Here’s a PDF I was sent by a prospective employer last month. I’ve blotted out identifying information and trimmed some excess pages, but otherwise it’s exactly as I received it. (At no point in my communication with this company did I agree to an NDA or similar confidentiality agreement, but a bit of blurring seems only polite.)

They sent it to me after I nailed a programming challenge, the sort of thing that I often sniff at as needless hoop-jumping, but caught my fancy this time since I found myself starting a three-hour train ride when I received it; the challenge provided a pleasant, voluntary diversion. I may have laughed out loud when this PDF appeared in my mailbox as my reward, however.

I recognize that the world is a very big place, and differences in cultures both geographically and among different fields might help account for the existence of such a thing; I got the impression that my correspondent was European, had more of a personal background in business management than in software engineering, and had founded their company in Asia. But it still struck me as immensely strange that after this company approached me — firmly establishing that I was the one possessing something they wanted, rather than the other way around — they then expected me to answer eleven pages’ worth of essay questions about myself.

These include questions such as “Do you consider yourself a more visionary or more pragmatic thinker? Explain why,” and “How creative are you? What are the best examples of your creativity?” These rather sound to me like conclusions that a good interviewer should draw from a conversation with a potential candidate, rather than something to have the candidate answer for themselves. But either way, the document would have taken me at least a full day to complete in its entirety.

I responded with a frank statement about my confusion, in light of the fact that, since they began the conversation, I still knew very little about the operation of their own company. I suggested that we put the questionnaire aside for now to skip straight to the Skype conversation that the sender proposed as the next step, so that we might learn more about one another more efficiently.

I never heard back from them.


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