Imperative by day and functional by night

The Day I Timed Out

There is no more time left for waiting after timing out.

I work as a contractor (freelancer) and am always on the lookout for new and interesting job opportunities. Not long ago I found and applied for a Java developer role that was advertised online. My current contract was about to expire and so it was the ideal time to actively start looking around. There was no real need for me to do so though because my current client had already offered me a renewal. But I could not resist a new opportunity and I had not yet agreed to accept the renewal. It was the perfect time to make my next transition. That’s what us contractors do. We have the freedom of choice and we move around. It’s the beauty of contracting.

The next morning on my way to work I got a phone call from the recruiter. It was about 8:30 AM and I had just bought my usual morning coffee. Normally I would sit down and drink my coffee in peace without any distractions but I made an exception in this case. The conversation I had was a thirty minute phone interview. I didn’t enjoy my coffee the way I normally would have liked to but I did manage to secure a face to face interview for 12:30 PM the same day. And that’s always a good thing.

Now, 12:30 PM is usually when I prefer to go out for lunch but I was willing to sacrifice that too. I promptly arrived for the interview and the receptionist lead me to a waiting room. It was a tiny room that had no windows in it. There was one small round table with a form and a pen on it and there were three chairs. I was asked to sit down and fill in the form and wait for the interviewer. I filled in the form in five minutes and sat there waiting. Five more minutes passed and I was still sitting there waiting. Yet another five minutes passed and I was yet still sitting there waiting! I was there for 15 minutes all alone without anyone to speak to or even a glass of water to drink. I am not one for demanding respect, but a little bit of hospitality would have been nice. So there I was sitting there all alone and doing nothing. By this time both my patience and respect for that recruiter had ran out. I didn’t really need to be there and I was not desperate for the job either. I flipped over the form that I had filled in and wrote the following message on the back of it:

<timed-out millisecs="900000"/>

I left it on the table and walked straight out. Yes, that’s right. I had timed out and I knew it.

Some two minutes later as I was walking away from the building, my phone rang. It was the interviewer. I didn’t answer it. I grabbed a quick lunch and went back to my current workplace, signed into my computer, and resumed working. I soon received an email message that read:

I am sorry for the mix-up that occurred today with your interview. Our reception did not notify me of your arrival and by the time I checked to see if you had arrived, you had left. Is there a chance we could re-schedule for tomorrow?

Please accept my apologies for keeping you waiting today.

To which I replied:

Sorry I left the way I did. I guess I’m just a little bit impatient sometimes. In the meantime I’ve decided to accept the renewal offered to me by my current client.

I wish you good luck in filling the position.


Written by warpedjavaguy

October 17, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Posted in java, programming

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21 Responses

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  1. Good response to that situation, particularly if you didn’t need the job.

    I’ve had an experience like that as well. One guy interviewed me and said he was going to go get the next person. So, after waiting around about 10-15 minutes, he comes back to the conference room and tells me everyone else in the IT dept had left for lunch so this interview was over but could I come back in an hour. I passed on that job.

    Frank C

    October 18, 2007 at 12:47 am

  2. Okay, so what if you needed the job?

    Would have you walked out? Would you have maybe gone back to the receptionist and mentioned that nobody has come by yet? Mistakes and events do happen in the real world that are beyond your control, and how you cope with them really describes the person that you are.

    Maybe I’ll try this on my next interview and see what the candidate does. If he reacts like you did, I’ll know I’ve saved a few hours of my time. Especially if I had to hear about how your precious coffee time was horribly wrecked.


    October 18, 2007 at 3:09 am

  3. zydeco100 The same can be said about your next “experiment” – why should anyone agree to work in such company, where such things are possible ( mis/no-information ).

    I think that the author did the right thing, but if he would stay and tried to inform someone about particular situation – it just would show that he needs this job and that he is polite 😉 you could say that it would indicate professional behavior, but at least the author knows what he is worth 🙂

    P.S. Sorry for my English


    October 18, 2007 at 3:33 am

  4. Just one word: LOL

    I may have waited a little longer but not much. 15mins is a long time to sit and stare at a wall.

    Russ @ bombay potatoes

    October 18, 2007 at 3:43 am

  5. That’s crap, zydeco100. Respect must flow both ways during the interview process. I suspect that you’ll hire the developers you deserve when you implement your new experiment. Then again, you probably need those candidates that will wait quietly for Your Highness to arrive- Resulting in a mediocre, and (more importantly, I’m sure), subservient staff. Few developers that have a top-tier skill set (and know it) would willingly place themselves under a bludgeon such as yourself. Soak up the hacks, pal, we need the good ones. BTW, over the last 10 years I’ve hired 11 of the absolute best; all but one are still with us (one became pregnant and decided to stay home). We’re making money hand over hoo-haa directly from their efforts.


    October 18, 2007 at 3:53 am

  6. So what respect did our illustrious developer show during the interview process? He waited 15 minutes, decided (on his own) that nobody was coming in, and instead of determining the real cause of the problem decided to abort everything and walk out.

    My 3 year old does the exact same thing when something isn’t going quite right. I can expect behavior like that from him. Then again, I don’t pay him to do that.

    Andrejs, you were close to my point. People should expect communication, but we all know sometimes it doesn’t work 100%. Things get lost, broken, misplaced. People are late. Things happen. How exactly do you cope with them? If I call a meeting with my senior developers but then have to take an important call from a customer and arrive late, who will still be in the room when I get there? Will the developers have started on their own, or will I get a note saying “sorry, you lose”?

    I understand this is a contractor writing this blog post and things are a little different in their world. They have the ability to walk away from jobs and that’s fine. But here on the other side of the fence, we expect professional behavior for the money, and I didn’t see it here.

    I wasn’t totally serious about my “experiment”, but sometimes I wish we all had that little mental x-ray that told us about a candidate’s true ability and personality before making the hire. Grace under pressure is a quality I look for in a developer. Maturity is another one.


    October 18, 2007 at 4:26 am

  7. But you see, in your example when you are late, you are the boss – they can’t leave, because they know there will be consequences. I agree with you that there needs to be more communication to and from both sides, but the authors point is still valid, because I think that for example your employer would “not” hire you if you would miss the interview. It is just where are you standing.

    P.S. Again, sorry for my English 🙂


    October 18, 2007 at 4:51 am

  8. I have to side with zydeco on this one. Waiting for fifteen minutes is annoying, but I can’t imagine anyone with the initiative and creativity it takes to succeed in software saying that bailing is easier than simply asking the receptionist what’s up.

    Showing up 15 minutes late is definitely a bad thing — for the interviewer or the interviewee. I’d be just as dismissive of a company that axes a potential hire because they were held up in traffic.


    October 18, 2007 at 5:00 am

  9. There are different kinds of people – if you would be late, because of traffic and phoned your interviewer, then one of them would say: “Okey, thanks for calling. Will be waiting you at 14:00” and other would say: “You should get out faster”. Maybe I am dramatizing, but you get the point.

    Treat others like you would like to be treated 😉


    October 18, 2007 at 5:40 am

  10. It’s nice to see there’s still a lot of smugness, arrogance, elitism and other undesirable skills going around in IT.

    The proper approach would have been:
    a) The contractor, WarpedJavaGuy, should have first inquired as to where said interviewer was, and if that person could not be reached, leave a message to be passed on and then left.

    b) The interviewer, seeing he/she was going to be late, should have send notice of this to the waiting contractor. “Not being notifed” is no excuse.

    So, this said, nobody showed any sign of social quotient here.


    October 18, 2007 at 7:25 am

  11. If he really wanted the job I am sure he would have stuck it out. Since he clearly didn’t, nothing was lost.

    Everyone is placing his actions in a different context and then bashing him for his conduct. The context is what it is…he didn’t need the job more than they needed him so he was not willing to deal with BS. This exact thing happened to me not too long ago and I didn’t bat an eyelash because I really wanted the job. Willing to take a little bit of crazy so to speak.

    Besides, we need to acknowledge that the note he left was pretty funny and in good humor. He didn’t write “F#^k Off Doodie Heads!” or anything like that.


    October 18, 2007 at 10:46 am

  12. You made absolutely the right move. If your would-be employer can’t show you respect and professionalism during the interview, you’re looking at a workplace you’ll be better off avoiding anyway. Being rude in the interview is like picking your nose on the first date.

    Because a programmer is more likely to walk away from bad manners if he or she has other alternatives, by definition, this type of behavior screens out programmers with the ability to work somewhere else. In effect, it’s a hiring process biased in favor of desperate programmers and/or programmers with low self-esteem. Bad manners are often a sign of serious workplace dysfunction.

    giles bowkett

    October 18, 2007 at 3:06 pm

  13. It is amazing how rude some companies are. At my current employer, the candidate sits in a windowless room and goes through many interviews with large periods of time in between (almost 15 minutes a piece). Funny how the reverse does not happen. My point is that the candidate is evaluating the employer just as the employer is evaluating the candidate, and it certainly looks bad for us to be disrespectful. Good for you!


    October 18, 2007 at 3:32 pm

  14. I’d never want to hire someone who gets so frustrated in 15 minutes that he walks out without saying anything. Sounds like someone who would just give up in the middle of a project to me.

    Show some initiative, track down the receptionist. It’s not hard.


    October 18, 2007 at 3:33 pm

  15. Hey WarpedJavaGuy, what’s up next time if you need the position in that same company ?

    You aren’t doing yourself a favor acting the way you did.

    I’m a contractant too.


    October 19, 2007 at 2:47 am

  16. Read the article again, Giles. The receptionist made a simple mistake, WarpedJavaGuy was not left sitting in a room for 15 minutes because of a deliberate action by the interviewer.


    October 19, 2007 at 4:16 am

  17. It’s always good to hear from people from both sides of the fence that can relate to these situations. That was the primary point of this posting. So I do thank you all for your comments.

    There are many ways I could have reacted to the situation, but on the day that is how I felt. I generally tend to perceive things literally and sometimes even suffer as a result. On this particular occasion, I felt that both the recruiter and the receptionist had ‘other priorities’ and that it didn’t matter that much if I was left there waiting. I take every job opportunity seriously and my priority was to participate in the interview and hopefully secure the job. After 15 minutes I felt no need to waste any more of my time. I don’t like wasting my time. But I did leave them something to think about and also replied to their emails in the politest way that I could.

    Having said that, I am still working on my social skills. They don’t come all that naturally to me and I am constantly working hard to improve on them. I am an INTP kind of person after all (at least the one time I did my Myers-Briggs type indicator test I was).


    October 19, 2007 at 9:41 am

  18. You guys are seriously out of touch with reality (it’s common in geekdom). You fail to comprehend the simple concept that the interviewer and the job this guy may have landed are not necessarily connected. Maybe he would have met the CTO of the company, who may have liked him, maybe he would have met smart people, who he may have liked. Point is, he’ll never know. Real life is about maximizing opportunities, you guys are doing/suggesting the opposite.

    All I can say is, enjoy that coffee dude! 100% with zydeco100.


    October 19, 2007 at 11:16 am

  19. I’m with Guido and zydeco100 here. You burned bridges to gain – what? Enjoying your righteous anger, wearing a smug evil smile? You really showed them! Maybe the manager knows somebody at your next potential employer. Shit happens. Being the “guy that runs away at the first trouble” is not a cool thing.
    A developer is expected to make things work, to archieve project goals in spite of obstacles. The right thing would have been to go to the reception and have that interviewer called. You’d have gained an interview and an interviewer who owns you an apology, which is something that you could have played to your advantage.
    Now all you’ve got is minor short term satisfaction over causing some trouble for someone else and a blog post. Meh.


    October 19, 2007 at 11:21 pm

  20. I’ve taken some more time to think about the entire issue again, and maybe in hindsight it’s not as cut-and-dry as I first suspected. I wanted to give the receptionist the benefit of the doubt and assume she made a mistake in not telling Mr Interviewer that the candidate was ready and sitting in a room.

    But in 15 minutes she couldn’t remember that? Usually people are pretty well prepared that someone is coming. WarpedJavaGuy mentioned he felt the receptionist had “other priorities”. If taking care of a guest isn’t a top priority in that 15 minutes, then what does that say about the environment at the company? If they’re not handling you professionially in that short visit, it could be a huge red flag on things to come.


    October 20, 2007 at 1:20 am

  21. Kudos to you zydeco100 for your continued evaluation… I concur with your final assessment as to what the real “issue” was… professionalism (a.k.a manners?) I originally read the post and thought… “ok… two individuals [receptionist and interviewer] who both failed to communicate to *anyone* apparently that this guy was sitting in a room by himself.” What do those two have in common? The only thing we DO know is that they work for the same company which would tend to raise red flags for most of us I think.

    I originally thought of you (and those that agreed with you)… “What would these people think if the consultant was 15+ minutes LATE to the appointment and THEY had to wait?” I feel, that 98% of the time, they would write of the geek/techie as someone with “poor social skills”, etc. because… IT’S AN INTERVIEW AFTER ALL! If you expect people to be on time to YOUR meetings, be on time for THEIRS!


    November 21, 2007 at 6:51 am

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