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Good and Bad Interview Questions


Good and Bad Interview Questions

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Steve Jones
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Good and Bad Interview Questions

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Stuart Davies
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I agree whole heartedly with you on this one Steve. I’ve had some bizarre interviews questions -What kind of animal would you be and why?“ technical ones “What is the difference between delete and truncate”, “What does ACID stand for”. However both the jobs I’ve stayed at the longest had a similar format – technical stuff covered by being put in front of a PC and being told “Fix it – it’s bust”, “Restore database XXX for 10 pm yesterday” etc along with a very informal verbal session (part of one was in a pub) finding about me, what I like, how I think. So my potential employees knew I could do it before I started as well as how I would fit in with the team.
The HR team only came in with their normal bits and pieces as a formality after I had been offered the job (and yes I was given the “What sort of vegetable do you see yourself as” questions).

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The "weird" questions are the converse of the "fizzbuzz" questions: You need to have a specific reason for them, not ask them "just because" or you're looking to "stump the chump".

I interviewed for a job one time where they asked: "If I asked you to make me a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, what would you do?" In the context of the position I was interviewing for, it made perfect sense. We were dealing with people with disabilities and they were looking for people who would try to draw out someone further and even empower others by responding something like, "Tell you what, I'm hungry too. Let's both go make one. Have you ever made one before? Want to learn?" They would also follow up by dialoging with candidates about whatever they did answer.

In interviews for other types of jobs, I'd be looking for the guys with the white coats and butterfly nets were I asked the same question. Hiring is a difficult, risky process and any such question - if asked at all - should be something that's purposeful and part of a larger process.

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Just my $0.02 from over here in the cheap seats of the peanut gallery - please adjust for inflation and/or your local currency.
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Microsoft interview did ask some odd questions.
1. Please give me driving directions from your home to our office.
2. You're in a room with three light bulbs (no windows) and there are three switches outside the room. You only get to go out and back in once - how are you going to figure out which switch runs with light bulb?
3. Describe yourself with a list of one syllable words.

The first two made sense...but the third was just silly.
Simon E Doubt
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I totally agree that 'fit' is at least as important as technical acumen. To that end, I try to create a scenario during an interview with a candidate where I intentionally make an incorrect statement about something technical, to see how they go about correcting me. If I see overly aggressive, defensive, or arrogant behavior, I cut the interview short and move on. I'm looking for an open mind, an ability to debate and discuss professionally, and some humility.
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Though it's little out of context as against the topic but over the time I've observed few things about the technical interviews:

a. I knew almost 80% of the technical questions they were going to ask (as almost all who interviewed me till date have got those lists from net, I guess).

b. Some interviewers look out for the flat answers they have found along with the questions on net. Any answer other than that will be an invitation to problems.

I feel for a fresher technical person or with little experience, it's fine to go with basics BUT with a senior technical person, along with the basics, interviewers should check out for the experience they gained. Also if throwing a "situation", objective should eb to check the approach to solve the issue OR get nearer to it (for me both will do as far as they are trying with any approach).

For those funny questions, i have yet to experience few... :-)
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Hi Steve! Thank you for this topic!

You said "My interviews have often been very technical, but have included a number of "how would you.." or "tell me about a time when.." questions." I just wonder what were the most weird or, maybe, difficult non-technical questions on your interviews?

Thanks a lot!
Eric M Russell
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Why is a manhole cover round?
How many cows are in Canada?
How would you cure world hunger?


On a slow day, when we're not on a coding sprint or putting out a fire, we'll huddle in the break room and discuss these type of questions. Otherwise, it typically doesn't come up. I'd never ask something like this during an interview. :-P


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I wasn't asked any weird questions but I was asked to solve a puzzle. It was one of those puzzles where you needed to only move a couple pieces to turn the shape into something else. I think it was arranged as a rectangle and you had to make it into a 'T'. I think, it was about 15 years ago.
I don't think that was the reason I didn't get the job, I think it was because I was looking for more money than they where willing to pay. I hope. :-)

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Eric M Russell (9/5/2013)
Why is a manhole cover round?
How many cows are in Canada?
How would you cure world hunger?


On a slow day, when we're not on a coding sprint or putting out a fire, we'll huddle in the break room and discuss these type of questions. Otherwise, it typically doesn't come up. I'd never ask something like this during an interview. :-P


I have been asked obsurd questions like this myself and I always love to play with interviewer's mind alittle by repsonding this way:

Why is a manhole cover round? Because they roll much easier that way.
How many cows are in Canada? A lot more than I care to know about.
How would you cure world hunger? The same way I learn how to stop the rain.

Interviewer: "Those are obsurd answers"
Me: "True, but those are obsurd questions."w00t

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"
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