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How to Interview a Programmer

42 replies on 3 pages. Most recent reply: Oct 13, 2011 1:47 PM by Adam Parkin

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Nils Thorell

Posts: 1
Nickname: xtreme
Registered: Apr, 2004

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Apr 19, 2004 7:04 AM
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I think the biggest problem with interviews, is that the interviewer is often more stupid than the person who is being interviewed. The reason for this that good programmers don't do interviews. Bureaucrats do. And most managers only want to hire people who obey orders without thinking too much. Create people are doomed in this business. That might also be one of the reasons the jobs are moving to India. Software projects tend to be extremely expensive without talented people.

Mike Swaim

Posts: 13
Nickname: swami
Registered: Apr, 2004

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Apr 19, 2004 2:00 PM
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I have several sets of questions that I ask.
1) Stock technical questions. These make sure that the candidate understands the technologies that he says he does.
2) Stock nontechnical questions. These questions are more about how the candidate thinks and his experience. (What was the best project that you worked on? What was your worst disaster? Why are you leaving your current job? What's your favorite programming language? What would you change about it if you could?)
3) Questions off the resume. I ask about anything on the resume that looks interesting. Some people have done some really odd things, and it can be informative and fun. It's also a frighteningly easy way to trip people up.

Krishna Reddy

Posts: 1
Nickname: krishnausa
Registered: May, 2006

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: May 21, 2006 3:08 PM
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This is also my approach. Ver well said!

Bozo Clown

Posts: 1
Nickname: bozoclown
Registered: Jun, 2006

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Jun 16, 2006 12:17 AM
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> It's also a frighteningly easy way to trip people up.

It is staggering how many people just fill their resumes with buzzwords (yes, I know why; the automated resume mills have a lot to answer for).

I interviewed one guy and after glancing at the language skills he'd listed asked, "So, which do you prefer C++ or Java?" His response: "Um, I've never used Java". I didn't know what to say.

BZC

Joey Atlas

Posts: 1
Nickname: joeyatlas
Registered: Jul, 2007

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Jul 20, 2007 1:52 AM
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Hi

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Joey

Microsoft Interview

Posts: 2
Nickname: msintervie
Registered: Oct, 2007

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Oct 25, 2007 2:04 AM
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http://www.emicrosoftinterview.com/default.aspx is a good interview resource for Microsoft Interview Questions

Microsoft Interview

Posts: 2
Nickname: msintervie
Registered: Oct, 2007

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Oct 25, 2007 2:05 AM
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<a href=http://www.emicrosoftinterview.com>Microsoft Interview Questions</a> gives you good idea of how to interview Programmer

Peter Howard

Posts: 1
Nickname: petehoward
Registered: Aug, 2008

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Aug 1, 2008 6:51 PM
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May I contribute my own response to the question? - based on around 20 years experience in several different companies.

It's a standalone MS Word document - that surveys an approach and includes a checklist and screening test that my be of interest to others.

The page at which it is hosted is: http://peterhoward42.blogspot.com/2008/03/software-management_20.html

Or you may prefer the direct URL to the Word document:

http://www.peterhoward42.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/interview-swdevs.doc

Paul Moore

Posts: 1
Nickname: ppmoore
Registered: Oct, 2009

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Oct 23, 2009 4:32 AM
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Funnily enough (before finding this site), I was recently interviewed for a job here in Belgium, where I was asked the "power of 2" and "chicken class diagram" questions. The sad thing was that the interviewer was very introvert and made no effort to engage me as a person, or to ask me about my previous projects and the problems I had encountered or solved.

Because I felt I was being judged by these two silly "puzzle" type question, I lost interest in the job, and simply replied that the solution to every question can eb found on the Internet.

Polo

Tman Master

Posts: 1
Nickname: tmastermin
Registered: Dec, 2009

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Dec 1, 2009 5:08 AM
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You got a good point. Also, what I did for hiring them is their work attitude, experience as well as communication skills so that I will not have to worry on supervising them at most hours at all times. For an internet marketer like me, finding time training and supervising can be a lot time consuming so it really pays to hire those who can be deserving of the business. Although in the process, there will always be new learnings even though this person has had even more trainings than the others. I still consider those who are willing to learn and stressing with passion, that's the best ingredient for a person to gain his expertise.


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Orlin Todorov

Posts: 1
Nickname: orlink
Registered: Jan, 2010

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Jan 25, 2010 11:28 PM
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Amazingly, no one seems to have a sure method for evaluating software developers.
I also struggled with that for a couple of years before I struck on a solution.

A good software developer has a combination of strong multi-dimensional imagination, good mathematical thinking, good logical thinking, empathy and initiative.

It is relatively easy to test for logical thinking - most programming interview questions out there are geared towards that. It is also easy to evaluate whether the candidate has empathy.

It is trickier to to test for imagination and even trickier to do it efficiently and with few false positives and negatives. You need to do it efficiently because that is the rarest skill of all five and should be tested for first. I currently use a combination of a quick non-programming imagination pre-screening and an expanded programming test which contains imagination requiring algorithmic questions.
When in doubt, I would also advise to test also for recursive programming - perhaps the most fundamental programming skill.
I also like the suggestion of a previous poster to ask the candidate to refactor some code. A good developer writes small and streamlined code.

Bret Brown

Posts: 5
Nickname: bretwt91
Registered: Jun, 2011

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Jul 13, 2011 2:50 AM
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I had assumed for a long time that everyone billing themselves as a “programmer” had a certain baseline level of knowledge. I discovered that this was not the case at all! While not every developer has a degree in computer science, it should be expected that every developer understands certain fundamental ideas. While the ideas may not always come up in day-to-day programming, they are important for developers to understand. Some of these questions I like to ask are:

* Explain the difference between “equality” and “equivalence” (credits to TechRepublic member Tony Patton for this question).
* What is the difference between “pass by value” and “pass by reference”? How are these ideas different in object-oriented systems and procedural systems?
* Describe “polymorphism.”
* Compare and contrast “pessimistic locking” and “optimistic locking.”

Any candidate who cannot successfully answer the first two is “entry level” at best. The second two should be answerable for any “intermediate” developer.

Adam Parkin

Posts: 1
Nickname: pzelnip
Registered: Oct, 2011

Re: How to Interview a Programmer Posted: Oct 13, 2011 1:47 PM
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>> What is the difference between “pass by value” and “pass by reference”?
>> Any candidate who cannot successfully answer the first two is “entry level” at best.

So what if you're working in a language that only has pass by value or only has pass by reference?

Sweeping generalizations like "if they know XXX then they should be able to answer YYY" tend to be highly language or technology specific.

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