My Worst Interview

A few years ago, I was interviewing for a software position at a large web startup and had the following conversation with a someone in HR during a phone screen:

Recruiter: We have a few preliminary questions we always ask to determine if a candidate will proceed.

Me: Sure.

Recruiter: Do you have J2SE?

Me: Yes, I've worked extensively with Java, Spring, and Hibernate making web applications for...

Recruiter: Yes, yes, but do you have J2SE?

Me: (realizing we were playing poor-grammar-buzzword-bingo) Yes.

Recruiter: Great. Next question.

Me: Ok.

Recruiter: We're looking for real rock stars here. How good are you at programming on a scale from 1 to 10? Just give me a number.

Me: If you just want a number, probably about a 6 or 7. (I had recently seen this Programmer Competency Matrix and fell squarely in "Level 2")

Recruiter: Well, we were really only looking for only 9's and 10's.

Me: Oh (stunned... waiting for the recruiter to make the next move)

Recruiter: Do you have any friends that are 10's that I could reach out to?

Me: You're asking me if I have friends who would rate themselves a 10 as a developer?

Recruiter: Yes, we're really looking for a star-hero developer. (You read right. A star-hero... like Mario)

Me: I wouldn't be comfortable doing that. Sorry. Good bye.

Needless to say, I was not asked back for an in-person interview. This is pretty much as classic as the Dunning Kruger effect gets in an interview. 

Both experiened hiring managers and experienced job seekers have worked with people who think they are much better than they are. Effective hiring managers don't expect candidates to evaluate their own skills on an arbitrary scale. They rely on the interview process, references, code samples, etc. Experienced job seekers are wary of interview processes asking you to self-evaluate your skills because they assume the current team has been evaluated similarly.

There's little (if not an inverse) corellation between people who think of themselves as the absolute best and those who actually are talented. The most effective people know that there's always plenty of room to grow.