Tales of Recruiting (2)

Another write-up of stories involving my previous adventures in recruitment processes.

In the last post I discussed some general topics and two stories that left some impression. This time I want to write about three more stories that I found quite interesting. I have to say upfront that some of these stories lead to offers even though I did not expect them. In general, however, I would never accept an offer if I do not agree with the hiring process of a company. Its one thing facing tough interviews and questions, its another thing to disagree in important areas.

Social Justice

A big IT consulting company offered an interesting position as a C# lead developer. This sounds like a good place for me. One of the advantages would have been the broad setting of this company. They also offer high-quality development in Clojure, Java, and Ruby among others. This spectrum of core technologies is interesting to me.

After a pre-interview I was given a coding challenge. The programming language was free to pick, but due to the position of my choice I went with C# (what else would have made sense?). Of course, I added a few very cool features (beyond the actual task) and many unit tests. I guess the whole project was done quite nicely. At this point 2 independent reviewers have been chosen to have a closer look at my work.

The reviewers have been quite happy and I progressed to a technical interview that was a lot of fun. Finally, I was invited on-site, where I had a series of interviews, challenges, and tests. I guess most of them went quite good. As the last interview a special talk about social engagement has been set up.

Now I regard this is kind of interview as obsolete. It is also a little bit hypocritical in my opinion. A company making a lot of money by abusing the fact that others can't handle it well is having interviews what one does for the underprivileged. Furthermore, as a fellow of the Studienstiftung I've shown quite a lot of engagement in the past. As usual I was really curious about their questions so of course I entered this stage with the same enthusiasm as before.

They really covered some things and I was quite comfortable with the situation until they asked about my opinion related to companies and refugees. Their question was: "How do I see the situation with companies (ab)using refugees, i.e., they offer something, but they are not altruistic in their intend?". My answer was simple to state that nothing is free (such as the office of this company) and our system has evolved our the concept of money and give'n'get. They did not like that answer.

When a guy in a silk suit asks me what I am doing to change the system I have a strange feeling. When the same guy (fully adjusted to appear like a very well paid hipster) remarks that "a mass of people always consists of many individuals" I don't know how to respond (besides pointing out that all these individuals need to have the same opinion or they do not form the critical mass for change).


Several times per week I received offers from various professional recruiters. Most of the time these offers are not directed at me, but just what I would regard as spam mails. Sometimes, however, I found the described offers interesting - just to see that such general offers / mails are useless (which is the reason why I block all these recruiters these days). Usually, however, the contact between the recruiters (especially in specific, i.e., directed offers) and myself has been very good and beneficial.

Once I found an interesting young startup that was looking for an expert in many areas, particularly C# and web development. This seemed like a good fit. A little bit of research revealed most of their stack, as well as their goals and product timeline. The only thing that was confusing was who to contact for that particular role. They did not advocate direct addresses, but always professional recruiters (and different ones there). So I decided to go for one of them, even though I would always prefer a direct (technical, i.e., non-HR) contact.

As hoped they responded quite fast and positive. Even though I already uploaded quite a lot of material (certificates, CV, projects, ...) they still demanded more. Happily, I send them the requested material. After the formalities have been settled, they have been interested in a phone interview. Alright, nothing easier than that. A phone interview with an HR person is usually no big deal, especially since I am quite confident in what I do and since I am enthusiastic about any position that I am interested in.

But the whole experience went completely different than I anticipated. First, the interview did not happen. After an hour of waiting I started checking some of my other mail accounts (for other mails) and found that the lady I should talk to wrote me that she is sick and if I could also make it the day after. She could have just called to tell me - not to mention that the previous conversation took place on a different mail account.

Alright, so once we finally had the chance to do the phone interview she confirmed my doubts about her recruitment agency. The unprofessional and lousy behavior continued. The best part was that she refused to give me information about the company. She said that she has various offers and this interview is used to determine what offer would wok best for me. I replied that I am not really interested in these offers, but in the one I picked (which is why I have the current interview). Her simple statement was that's not how it works.

She then wanted me to tell her what I really like about the company and why they should choose me. I thought: This is a joke, right? I remarked that she has not introduced the company and that she refused to give me more information on the job (as she noted that there are multiple offers, also from other companies). Again she reminded me that this is not how it works.

The interview continued in that tone (so quite bad). Finally, she asked about my salary expectation. I told her the number, but I remarked that this number is just a guide and there are various factors that outweigh salary and cannot be represented by numbers. Therefore, I would try to stick to this number too much. Nevertheless, she said that this number if way too high and no one in Munich gets this salary (I am no professional recruiter, but even I know that this number is easily achievable and many earn at least as much in the area of Munich). I am sorry for the companies she's representing. Her job should be to find good, skilled potential new employees and level up their enthusiasm for her clients - not to guard potentially good workers from them.

Decoupling Interviewers

Some companies tend to do things differently. Their products are different. Their mindset is different. Their interviews are supposed to be different, too. So how do you prepare for an interview that cannot be anticipated at all? Usually, you just try to stay calm and focus on your strong points. Also in this case my recruiter has given me plenty of material to prepare for the interview. So far, so good.

Here's the funny part, though. The interviewer of this company is a standard employee that is no where near the source of demand, i.e., there is no relation between the interviewer and the interviewee besides that the interviewer works for the company that the interviewee wants to join. Also the interviewer is in a different department, potentially also in a different location, and for sure in a different project. I call this interviewer "decoupled".

I always have a bad feeling when I get an easy question. Hard questions also give me a bad feeling (but in a different way). In this case I got an arrogant former professor who thought that asking trivial questions makes it easy to filter out candidates. Well, it just makes your life harder, because there are limited possibilities for pimping the algorithm and implementation. In my case I was asked to separate an array in such a way, that all values matching a provided input parameter, will be aligned on the right. All other values keep their original relative positioning and stay on the left of an imaginary separator.

Sometimes one knows already that an interview is going to be in an unwanted direction. In this case I knew that after 35 seconds. The interviewer had a short look at my CV and said "so you can program in C++?" where I replied: "yes, this is possible - I'll do the coding in C++, but I could also do it in some other language. In general if I have the choice I go for the language most appropriate for the project." "I decide the language!" he interjected me quite seriously. I was surprised and shocked.

This interview also continued in the described tone even though he tried to be friendlier towards the end of the session. Nevertheless, the arrogant tone and the simple question along with his disability to let me complete my sentences can only be summarized by a single word: incompetence. Not particularly in his job, but as an interviewer. My thought was: The company requires every employee to do interviews, resulting in many employees doing interviews they don't want to do. Why should this guy have to do interviews (resulting in good candidates not being taken or not being interested in the company any more), when he would be much better off continuing his projects for the company?


Hiring is one of the most important tasks of a company. If a company's hiring process is flawed the company is doomed to fail at some point in the future. Companies that use recruiting agencies have to make sure they are working for them and not against their interests. Companies should also not try to make a religion out of their hiring process. Nor should they try to involve everyone in it.

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