EppsNet Archive: Interviews


31 Oct 2017 /

Willy and Ethel

Cheaper Than Wallpaper

27 Sep 2015 /

Donald Trump

From the 60 Minutes interview with Donald Trump:

Scott Pelley: I was in your office . . . All the pictures on the wall are pictures of you.

Donald Trump: –well, it’s cheaper than wallpaper.

Testing a White Privilege Theory

22 Dec 2014 /

According to an article titled “The Thing About White Privilege,” “job applicants with white sounding names are 50% more likely to receive a callback for a job interview than applicants with black-sounding names, even when all job-related qualifications and credentials are the same.”

What happens when someone with an Asian sounding name applies for a job? Serious question. Does the answer support a white privilege theory? What about someone with an Indian sounding name? A Middle Eastern sounding name? A Jewish sounding name? Test your theories against reality rather than just slinging bullshit and ignoring information that inconveniences you.

P.S. I followed the link above and learned that “applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback.” That’s 10 percent vs. about 7 percent. Anyone who thinks “50% more likely” is the best way to express that is up to some shenanigans.

Are There Any Intelligent People Currently Living?

4 Aug 2014 /

I was at LA Fitness this morning . . . one of the TVs was showing an interview with Jameis Winston on ESPN. Winston is borderline retarded but thinks he’s articulate — a deadly combination.

He’s a very talented athlete. Just show clips of his athletic accomplishments. They’re impressive and fun to watch. Why would anyone want to talk to him or listen to him talk? The interviewer is paid to endure it, I get that, but why foist it on the viewing public? Maybe it’s the train wreck element. It was very painful to watch and yet I couldn’t look away!

Rarely is one person gifted in multiple ways. Some people are great athletes, some people are intelligent and interesting . . . the overlap between the two groups is very small.

Venn diagram: Athletic / Intelligent

Listening to Jameis Winston talk is like watching Milton Friedman take batting practice or Albert Einstein work on his five-step drop.

(I know the Milton Friedman and Albert Einstein references are dated but I’m having trouble thinking of anyone who’s a) highly intelligent; b) well known to the general public; and c) currently alive.)

How to Answer Stupid Job Interview Questions

15 Mar 2014 /

Via Liz Ryan

Bad Interview Question

22 Feb 2014 /

If a hiring manager asks, “Would you be willing to perish in my stead?” start looking for the exit . . .


How to Save a Lot of Time in Interviews

19 Nov 2013 /

There used to be a book titled The Top 2800 Interview Questions…And Answers. I have this fantasy: You walk into an employer’s office, shake hands, and say, “I know you have a lot of questions for me. So let’s save us both a lot of time.” You slide that baby across the desk toward the manager… “So here they are, along with all the answers. Now can we cut the crap and talk about the job and how I’ll do it for you, okay?”

Interview Tips: You’re a 10 in Everything

19 Sep 2013 /
Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci, 1976 Olympics, Montreal

One of my least favorite interview questions goes something like this:

On a scale of 1 to 10, rate yourself on [insert personal attribute here].

This is a bad question because while some quantities – speed, weight, temperature, earthquake magnitude – do have an agreed-upon scale of measurement, personal attributes like, say, leadership, do not.

Person A might give himself a 10 in leadership, while a third party might say, “Oh, I know that guy. He’s a 3.”

You might be tempted to answer like this: “I consider myself a good leader, better than most, but I’m humbled by the challenges of leadership, and I’m always learning something new, so I’ll give myself an 8.”

Absent any information about how that number is going to be used, I’d say that’s a pretty good answer. It’s honest and reflective.

BUT — the question itself is so misguided that I don’t expect someone asking it to use the answer in an intelligent way. I expect the asker of “rate yourself” questions to take the answers at face value, write them down and then do one of two things, maybe both:

  1. Compare the answers to some meaningless threshold. Ooh, we really need someone who’s at least a 9 in leadership.
  2. Compare the answers with the answers of other candidates. Candidate A is an 8, Candidate B is an 9 and Candidate C is a 10. Advantage, Candidate C.

Just play it safe and give yourself a 10 on everything.

The only reason I can come up with to give yourself less than a 10 on any attribute is the remote possibility that the interviewer could discount a candidate giving all 10s as being lacking in self-awareness, but no one asking me “rate yourself” questions has ever struck me as being that subtle.

How to Lose Your Job : A Fictional Memoir (Part I)

4 Sep 2012 /

Because of the huge productivity differences between good programmers and bad programmers — 10x? 28x? More? — my biggest leverage point as a development manager is my ability to hire people.

At my last job, we had an HR Director named Lucy. In every one of our annual Employee Satisfaction Surveys, Lucy’s group had the lowest scores in the entire organization. Nobody liked or respected her.

She was, however, close with the CEO, which made that irrelevant.


Lucy’s friend Kathy Slauson runs the Slauson and Slauson recruiting agency, so that’s where we got our programming candidates, who were mostly terrible.

The Slauson agency doesn’t specialize in IT candidates, although they do have a “technical recruiter,” who unfortunately knows nothing about technology.

They don’t bring candidates in for in-person interviews. They take whatever candidates give them in the form of a résumé and they pass the résumés along to clients like me in hopes of being paid a fee.

  1. Candidates send résumés to Slauson.
  2. Slauson sends them to me.

What value does this add over candidates sending résumés directly to me? None.

Slauson doesn’t qualify candidates. They don’t map abilities and skills against the requirements of a position. They add no value to the process, and I had to screen all the résumés myself, the same as if I’d just bought them from a job board.

When I saw that Slauson was just going to throw résumés at me, I asked them to please add a short write-up, indicating why they thought each candidate was a good fit for the job.

What I got was write-ups like “Candidate is good with Technology X,” where Technology X is something I indicated as a job requirement.

When I asked “How did you assess that the candidate is good with Technology X?” they would tell me “We asked him.” Or “It’s on his résumé.”

In other words, “Candidate is good with Technology X” meant “Candidate states that he’s good with Technology X. Unverified.”


(If you’re wondering at this point why an HR department would funnel good money to a recruiting agency for doing nothing, go back and reread the part where I mention that Kathy Slauson is a personal friend of Lucy the HR Director.)

Money to burn

I said earlier that Slauson has a “technical recruiter.” She was in the office one afternoon and handed me a résumé.

“He doesn’t look like an ASP.NET programmer,” I said after looking it over, “which is what we’re looking for. For example, I don’t see any C# experience.”

“It’s right here,” she said, pointing at the résumé where it said this: C++.

If you’re not a programmer, you might say, well, easy mistake to make. C# (pronounced C-sharp, like a musical note) and C++ (pronounced C-plus-plus) are both programming languages containing the letter C followed by one or more symbols.

But whereas C# is the primary programming language for web development on the Microsoft platform, C++ is a lower-level language used for system development. Nobody does web development in C++.

Not surprisingly, a high percentage of Slauson’s candidates bit the dust in the initial phone screen with me, because the phone screen was their first encounter with someone whose programming knowledge was non-zero and could possibly tell a good programmer from a bad programmer.

According to Kathy Slauson, that was totally unacceptable. She thought that because she had an in with the HR department, we should be hiring every candidate she sent over, qualified or not, and paying her for the privilege, which is the way it worked before I arrived on the scene and screwed up the process.

Money and whiskey

She was always very polite to me in person, assuring me that she was doing her best to improve the quality of candidates, but behind the scenes, she was telling Lucy the HR Director that I shouldn’t be allowed to interview candidates anymore.

(That information was never supposed to reach me but it did.)

Think about that: we had a recruiter telling our HR Director that a manager shouldn’t be allowed to interview their candidates. (The fact that I no longer work there tells you which side of the issue Lucy came down on.)

Kathy also told Lucy that the candidates I was rejecting were perfectly good candidates because after I turned them down, they were being hired at other companies.

Imagine that!

Of course they were being hired at other companies. They were being hired by companies with lower hiring standards for programmers. The best thing that could happen with some of those candidates is for them to be hired by competing organizations.

Do you think Amazon or Google worry that candidates they turn down get hired somewhere else?

(No, I wasn’t trying to match hiring standards with Amazon or Google. I’m just saying that it wasn’t my goal to be the employer of last resort, or to be able to say, “If we don’t hire ’em, nobody’s gonna hire ’em!”)

Everyone I hired was an order of magnitude improvement over the people they replaced.

I like to work with talented people. I’m not trying to get rich and I don’t have a career path. I’m trying to learn and get better and contribute to my profession.

If you give me a job where I’m responsible for hiring people, I’m going to hire the best people available, and decline to be force-fed unqualified candidates by a friend of the HR Director.

To be continued . . .

Do Google style interview questions illuminate the talent in front of you?

Posted by on 14 Aug 2012

35 things you need to know before the interview [infographic]

Posted by on 4 Jun 2012

Which is More Valuable: Collaboration or Competence?

29 Jan 2012 /
Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians (1921), Museum ...

Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians (1921), Museum of Modern Art

The title of this post makes a good interview question. Usually, the candidate will say something to the effect of “they’re both valuable” to avoid the possibility of slipping up and choosing the one that the interviewer believes is less valuable.

Let’s say we need to get a picture painted. We could say, “Picasso — you’re our best guy in this area. We’d like you to paint the picture for us.”

Or we could say, “Picasso — work with the steering committee to get that picture painted.”

You could make a case for either approach, but you can’t do both. So which is more valuable?

Personally, I think collaboration is overrated. It leads to the knowledge of experts and novices being given equal weight.

There’s a reason why pilots don’t invite passengers into the cockpit to get their opinions on how to fly the plane . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.

A Sad Interview

28 Sep 2011 /
Bluebonnets on railroad track

I did a phone interview today with a programming candidate. Of the first six questions I asked him — and I don’t start with the hard questions — he gave a halfway correct answer to one.

I tried to wrap things up with some easier questions so he could end on a positive note. I struggled to find a question he could answer. It was a sad interview.

I saw from his résumé that he’d recently ended a 10-year run in a corporate IT department. Corporate IT departments are usually not on the leading edge of anything, and I have to surmise that he didn’t put in the necessary time to keep up with things on his own.

I don’t know how good he was 10 years ago, but at this point, he’s out of work, his skills are stale, and he’s going to have a tough time in the job market.

I’ve spent a lot of my own time over the years reading things and working things out on the computer, creating untold domestic conflict in the process. It’s a battle.

It’s easy to let your career slip away from you . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Tips on Working with Slimeball Recruiters

19 Dec 2010 /

I got a call at the office this week . . .

“Hi, Mr. Epps. This is Eric O’Neal. How are you doing today?”

“I’m okay. Who are you?”

“I’m with a company here in Newport Beach. My team specializes in placing highly competent technical personnel and . . .”

“What company is that?”

“I’m with Jobspring Partners and I understand that you’re looking to hire a C# ASP.NET contractor.”

Let me interrupt for a second to mention that all of these slimeballs seem to have the same quirk of introducing themselves in three parts: 1) Name. 2) I work for a placement company. 3) The name of the company.

It must be part of the training. No one ever says “This is Eric O’Neal with Jobspring Partners” all in one piece.

Major red flag when a recruiter doesn’t want to tell you who he or she is working for.

We now pick up the story where the recruiter says “I understand you’re looking to hire someone.”

“How do you know that?”

“In talking with some of my candidates . . .”

“You ask candidates who they’ve interviewed with?”

“I try to keep up with their interviewing activity, yes.”

“So then you call me up and try to send out more candidates to compete with them for the same job.”

“No, that’s not what I’m doing.” Translation: It is what he’s doing. “My team keeps a lookout for job postings . . .”

“There is no job posting.”

I didn’t catch what he said in response to that because I hung up in the middle of it.


If you’re working with a recruiter and they ask you who you’ve already interviewed with, just end the conversation right there. No reputable recruiter will ever ask you that.

If you ask them why they need to know who you’ve interviewed with, they’ll tell you that they don’t want to submit you to a company that you’ve already talked to.

While it’s true that recruiters don’t want to submit you to companies you’ve already talked to, the honest way of avoiding that is to say “I have a position at XYZ Co. that I want to submit you for. Have you been presented there already?”

Or if you want to have some fun, ask them to tell you which companies they have open job orders for and you’ll tell them if you’ve already been there.

Too Much Realism

6 Jul 2009 /

Q: David’s character, Boris Yellnikoff, is sort of an Allen anomaly, no? He’s downwardly mobile, and his cynicism is self-destructive.

A: First off, I never consider these people cynical. I consider them realistic. I will say that I do agree completely that too much realism is self-destructive.

EppsNet Interview Tips

11 Jan 2009 /


I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I’m drunk and dirty don’t ya know, and I’m still willin’

— Little Feat, “Willin'”

If you’re a genius like Mozart and you’ve got a 1000 IQ in music or whatever your specialty is, then you can distinguish yourself by doing things that other people are simply not capable of doing.


Lucky you!

On the other hand, if you’re a person of moderate intelligence like me, you’re going to have to distinguish yourself by doing more than other people are willing to do — not more than they’re capable of doing, but more than they’re willing to do.

We were interviewing candidates this week for a web editor position. One of the candidates brought in some mockups he had made to illustrate how we could incorporate social networking elements into our web site.

Were the ideas groundbreaking in any respect? No. Could the other candidates have done the same thing? Probably, if they’d been willing to put in the effort.

But they didn’t.

I have to assume that you’ll approach the job the same way you approach the interview. Are you willing to do more than what’s absolutely required?

Wrong hat!


If you want to pull a rabbit out of your hat at the interview, first you’ve got to put a rabbit in your hat.

In fact, you may want to put 10 rabbits in your hat and be ready to pull out whichever one you need.

At the very least, you must be absolutely prepared to answer the question, “What makes you the best person for the job?”

Even if that question is never explicitly asked, everything you say and do must be targeted at answering it.

Put together a list of the unique contributions you’ll make to the job and the company. Brush up on a few stories that show you at your best in the workplace.

In politics, these are called “talking points.” Politicians don’t try to think up answers on the fly to every question someone throws at them. They have a prepared list of points to make, no matter what you ask them.

So do you!

How to Answer Interview Questions in 3 Easy Steps

6 Jan 2009 /
  1. Listen to the question.
  2. Answer the question.
  3. Stop.

Don’t forget Step 3.

This Doesn’t Look Good, Indy

10 Jul 2008 /

IndyMac, my former employer, laid off another 3,800 people this week, more than half the remaining work force. I got the axe myself almost exactly a year ago.

Prediction — at job interviews, these people will hear something I heard a lot during my own interviews: “We’re seeing a lot of applicants from the mortgage industry.”

Yeah . . . tell me something I didn’t know.

The Elite Mortgage Daily Blog has helpfully provided a brief history of IndyMac stock:

A Brief History of IndyMac Stock

Got a Job

8 Nov 2007 /

After three months on the dole, I got a job offer from the IT director of a local non-profit healthcare association here in Orange County. I start next week. As Gerald Ford used to say, “Our long national nightmare is over.”

It’s a small IT group — 8 people, including the director. I’ve got to admit I’m a little burned out on big corporate IT shops.

I got out of hands-on programming and into leadership roles because I thought I could do a better job than the people I saw doing it. I wanted to develop teams that got things done using their skills and their collective intelligence, but in practice, you typically get locked into some corporate process standard.

A process may be good for delivering consistent results, but they may not be consistently good results. Like at McDonald’s, every Big Mac is just like every other Big Mac because they have a process for making Big Macs. But is a Big Mac a high-quality dining experience? Not really . . .


A friend and former colleague, who was also recently let go by a local mortgage company, emails to say

I’m doing well… still spending a lot of time in Bakersfield, spending time with my parents. I’ve been looking for jobs, but haven’t applied for anything. I guess I actually need to apply.

She’s single, she can afford to be sanguine.

I was in contact with at least 100 companies in one way or another – sent a resume, called, phone interviews, in-person interviews – and got two job offers. So the upside with her approach is that I could have avoided 98 rejections.


Did I mention the job is with a healthcare organization? I was laid off from my last job, with a mortgage bank, when the mortgage industry tanked. Prior to that, I was laid off from a dot-com consulting company when that industry imploded.

I’ve got a knack for getting into industries at their absolute zenith, then riding them down the drain.

But healthcare — it’s recession-proof! Isn’t it? You can’t say, “I’m going to put off getting critically ill until I have a better read on the economy.”


1 Nov 2007 /

As I arrived for an interview today, the hiring manager asked me, “Did you have any trouble finding the place?”


As it happens, I did not have any trouble finding the place and said so. I had printed out a map from one of the numerous online map sites and the building was right where it was supposed to be.

But even if I had had trouble finding it, my answer would have been the same.

“Some people have trouble finding it,” he told me.

Interesting. As an IT person, I consider myself a problem-solver — actually, I could make a case that any person in any job is hired as a problem solver — so I wouldn’t start out an interview by admitting that I got lost on my way over.

“Don’t hire anyone who can’t find the building,” I said.

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