Everyone wants talk about Rock Star Coders who build exciting web apps and drive sports cars but what if you were to interview someone more average?

Interviewer: How did you first get into programming?
me: Well, I was meeting with my Career Counselor one day to figure out what I should do with my EE degree.
Interviewer: Oh so you have a degree in Electrical Engineering?
me: Eh? No, ‘English Education’. So anyway, he had this problem with his computer — he couldn’t open an email attachment or something. Anyway, I somehow got it open for him, and he said I was pretty good at that, and that I should go into computers. So here I am.

Interviewer: Well, yes, many programmers don’t take the conventional route and get a CS degree. So tell me,what languages do you know and use regularly?
me: Oh, lots.
Interviewer: Specifically, can you name a few?

me: Sure. I’m most comfortable with Java 2 , but I also know Java 1.4, Java 5, even some Java 6. I know Java Swing and of course Java Collections pretty well. Some Java Servlets too.
Interviewer: Ok, those are all the same language. Do you know anything else besides Java?
me: Er lang–
Interviewer: Oh, Erlang, really? What have you done with Erlang?
me: No sorry, I was starting to say to myself, “Err, languages besides Java…”. I’ll have to think on it some more.

Interviewer: Ok, well let’s move on then. What’s the most complicated piece of code you’ve implemented?
me: Oh that’s easy. One time I had to sort a list of numbers, so I did a sort in one line.
Interviewer: Really!? You implemented a sorting algorithm in one line of code? That’s very impressive. Donald Knuth would be proud.
me: Who?
Interviewer: The father of modern computer science and the author of the seminal “The Art of Computer Programming” series.

me: Yeah well if he likes sorting, he should check out Java Collections, one of the languages I know. You can do a sort with just “Collections.sort()”, and then it sorts the collection you give it. Boom. Sorted. One line.
Interviewer: …
me: If you give me his email I can let him know where to find it–
Interviewer: …

me: Say, aren’t you going to ask me how I would move Mount Fuji? I have a pretty good answer, I think.
Interviewer: What? No, this isn’t a job interview.
me: It’s a trick question. You can’t move mountains. That’s the answer.
Interviewer: Well, I think that might be the point of the question. I don’t think it has “an answer” . So anyway–

me: So I got it wrong then. Does this mean the interview is over?

Interviewer: No, I wasn’t — you asked yourself that question. Anyway, let’s keep this thing going. What are your thoughts on Pair Programming? Do you practice it often?

me: Absolutely not. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t judge others for doing it. I mean, have I been tempted? Sure. But, I’m a happily married man and–
Interviewer: Ok, let me stop you there. I’m pretty sure we’re not talking about the same thing. Let’s just skip a few of these questions here. Ok, here’s a safe one: What are some of your favorite tech books?

me: Oh, probably “Teach Yourself Java in 21 Days” stands out. It got me up to speed in my first language, Java 2, and very quickly too I might add. I actually read most of it in 20 days, so I figure I’m probably ahead of the curve somewhat. I’ve always scored pretty high on reading comprehension. I also have one of those books with a picture of an animal on the cover about XML. Oh! That’s what I was trying to remember from your ‘what languages do I know’ question! I know XML too.

Interviewer: I’m not sure XML is really a language–
me: Ok, sure, no problem. Just keep me down for Java Servlets then. In fact, maybe count it twice. I know it pretty well.

Interviewer: Sure, well, I’m not keeping score. It was just meant to spark conversation. Well scanning down the rest of my questions here, I think I can anticipate most of your answers. So why don’t we just cut it short here. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
me: Did I get the job?
Interviewer: Once again, this wasn’t a job interview.
me: Dang. That always means “no”.
Sten’s Blog Blog Archive Interviews with Average Programmers