Even with an interview cheat-sheet, an over-40 American Citizen can't get the job

I went in for an interview for a job last week for which a recruiter from a local recruiting firm had submitted my resume. The recruiter had already placed someone from India in this particular downtown Seattle company about a month before. In fact, the Indian made note of all the interview questions that he was asked in order to get the job, and forwarded those questions, with the answers, to the recruiter in an email. This cheat-sheet was then forwarded to me via the recruiter, and I was even given contact information for this Indian so that I may get a first hand interview prep if desired.

I didn't contact the Indian, but I did look over the cheat-sheet containing over 25 questions. At the top of the list were two semi-tricky SQL questions, one involving a "Left Outer Join" and the other involving a table "self join" where you have to use aliases to complete the SQL query statement. The remaining questions on the list included some .NET questions, as well as some more general questions. It was a pretty thorough list.

The cheat-sheet was very accurate. When I appeared for the interview that was scheduled to last 2 hours, I met with 2 people simultaneously. Both are managers for the development of the software product that the company was built on, which is a web based investment management application. After the initial small talk was over, they started the interview off with those two SQL questions right off of the cheat-sheet. Of course, I worked out the problems in front of them (I didn't rattle off SQL statements like I had them memorized from a cheat-sheet). They seemed very happy that I came up with the correct answers. They proceeded to ask a few more questions that were on the cheat-sheet. However, they only asked about 8 of the questions off of the list of over 25 questions. They didn't even ask any of the .NET questions. Then the interview was over in less than an hour. That was when they told me that they have several other candidates that they are interviewing over the next couple of weeks and that it would be at least a week before they could get back to the recruiter or me with a decision.

The next day, they told the recruiter that they were turning me down for the job because my .NET web experience wasn't recent enough.

???

About two months before this, I had an interview at Amazon.com here in Seattle. This interview had a computer programming problem for me to solve. I didn't have a "cheat-sheet" for this interview, but I was told at the interview that I had the best solution that they had ever seen in an interview. That sounded great. Amazon is right up there with Bill Gates saying that they want to hire the "Best and the Brightest", and I just proved to them that I am in that category.

What was the result? Well, two days later, I heard from the Amazon recruiter. She told me that they were not going to hire me for the position. I asked her why. She responded "It is not Amazon's policy to give a reason as to why you were not hired."

???

At the end of last week, I went to yet another job interview. I am still waiting to hear back from this one. I thought the interview went well, but I have long learned now to not put any stock in how well I think an interview went. I did find a comment of one of the interviewers interesting however. He said "It's hard to find anyone with .NET experience in the Seattle area." I find this comment particular interesting, given that my interview was taking place in a conference room, within this company's rented facility, that is less than a 10 minute drive from the location where .NET was invented and developed - Microsoft. It was on this same Microsoft campus where I began working with .NET, back when .NET was nothing more than an initial internal-use-only alpha release.

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Comments

I believe it

I think people need to document this, like you did. Obviously hard to fail a technical interview when you had the answers in advance!

It's pretty obvious they reject Americans out of hand and especially make up excuses to not hire anyone over 40.

My question with such brazen statistics and so many horror stories (do you know anyone who doesn't have at least one?) abounding why is it that other people don't believe this and buy into some public relations rhetoric of a "worker shortage"?

When is Congress going to act in favor of the US middle class, working people instead of corporate lobbyists (if ever?)

I also think a few class action lawsuits need to happen and not settled out of court. That seems to be the only way anything is done...when the settlements are greater than the fictional money (they are not saving money by labor arbitraging technical people!) they believe they are saving.

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Age discrimination

If you think being over 40 is bad, try over 55. I promise you, when the company advertised the position, they weren't thinking of hiring someone who looks like their dad (or maybe even their grandpa). You can practically see the shutters going down behind their eyes when they get their first look at you.

Funny thing is, I used to hire programmers myself. Our company had a fairly elaborate interview process involving 5 or 6 people, who would confer together after the interviews. I can tell you there was a lot of barely-concealed bias against even slightly-older guys. Some of the rationalizations:

* Since we were a game developer, it was assumed that an older candidate wouldn't "get" games.
* Older candidates wouldn't work as hard (we did work very long hours).
* Older candidates would be argumentative and set in their ways.
* Older candidates would expect to be paid more.

Merely answering to the contrary during the interview, with respect to any of these assumptions, was not considered to be a convincing rebuttal. The potential advantages of an older candidate, such as greater professionalism due to longer experience, were ignored, discounted, seen as a threat, or never even imagined by the young interviewers. Top management was was an older guy himself, but was insecure and quite the flim-flammer, so he was worried that older candidates would be more difficult for him to push around and/or hornswoggle.

I can't say I saw any bias against Americans at this company though. We were looking for talent, not nationality.

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Remember the Psychiatric Hospital

There was a test, I think the 1960's, where a Doctor went in to a Psychiatric Hospital as a patient. He was routinely diagnosed as a schizophrenic by all of the Doctors and staff, yet he was perfectly healthy and while in the Hospital just behaved as he normally would.

That's what your story reminds me of.

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