No benefit, no doubt

This IT department is interviewing candidates for an Oracle database programmer, and the hiring manager doesn't want to waste time when a prospect clearly isn't going to make the cut, reports a pilot fish in the loop.

"He told us, 'If the interview is going badly, I'll make a slashing motion across my neck to cut the interview short,'" fish says.

"A few days before one interview, I happened to be talking to a buddy of mine at another IT shop across town, who knew this interviewee first-hand. The guy had worked in my friend's shop for a year, but he'd been let go a few months earlier because he was incompetent.

"So here he was, a few months later, still desperately seeking employment."

Fish dutifully informs his manager of this first-hand information. But this programmer has come recommended by the headhunting agency -- let's give him the benefit of the doubt, manager says.

The day of the interview comes. The candidate arrives half an hour late. Fish meets him, looks at his mismatched suit, and suggests brushing off the dirt that's noticeable on his shoulder, so at least he won't appear disheveled during the interview.

Then he walks the interviewee to a conference room and leads off the interview with a fairly easy, middle-of-the-road type of PL/SQL question.

"I apply a binary-search method to quickly determine a candidate's skill level, by asking tougher or easier questions based on their ability to answer the previous question," says fish. "If they get a question wrong or don't know the answer, I ask an easier one; if they get it right, I ask a harder question. In this line of work, you either know something or you don't."

This candidate blows the first question right out of the gate.

So fish asks an easier question. Candidate is still completely baffled. Fish asks a basic question, straight from an SQL 101 class. Candidate blows it.

Fish tries giving him a hint. The guy starts stammering, pulling random answers out of thin air and babbling about things that don't have any connection to what fish is asking.

"Finally he started laying the BS on so thick you could cut it with a knife," fish says. "I looked over at my manager and made a quick slashing motion across my throat.

"He stood up and told the candidate, 'Well, thank you for coming. Fred will show you to the elevator.'

"After this fellow was safely beyond the parking lot, I said, 'I guess now we know why my friend tried to wave us off of this guy.' And I had a few words to say to the recruiting company, too."

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