What I Look Forward to Most in Retirement

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The 17 Most Bizarre Tech Company Interviews Ever

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Business Insider / Matt Johnston By now we’ve all heard of the crazy, intimidating questions techies often face when interviewing at companies like Apple and Google. But one thread on Quora shows that sometimes interviews take on a whole new level of bizarreness. These guys faced oddities, rudeness, and just pure insanity. We put together some of the craziest experiences Quora users had in tech interviews. Lee Ballentine endured an earthquake during his job interview. “I was interviewing for a job as an applications engineering manager in a two-year-old Silicon Valley company of about 300 employees in the 1980s. My last stop was an interview with the CEO, an impressive ex-military Israeli entrepreneur. We were in a makeshift lab/office, sitting at a small table with a consultant in Japan on a speakerphone. “An earthquake started, and kept going, fairly seriously, and from my chair I could see people running down the corridor toward the exit. The CEO reacted to this not at all. I kept the conversation going. The quake got more intense, stuff falling off of bookshelves, etc., and more and more people fleeing the building. I decided that if the CEO could take it, so could I. We kept right on talking until we were the only two people left in the building. “A half-hour later, people were straggling back into the building, and we were still talking. Eventually, everyone had returned to work, and we finished our conversation. He shook hands with me, thanked me, said they would “be in touch.” A few days later, they offered me the job and I accepted. I kind of knew it would play out that way, after facing down an earthquake.” Rupert Baines missed a flight while waiting for his interview. “A number of years ago I was interviewing at a significant tech firm in California. It was a very good job. Plus, they were pre-IPO but everyone knew it was imminent and it was going to be huge – so an offer with good options would be worth a fortune. “I was based in Boston and flew out to California for the interview day. Met the man who’d be my boss, VP Marketing, CFO, HR etc. I passed all of those, so final stage is an interview with CEO. “I am due to fly back home to Boston that evening on the redeye. The VP of HR shows me into the lobby for the meeting with him and I wait. It is mid-afternoon. The scheduled time comes and goes. I speak to the Executive Assistant who says to just wait. “So time passes… I do email. I wait. All the time sitting outside CEO’s office. Assistant goes home: says to wait but doesn’t apologize – clearly this is usual. Eventually, about 8PM he asks me in. We are having the interview when an appointment alert goes off: he stops it and explains ‘that means you have missed your flight.’ “I can only think it was the power play, but why he needed to show he was more powerful than I was is beyond me: that was pretty obvious. Even weirder because they were paying expenses, so the cost of hotel, of rebooking flight and of the very nice dinner I had were on them. “Odd enough so far, but there is a real kicker: I got the job offer. I turned it down. “I get an email from said CEO, furious. Absolutely red-faced, apocalyptic, SHOUT CAPS… The classic line was:  ’I HAVE A LIST OF THE TEN STUPIDEST PEOPLE IN AMERICA. YOU ARE NOW ON THAT LIST. YOU IDIOT’” Stan Hanks had a bizarre encounter when meeting a CEO to discuss potential partnerships. “It was ’97, I was CTO at a highly stealth company that had just raised a ton of money from Enron to build a massive new fiber optic network, and one of the key facets to the deal was my idea that we could create a commodity market for bandwidth – but no one outside the highest levels of both companies knows anything about that. The VP of BD had just heard of a company in NYC that was starting to advertise a market for trading minutes of telephone use and we decided to go see if they had anything, should be acquired, ignored, or what. “The flight from Portland to NYC got into Newark at 2:00, we had just enough time to grab a cab, and arrive almost exactly on time. We’re taken to a typical mid-town conference room – windows on one side, long conference table, whiteboard on one wall. The CEO introduces his team, we introduce ourselves, and start talking about all this ‘minutes trading’ that they’re doing. “As he talked, the CEO got more passionate, and started pacing. He’d talk and pace, then draw on the whiteboard, then talk and pace, etc. Eventually I got up and started drawing on the whiteboard and asking ‘hard questions’ and he got more agitated and started pacing more and talking less. “After about 10 minutes of that, he stops and TAKES OFF HIS PANTS!!! He hangs them on a coat hook, and wearing wingtips, socks and boxers with his shirt and tie, keeps pacing and talking. No one on his team bats an eye. My VP of BD is dying laughing on the inside, working really hard to not just explode laughing. I’m more than a little freaked out. I mean, I’ve spent a ton of time in NYC, but come on…” Harshal Chaudhari was asked to prove his multitasking abilities in an unusual way. “I was interviewing for a job with Fiorano, India. The job position was that of a junior software developer. I was asked a fairly easy question of writing a C code for reversing a single linked list with some constraints. In the meanwhile the interviewer was going through my resume. He took notice of my drawing and sketching skills mentioned in the extra curricular activities. “Suddenly, he asked me whether I was ambidextrous. He was disappointed on knowing that I wasn’t. After a few minutes, he informed me that he was satisfied with my answer for the question which wasn’t yet finished, but I was on the right path. So he wanted to increase the difficulty by testing my multitasking skills. “What he asked me was to hold another pen in my left hand (I’m a right handed person) and to draw a tree simultaneously while I’m writing the code with right hand. “This happens to be the weirdest interview question I faced till date.” In order to get the job, Kee Nethery had to prove he could hold his alcohol. “This was a job interview for when I graduated college. I flew to Iowa and was met at the airport by two of the guys I would be working with. We went to a great restaurant, ordered lots of alcohol, went clubbing and they got me to my hotel around 1 am. “Next morning at 6 am I meet up with two more guys I’d be working with and we go out for a big breakfast. Then to the office for a bunch of quick 30 minute interviews. Lunch is two more guys I’d be working with. We go to another really nice restaurant for a long leisurely lunch and they are ordering mixed drinks, lots of alcohol. Then back to the office for a bunch of quick 30 minute interviews. “Two more guys take me out for drinks and then we do dinner and go clubbing and they get me back to my hotel by around 1 am. Rinse and repeat for the next day. “I had never had so much great food, great drinks, lack of sleep and being ‘on’ within one 48 hour period. It took days to recover. “The job itself was exactly what I wanted to do so I accepted their offer. Then I became one of the ‘two guys’ crew. “The goal of the interview process was two fold. Although it was a technical engineering job, there was some degree of entertaining customers and the expense account was kind of unlimited. They needed to know that you could handle having access to unlimited amounts of alcohol in a peer pressure situation. “Secondly, for the job we flew to and solved the urgent and vexing customer problems that local employees had been unable to solve. Lots of pressure and very challenging. They needed to know if you were a reasonable and coherent person when you had no sleep and were under maximum stress for days at a time.” Bennett McEwan ended up interviewing one young applicant’s mom. “In 2008, my division at Unisys had won two, big Medicaid contracts. We needed to triple our workforce. Recruiting analysts was tough because nearly all entry level jobs were going to outsourcing companies, and so we had to hire them away from our competitors. “My favorite interview from this time was for a woman who attended with her mother. When we spoke on the phone, she seemed interested and motivated, and had done a little research on our division. When she arrived at my office for the interview, she had an older woman with her. Before I could say anything, her mother introduced her daughter and then herself. “Now, as crazy as it sounds, keep in mind that for some people this is the first professional interview of their lives. I was willing to spend a few minutes with her to make her comfortable and then get to the real interview. So I began by offering them both a chair and asked if they would like some coffee or tea. “The woman I was interviewing still hadn’t said a word. Her mother insists on getting down to business. Her first question is about travel. Yes, I say, there is travel to our worksite required but most likely it will be during early stages of the project. “‘That is acceptable. We will require two rooms. I accompany my daughter everywhere.’ “I decide to play it out and see how far this will go. So I say, ‘We won’t pay for two rooms, but we don’t regulate who accompanies our employees to their hotel. They are adults, after all.’ My humor was not acknowledged.” Amit Bhati impressed his interviewer so much that he quit and gave Bhati his job. “Many years ago I went to be interviewed for a senior programmer position, where the team lead interviewing me began to ask a number of very interesting and increasingly complex questions, after having worked through my resume quite thoroughly. “I assumed this was all just part of the interview; trying to assess how well I might be prepared for problems I may have to handle in the future. Issues such as how I would handle a dysfunctional team, architectural complexity, design v/s build fast etc. All great topics of debate. But the manner in which the questions were being asked, and how laudable he considered my replies. left me feeling a bit out of place, because these would not necessarily have been my problems had I gotten that job. “At some point the interviewer remarked that I was so well-qualified that I should be applying for his job. I laughed etc., but he got up and left the room, returned a few minutes later and said, you know what I’ve just resigned, and I’ve told the boss that he ought to hire you to fill my position right now. “He left – as in actually left the office right then and there, leaving me feeling utterly speechless. The receptionist and the big boss emerged on his tails, and the boss proceeded to hastily recruit me on the spot for the position that had just opened up!” Nathan Stephens was not a match for Zynga. “On a phone interview with Zynga, the interviewer asked me what my favorite game was. I am an analyst, not a gamer. “When I said that I don’t play Facebook games, the interview said their best employees are their best gamers. He refused to continue the interview and hung up.” Jim Goodman’s unconventional interview took him out to sea. “I flew out to Vermont to interview for a position as a PM for a wind energy independent power producer start-up. I was asked to meet my interviewer, who was also to be the supervisor of said position, at the marina. To my surprise, the interviewer and his wife picked me up on their 36′ wooden sailboat. “We didn’t talk about the job one bit. I was there to serve as a crew member. I recall that he wanted to come about (tack) and had me take in one of the sheets (ropes) to accommodate the sail’s new orientation. To do so, his wife handed me a brass handle to use in ratcheting in the sheet. She told me ‘If you drop that, you are going in after it.’ This handle was original equipment on this sailboat from 1946.   “The interview ended with the captain, my interviewer, doing a ‘drive by’ (a sail by?) of the marina’s main dock. I had to jump off the sailboat while it was still moving. This was done void of formality, and was more like, ‘We’re going to swing by the dock and you can jump off.’ “I was bewildered. It took another month of phone calls/selling my skillset, etc. until I was granted this position.“ Johnny Chao had trouble catching his interviewer’s eye. “I was interviewing at Google 3.5 years ago for a product manager job. The standard full day interview at their main campus. Went though the 2-3 PM/devs, had lunch with another employee. Saw everything that you hear about in the stories. Lot of Tesla’s in the parking lot. Tiring but overall pretty excited and pleasant. “Then comes this Director, I couldn’t remember his name but he said he’s been with Google for over a decade. The questions he asked were normal/reasonable. But what was extremely bizarre was he was sitting in his seat as if it was a hammock, leaning back as far as humanly possible with his head fully horizontal, so he did not look at me at all. No eye contact once he sat down while he asked questions. “I started to look up as well to see if there was anything on the ceiling, but nothing abnormal. I tried my best to keep focused and answer his questions, but his tone became more and more condescending as the interview went on. Towards the end, I was just glad this specific interview was over.“ Kristaps Horns experienced a classic case of tech ageism. “I was hiring a web designer. One of the applicants was 47 and tried to convince me how extremely skilled web designer he is while showing designs clearly made in MS Paint. “When I asked him why he doesn’t use Photoshop, he asked me what Photoshop is… That ended the interview.“ Steve Everhard’s interviewee may have had a case of cold feet. “I was interviewing potential electronics design engineers. We had one guy with a very engaging personality that kept us entertained through most of the interview. “He had an impressive CV with first class qualifications, but his answers to some of the technical questions were bordering on the bizarre. Wondering whether he was just a little nervous I asked him if he had proof of his degree with him and he said he had and it was in the car. “Off he goes to retrieve said document but after 10 minutes he doesn’t return, but we hear a squeal of tires and watch his car career out of the car park.“ Ashutosh Saxena knew he recognized his interviewer from somewhere. “Around six years ago, I was interviewing with a small company and the third interviewer was a really smart guy who posed some really tough problems that involved a mix of a lot of thinking and understanding of basic fundamentals of computer science and algorithms. This was the third round and I couldn’t pass, even though the first two went well, or so I thought. “I went about looking for jobs, and about a month later while interviewing with another smaller company, faced the same interviewer! He asked the same questions, and since I had known them earlier, and found the answers, could answer them then. Apparently the interviewer had changed jobs before I could, and I could have been his last interviewee in his previous company and the first at the new one. “Both the interviewer and I recognized each other, but none of us acknowledged that till the end of a 90-minutes discussion. I got the offer later, but I did not join them (for reasons not related to being put up with the same questions again).“ Nina Kumar found her resume being used for an interesting purpose. “I interviewed at Amazon in Seattle not so long ago. One of the interviews was a lunch interview where they brought in lunch for me and my interviewer in the conference room. Believe it or not, the interviewer proceeded to use my resume to spread his chips and leave out any left overs while he ate.“ Katherine Mancuso was shocked by the questions she was asked at an interview. “The one (just to be clear this was for a technical marketing job at a startup) where the person picked up from my Twitter account that I was probably gay and proceeded to engage me in an hour and a half conversation about gay marriage.   “Because at first his questions were strictly political or sociological in nature, I answered them. I pointed out at one point that his name and accent was obviously from another country, and would he like people asking about that rather than his professional background in interviews, hoping to gently teach him through empathy that this whole line of questioning wasn’t professional. “When he finally asked me if I was ever attracted to men I told him that this interview was over.“ Robert Stockdale’s interviewee needed a bit of help with pronunciations. “The company I worked for was interviewing programmers to hire for project work. In particular, we interviewed one young man with a really great résumé. He had all the right languages listed in his résumé. But, he kept talking about his ability to suede-o code (pronounced like its spelled) in each of his interviews that day. “None of us had the heart to tell him how it was supposed to be pronounced. And, it was equally apparent from the interviews that he was not as qualified as his résumé made it look.“ Dan Morrill was pretty turned off by his interviewer. “The most bizarre interview I have ever had was for a software company as part of the security team. “The second interviewer was telling me how they literally turn over staff every six months by firing everyone and hiring new people, that few if any last longer than two years, that I should plan on being fired within six months, so don’t get too comfy here.“ Looking to avoid your own interview disasters? Check out 15 real tech company interview questions you will probably be asked (and how to answer them) » Read more stories on Business Insider, Malaysian edition of the world’s fastest-growing business and technology news website.

As someone on the cusp of retirement, I occasionally pause to picture life ahead when I will take my first steps toward senior citizen status. After surviving the working world and being fortunate enough to set aside what I hope is a sufficient nest egg to fund retirement, I have big hopes for the next 20 years. There are so many things I enjoy doing, and retirement is by definition the perfect opportunity to pursue my interests and feed my passions.

A reader of my retirement blog has an excellent perspective: "I'm retired (and yes past the honeymoon period) and I'm loving it! Each day opens up new possibilities. I find myself becoming more able to insist on things I want, rather than satisfying other's expectations. I don't necessarily need excitement, just newness. Don't do the same old stuff you always did! Try something new each day."

Where should I start? I feel like a kid in a candy shop with so many options that it is almost overwhelming -- but in a good way. Since I am in control of my days, I plan to revel in the freedom to try a little of this and taste some of that, ever sampling and experimenting with new things. As I think about what excites me most about beginning this next chapter, I am looking forward to the following:

No longer on the clock. After a career spent with every minute of every day tightly scheduled and carefully planned, I appreciate the virtues of a blank calendar. I dreamily imagine starting my day with nothing that I must do. It is invigorating to realize I need not worry about being late to the next engagement, but rather I am free to savor the moment. The only clock I have to adhere to is the one I manage.

Picture this: You start a project that keeps you entertained for a while. Then, even though not yet finished, you change course and start something entirely different. In retirement, you can do just that. No more deadlines, no rules or regulations from on high, no more last-minute fire drills. You control how you spend the hours in your day. You are off the clock and how sweet it is.

Freedom to choose. How I spend my retired day will be entirely up to me. It is hard to fathom this incredible freedom of choice. There may be days when I am high-energy and want to get out there and rock the world. On the other hand, there may be days when I am happy sipping my java seated in the backyard with a good book in hand. What I choose to do is solely up to me and not dictated by others. I am free to change my mind as often as I like. I am the decider, and that freedom of choice is something I plan to savor.

Time to nurture the creative me. Although I do not consider myself a particularly artistic person, I do have interests that allow for creative expression. I love writing. Blogging and books are excellent vehicles to put into words my feelings and thoughts. And the fact that some people might enjoy and even benefit from my efforts is pretty cool. When I was a youngster, I took a good many years of piano lessons. As is often the case, I did little to sustain my skills through teen years and raising a family. But now that I have the time, I love to sidle up to the piano and jingle the old keys. Many retirees have a creative side that may have been smothered during a demanding career. The good news is retirement can be the perfect time to rejuvenate your artistic side and express yourself through whatever means you find most rewarding.

Refocus on good health. While we are stuck on the job, perhaps traveling too frequently and typically maintaining a hectic pace, it can be difficult to sustain healthy habits. When it comes to diet and exercise, too often the lifestyle we are forced to live does not remotely resemble how we should be living. Since this state of affairs is largely due to lack of time, retirement can be just what the doctor ordered -- literally. Instead of being forced to squeeze in a quick workout in a limited time slot, you can exercise when you feel like it. With the luxury to take all the time you want, your options become more interesting. You also have time to prepare better, more nutritious meals rather than succumb to fast food.

Revisit my relationship with my wife. We have been together for years, and during that time have become best friends. The demands of family and job have sometimes come between us, but only for a moment. We find strength and love and fun in the time we spend together. Once we both retire, we will have more quality time to share. I look forward to traveling and exploring and sharing time focused exclusively on us. My wife deserves to be spoiled, and I look forward to putting to good use my free time as a retiree doing just that.

Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to when you retire?

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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