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A programmer's job interview - with a twist

By Eliassen Group
Mar 4, 2015 1:00:00 PM


To all the IT hiring managers out there, the following joke is not intended to get you riled up or angry in any way.

It is being shared in an attempt to show you how not to interview someone seeking a programming opportunity. 

Also, to those out there who have an affinity for carpentry, or work in that space, I did not write the joke and am certainly not trying to cast aspersions on your industry. The “joke” is being used to illustrate some of the hurdles programmers encounter when they are looking for consulting opportunities and get asked questions that have nothing to do with what they do. Or, could do, if they were simply given the role.

Our thanks to Jason Bock for publishing this.

(And if anyone knows the actual author of this joke, so we could give him or her the appropriate credit, please drop us a note in the comments section below. Thanks!)

Here’s the joke:

Interviewer: So, you're a carpenter, are you?
Carpenter:
That's right, that's what I do.

Interviewer:
How long have you been doing it?
Carpenter:
Ten years.

Interviewer:
Great, that's good. Now, I have a few technical questions to ask you to see if you're a fit for our team. OK?
Carpenter:
Sure, that'd be fine.

Interviewer:
First of all, we're working in a subdivision building a lot of brown houses. Have you built a lot of brown houses before?
Carpenter:
Well, I'm a carpenter, so I build houses, and people pretty much paint them the way they want.

Interviewer:
Yes, I understand that, but can you give me an idea of how much experience you have with brown? Roughly.
Carpenter:
Gosh, I really don't know. Once they're built I don't care what color they get painted. Maybe six months?

Interviewer:
Six months? Well, we were looking for someone with a lot more brown experience, but let me ask you some more questions.
Carpenter:
Well, OK, but paint is paint, you know.

Interviewer:
Yes, well. What about walnut?
Carpenter:
What about it?

Interviewer:
Have you worked much with walnut?
Carpenter:
Sure, walnut, pine, oak, mahogany -- you name it.

Interviewer:
But how many years of walnut do you have?
Carpenter:
Gosh, I really don't know -- was I supposed to be counting the walnut?

Interviewer:
Well, estimate for me.
Carpenter:
OK, I'd say I have a year and a half of walnut.

Interviewer:
Would you say you're an entry level walnut guy or a walnut guru?
Carpenter:
A walnut guru? What's a walnut guru? Sure, I've used walnut.

Interviewer:
But you're not a walnut guru?
Carpenter:
Well, I'm a carpenter, so I've worked with all kinds of wood, you know, and there are some differences, but I think if you're a good carpenter ...

Interviewer:
Yes, yes, but we're using Walnut, is that OK?
Carpenter:
Walnut is fine! Whatever you want. I'm a carpenter.

Interviewer:
What about black walnut?
Carpenter:
What about it?

Interviewer:
Well we've had some walnut carpenters in here, but come to find out they weren't black walnut carpenters. Do you have black walnut experience?
Carpenter:
Sure, a little. It'd be good to have more for my resume, I suppose.

Interviewer:
OK. Hang on let me check off the box...
Carpenter:
Go right ahead.

Interviewer:
OK, one more thing for today. We're using Rock 5.1 to bang nails with. Have you used Rock 5.1?
Carpenter:
[Turning white...] Well, I know a lot of carpenters are starting to use rocks to bang nails with since Craftsman bought a quarry, but you know, to be honest I've had more luck with my nail gun. Or a hammer, for that matter. I find I hit my fingers too much with the rock, and my other hand hurts because the rock is so big.

Interviewer:
But other companies are using rocks. Are you saying rocks don't work?
Carpenter:
No, I'm not saying rocks don't work, exactly, it's just that I think nail guns work better.

Interviewer:
Well, our architects have all started using rocks, and they like it.
Carpenter:
Well, sure they do, but I bang nails all day, and -- well, look, I need the work, so I'm definitely willing to use rocks if you want. I try to keep an open mind.

Interviewer:
OK, well we have a few other candidates we're looking at, so we'll let you know.
Carpenter:
Well, thanks for your time. I enjoyed meeting you.

NEXT DAY -

Ring...

Interviewer:
Hello?
Carpenter:
Hello. Remember me, I'm the carpenter you interviewed for the black walnut job. Just wanted to touch base to see if you've made a decision.

Interviewer:
Actually, we have. We liked your experience overall, but we decided to go with someone who has done a lot of work with brown.
Carpenter:
Really, is that it? So I lost the job because I didn't have enough brown?

Interviewer:
Well, it was partly that, but partly we got the other fellow a lot cheaper.
Carpenter:
Really -- how much experience does he have?

Interviewer:
Well, he's not really a carpenter, he's a car salesman -- but he's sold a lot of brown cars and he's worked with walnut interiors.
Carpenter:
[click]

Have you had a similar experience as a programmer when interviewing for a consulting opportunity?


Eliassen Group

Written by Eliassen Group LinkedIn

Eliassen Group is an award winning IT staffing agency with specialties in Technology, Agile and Creative services.

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