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Good and Bad Interview Questions


Good and Bad Interview Questions

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Steve Jones
Steve Jones
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wojzeh (9/5/2013)
Miles Neale (9/5/2013)...what are the first three things you ask or do?

a good dram of whiskey, I guess? (three times, of course...)


dram?

Unless I drastically misjudge that measure, I think I'd be looking for a larger glass.

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Rod
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Interesting article, Steve. I take issue with one of your statements. You said, "Employees that dislike each other can bring down overall quality and coordination very quickly. The sooner managers learn that, and learn to respect employees while challenging them, the sooner their departments will start to shine." I've situations in which I think the manager was a part of the problem, and never saw the dislike between their employees or the manager actively encouraged it. In such situations morale suffered, but everyone just kept soldiering on.

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TravisDBA
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Rod at work (9/5/2013)
Interesting article, Steve. I take issue with one of your statements. You said, "Employees that dislike each other can bring down overall quality and coordination very quickly. The sooner managers learn that, and learn to respect employees while challenging them, the sooner their departments will start to shine." I've situations in which I think the manager was a part of the problem, and never saw the dislike between their employees or the manager actively encouraged it. In such situations morale suffered, but everyone just kept soldiering on.


Agreed Ron, I worked for a manager years ago at KSC (Kennedy Space Center) that actually stirred up stuff all the time in his department. He was a terrible manager that was more concerned about chasing SKIRT than taking care of his deparmtent. He finally got several HR complaints lodged aginst him and was eventually removed from the position. I heard later that he died of a massive heart attack. What goes around comes around sooner or later.:-D

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"
robert.jackson-1040156
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Thanks for this, and for reminding me of one of Phil Factor's delightful pieces:
https://www.simple-talk.com/blogs/2009/01/22/technical-interviews-and-tests-have-got-to-stop/
Jim P.
Jim P.
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robert.jackson-1040156 (9/5/2013)
Thanks for this, and for reminding me of one of Phil Factor's delightful pieces: https://www.simple-talk.com/blogs/2009/01/22/technical-interviews-and-tests-have-got-to-stop/

From the link:
I have a new proposal to make. Instead of employing developers after asking them a series of trivia based from trawling obscure facts in MSDN, you should see how good they are at Table Tennis, Table footie, or guitar. I might include pool/Billiards too.

I would fail his challenge except maybe the billiards. I have tried all the rest and have always been an abysmal player in any game that requires eye-hand coordination. I'm not quite tone deaf, but again never felt a great desire to play an instrument. And I never felt the need to overcome those things.

I also have never been asked the nonsensical questions in an interview either, but have only been the interviewee about ten times in the past 18 years or so.

On the other hand I have been the technical interviewer about 20 times for junior DBA's. The first question I ask is "What does DML and DDL stand for?" The second Q is "What are the four DML commands?" That pretty much gives me an idea of where and how to pitch the rest of the questions.

Out of the 20 interviews we hired two over time. The one didn't have the definition of DML and DDL down and wasn't quite sure of the DML commands but was taking notes during the interview. The next time I asked he knew it cold. He was shoved into a non-DBA but front-line tech SW support role and did well. He left voluntarily to a better role after more than a year.

The other didn't know the definitions but knew three out of four of the DML commands. She did okay with standardized scripts that couldn't be automated to the general support types, but couldn't really develop hot data fixes in the DB. (The SW sucked and we were the DBA's in support.) She decided the tech life wasn't for her.

But asking the number of cows in Canada is just stupid. Forcing someone to find interest in a game they wouldn't or didn't care for is not indicative of how good an employee they will be.



----------------
Jim P.

A little bit of this and a little byte of that can cause bloatware.
Eric M Russell
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Occasionally I participate in technical interviews, if the candidate is applying for a database related position. I don't ask pop questions like "What is DDL?" or "What is a clustered index?", because any intelligent person, regardless of their background, can find the exact answers to these quetions on the web and memorize them. They also don't reveal the depth of a person's knowledge and experience. For example, asking someone what is the capital city of South Korea doesn't reveal how competent they would be in the role of international finance. Honestly, I could teach my eight year old daughter in a single weekend how to pass this type of interview. She has a good memory and can be very charming.

Instead, I prefer to ask "Tell me..", "Describe..", and "Why.." type questions and expect an answer that is detailed and has context with their past experience, as if they were being interviewed for a talk show. Often times the answer they provide will lead to a five or ten minute discussion before I move on to the next question. This can be very revealing about a candidate's real experience.

Below are a few examples that I expect any mid-level database developer or DBA to be conversent with. I have a list of about 100, but will typically ask about 5 - 10 depending on the role they're applying for and the experience they have provided on their resume. For example, if they list "data modeling" on their resume, then I expect them to tell me about a data model they developed. I believe these are all fair questions, because they are exactly the type of question that they would be asked during their daily routine assuming they were actually hired. In my department, we don't hire at entry level, so this type of interview probably wouldn't fit that purpose.

"Let's assume that a stored procedure call which typically takes 10 seconds to complete has occasionally been taking several times longer. Based on your experience, what are some common causes for this, and also how would you diagnose it?"

"Tell me about some scenarios where a clustered index can potentially degrade performance."

"Describe a data model that you have designed in the past."

"Explain the relationship between logins, users, roles, and permissions."

"Assume there is a table called Customer, and a column called Customer_ID should contain unique values but doesn't. Describe how you would construct a SQL query to return only those IDs that are duplicated."

"Locking, Blocking, and Deadlocking: Tell how these three things are related and how they are different."


"The universe is complicated and for the most part beyond your control, but your life is only as complicated as you choose it to be."
OCTom
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I was once asked how I would end workd hunger. My answer both appalled and intrigued the interviewers. I said to kill all of the hungry people. If there were no more hungry people, world hunger would end. I said it with a straight face. The were intrigued by my answer because they were looking for something creative and thought that fit the bill. They asked me back for another interview and I said I would never work for someone who would consider killing hungry people.
Eric M Russell
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OCTom (9/6/2013)
I was once asked how I would end workd hunger. My answer both appalled and intrigued the interviewers. I said to kill all of the hungry people. If there were no more hungry people, world hunger would end. I said it with a straight face. The were intrigued by my answer because they were looking for something creative and thought that fit the bill. They asked me back for another interview and I said I would never work for someone who would consider killing hungry people.


Let me guess, you were applying for this position back in 1930's Germany? w00t


"The universe is complicated and for the most part beyond your control, but your life is only as complicated as you choose it to be."
Eric M Russell
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Regarding how I would solve hunger, it's interesting how the problem has been defined or presented. For example, the US Department of Agriculture released a study in 2012 stating that 1 in 6 Americans "struggle with hunger" and live in "food insecure homes". However, according the Centers for Disease Control, 69% are overweight and 35% are classified as obese.
As for "world hunger", I'll accept the assertion that's a real problem, but at least here in the U.S., I believe it's something professional data analysts not affiliated with government or political entities should take a closer look at.


"The universe is complicated and for the most part beyond your control, but your life is only as complicated as you choose it to be."
helen.huang
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Managers are the ones to set the tone for the team. People normally are trainable, specially the people want the work and they like to follow the norm and learn the culture. disfunction member normally the managers problem. Unless you hire somebody way of the chart!

We need more qualified and decent technical managers to maneger a team and project!
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