming me—first the ass-kissy HR lady, followed by a dev who expressed his dominance by making me do problems on the white board, a sweaty-palmed project manager, and a half-dozen other bozos. The last one was evidently their specialist in "out of the box" questions. "How would you count all the windows in Boston?"—that kind of thing. At one point he held up a red pen and said, "This is a black pen." You seem to consider yourself something of a specialist in out-of-the-boxness yourself, so maybe you'll know what I should have done in this situation.Tup Tech Tim
Dear Tim,
According to what I've heard, where job interviewers once may have seen themselves as lords and dukes, the current economy has elevated their self-image to something more like Zen masters and Jedi Knights. In his mind, out-of-the-box guy levitates cross-legged above you, his lips twitching slightly as he holds back an ironic smile. He believes your position is so debased that you'll surely tremble at the slightest rustling of his robes.
The right response might be to focus on the only person you can control here: You. Maybe this is an opportunity to set aside the disdain for other people so evident in your letter. To rest the spiritual muscles that now strain under the burden of this disdain. To feel the rejuvenating power of selflessness flow through your veins. Start by admitting to this purveyor of koans that his mastery of paradox is far greater than yours will ever be, and that you hope you get the job just so you can become his mentee.
Of course, maybe you'll find that the price of your dignity isn't subject to decline after all. In that case, I suggest you point a finger pistol at him, say "This is not a squirt gun filled with my urine," and pull the trigger.

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