Imaginary Interview Rejections

Having gotten enough of the actual ones, I began imagining interview rejection emails

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Riddle me this, interviewee!

I’ve received countless interview rejections in the past year for in-person interviews. It is part and parcel in the life of a forty-something software engineer.

It must be the constant sense of rejection, or maybe all the chemicals I’m taking to work a day job and do take-home programming assignments on nights and weekends [along with meaningful side-projects and participate in the open-source community], but I have begun to hallucinate interview rejection emails.

Here are some of my favorite imagined ones:

Hello applicant!

The team loved meeting you in person. Jake, who you saw as he slid by on a scooter in his club-kid outfit, asked who the guy in the suit was? Really, you seemed like a time-traveler all the way back from Generation X! It was a hoot.

However, we take our online team photos and web-presence seriously. How else are we going to keep our “Number one most fun place to work Boston” status in 2019?

You seem cool enough, but we worry people will look at our website’s team photo and ask who the dad is? I mean, I’m, like, 22, and you’re, like, in your forties — you could literally be my dad.

It would just be awkward.

Thanks for applying and good luck in your search!


2. Seriously interested in AWS

Dear applicant,

Wow! This interview process has really been a journey! You took unexplained breaks from your current job to field sometimes impromptu and unannounced:

We also asked you to do a take-home project. Every team says their take-home only takes 1–2 hours, but, really, who’s counting? In order to provide documentation, a full testing suite, understand the requirements, and program your solution during the hours here or there you can wrest from your after-work life [you have one?], we realize the task took well over 8 hours.

Then you took a day off of work for an in-person interview!


However, during the in-person, we asked you about AWS, and you don’t have experience in it. We are seriously interested in a candidate with AWS experience.

I know we didn’t ask you at all over our phone screening calls about AWS experience and it is mentioned literally zero times on your resume, but we’re seriously interested in AWS. It is mandatory for all hires to know ahead of time.

Thanks for applying and good luck in your search!

Seriously interested in AWS

3. Cracking the Coding Interview would be your job here

Dear Applicant,

We warned you before your 5-hour interview which required a day off of work: we expect candidates to know Cracking the Coding Interview backwards and forwards.

We find the candidates who do the best during our interviews are those who took off a few months ahead of time to learn how to do anything to a hand-made linked list or binary tree you can imagine.

You want to know all the prime numbered entries in a binary tree and yield the navigation paths to them? They can do it.

You want them to start from scratch and make a linked list which evaluates palindromes? Sure thing.

You want them to be able to navigate a binary tree like someone who has been sleep-deprived for seven or more days while working a day-job and solving Cracking the Coding Interview problems nonstop at night and on weekends? They can do it! It looks like a drunken rat in a constantly shifting maze on a treadmill, but they do it!

We want someone who has logged over ten thousand hours each on leetcode, hackerrank, and codewars. Gladwell says it takes ten thousand hours hours to succeed? Well, at our company, it takes over thirty thousand hours!!! We’re more badass than even a Gladwell nugget!

We realize that means the candidate didn’t work on meaningful side-projects or open source work during the same time. They didn’t learn AWS or new languages or whatever else hot tool currently differentiates developers superficially nowadays.

We know that this isn’t work their current job has them doing, so they absolutely needed to become drones during their weekends and weeknights to prepare. They gave up friendships, hanging out with actual people, and damaged their closest relationships doing this — which is critical to success at our company.

That’s who we want to hire.

The thing is: our company makes money by solving linked list and binary tree puzzles. That’s what we do. Our stock is valued on our ability to reverse the direction of binary tree pointers.

One day, we hope to prove how effective it is to hire a pool of highly-skilled 45-minute to 120-minute puzzle solvers, but until then we’re just going to trust our methodology.

Thanks for applying and good luck in your search!

Cracking the Coding Interview would be your job here

4. Our technical challenge is on GlassDoor and some recruiters prep interviewees on it

Dear Applicant,

We’re sorry you were not among the many who checked out the interviews section of GlassDoor or had a third-party recruiter willing to cheat and let you in on our tech assessment.

You were one of the poor jerks who applied for our job, excelled at our screening calls, and seemed overwhelmed when we asked you to write an operating system in four hours in our timed-hiring-system without being let in on our tech screening challenge ahead of time by either GlassDoor or an unethical third-party recruiter.

See, we have candidates mysteriously write an operating system in thirty minutes — those folks are amazing! They’re almost as good as Olivia Jade is at it! Based on their ability to solve it in 30-minutes, we know four hours is more than fair.

Then there’s you: almost done in four hours, but seeming flustered and without providing a complete regression test suite and online documentation.

I’m sorry, but we decided to go with a candidate more likely to succeed at our company.

Thanks for applying and good luck in your search!

Our technical challenge is on GlassDoor and some recruiters prep interviewees on it

5. Impressive for someone who isn’t a software engineer!

Dear interviewee,

I might have come across as completely insufferable during the interview process. Sorry for that.

See, when I looked at your resume with 20 uninterrupted years of software engineering on it, all I could see was the word: Oracle. So I thought you were a DBA, not a software engineer.

So when I continually asked you if you were ready to become a software engineer, I didn’t mean to dismiss your degree in computer science or your two decades of experience. I just meant to differentiate you from me, a real software engineer. Your anecdotes and reminders of your actual software engineering experience was like, what? A mosquito. A fly buzzing. Did I just hear something? I don’t think so. I was too busy thinking of my own illustrious life as a Software Engineer.

Look: interviewing is an opportunity for me finally to feel good about myself. I arrange an open-ended interview — the topics could cover anything in our stack, or anything in the history of computer science! It is a grab-bag and completely up to how I feel that day. Then, if the candidate doesn’t know it off of the top of his or her head, I get to school them in the concept for 10 minutes of the thirty allotted minutes, and ask them how it would feel to have the wonderful opportunity to work with me and finally be a software engineer!

It makes my day. I’m sure it made yours.

Unfortunately, we’re going to have to go with a candidate who spoke with me on a day when a junior engineer didn’t just show me up in a code review. I hate that.

Thanks for applying and good luck in your search!

Impressive for someone who isn’t a software engineer!

6. We don’t hire randos

Dear applicant,

I got my job title, “Software Product Ninja”, the hard way — my former college roommate needed a Product Manager.

I regret to inform you that I looked through my Instagram feed and didn’t see you doing keg-stands at any of my house parties. I even asked some of my friends if they saw you in their party photos, and, indeed, we did not.

You have a great resume, and your take-home assignment was great. It was a little weird, though, when we didn’t recognize you when you showed up for the in-person interview.

As a result, we can’t hire you.

Thanks for applying and good luck in your search!

We don’t hire randos


When I see applause for a piece of mine, I want to write more pieces! Please applaud if you appreciate people writing about topics like this.

Disclaimer: I am a senior software professional with experience as project lead, team lead, and lead engineer in the greater Boston area. I am actively seeking a job while currently fully employed. The world of software development can be an ugly place, and I hope to expose some of the more bewildering and uncomfortable corners in the hopes of improving the industry and the craft. Out of respect for current and former employers, I will keep the names of employers and/or clients scrubbed and anonymized as best as possible in these reports.

Resident of Frogpondia.

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