Board Game

File this one under best job interview ever.

Last fall, on a bit of a whim, Dennis Ryan ’96 applied for a job as a software engineer at Patagonia, the sporting goods company. At the time, he was happily employed at a New Jersey telecommunications company. So when Patagonia offered to fly him out to corporate headquarters in Ventura, Calif., for an interview, he went into minor panic mode. “I’d been to interviews that were batteries of endless meetings, getting drilled on technical stuff,” he says. “By the time you’re done, you just want to lie down and melt.”

It didn’t happen quite like that. Just before the big day, Dennis received his schedule from HR. The first meeting was set to take place at 8 a.m. In the water. On a surfboard.

The invitation to take to the waves with his prospective boss didn’t come as a total shock—Dennis had applied for the job after reading Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s memoir, Let My People Go Surfing. For a longtime surfer like Dennis, the allure of working at a company where the boardroom is actually a room to stash your surfboard was irresistible.

The interview went swimmingly: After two hours on the waves, Dennis showed up at headquarters in jeans, flip-flops, and a t-shirt. By day’s end, the job was in the bag.

Working at Patagonia has plenty of great perks, says Dennis, but nothing beats the lunchtime surf breaks. “Whenever the waves are good, I get an IM from my boss saying, ‘I’m going to check it out!’ And I say, ‘I’m going with you!’”

—Amy Paulsen