I recently had an initial phone screen interview for a lead software developer role (the interviewer would have been my boss if I landed the role). During the phone screen I was describing a custom software tool that I had helped implement and was using at my current employer. After describing the tool I asked if it was something he was interested in, but I don't remember if I said: "would you be interested in something like that?" or "would you be interested in that?" After I asked him, he just bluntly said "No." and then there was an awkward silence. In retrospect, I think he thought I was saying that I was going to steal code from my employer for this custom tool so that it could be used at his company. Is it probable that this was the case, and if so, how could I reword what I said? I have no intention of stealing any code. What I was trying to impart were the concepts/use cases and asking if they applied to his situation. This custom tool is too specific to my current employer's situation to use much of any code from anyways.

The rest of the phone screen was fairly typical Q&A about what the interviewer is looking to accomplish in the future in regards to refactoring their codebases and processes and how my experience relates to that. Not the worst phone screen I have had, but don't have good vibes about hearing back about an on site interview.

If the interviewer automatically assumed I was asking if he wanted stolen code from my current employer, is that a red flag in any event?

  • 4
    no way to tell what he was thinking
    – Kilisi
    Aug 28, 2018 at 20:16
  • 1
    How did the rest of the interview go? Is there an indication that there will be follow up from them? What do you hope to accomplish?
    – user41891
    Aug 28, 2018 at 20:24

3 Answers 3


Next time don't ask that question. It doesn't really make sense to ask someone if they want something like that, unless you're not interviewing and instead are selling.

And if you are selling then asking someone that question also doesn't make any sense, unless you spent the last 30 minutes talking to them about what their problems were, and then you just rephrased their problem back as a solution, and said you were selling that.

But asking an interviewer if they want something you built doesn't make sense - you're not going to be able to rebuild it, and they're not hiring you to build a small tool.

What you want to sell, so to speak, when you discuss past performances is:

  1. Your ability to succeed
  2. You ability to win people to your way of thinking, leading to success
  3. Tangible measurements of your success
  4. Your problem solving, problem finding and execution abilities (aka point 1).

So it doesn't matter if you made the next big thing, or a small toy database, what you really need to sell when interviewing for a job is how you hit those 4 points.


If the interviewer automatically assumed I was asking if he wanted stolen code from my current employer, is that a red flag in any event?

No, it's an interview, it's important to prepare and make sure everything you say is clear. You only have a brief time to make a good impression and often they have no prior knowledge of you at all.

Apart from paperwork, what they see and hear is all they have to judge on and they're already looking with a critical eye.

For the rest of the question, there is no way of knowing what he was thinking or if that was even a factor.


It sounds like the implication of your question was that you didn't do research on the company, or... had a brain freeze. You sound like you realize the tool is company specific and wouldn't fit elsewhere.

It makes you sound clueless is all to put it bluntly, not something you'd want to hire for in a leadership position, so definitely don't ask it again, but I seriously doubt it has anything to do with stolen code.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .