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Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Larry) | Reply
Don't you have the feeling that most people consider TopCoder problems to be aha! questions: you either saw it or not?
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by rgrig) | Reply
But with foundations. For example, familiarity will allow you to just say "ah, that's just a shortest graph problem" and code, while some people might take a little bit longer.

Of course, knowing the solution is only part of the problem.. you still have to implement it correctly..

And then there are the problems that mixes a few algorithms in different domains that makes it interesting..


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Larry) | Reply
Heh, any time I hear that now, I remember a conversation I had with NeverMore where he said his supervisor claimed that "uncommented code is indistinguishable from magic." Given the more common anecdote, it made me suspect that he doesn't comment his code :-)
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by rgrig) | Reply
What do you think about his opinion on aha! questions?


I disagree with him on the "aha! questions" section. He claims that people who are able to get it probably saw the brainteaser before. So...give them one you've made yourself. Also, to use Topcoder as an example, there are several "hard" problems in SRM's that are easy for people that have a good knowledge of their algorithmic toolbox. You'll often hear people call a problem "standard" for example -- they've maybe never heard that particular problem before, but it's a straightforward application of ideas from an undergrad algorithms course. I think a couple of those questions are a good idea. And afterward maybe toss in a problem that requires a bit more creativity. Of course, this depends on what you're hiring for -- maybe you're not looking for an algorithms person.

I think it's important, as he said, to ask people what kinds of projects they've done before, or what excites them. Not everyone who loves programming does algorithmic contests for fun. Some people are really into operating systems, or maybe compilers. Mind you I've never been an interviewer, but if I were I'd read resumes beforehand and make sure that the interviewer for the candidate shares a common with him/her. I wouldn't dare interview someone who writes their own compilers for fun. I'm not qualified to, because I'm not interested in compilers. No one is going to be able to spot an compilers enthusiast better than another compilers enthusiast.

“How many piano tuners are there in Seattle?” The candidate won’t know the answer, but smart candidates won’t give up and they’ll be happy to try and estimate a reasonable number for you.


I completely disagree here too. If I got a question like that during an interview, I'd be pissed. I'd probably answer to be polite, but if the interview didn't consist of other more solid questions then I'd refuse to work for them.
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Minilek) | Reply
I think the piano tuner problem isn't too bad a problem, since it allows the interviewer to see your thought process. As long as the interviewer knows that it's highly unlikely to get it close..

That said, of course, it seems to be very linear in how to approach it, so I don't like it too much..

I do like sanity checks though. In my freshman physics class, my physics teacher used to give partial credit most of the time, but if your answer doesn't even belong in the realm of possible answers (or at least note that it doesn't make sense), then you won't get too many points. For example, in a thermodynamics reaction, if you get a final temperature that's hotter than the center of the sun, it's _probably_ not right..
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Larry) | Reply
lol, do you really need to stress the word 'probably'? ;)
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Larry) | Reply
The physics sanity check reminds me of a time when we were dropping glass beads into graduated cylinders filled with water, and based on the experimental data we had to calculate the terminal velocity. No matter how many times I did it, I kept getting a result that was somewhere on the north side of c. I wasn't sure what the answer should've been, but I was confident that wasn't it.
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Kawigi) | Reply
That's why I added the "!" to indicate I wasn't particularly serious.

Then again if a particular skill is in particularly short supply I bet not eneryone that gets hired is a winner.
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Stroker_Ace) | Reply
You probably need something like "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcasm_mark".. =)
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Larry) | Reply
I'd expect most piano tuners have another job next to their piano tuning. At least any piaon tuner I've met didn't do it for a living. So they could be tuning any number from 1 to 30 (or more?) piano's a week. That would make it very hard to estimate the number of piano tuners.
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by dskloet) | Reply
Oh, definitely. What I meant to say (and probably not clearly enough) is something like:

It's a good question to ask if they don't really expect you to be right, but just wants to see what "corner cases" you can think of. It's not so bad, just very linear..
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by dskloet) | Reply
Speaking of which, if I were answering that question, I'd mention that if my dad came to Seattle on business or just to visit us, there'd be one more.
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Kawigi) | Reply
And is it his main occupation?
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by Krzysan) | Reply
Yes, the level of the C++ stuff seems to be quite low. Here's a sample:

[About copy constructor] constructor with only one parameter of its same type that assigns to every nonstatic class member variable of the object a copy of the passed object

Ridiculous! The type of the argument is not the same as that of the copy constructor, and in many practical cases the assignment it talks of would be illegal.

According to the site, area can be measured in both feet and square feet, and someone can earn "$ 650 rupees".
Re: Answers to Most Common Interview Questions (response to post by dskloet) | Reply
No, if he were in town for business, it wouldn't be for tuning pianos ;-) He works for a government technology contractor, and he does come to Seattle to visit Boeing.

The person he learned from might have been full-time, I don't know.
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