Ace the Programming Interview: 160 Questions and Answers for Success
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I found my fi rst proper computing job in the classified section of our local newspaper. At the time I was living with my mother in the small New Zealand town of Featherston, and the year was 1987. Just like many kids my age, I had been bitten by the computing bug and would have swept floors at night to work with—or even just to be near—computers.
At the interview, my great enthusiasm for computing was enough to impress Neville, the operations manager. My dream came true and soon I was working the evening shift, changing tapes, loading the printer, and yes, I swept the floor at night. Later I learned that, among other things, Neville had been impressed that I had turned up wearing a smart new jumper (sweater). How times have changed.
Interviewees today, even those with smart jumpers, might face a whole series of tough technical interviews spread over several days. They might be quizzed on their knowledge of language quirks. They could be asked to write a complete and syntactically correct implementation of a linked list while standing at a whiteboard. Their knowledge of mathematics might be probed. And then, after running this gauntlet, they might be rejected because one interviewer out of ten gave the thumbs down.
I have great sympathy for the programmer who is looking for work today. I also have a confession to make. For some years I was the stereotypical geek promoted to hiring manager; single-handedly dreaming up increasingly difficult hurdles for interviewees to jump over. I used a white board for interview exercises (though I didn’t quite go so far as to insist that hand-written code should be syntactically perfect) and I made lists of technical trivia questions. Although I was never seriously tempted to pose the brain teasers made notorious by Microsoft (such as how one might move Mt. Fuji), I’m sure that in the early days of being the interviewer, I was guilty of asking a few dubious questions of my own. It is said that we learn by making mistakes, and I’ve certainly learned a lot over the years.
With that confession out of the way—and the disclaimer that, to this day, I’m still learning new things—let’s move on to the much more positive subject of how you, the programmer preparing for an interview, can use the content of this book to ace those tough interviews.