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  #21  
Old 16 January 2013, 04:50 PM
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People who fight the meme will just find that they are standing closer to the rhino.
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  #22  
Old 16 January 2013, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
From my experience, asking them to spit out code is pretty uncommon in programmer interviews.
I've never had a programming interview where I didn't have to at least write some complicated pseudocode on a white board.

At my current job, one stage of the final 3 day on-site interview process is to spend about 5 hours writing a program from scratch to solve a particular problem. We find some people who despite stellar academic backgrounds and verbal interviews can't really seem to program much at all. Fewer than half of people already selected to fly out to interview get a passing score, and a much smaller number get excellent results. Some weeks we'll fly out 5 people and not a single one will pass the test and get an offer.

For our support positions, the programming test is far less rigorous. They will get a program that has already been written but has several bugs in it, some of them rather subtle, and they have to debug it.
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  #23  
Old 16 January 2013, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
"Brad, stop trying to make 'stand closer to the rhino' happen. It's not going to happen!"
Gee, somebody got up close to the rhino this morning!
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  #24  
Old 16 January 2013, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
4. "A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?" - Asked at Clark Construction Group, office engineer candidate.
He doesn't say anything, because penguins don't talk. He's here because someone running your interviews enjoys messing with job candidates and has too much unrestricted access to zoo animals. He's also a helpful illustration of your unusually formal, but eccentric, dress code. Are the employees allowed to pair any hat with their tuxedos or is there a specific hat code?
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  #25  
Old 16 January 2013, 05:43 PM
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11. "If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?" - Asked at Trader Joe's, crew candidate.
That doesn't seem all that odd considering that Trader Joe's customers are often foodies, so it would be benifitial if the employees are as well. The question could also be used to see how familiar the canidate is with the store's products.
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  #26  
Old 16 January 2013, 05:51 PM
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I assume the one about "How many cows in Canada?" is an "open-web" question -- they're not asking to find out if you happen to have some specialized Canadian-bovine knowledge, but to see how fast you can look it up. (Around 12.5 million as of January, 2011.)

(Though a friend of mine used to have a habit, when he picked up his annual world almanac, of committing odd facts about Canada to memory, so that he might mention in casual conversation that there are 82,000 hogs in Manitoba, or 55 native Portuguese speakers on Prince Edward's Island. But he works at Microsoft now, not Google, so he has an alibi.)
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  #27  
Old 16 January 2013, 06:29 PM
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I don't think it is an open-web question. They are looking to see how you would go about taking an educated guess at it.
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  #28  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:12 PM
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Some of these questions would make me walk out of the interview. I'm looking for a job - I'm not looking to join a cult. Maybe years of hard-boiled cynicism have made me lose my sense of whimsical humor, but I have no faith whatsoever in an employer - any employer - of any loyalty or appreciation beyond a paycheck, and nothing more. When push comes to shove, even the most "familial" (or cult-like, if you prefer) employers will send you on your way, as it may have nothing to do with your individual performance. Years of good, loyal service have amounted to nothing but a steaming pile of poo, when a company goes bankrupt and closes its doors forever, so I question the whole "personality" of a company aspect.

Now when I got interviewed for this job, I was interviewed by people who would become my co-workers, to see if I would "fit in" with them as individuals. And not with some abstract concept of company vision invented to attract shareholders and customers. That is certainly different from asking me these types of weird questions. If I was interviewing for a food-related position, I'd anticipate and accept being asked questions about my knowledge and love of food, but if an engineering job asked me how to make a cheese sandwich, I'd tell them to go to Subway and ask a "Sandwich Artist", because I won't be making one at work.

If it's part of a hypothetical question or an exercise in problem solving, like finding out my methodology for finding the number of cows in Canada, then that's different, but asking me for the number itself is, well, dumb.

(It might sound snobbish, but I think of my job as part of a career, and my employer suddenly tells me that instead of relying upon my years of education and experience to solve electrical engineering issues, they now wanted me to make cheese sandwiches, then I'd be looking for another job, even if they offered to pay me the same money or more. While in the short term it seems like a steal, ultimately it's a poor move for further career development, and I'm still 20+ years from retirement. So while I understand the nature of some of these questions as "abstract", I don't believe in an employer having such a hold on a person that when they say "Jump!", the response should not even be "How high?", but that my feet should be in the air as soon as it's said. My response to such a command is "that's not my job". Not because I'm obstinate, but because it isn't my job. And it's up to them how they treat such a reality. I don't feel that any job should entitle the employer to committing economic slavery, and I fully accept that this may make me a snob, or for that matter, keep me out of certain positions. I've long felt that this illusion of "value" and the cult-like atmosphere of some employers, is just a trick to fool employees into working more and making sacrifices, for no additional money. Motivational posters and the occasional "attaboy" aren't enough to have me work weekends with no direct "quid pro quo" benefit. I might volunteer to do it to grow my career possibilities, but that's for my own good, and at my own risk. CEOs and senior executives (including board members) often move between such companies all the time, some of them having never even worked in that industry before. If it's so important, why not ensure that the senior management is entirely home grown and fully assimilated?)
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  #29  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Errata View Post
I've never had a programming interview where I didn't have to at least write some complicated pseudocode on a white board.

At my current job, one stage of the final 3 day on-site interview process is to spend about 5 hours writing a program from scratch to solve a particular problem.

For our support positions, the programming test is far less rigorous. They will get a program that has already been written but has several bugs in it, some of them rather subtle, and they have to debug it.
But would you ask technical writers to do this, and would you do it before the final interview? At least one of my friends was asked this during the initial telephone interview.

Seaboe
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  #30  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
Some of these questions would make me walk out of the interview. I'm looking for a job - I'm not looking to join a cult. Maybe years of hard-boiled cynicism have made me lose my sense of whimsical humor, but I have no faith whatsoever in an employer - any employer - of any loyalty or appreciation beyond a paycheck, and nothing more.
I expect part of the goal of the exercise is to weed out people who aren't flexible and good-humored.
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  #31  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:27 PM
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It's hard to judge the questions without knowing in what job context they're being asked. Given the work I do and the nature of the jobs I apply for, asking me to describe how I would make a cheese sandwich might be a perfectly reasonable question: not because I would be expected to make a cheese sandwich at work, but becuase I would be expected to describe/document processes and perhaps train people on them, and to think in terms of process. So if I skipped steps, or mentioned them out of order, or described opening the fridge multiple times to get multiple items, that would be a bad sign.
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  #32  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
So while I understand the nature of some of these questions as "abstract", I don't believe in an employer having such a hold on a person that when they say "Jump!", the response should not even be "How high?", but that my feet should be in the air as soon as it's said. My response to such a command is "that's not my job".
Who's ordering you to "jump"? You're free to decline to answer any interview question you don't want to answer. And "that's not my job" isn't really an appropriate response, since you don't have the job at that point.
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  #33  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
But would you ask technical writers to do this, and would you do it before the final interview? At least one of my friends was asked this during the initial telephone interview.
I was responding only to Beachlife's response rather than what he was originally responding to. Our tech writers are not expected to be proficient at programming. Although I won't claim our company has mastered how to hire tech writers. We seem to have a lot of trouble finding good ones. The current one for our department turned out to be excellent and has grown beyond his role to making internal tools and designing interfaces for our products. But I think that was dumb luck more than a good hiring process.

Coding over the phone sounds very awkward, especially with inadequate instructions. What some companies will do is use a web service where someone can type in code to solve a specific programming problem remotely. That's much more reasonable than trying to convey all the information verbally. I've also seen timed multiple choice type screening tests administered over the web this way. In preliminary phone interviews, I've been asked higher level design questions, but not to actually code things.
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  #34  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:31 PM
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I've since come to wonder whether the answer to the coding over the phone question isn't "I don't have enough information to do this."

Seaboe
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  #35  
Old 16 January 2013, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
I've since come to wonder whether the answer to the coding over the phone question isn't "I don't have enough information to do this."
That could be. Their communication skills are definitely relevant. They'll be dealing with engineers who give them insufficient information and may not have good communication skills. They'll have to identify situations where they have enough information or where they'll need to tease out more.

Last edited by Errata; 16 January 2013 at 08:05 PM.
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  #36  
Old 16 January 2013, 08:33 PM
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At a company I worked for many many years ago, I was working in the head office when I came across the file on the job interview session I was hired under. I don't remember exactly what was written about each interviewee but I remember that each of us had been given a score - the name of a golf club. So each person was some number of iron or wood. I skimmed quickly through to find my own name but, not knowing anything about golf or this unusual scoring system, to this day I have no idea why I was a "Sand Wedge".
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  #37  
Old 16 January 2013, 08:41 PM
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Quote:
13. "How do you make a tuna sandwich?"
I'm a technical writer and was once a manager of tech writers. A written question like that is actually an effective way of measuring a candidate's technical writing skills. The results from a good tech writer will have all (or nearly all) the necessary steps and will be free (or nearly free) of grammatical errors. (You have to allow some leeway since the candidate may be nervous.) In fact, one manager told me that the deciding factor in hiring me was that I produced the best documentation for how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Brian
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  #38  
Old 16 January 2013, 08:47 PM
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Quote:
4. "A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?"
"Bonjour!"

He's the adopted son of the CEO (rescued from life as a tiny butler) and is working on a project comparing language/headwear expectations.
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  #39  
Old 16 January 2013, 08:55 PM
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I figured the penguin would ask if anyone had seen his Red Hat.
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  #40  
Old 16 January 2013, 09:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianB View Post
I'm a technical writer and was once a manager of tech writers. A written question like that is actually an effective way of measuring a candidate's technical writing skills. ... In fact, one manager told me that the deciding factor in hiring me was that I produced the best documentation for how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Indeed - as I said, I've been asked the cheese sandwich version and it was completely appropriate at the time. And they thought my cheese sandwich documentation was really good, too. I didn't get the job for other reasons, though.

I think I've had "how to make a cup of tea," too.
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