One of the consequences of accepting a job offer is that you might end up working with an interviewer who didn’t like you


At an informal gathering, my colleagues and I started talking about our experiences being interviewed at Microsoft. One of the people there remembered how one of the pieces of feedback on the interview lo these many years ago was that although my colleague was certainly smart enough and hardworking enough, there seemed to be insufficient enthusiasm for the subject matter. I mean, my colleague cared about the subject matter but apparently didn't care enough to satisfy the interviewer. The offer was extended despite this reservation, and my colleague joined the team. Years passed, and the details of the encounter were largely forgotten. Microsoft is a large company, and the group you end up assigned to may not have any members from your original interview loop.

The assessment of my colleague as insufficiently enthusiastic was ironic since this particular informal gathering took place at the PDC. If you're speaking at the PDC, then presumably you're not totally disinterested in the material.

Upon completion of this story, another colleague spoke up. "Hey wait, I think I was that interviewer!"

Comments (18)
  1. Marquess says:

    ‘Tis a small world after all.

  2. been there says:

    Another consequence of accepting a job where one interviewer didn’t like you is that he may get promoted and decide that he was right and the others were wrong. Then, you no longer work there.

  3. bahbar says:

    @been there:

    Incompatibilities with management happen everywhere. However I doubt a lone manager can get you out the door easily at any big company. If you have built your network inside, then you can look at moving groups.

  4. nathan_works says:

    I’ve not been offered a job because I wasn’t sufficiently anti-MSFT.. Guys, I don’t drink the kool-ade. But I do work hard, and will work on whatever language/framework/OS you want me to. You pay me, I work on what you tell me to do. If you want an evangelist or zealot, well, have fun, but they usually are too inflexible, blind to consider alternatives or other approaches etc.

  5. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    "I’ve not been offered a job because I wasn’t sufficiently anti-MSFT"

    That’s religious discrimination.

  6. Joe says:

    I once no hired an intern for what I believed to be insufficient skills.  He got the job anyway, and he ended up joining my group and has worked for me for more than 10 years.  I use it as an example of how easy it is to make a mistake as an interviewer.  

  7. Doug says:

    I’ve consistently heard this mantra about PASSION from Microsoft. I don’t get it. If you produce quality work under tremendous pressure, what does PASSION add to that? Results are what counts. Is PASSION better for a team than productivity? Is PASSION better than being a team player? Is PASSION more important than deep technical knowledge? No.

    I’ve been to many an interview over my 20+ year career. Too many people seem to see their path as the "one true path" to success. If they went to a top-notch university and interned at Microsoft, then by god, that’s who they will hire. Microsoft (and most other companies) tout their diversity. This is not true diversity, but superficial. They rarely hire someone who is low-key, as they mistakenly mistake that for lack of interest.

    I guess it’s better than asking why man-hole covers are round though, LOL.

  8. Marquess says:

    @Doug

    You might wanna read a bit about Guerrilla interviewing at Joel on Software (one guess as to his domain). He has a lot to say about passion and its importance.

  9. Marcus says:

    @Doug

    If you produce quality work under tremendous pressure, what does PASSION add to that? Results are what counts.

    It prevents burnout.  I’ve witnessed a recent example of that.

    Is PASSION better for a team than productivity?

    As odd as it may seem, people who don’t care about their jobs tend not to do good work, let alone go the extra mile or displaying that extra spark of creativity to make the project a spectacular success.  Passion is a pretty much a prerequisite for productivity.

  10. Timothy Byrd says:

    "Incompatibilities with management happen everywhere. However I doubt a lone manager can get you out the door easily at any big company."

    But at a small company, it’s entirely different.  At a previous job, this guy came in to be VP of development. (He was an old college drinking buddy of the company founder.) Over time, my working relationship with him deteriorated – I’ll just say I didn’t come to feel respect for either his management or his software development abilities. The other execs wanted him to try to reconcile with me. So he called me into his office and opened with "It only takes one bad apple… just one poison pill…"

    Looking back, I can now see that I had poor skills in corporate politics compared to him.

  11. steveg says:

    I was camping in the middle of nowhere when I started chatting to another camper. I soon realised he was the guy who interviewed me in the worst interview I ever had:

    "What do you know about technology X?" he asked.

    "Nothing, it’s a dead-end, nobody in their right mind would use it to write a system, it’s unmaintainable".

    Needless to say that pretty much finished the interview (because I was passionate!).

    (cut to campsite 10 years later) "We had to dump that system, got too hard to maintain."

  12. Joe says:

    At a group interview two years ago, I thought we were interviewing the guy to be lead on a fairly complex project. I opposed him being hired. The other engineers acted like I was a moron. I later found out that they though the fellow was being interviewed to do be a cog on a fairly simple project.

    Ironically, the guy ended up doing what I thought and I turned out to be wonderfully wrong about him (with one exception that drives our top engineer and me nuts–he likes code generation tools way too much.)

  13. peterchen says:

    @Doug: "I’ve consistently heard this mantra about PASSION from Microsoft"

    You’ll hear that mantra from me, too.

    An interviewer must make a decision on incomplete data. There are many unknowns – but a lot of them can be compensated with passion for the job. It means the employees motivation is primarily intrinsic, s/he’s willing to adjust to changes. A passionate co-worker will motivate others to improve themselves. Someone happy about his job is more likely to become a long-term employee, which is ultimately cheaper. He’ll teach himself new stuff, and will benefit more from any training he gets. Software development is not – at least not yet – a 9 to 5 factory job you can do after reading the manual.

    I don’t say you *need* passion to be a good developer, but more of these things come for free with passion.

  14. Cheong says:

    "Nothing, it’s a dead-end, nobody in their right mind would use it to write a system, it’s unmaintainable".

    >

    Needless to say that pretty much finished the interview (because I was passionate!).

    >

    (cut to campsite 10 years later) "We had to dump that system, got too hard to maintain."

    Even if the result turn out to be true, I think he still make right decision for not hiring you.

    Given that technology is so hard to maintain, if you have "the system is unmaintainable" in mind, will you be able to work the system up?

    On the other hand, if you further questioning him the reason behind choosing that technology then convince him to use another one (just telling something won’t work is not enough for management levels, you should quote alternatives then compare and contrast too), it may show him your value on "getting the job done with right method" and other values.

  15. TheSlurge says:

    "We had to dump that system, got too hard to maintain."

    Not exactly a rare occurrence in the software world. I can safely predict the same will happen in our group too. ‘Tis just a matter of time.

  16. David Walker says:

    @Doug:  Manhole covers are roung because manholes are round!  And also because a round manhole and cover is an easy shape where the coiver can’t fall into the hole.  (There are other such shapes, but they are not as easy to fabricate.)

  17. Tanveer Badar says:

    I once rejected a certain person. That person ended up working with me few months later at another company.

  18. Roger says:

    During my lunch interview for a full-time job at MS, after having been an intern, my interviewer said: "I see from your internship feedback that you found a critical security bug in product X, even though you were in a different group?"

    Me: Yes…

    Him: Yeah… I was the tester who *missed* that bug before we shipped. They made sure I heard about that one…

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