October 7, 2006

Best and Worst Technical Interview Questions

Recently, Esther Schindler visited SQAForums.com. She's writing an an article for DevSource.com, and as she occasionally does, came by to ask a question and gather ideas.

This time she asked us "What are the best and worst technical interview questions you have heard?" Here are my answers.

Worst Interview Question:
Any brain teasers.

This interviewing fad started a while ago, and got popularized by Microsoft, I believe. Now everyone thinks it's clever to ask "why are manhole covers round" or "how would you test this pencil" or other assorted puzzles.

I always do my best to answer truthfully and without sarcasm. And, while I may not always enjoy them, I'm reasonably good at brain teasers.

But, I usually follow up with a question of my own like "Have you found that people who are good at answering these brain teasers actually turn out to be better employees than those who aren't good at it?"

I have yet to find a potential employer who could honestly answer "Yes" to that question. Usually, they just mumble something about "we just wanted to get a sense of your thought process" and move on.

Sometimes I have to conclude that they just aren't very good at interviewing. I put that on the "potential problem" side of the mental checklist I always keep about prospective employers.

Best Interview Question:

"As a QA Manager - what keeps you awake at night?"

I found it to be a really good question, and led to some really deep discussion about what was important to this company.

I learned a lot about them, they learned a lot about me, we found out that we thought alike.

And yes, I did get hired.

And here's Esther's complete article:

(It was pretty good, but she consistently spelled "Massachusetts" incorrectly. Don't they have editors for that sort of thing?)