None of You Ever Have to Open Another Math Book Again for the Rest of Your Lives

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.


  • Tim

    Ask them:

    Why is local excise tax on the sale of a home still charged when it was initially a “temporary” tax conjured up by our finest in Olympia?

  • David Smith

    Isn’t Google about to put all the internet real estate companies out of business?

  • Robin Dana

    It looks like Google is coming out with a Real Estate search portal. It seems Google’s huge market presence will make it very difficult to compete with.

  • Alex Lodd

    A personal favorite: Model friend relationships in a database and compute the distance between two people based on each of their friendships. Design the schema, write the code, and define the running time.

    Google links to other real estate websites… they don’t sell houses… Seems to me that they would help Redfin?

  • Roberta Smith

    What is Google’s housing maps all about?

  • Alex Lodd

    Roberta, isn’t affiliated with Google at all. They use Google’s map API to visually map all the listings in Craigslist. Check out the top-right corner of the site.

  • Isa Blue

    Seems the combinationof Google and Craigslist makes it easy for sellers to sell and market their homes without agents. Isn’t that really Redfin’s goal?