But hey, she sure interviewed well!

Project manager and IT director interview this contract programmer, and based on the contract shop’s recommendation and a brief technical interview she’s hired, reports a pilot fish on the scene.

“She interviewed well, but unfortunately that’s where her skills largely ended,” fish says.

“Basic skills required for this job were C, SQL and Oracle’s PL/SQL and Pro*C — that’s like C with embedded SQL. After struggling for a few days on her first assignment, she asked me, ‘How do you open a file in C?'”

Fish hands her his copy of The C Programming Language and tells her to look up the fopen() function.

But he’s a little troubled by the question. After all, he thinks, any C programmer with more than a couple hours’ experience should know how to open and close files, right?

After a few more days of struggle, the contractor approaches another female programmer — one who’s extremely competent — and asks her to write the program for her, since they’re both women programmers.

“The competent programmer declined to do the contract programmer’s work for her,” says fish. “Then she told the project manager about it, stating that it was obvious the new hire didn’t know the first thing about C programming.”

PM calls in the contract programmer and asks her if she thinks she could learn C over the next few days and get up to speed. Contractor tells him no, she doesn’t think so.

IT director immediately terminates the contract and has the contractor escorted out of the building 15 minutes later.

Net result: The project is at least a week behind, a tidy sum of money has been spent on a clueless programmer for nothing — and the department still has to find another programmer.

“I told the PM that next time he could ask me to perform a technical interview with potential hires, which I routinely did for my contract shop,” fish grumbles. “I had years of experience with C and Pro*C, and I would’ve quickly assessed the prospect’s actual skill level — and not been baffled by their BS.”

Sharky is always looking for programmers with true tales of IT life. Send me your story at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also comment on today’s tale at Sharky’s Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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