Last week, seven computer science students from the University of Washington interviewed at Redfin.
Remembering my own college interviews, when borrowing my brother’s prescription glasses led me to bypass an interviewer’s outstretched handshake for his navel, I dressed up for the occasion. Most of the candidates wore jeans.
We catered a creamy Indian buffet for lunch, despite some interviewers’ volcanic lactose intolerance. Holed up in my smallish office, one candidate began teaching me how to solve his favorite math problem. I began to panic until I realized that he was panicking too. The problem remained on the board for the rest of the afternoon, and I asked everyone else to solve it.
A second candidate told me her “greatest challenge” was waitressing at a steak house for a cast member from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, a good answer to an embarrassingly boring question. She asked if I was a Buffy fan, though it was hard to say if she meant the show or Buffy herself.
A third candidate said he liked our blog entry about not competing with Zillow and then, before I could smile, asked “But don’t you really?”
My interviews used to be fun-filled brain-teasers until one day seven years ago, a Harvey Mudd student said my questions were insultingly trivial, then asked me one I couldn’t answer. I became so excited by his cheek that I excused myself, looked back to give the other interviewer a huge thumbs up as I walked away, and promptly gored a wall with my nose.
When I returned from the bathroom, my shirt was still drenched in blood and my nose was twice its size. The candidate, waxing poetic about hacking his classmates’ e-mail accounts, never noticed.
Now, for Berkeley and Stanford recruiting, we’re trying to figure out a good challenge for a student coding contest. We need a fun project, like graphing the volume of news published to the Internet about Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. But better than that. If you have any ideas, post a comment; we’ll pay you $100 for anything we can use.