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(IT World)   Programmers say the darndest things   (itworld.com) divider line 87
    More: Interesting, interview question, software engineers, Quora, job applicants, programming languages, software developers  
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4640 clicks; posted to Geek » on 26 Feb 2014 at 10:40 AM (26 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-26 10:47:47 AM
...interviewer: "Do you know C?"
Me: "I don't really know C, but I can fake it so the compiler thinks I know."


Brilliant!

//I'll save that for a future interview.
 
2014-02-26 11:05:22 AM
I didn't get it.
 
2014-02-26 11:15:04 AM
provision
 
2014-02-26 11:20:31 AM
In a software interview, I was asked what is ATM(Asynchronous Transfer Mode) ..and I without thinking for a moment started speaking everything I knew about Automated Teller Machine(ATM).

That would have taken an entirely different direction if I had been the applicant.
 
2014-02-26 11:21:54 AM

INeedAName: I didn't get it.


A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies! A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!
 
2014-02-26 11:24:33 AM
I was once asked what I knew about Perl. I said "Perl was created by Larry Wall as an April Fool's prank that got seriously out of hand. It stands for Persnickety Eclectic Rubbish Lister."

I didn't get the job.
 
2014-02-26 11:24:46 AM
I should interview with a company I really don't want to work for, and pretend as though I'm a time traveler from 1930.
 
2014-02-26 11:28:19 AM

Arkanaut: ...interviewer: "Do you know C?"
Me: "I don't really know C, but I can fake it so the compiler thinks I know."

Brilliant!

//I'll save that for a future interview.


I was always tempted to answer "Well yes, but if A or B are better options I'd much rather go with them."
 
2014-02-26 11:35:28 AM
Interviewing a manager candidate for SRE at Google.  Topic is misc. Unix systems stuff.
Me: How do you kill a zombie?
Candidate: With a chainsaw?


Well, I'd hire that guy.
 
2014-02-26 11:37:44 AM

toraque: Interviewing a manager candidate for SRE at Google.  Topic is misc. Unix systems stuff.
Me: How do you kill a zombie?
Candidate: With a chainsaw?

Well, I'd hire that guy.


trick question.  you can't kill what's already dead.
 
2014-02-26 11:41:26 AM
I haven't used an array in 20 years.   Arrays are for high school kids and LITTLE BABY GIRLS!
 
2014-02-26 11:45:31 AM

serial_crusher: In a software interview, I was asked what is ATM(Asynchronous Transfer Mode) ..and I without thinking for a moment started speaking everything I knew about Automated Teller Machine(ATM).

That would have taken an entirely different direction if I had been the applicant.


I am guessing Ass To Mouth(ATM)?
 
2014-02-26 11:51:06 AM
Having sat on both sides of the interview table many times I can confidently say that almost no one in IT has a farking clue how to identify and hire quality employees. You can certainly weed out the mouth breathing bottom 50% that HR should have identified as being functionally retarded but there is still a huge disparity in quality of the remaining 50%. Quite a few good candidates get rejected because they don't know what to do when there are four light bulbs in a box at the bottom of a swimming pool on Mars that might or might not be burnt out.
 
2014-02-26 11:52:04 AM

SpankyPinkbottom: I was once asked what I knew about Perl. I said "Perl was created by Larry Wall as an April Fool's prank that got seriously out of hand. It stands for Persnickety Eclectic Rubbish Lister."

I didn't get the job.


That's because you boogered the answer.

Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister

*snerk*
 
2014-02-26 11:57:34 AM

pute kisses like a man: toraque: Interviewing a manager candidate for SRE at Google.  Topic is misc. Unix systems stuff.
Me: How do you kill a zombie?
Candidate: With a chainsaw?

Well, I'd hire that guy.

trick question.  you can't kill what's already dead.


That's not true, all you need is a tack 9.
 
2014-02-26 11:59:02 AM

EngineerAU: Having sat on both sides of the interview table many times I can confidently say that almost no one in IT has a farking clue how to identify and hire quality employees. You can certainly weed out the mouth breathing bottom 50% that HR should have identified as being functionally retarded but there is still a huge disparity in quality of the remaining 50%. Quite a few good candidates get rejected because they don't know what to do when there are four light bulbs in a box at the bottom of a swimming pool on Mars that might or might not be burnt out.


This.  Sometimes the interviewers are really dumb twats.  I interviewed for a position that was using a DEC system and the interviewer asked a question that threw me off until he broke it down a bit, at which point I understood and went into great detail with my experience.

He told the recruiter he didn't feel I had enough experience for the job.  The kicker is that I'd been on a CICS system for three years, and a senior developer I worked with said, "Aw hell, he's in a DEC shop and should know better.  Be glad you didn't get the job as he's proven he's an idiot."
 
2014-02-26 12:00:14 PM

The Googles Do Nothing: I haven't used an array in 20 years.   Arrays are for high school kids and LITTLE BABY GIRLS!


I once had to design a mutli dimensional matrix for class, thinking 'Am I ever going to use this in real life?'.

Answer was no. Lots of data in lots of lists connecting to lots of SQL server queries, but nothing in that X,Y,Z level of hell.
 
2014-02-26 12:22:28 PM
Okay I have problems with the first question. The answer should be "it depends on your encoding system." Sure if you are using English keyboards to track ASCII character encoding, a 256 character array is fine, but what happens when you use none English keyboards or need a different encoding system like Unicode. Unicode for instance for all variants and possible codes that could be entered need to store an array of 1,111,998 characters. Other encoding schemes have various amounts of characters. So unless they can define the question, there is no real way of answering it.

Oh and you will have pissed off the interviewer too for moving away from their predefined answer list.
 
2014-02-26 12:25:23 PM
Tip to the interviewers: If you are asking questions straight from a textbook used at any high school or college to screen your applicants, you're dooming yourself to failure.  Throw the book out of the window, pack up your office, and make room for someone who's worked in the industry.  Hiring someone who can regurgitate the precise book definition of polymorphism is useless if they can't write a simple if/else statement.
 
2014-02-26 12:28:48 PM

Joe USer: The Googles Do Nothing: I haven't used an array in 20 years.   Arrays are for high school kids and LITTLE BABY GIRLS!

I once had to design a mutli dimensional matrix for class, thinking 'Am I ever going to use this in real life?'.

Answer was no. Lots of data in lots of lists connecting to lots of SQL server queries, but nothing in that X,Y,Z level of hell.


Routinely, no, but I wrote a system out running a high-energy physics detector that has a 6-dimensional array.
 
2014-02-26 12:33:52 PM

Gary-L: EngineerAU: Having sat on both sides of the interview table many times I can confidently say that almost no one in IT has a farking clue how to identify and hire quality employees. You can certainly weed out the mouth breathing bottom 50% that HR should have identified as being functionally retarded but there is still a huge disparity in quality of the remaining 50%. Quite a few good candidates get rejected because they don't know what to do when there are four light bulbs in a box at the bottom of a swimming pool on Mars that might or might not be burnt out.

This.  Sometimes the interviewers are really dumb twats.  I interviewed for a position that was using a DEC system and the interviewer asked a question that threw me off until he broke it down a bit, at which point I understood and went into great detail with my experience.

He told the recruiter he didn't feel I had enough experience for the job.  The kicker is that I'd been on a CICS system for three years, and a senior developer I worked with said, "Aw hell, he's in a DEC shop and should know better.  Be glad you didn't get the job as he's proven he's an idiot."


At one point I interviewed for a gameplay programmer position (video game programming, usually heavy 3D math in C++) and thought I was a shoein as I'd done physics/animation system integrations in the past, which is pretty much an order of magnitude more complex than what the listed job requirements were.

One interviewer asked, "How would you calculate the cross product of two vectors?' (fairly straightforward 3d math question)

My answer "That would probably depend on what math library I was using, because if you're not using a math library you're doing it wrong." did not get me the job.

As it turns out, I don't interview well.
 
2014-02-26 12:52:57 PM
Most of the examples in TFA boil down to "interviewers ask the stupidest questions."

When you ask a stupid question, best case is you get a stupid answer.  Worst case, you get a snarky answer from a programmer who knows you just asked a stupid question.
 
2014-02-26 12:57:03 PM

limeyfellow: Okay I have problems with the first question. The answer should be "it depends on your encoding system." Sure if you are using English keyboards to track ASCII character encoding, a 256 character array is fine, but what happens when you use none English keyboards or need a different encoding system like Unicode. Unicode for instance for all variants and possible codes that could be entered need to store an array of 1,111,998 characters. Other encoding schemes have various amounts of characters. So unless they can define the question, there is no real way of answering it.

Oh and you will have pissed off the interviewer too for moving away from their predefined answer list.


Doofus, at that point use a hashtable.  A reusable routine for processing text files aren't going to hit the whole range of ANSI characters, and creating a buffer that size is wasteful.
 
2014-02-26 12:58:42 PM
I did a lot of tech screening a while back, and the one question I asked every candidate was:

"At your last job, which parking lot did you use?"

About 15% of them failed the question because they had never actually worked at the company.
 
2014-02-26 01:05:46 PM

tillerman35: "At your last job, which parking lot did you use?"


I biked, thanks.
 
2014-02-26 01:09:16 PM

tillerman35: I did a lot of tech screening a while back, and the one question I asked every candidate was:

"At your last job, which parking lot did you use?"

About 15% of them failed the question because they had never actually worked at the company.


That's why you always answer that question with "None of them, i flew in via helicopter and rappelled down.  Always scared the shiat out of security when I'd go get my morning coffee."
 
2014-02-26 01:10:06 PM

ikanreed: tillerman35: "At your last job, which parking lot did you use?"

I biked, thanks.


Sorry, the position has been filled
 
2014-02-26 01:11:47 PM

serial_crusher: In a software interview, I was asked what is ATM(Asynchronous Transfer Mode) ..and I without thinking for a moment started speaking everything I knew about Automated Teller Machine(ATM).

That would have taken an entirely different direction if I had been the applicant.


Seriously. Thank FSM I never got that question.
 
2014-02-26 01:12:15 PM

Joe USer: The Googles Do Nothing: I haven't used an array in 20 years.   Arrays are for high school kids and LITTLE BABY GIRLS!

I once had to design a mutli dimensional matrix for class, thinking 'Am I ever going to use this in real life?'.

Answer was no. Lots of data in lots of lists connecting to lots of SQL server queries, but nothing in that X,Y,Z level of hell.


Sometimes you use them because they are faster
 
2014-02-26 01:14:33 PM

EngineerAU: Having sat on both sides of the interview table many times I can confidently say that almost no one in IT has a farking clue how to identify and hire quality employees. You can certainly weed out the mouth breathing bottom 50% that HR should have identified as being functionally retarded but there is still a huge disparity in quality of the remaining 50%. Quite a few good candidates get rejected because they don't know what to do when there are four light bulbs in a box at the bottom of a swimming pool on Mars that might or might not be burnt out.


Having just bombed an interview because of not being able to answer some simple questions about css properties, I can agree with this.

Why not just give the canidate a compiler and some simple programs to write? Its not jepordy assholes.
 
2014-02-26 01:14:41 PM

djones101: Tip to the interviewers: If you are asking questions straight from a textbook used at any high school or college to screen your applicants, you're dooming yourself to failure.  Throw the book out of the window, pack up your office, and make room for someone who's worked in the industry.  Hiring someone who can regurgitate the precise book definition of polymorphism is useless if they can't write a simple if/else statement.


Can't overstate my THIS-ness about this point. The problem with this approach is not everyone took CS courses in college and some of the stuff you're referencing by their textbook name might fly over the heads of otherwise qualified candidates. I bonked an interview because I drew a blank when asked if I'd used refactoring and anonymous types and wouldn't explain when I asked to elaborate. I use both concepts pretty much constantly, I just don't have them wired up in my brain with the textbook definition. I didn't even know they had names beyond "making cleaner code".
 
2014-02-26 01:21:36 PM
...wow. I typed that out way too fast and didn't proofread it.

Me ams grammer much gud!!!
 
2014-02-26 01:22:34 PM
My favorite answer to any interview question that leads with "Tell me what you do?"

"Well, it depends."
 
2014-02-26 01:31:29 PM
One of my favorite: I was interviewing a guy (I'm not the boss, but boss was busy and ask me to carry on).

Me: You mentioned Unix in your resume ...
He: Yeah, I am familiar with it
Me: Tell me about it
He: My brother sometimes bring his work home, I saw him typing on a window. He said it was Unix

(I am not making this up, if you can believe me. His brother probably used a telnet client, he saw him typing).
 
2014-02-26 01:33:32 PM
We had a guy show up for an interview with his resume on a floppy disc.

Took us two hours to track down something to read it on.

/he didnt get the job...
 
2014-02-26 01:37:28 PM

xalres: djones101: Tip to the interviewers: If you are asking questions straight from a textbook used at any high school or college to screen your applicants, you're dooming yourself to failure.  Throw the book out of the window, pack up your office, and make room for someone who's worked in the industry.  Hiring someone who can regurgitate the precise book definition of polymorphism is useless if they can't write a simple if/else statement.

Can't overstate my THIS-ness about this point. The problem with this approach is not everyone took CS courses in college and some of the stuff you're referencing by their textbook name might fly over the heads of otherwise qualified candidates. I bonked an interview because I drew a blank when asked if I'd used refactoring and anonymous types and wouldn't explain when I asked to elaborate. I use both concepts pretty much constantly, I just don't have them wired up in my brain with the textbook definition. I didn't even know they had names beyond "making cleaner code".


I like to refer to those as "Chapter One" questions, because that's where that crap is always found.     These are the people who give Developers are reputation as being clueless about how everyone else works and write programs that people hate.
 
2014-02-26 01:38:16 PM
I was not offered a job in 2007 after I was unable to answer "what's the difference between a span and a div?"

I had always done backend coding and had no idea about html at that point. I don't really feel like not knowing that answer said anything that bad about me, but I could understand why they passed on me.
 
2014-02-26 01:45:28 PM

Nogrhi: serial_crusher: In a software interview, I was asked what is ATM(Asynchronous Transfer Mode) ..and I without thinking for a moment started speaking everything I knew about Automated Teller Machine(ATM).

That would have taken an entirely different direction if I had been the applicant.

I am guessing Ass To Mouth(ATM)?


I have to admit it, I do giggle every time I see one of those "ATM inside" signs in the window of a store.
 
2014-02-26 01:48:19 PM

ikanreed: limeyfellow: Okay I have problems with the first question. The answer should be "it depends on your encoding system." Sure if you are using English keyboards to track ASCII character encoding, a 256 character array is fine, but what happens when you use none English keyboards or need a different encoding system like Unicode. Unicode for instance for all variants and possible codes that could be entered need to store an array of 1,111,998 characters. Other encoding schemes have various amounts of characters. So unless they can define the question, there is no real way of answering it.

Oh and you will have pissed off the interviewer too for moving away from their predefined answer list.

Doofus, at that point use a hashtable.  A reusable routine for processing text files aren't going to hit the whole range of ANSI characters, and creating a buffer that size is wasteful.


Then you are redefining the question again since they specifically stated they wanted a character array. Really I think everyone can agree that programming questions like this are utterly retarded nonsense and don't tell you anything.
 
2014-02-26 01:50:23 PM

limeyfellow: ikanreed: limeyfellow: Okay I have problems with the first question. The answer should be "it depends on your encoding system." Sure if you are using English keyboards to track ASCII character encoding, a 256 character array is fine, but what happens when you use none English keyboards or need a different encoding system like Unicode. Unicode for instance for all variants and possible codes that could be entered need to store an array of 1,111,998 characters. Other encoding schemes have various amounts of characters. So unless they can define the question, there is no real way of answering it.

Oh and you will have pissed off the interviewer too for moving away from their predefined answer list.

Doofus, at that point use a hashtable.  A reusable routine for processing text files aren't going to hit the whole range of ANSI characters, and creating a buffer that size is wasteful.

Then you are redefining the question again since they specifically stated they wanted a character array. Really I think everyone can agree that programming questions like this are utterly retarded nonsense and don't tell you anything.


Well, they tell you that the applicant can get flustered trying to explain a plan that is just now forming in their head as they consider the consequences, versus one who is confident in their first answer, which is wrong, versus one who will tell you the obvious(that "it depends") up front.
 
2014-02-26 02:05:50 PM

mayIFark: One of my favorite: I was interviewing a guy (I'm not the boss, but boss was busy and ask me to carry on).

Me: You mentioned Unix in your resume ...
He: Yeah, I am familiar with it
Me: Tell me about it
He: My brother sometimes bring his work home, I saw him typing on a window. He said it was Unix

(I am not making this up, if you can believe me. His brother probably used a telnet client, he saw him typing).


At least he was honest about it.
 
2014-02-26 02:25:33 PM

tillerman35: I did a lot of tech screening a while back, and the one question I asked every candidate was:

"At your last job, which parking lot did you use?"

About 15% of them failed the question because they had never actually worked at the company.


What color is the boathouse at Hereford?
images.t-nation.com
 
2014-02-26 03:11:12 PM

djones101: Tip to the interviewers: If you are asking questions straight from a textbook used at any high school or college to screen your applicants, you're dooming yourself to failure.  Throw the book out of the window, pack up your office, and make room for someone who's worked in the industry.  Hiring someone who can regurgitate the precise book definition of polymorphism is useless if they can't write a simple if/else statement.


THIS

I did a really good interview recently where the prep for it was to write some code, send it, and then walk them through it. Simple enough problem, took maybe a couple of hours to write but one where the solution was best done with OO.

They'd had a few candidates who had just called in to say that they couldn't do it. A lot that built a mess of unmaintainable procedural code and they reckoned about 30% of candidates demonstrated that they could write good OO C#. And every person they sent the test to had already been vetted for having enough experience on their resume.
 
2014-02-26 03:31:45 PM
Just this morning a had a long talk with a former coworker who is interviewing again. He's interviewing for senior level system architecture type positions.. He was asked to write a function that reverses a string.. holy smokes. i told him he should have stood up and walked out. If the people doing the interviewing cant do better than to ask programming 101 type academic questions then they probably dont know what they are doing across the board. No one ever needs to be writing string library functions. its been done.
 
2014-02-26 03:51:42 PM

LikeALeafOnTheWind: Just this morning a had a long talk with a former coworker who is interviewing again. He's interviewing for senior level system architecture type positions.. He was asked to write a function that reverses a string.. holy smokes. i told him he should have stood up and walked out. If the people doing the interviewing cant do better than to ask programming 101 type academic questions then they probably dont know what they are doing across the board. No one ever needs to be writing string library functions. its been done.


You don't know how many people are outright faking their credentials as programmers.  Fizzbuzz exists for a reason.
 
2014-02-26 04:06:16 PM
As an interviewee, you see 101 questions as insulting. As an interviewer, I find asking stupidly simple questions to be a quick way to move past the obvious liars and incompetent. Resumes lie. What's DNS? doesn't.

/recently had a candidate for a Linux admin position claim 3 years of VMWare experience. When asked about his VMWare experience during the phone screen, he responded with "Um (click click) virtual memory is... (click click) VMWare is..." Then read me the Wikipedia entry for VMWare.
 
2014-02-26 04:32:09 PM
My favorite interview question (asked to me once, and I carry on the tradition) is "What is a Left Inner Join?"

There is no such thing, but watching candidates decide whether to make up an answer, answer "I don't know, I never used it" or correctly state it doesn't exist is always fun.
 
2014-02-26 04:35:22 PM

Jclark666: As an interviewee, you see 101 questions as insulting. As an interviewer, I find asking stupidly simple questions to be a quick way to move past the obvious liars and incompetent. Resumes lie. What's DNS? doesn't.

/recently had a candidate for a Linux admin position claim 3 years of VMWare experience. When asked about his VMWare experience during the phone screen, he responded with "Um (click click) virtual memory is... (click click) VMWare is..." Then read me the Wikipedia entry for VMWare.


I don't find 101 questions so much insulting as annoying. Because I learned as I went along, I don't necessarily know that the concept I've internalized 8 years ago and have been using constantly is called "Dependency Injection". So If all you ask in an interview is "What is dependency injection?" you'll get a blank stare from me. If, however, you say "Dependency injection is {x}, describe how and when you would use it." You'll get a damn essay.
 
2014-02-26 04:42:42 PM

xalres: Jclark666: As an interviewee, you see 101 questions as insulting. As an interviewer, I find asking stupidly simple questions to be a quick way to move past the obvious liars and incompetent. Resumes lie. What's DNS? doesn't.

/recently had a candidate for a Linux admin position claim 3 years of VMWare experience. When asked about his VMWare experience during the phone screen, he responded with "Um (click click) virtual memory is... (click click) VMWare is..." Then read me the Wikipedia entry for VMWare.

I don't find 101 questions so much insulting as annoying. Because I learned as I went along, I don't necessarily know that the concept I've internalized 8 years ago and have been using constantly is called "Dependency Injection". So If all you ask in an interview is "What is dependency injection?" you'll get a blank stare from me. If, however, you say "Dependency injection is {x}, describe how and when you would use it." You'll get a damn essay.


Where {x} is "wicked awesome"
 
2014-02-26 04:47:25 PM

LikeALeafOnTheWind: Just this morning a had a long talk with a former coworker who is interviewing again. He's interviewing for senior level system architecture type positions.. He was asked to write a function that reverses a string.. holy smokes. i told him he should have stood up and walked out. If the people doing the interviewing cant do better than to ask programming 101 type academic questions then they probably dont know what they are doing across the board. No one ever needs to be writing string library functions. its been done.


Based on their prevalance in interview questions: The secret to being a great programmer is the ability to regurgitate the string manipulation api of your intended language at will.

now, write me a JS function that reverses these letters and words

tihsllub si siht

now in piglatin!
 
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