Un-SQL Friday: Bad Interviews

I haven’t been participating in many of these blog memes because I have been so busy lately. A lot of my time was occupied with job hunting and since I just finished a series of interviews with different companies, this meme is perfectly timed. My good friend Jen McCown (Blog/Twitter), the fairer half of the Midnight DBAs, tagged the SQL Community asking for our bad interview stories. I’m going to give two bad experiences and one surprisingly good experience.

First, I’ve been putting this announcement off, but I have changed employers. I am now a Senior Business Intelligence Consultant for a specialized consulting firm in Irving Texas. I want to thank the entire SQL Community for their help, training, and friendship on my way to this goal. To my Made2Manage friends, let me just say that this isn’t the end. I’ve started doing formal M2M consulting as part of this new position as well and still intend to release M-Data Analytics. More information on that will be coming soon, so stay tuned.

So, on with the stories.

Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves

I answered a post from a local company that was looking for a Business Intelligence Developer with Data Warehousing experience. I had a first interview (telephone) that went very well and was called back for a second. They were very accommodating in that they scheduled the interviews at the end of the day. It’s easier to duck out at the end of the day for a “Doctor’s appointment” rather than losing 4 hours in the middle of the day. If an employee has a string of “appointments,” the employer starts to wonder.

Anyway, I arrived a few minutes early but there was a guy in a business suit already getting out of the car next to mine. He looked nervous and obviously there for an interview as well. He signed in at the front desk right before me and was seeing the same person. I immediately got a weird feeling.

We rode upstairs and sat in a small reception area for 15 or 20 minutes (though we were both on time) which was uncomfortable. I broke the ice and joked with him about whether he or I had made a scheduling mistake or perhaps we were going to have a cage match to see who got the position. We then discussed our work experience and I convinced him that he should be going to our local SSUG meetings. By the way, the receptionist wasn’t very good at hiding the fact that she was listening to everything we said.

The BI Director finally came to get us and I asked him in a humorous way if there had been a scheduling mistake or if we were about to fight to the death like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The director indicated that having both candidates interact was intentional and meant to raise stress levels. I said that it hadn’t raised my stress level, as I wasn’t there to compete with anyone else and had in fact recruited another PASS community member to boot.

Liar Liar

My second experience involves a recruiter. In the IT world, recruiters are a fact of life and Brent Ozar (Blog/Twitter) has written a couple of wonderful articles about dealing with them.

I spoke with a recruiter about a Data Warehouse position that they were trying to fill, but it would involve relocation. Relocation is problematic because of the costs involved, but even more so if the new location is in an economically depressed area. The job market in Dallas is very strong, particularly for business intelligence people, and I was reluctant to relocate somewhere with limited employment alternatives. I aced the technical telephone interview, largely thanks to all of the help and training I receive from other PASS members. However, when we discussed the terms of the job, I was informed that it would be a contract to hire and that relocation costs were not part of the package.

This was unacceptable to me as I wasn’t going to pay several thousands of dollars moving everything I own to an economic wasteland for a contracted hourly rate. There is no commitment on the employer’s part, and if things didn’t work out, I’d have to pay to move again to find a good position. Umm… no.

The recruiter called their client to discuss this and said that since the client was so impressed with my resume, they’d make an exception, hire me as an employee, and compensate me for relocation. I arranged an in person interview with the client, and paid the costs to travel to it. This wasn’t a big deal because I was traveling to this area anyway.

The interview went well and I found the hiring manager to be a straight forward and nice guy. He then offered me the job and asked when I could start. I was rather taken aback because we hadn’t discussed the actual salary, benefits, and relocation package. When I asked him about those, he was suprised and said, “What do you mean? This is a contract to hire job and there is no relocation package. We don’t have to provide that because the job market here is so poor.” Ugh.

I then explained to him exactly what the recruiter told me and offered to send him a copy of the e-mail to corroborate my “story.” He asked me to wait a moment and as I sat there, he called the recruiter. The conversation went like this.

“Ms. Smith (name withheld to protect the guilty), what did you tell Mr. Stein about my job terms?” Pause…. and then more forcefully, “No, what EXACTLY did you tell Mr. Stein?” Longer Pause… “Precisely what did you hope to gain by wasting his time and mine this way?” Pause…. “Well Ms. Smith, have Mr. Jones, the head of your company, call me later so I can explain to him why we will never use your company again.” Pause… “No, you simply cannot treat people this way as it reflects poorly on me and my company. Good Day.”

After he hung up we shook hands and he apologized for wasting my time. I told him that I enjoyed speaking with him anyway and eventually added him to my LinkedIn network. It may not have resulted in a job, but it was a hilarious experience anyway.

Diamond in the Rough

A few weeks ago, I went to a Qlikview demonstration at the request of my previous employer. To set the scene, I brought my laptop and such because I was going to a North Texas SQL Server User Group meeting immediately afterward, but was dressed very casually in shorts and a video gaming t-shirt for the same reason. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone and certainly didn’t expect to find a potential employer there.

Perfect Interview Attire

Anyway, I was surrounded by a group of business people, typically dressed in suits or other business dress and obviously stood out. I noticed a a guy with brown hair, goatee, and glasses who entered with a group of people and I did a double take. I thought he was Andy Leonard (Blog/Twitter). By chance they sat down near me so I struck up a conversation with the guy asking him what he did. He’s a Microsoft BI DBA, so I asked him if he had heard of Andy, and he gave me a weird look, because this whole situation was fairly unusual. I opened up my laptop and found a picture of Andy on the internet and the guy agreed that they were likely twins separated at birth. Anyway, the gentleman next to him, who was obviously the doppleganger’s Director, was listening to our conversation and asked me about my background. I told him what I did, how I knew Andy, my work with the North Texas SQL Server User Group, etc. I didn’t realize it, but I was being interviewed. The company was looking for a talented, outgoing, business intelligence person and the Director saw something in me that he liked.

The Director sent me an email asking me to lunch and I had my second interview at Chili’s while wearing business casual dress. In fact, I was wearing my Chicago SQL Saturday Presenter’s shirt. The interview had a technical portion, but mostly it was about my personality, the current team, and how to mesh the two together. We were just two guys talking about our mutual love of all things Data.

The rest is history. I now work for the new firm, and am getting the experience and being challenged every day.

So, what about you? Any of you have any bad or good interview stories?

4 comments to Un-SQL Friday: Bad Interviews

  • Most of my interviews have been rather boring. Shortly after college I was working in security while searching for a programming job and moving from general business security to government security was fairly interesting.

    The interview process had three stages. The first was to come fill out a very extensive application/background information sheet followed by a mini interview so they could get an idea of why you wanted to work in security. The second step was the polygraph interview and then the polygraph itself. The interview started out with your typical get to know you conversation and then we moved on to the actual questions which is where it all got…interesting.

    I don’t remember now what the majority of the questions were, but they all pry into your life and your morals to some degree so they can get a clear idea of what kind of person you are and whether or not you’ll lie about those kinds of things. The questions I do remember are the ones that really struck me during the interviews. “Have you ever had sex with a child? Have you ever fantasized about having sex with a child? Have you ever had sex with an animal?” My initial reaction was “what kind of freaky questions are going to be in this thing!?” followed very shortly after that by, “wow, I wonder how many people they actually screen out for saying yes to those…”

    When he asked me whether or not I’d ever done illegal drugs he clearly didn’t believe me when I told him no and he asked me a second time, rewording the question to be sure I understood him. That part, at least, was amusing.

  • That last interview of yours sounds a bit like the best interview I had. The interview details were a little odd – my agent had said “be at the bar of the Huddersfield Hilton at 6pm. He’ll find you.”

    He did, and bought me a drink. Two hours of nattering later, the conversation ended with “…and I’ll put together an offer for you in the morning.” What? What about the interview?

    I started the new job. The small team I joined on a customer site was a little worried about the interview as well – they expressed disappointment that I hadn’t been quizzed on my beer / curry preferences!

    I spent three very happy years at that company, and the only reason I left was that I was made an offer I really couldn’t refuse.

  • HAHAHA, I love the recruiter story. That’s awesome.

  • […] we have mild-mannered/man of steel Made2Mentor (David Stein), who has just completed a round of job hunting, and so is brimming with UnSQL […]

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