Following this question, what is the worst interview answer you've gotten from an interviewee in a technical interview?

+11  A: 

"What's a variable?"

I saw a variable once...
Mitch Wheat
they keep changing!
They are so variable :)
I saw one too!!! And I don't lie... Please believe me... :(
Andrei Rinea
I thought I saw one once, but realized it was actually a constant since it never changed.
I couldn't tell what type it was. But I picked it up and saw it was an activeXY.
A classmate once asked me this very question 2 minutes before a Java programming exam... Only thing i could do was stare at him...
Jeroen Dierckx
+46  A: 

"I think that's a really dumb question - why would that matter?"

Yes, that's a real response.

Greg Hurlman
at this point I think everyone is curious: what was the answer?
Actually, I'm curious what the question was
I've been asked plenty of dumb questions in interviews. Usually when you're being interviewed by someone who asks seriously stupid questions, that's a bad sign about your prospective employer. Not that that's the case here...
Terry Donaghe
I don't think this as a bad interviewee answer. Depending on the question, this could have been a better answer than most.
Well, I could say that this could absolutely be a "correct" response, though in most interview situations it would not be a "good" response.
hm, i have been asked a really stupid question once: "how do you feel being one of the few women in software development?".....WTF? That is a really dumb question and why would that matter?
Greg, what was the question? :)
Regardless of the question, telling the interviewer he asked a dumb question is a bad idea.
Andy Lester
Saying its a dumb question is pretty bad. Saying its a dumb requirement might be insight of the highest order.
+45  A: 

My answer, for the record... The worst interviewee answer was from a CS major who had written pretty much every buzzword in Electrical Engineering on his resume. It turned out he didn't know what any of them meant. When I asked about his undergrad project (a SQL server) all he could tell me was, "you give it a query and it gives you a result. My partner did the internals"

Naturally, he didn't get the job...

Nathan Fellman
But you sent a headhunter out to find his partner!
Greg D
Why are we still hiring EE's for software development?
Anthony Mastrean
He was actually a CS graduate, though some programming jobs could usually use an EE
Nathan Fellman
Sounds like he'd be a great manager. He managed to graduate without doing any of the work!
I don't see how a SQL server is an EE buzzword unless you meant he built the cpu and motherboard etc.
The undergrad project was mentioned in the resume apart from the EE buzzwords. After all, he was a CS major, so he also had CS buzzwords.
Nathan Fellman
@Anthony, I'm an EE grad - in my experience we develop software at least as well as CS grads.
+189  A: 

"Will you write out a little function for me on the whiteboard here?"


I had a guy do this to me. The interview (scheduled for an hour) lasted about 3 minutes. The in-house recruiter knew to tell candidates we were a hardcore team and we did hardcore interviews. Code reading and writing required. Guess he thought we were kidding.
Mitch Haile
I have heard about some very good programmers that oppose writing code on the whiteboard but are willing to do it on a computer during the interview.
Sergio Acosta
Did it for an oral exam at high school! :D (here we have individual oral exams every semester in high school for each of the courses)
Davide Inglima
At least he's honest!
dr. evil
I had one of those. He said "I might not be able to do small things, but I can do large things."
I hate hardcore interviews (who doesn't) but I'd never say 'NO' to such a question, you might as well walk away
In all honesty, I make more syntax errors writing than I do when typing. Not sure why.
Jonathan Sampson
If you can't write some code in one of my interviews, I'll be walking you to the door. Feel uncomfortable in front of others? No thanks, I need people who are willing to communicate. Don't want to show off your coding skills? Then you've just confirmed that you're going in the circular file. :)
Robert P
I *love* hardcore interviews. I'd rather have questions that make me think than ones I can answer off the top of my head without thinking. I'm more likely to be employed in an environment I enjoy if it's stretching me than if I can code everything in my sleep. Besides, even if I don't get the job, I'll go away with a bunch of questions I can spend some time figuring out answers for.
I like him! He's a smart guy ;)
Martin K.
+15  A: 

The worst one I've had was when a candidate had WCF on his CV. I quizzed him about it and he said "Oh I haven't used it but someone at work recommended it and I might be getting to go on a course"!

Sadly, I don't get it. :(
+83  A: 

We asked people to rate themselves from 1-5 on certain topics with 5 being "Guru Level". A candidate rated himself a 5 on network programming. When asked what the difference between TCP and UDP was, he said "I dunno". We realized that anyone who rate himself/herself a 5 was an immediate rejection. They were most likely liars, unaware of their own limitations or were too good (i.e., expensive) for us.

Perhaps you should find out whether asking people to rate themselves in the first place is effective?
I think it can be effective. Self-rating and then testing weeds out a certain degree of dishonesty, IMO.
I do think it was effective. We just had to recalibrate how we looked at the answers. It was often a sign of the candidate's realistic sense of their skills.
Self-assessment, or more precisely, asking how they would expect their peers to evaluate them, can be very revealing. But you don't necessarily take their responses at face value.
The comment about "too good" /"too expensive" is telling. I don't mean to be offensive, but this mindset is horrific.
Tim -- it's not meant to be offensive. The reality is that by our definition of a "5" we could simply not afford the person. I WISH we could. Having great people is the best way to work. Hopefully you can get someone on the way up.
erickson -- re: face value: agreed. You need to figure out how closely they match their self-assessment. Being really off in one way or the other is a warning sign.
From this, I guess that self-rating followed by simple test to find out the interviewee's self-awareness/honesty is the way to go.
"B's hire C's." "How do you get more B's then?"
Windows programmer
@Windows Programmer: I look at it not that someone is a B or C etc. More that they have a number of skills that all vary. Maybe they're great at network programming but struggle with UI. The goal is to get someone with as many B's as possible esp. as it applies to their role.
Ego's and low self-esteem getting in the way of hiring. Typical. Unfortunately when you don't rate yourself highly enough you are passed over. 1 and 2 can shove off. 3 is 2-3 mo exp but lazy, 4 is 2-3 mo exp and not lazy, 5 = exp + smart person, but too bad we don't want to pay motivated people. lol
Robert Paulson
@Robert Paulson: Don't you have to take into account what you can afford? If we had Google money I'd hire all 5's. In fact, I'd make the case that the cost/benefit is well worth it. I would not, however, discount the 3/4 range of people -- many are smart, motivated and productive.
I like asking candidates to rank themselves 1-10 on a variety of different programming related topics mainly to help me target my questions to their fortes, and to see if they have curiosity on the broader spectrum. I use this more for interviewing students than for experienced developers.
The comment about "too good" /"too expensive" is telling. I don't mean to be offensive, but this mindset is horrific. -- Seconded.
Dmitri Nesteruk
How can you justify not to afford the top coders? I mean you get 10 times the productivity for 10% extra costs, there is just no way that that won't be a good investment.
John Nilsson
@John Nilsson: what if you can't afford it though? Not everyone's budget is so flexible (just the reality of it). Given unlimited budgets I'd rather hire the best of the best but in my opinion this is a select group (I consider real 5's a very small/elite group).
To be clear on this, I think 4's (in my scale) are very good developers. I think that some people have misinterpreted this answer to mean "don't hire good developers." On the contrary, I think getting the very good developers knowing that you can't compete for the 5's is a good strategy.
How do you know you can't afford them? Make them an offer that you CAN afford, and leave it to them to accept or reject the offer.
Adam Jaskiewicz
@Adam: good point. I've done it and to be honest the salary/package available was not accepted. In fact, in one case I think the candidate was really insulted.
"The comment about "too good" /"too expensive" is telling. I don't mean to be offensive, but this mindset is horrific. -- Seconded." C'mon. Lets say you're looking for a Python developer. The '5's are people like Guido van Rossum. Unless you're in google's league, it's not going to happen.
Robert P
What a load of tosh! There are only so many Guru's around. If you are paying £30k for a linux-oriented role, you ain't going to get Linus Torvalds applying. I bet all the negative comments are from 3's who rate themselves as 5's. Besides self-assessments are but one tool in the interviewer's bag.
It's not an IMMEDIATE rejection, if they say 5. If they say 5 but can't answer basic questions, then it's an IMMEDIATE rejection.
Matt Cruikshank
I don't think self rating gives meaningful results, one may have a wrong assessment of abilities. check the chart on page 4 of (got the link from great answer by @Peter to
Liran Orevi
It's interesting to see people's interpretation of the 1-5 scale. I don't think I'd ever be arrogant enough to consider myself a 5 at anything as there is always more to learn. But considering a 3 lazy is a little off. I'd like to think that 3 at something means I consider myself average, 4 puts me in the above-average-to-excellent range, but still aware there is more to learn. I'd say that for anyone that's interested in anything enough that they go out of their way to learn more about it would instantly make them a 4, but only once they knew it inside out would they be a 5.
Maybe he had the scale backward?
Wow, this sounds stupid. Now you have to hire two or three 4's instead of getting a 5 for just a little bit more. Buy quality, cry once.
How about skipping the self-rating and going straight to the testing?
@Kyralessa I agree that testing (i.e., watching someone code) is most important. Having them rate themselves and then compare there own self-assessment to what you observe is also very useful.
There should be a whole category for "shoot yourself in the foot" questions. That is, questions whose only purpose is to give the candidate a chance to shoot himself in the foot. The rating question is like that. If he says anything below about a 4, no hire. If he says 10, or probably even 9, no hire. The only purpose of the question is to give people a chance to say something stupid and not get hired.
And ultimately the candidate's answer to this question tells you nothing about his abilities. It only tells you whether he knows how to answer this question properly. If you ask for a scale of 1 to 10, he might be a great programmer, but rate himself anywhere from a 5 to a 10. By the standards of this question, both 5 and 10 would be inappropriate. But you won't know until you start probing his knowledge. So, skip the numerical rating and go straight to the knowledge. All this question tests is whether he knows the "appropriate" way to answer rating questions.
@Kyralessa In my opinion, the most important thing (by far) I look for in an interview is how they approach a coding problem in front of the computer. I think you and I both would agree on this.
dpp why getting people to rate them selves is a bad idea
@RueTheWhirled : I'd argue that the Kruger effect is a good reason to get people to rate themselves. I want to know if there is a disconnect between what a person thinks they know and what they do know. This is a huge red flag.
+131  A: 

Q: "Can you explain how AJAX works?"

A: "It's a new version of web pages that doesn't need HTML"

Oh my, I'd hire him just to entertain the rest of the staff.
@dreamlax. Nice retort.
Actually, you CAN get away with writing _very little_ HTML - just bring it asynchronously over the wire and jot it down with some JS-love (see e.g. GWT) :)
Henrik Paul
@Lomaxx .. you hired him !! No, I mean , come on!! Seriously??
There's some merit to that statement... but if that's his entire answer, it is, in fact, fail.
+47  A: 

From the .com heyday...

Q: What is ASP and why do you like it?

A: I like it because it's processed on the client side.

Needless to say, the interview ended there (and that was only the second or third question).

Scott Dorman
His/her thought: "Um... I like it because it's uh process on the ... " (oh damn is right client or server?) " uh... client side!!"
I read it as "server side" (completely automatically) and thought to myself - wtf, why he got kicked out, after all - that's completely subjective. Damn... did he really said CLIENT side? :?
Arnis L.
+147  A: 

My favorite was a candidate that told me object oriented programming was "Where you drag the components from the toolbox in Visual Studio onto the form"

I cut the interview pretty short after that and reviewed our pre-screening process.

I'm sad to say that this was the exact same way my 2nd semester college professor explained VB as well...
Wally Lawless
@Power-coder: What?! You mean to say this is _not_ actually what VB is? ;)
I used to believe OOP was exactly this. When I was about 15 :)
Dmitri Nesteruk
I nearly yelled at this because I read this: Where you drag the components from the toolbox in Visual Studio onto the form"I cut the interview pretty short after that and reviewed our pre-screening process.before I read the first bit: a candidate that told me object oriented programming
I am in disbelief. Yes, do review the pre-screening process
+63  A: 

Q: What is the extent of your experience in programming?

A: I know HTML and I'll learn the rest as I go along.

"... not here you won't"
No, I said programming.
Bill the Lizard
oh snap @ Bill the Lizard! I spent my first 3 months at my current job "Migrating and translating Web Pages" I didn't know too much html when I started, so when I finally learned more, my thought was "I thought I was hired as a programmer?"
I cringe every time I hear someone say that they're an "HTML programmer."
Haha. I also dabble in CSS 2.1 once in a while ;)
Dmitri Farkov
@Bill the Lizard: HAHAH - Snap!!!!!!!
+49  A: 

Q: What is a Linked List?

A: I don't really remember my data structures from college. Could you ask me something about the Java collection classes instead, as I know those really well?

(For the record, this was a fellow interviewing for a job at another company (leaving). He got the job there even after that answer, with a substantial raise. Yes, the Java collections classes contain a LinkedList implementation... sigh.)

In his defence. I've met a few programmers who've got 10+ years, but don't know about these. STL has vectors, MFC has CArray.. Python has no pointers (sort of).. If you're implementing a linked list id bet you're reinventing. If asked this question as a SR programmer, I'd be put off.
@baash05: I wouldn't expect a good programmer to want to implement a linked list. They should want to use the built in implementation in whatever framework they're in. But they should definitely know what it is and how they are implemented...otherwise they're not going to be making good decisions.
@Beska: Exactly... if someone calls themself an expert on Java collections classes, but they don't know about java.util.LinkedList, they've missed something very significant. :)
This may come as a surprise, but some people do programming that doesn't use frameworks. Yes, even in C or C++.
@baash05: anyone purporting to be an experienced developer acting "put off" by a question about data structures would be promptly shown the door. As Beska said - it's the under-the-hood understanding that's important, not a desire to reinvent the wheel. Plus - there are times when your preferred framework simply isn't an option. What happens to you as a C++ developer when your company forbids the use of open-source and won't shell out for Microsoft products? You write your own linked list....
Ben Collins
Knowing that more than much students don't know how to write a fizzbuzz, your question was way too hard ! -_-
Nicolas Dorier
@Slashene: This is recruitment. You will be paying the guy. The goal isn't to find if the interviewee is better than the average student, but if he is qualified to work in your shop.
+37  A: 

The worst ones aren't where they say anything in particular: they just don't want to answer. They'd rather give up on a question than explain what their thinking is or to ask for clarifications if they're not understanding. It's a total waste of everyone's time.

I agree with this wholeheartedly -- these are the worst. But it just doesn't make you LOL like some of the other answers here!
Chris Farmer
Modding down for reasons explained by Chris.
Modding up, since humor wasn't an element of the question.
Modding up for reasons explained by erickson.
Erik Forbes
Modding down because you didnt say anything particular and didnt answer the question ;)
Not modding. For no particular reason.
Modding sideways just to make the rest of you wonder how I did it.
Modding up since erickson did and I used to have one of his phones
Nodding at so much modding
Michael Stum
Modding up.... then down.... then all around for reasons explained by Fry... let the infinite recursion and thus stack overflow begin! Muah ha ha ha!!
+156  A: 

The setup: "I'm an expert web programmer, was a DBA for a few years, lots of background in security, yeah I know all about that"

The lowball: "Okay, so how would you go about preventing SQL Injection?"

The fumble: "Weeell, thats not really the type of thing I've ever dealt with... What is it exactly?"


For many people 'Security' = configuring user accounts and groups.
Sergio Acosta
Sergio makes a good point... for a DBA security is probably group/account related.
He DID say he was an expert web programmer...
If someone says something about security and web programming always my follow-up question is SQL injection prevention. Amazing how often that response is disappointing.
Maybe he's so good, never concatenate a single line of SQL Query in his life and he always uses parametrised queries. Geez guys you are being so harsh sometime :)
dr. evil
Slough, I DO hope youre being sarcastic - or maybe you just have been so lucky till now that I envy you your lack of experience ;-). On the other hand, he still should now about such a basic thing. Maybe he never even used databases? XML ROX! ;-)
@AviD: You mean flat XML files aren't just as good as a database? Man, I think I need to restructure my latest application...
rmz, I'm not sure youre joking (I've seen apps like that), so I would definitely +1 your comment, just as a sympathy vote ... ;-)
A better answer would have been: "We didn't have problems with SQL injection, our company had a strict anti-drug policy."
+153  A: 

Q: "What makes you like programming?"

A: "I don't"

Didn't see that one coming! The interview was for a senior developer position so a certain enthusiasm for the subject matter was more or less assumed.

Cho chikun ( as well as several other meteorically skilled Go title holders, all report in interviews to have stopped enjoying the game since being pro for so long.
I've always said that I'm a programmer because I hate computers...
Peter Stone
Those who do not enjoy the job have one less reason to want to improve...
Erik Forbes
Maybe rather the other way around? Those who do not enjoy programming (because they can't figure it out) are usually looking for ways to improve...? :)
An honest but stupid man
No, not necessarily. The fact that he doesn't like it, doesn't mean that he doesn't know how to do it. I don't like cooking coffee in the morning, but I do it still :) Pretty good actually (so I've been told).
Yeah, this one's kinda fuzzy. I've been told there are many great heart surgeons that are just sick and tired of working on hearts all the time. You can be very good at something and not really like it. production support.
Bernard Dy
I think making coffee is easier than programming and don't demand a learning motivation..
Marcio Aguiar
My response has occasionally been "I'm a lazy person - I want to make the computer do my work for me - that's why I program!"
Reminds me of the ending of "Quigly down under". After taking out all the bad guys, Quigly says, "I said I didn't like pistols, didn't say I didn't know how to use one."
@Idigas, but that doesn't mean you'll apply for a job as a barista?
@Marcio Aguiar - You'd think. Good coffee is hard to make. @peirix - What's a "barista" - my dictionary doesn't seem to have it.
@bernard Dy - Exactly.
@bernard Yes, but you should still know better than to say this in a job interview. If you really don't like programming and you don't want to lie, you could just answer a different question, like "Why did you start programming?" or "What are your favorite things about programming?"
I'm kind of sick of programming... but I haven't found anything else that is as easy to do.
Jeffrey Hines
Regardless of competence, I would not want a fellow like that on board if it can be avoided. One doesn't work alone and when one of the team hates his job, or at least, doesn't like it, it kind of pulls down every one else. Work should be fun and exciting and it's hard to remain excited in presence of a "who gives a ***" attitude.
I don't really like the question.
"What makes you like accounting?" "What makes you like flying airplanes?" "What makes you like restocking store shelves?" "What makes you like cooking cheeseburgers?" "What makes you like scrubbing toilets?"
+38  A: 

Q: "So, why do you want this job?"

A: "Well, I don't really have anything else to do."

At least he/she should get credit for being honest! :)
Anders Sandvig
Isn't that kind of a crappy question? Who is really going to answer "because I need the money"?
It's a difficult question to answer if you don't expect it
Garbage in, garbage out.
Practically every Company asks it though, "Why do you want to work here?", "What is it that drew you to this company?", etc. You never say "Because you offer a paycheck" but you almost always think it ;)
Answer: "If you have to ask *me*, maybe I shouldn't want to work here!"
I always answer because I need a job! Although also cos I like programming/.Net since I started programming (rather than some other student jobs)
+1 MadKeithV - This is a nonsense question, the answer is ALWAYS "Because you're hiring, and I need a job".
Wayne M
I actually turn this around, as in "Well, why don't you tell me why I should want to work here".
That's one of the most common idiotic questions they ask, and they ALWAYS do. Everyone knows people need a job for money. Why bother asking? It's to see how inventive a person is in faking a reply that has nothing to do with money.
"I like making money doing something I like"That's what I say :)
As if I love your company! Dude seriously can't you tell I sent my resume to 30+ other companies?
hasen j
+1 for honesty, but I don`t think people should answer that way even if it`s true
Not a crappy question. If you have done no research about the company and can't tell why this job would suit you as opposed to the others you may have applied to, I'll hire the next guy who does care. He's more likely to want to tstick around.
Sam Meldrum
If the candidate has any experience with interviews, they should know that this is a common question and have at least researched the company enough to list a few positives . . . it's a good test of how much they prepared for the interview, if nothing else.
Tim Goodman
+91  A: 

We were conducting interviews for a .NET web programmer as a team (just 3 of us) and one of our team members made the mistake of asking a personal question instead of sticking to the predetermined set.

Q: So, what do you like to do in your free time?

A: Well, I like praying... and I like chainsawing.

WTF?! This is why we stick to the standard set of questions!

Sounds like a "reverse interview" answer - waiting to see how you'd respond.
Mark Ransom
Isn't it of questionable legality to ask about personal hobbies during an interview?
Erik Forbes
Not at all. If the follow up question was "oh yeah, what religion?", then that's a problem. Asking about hobbies really gets people to open up and be more comfortable with the process.
Jon B
+1 hell of a combination...
Makes sense to me. If I did a lot of chainsawing, I'd be praying not to lose an arm.
Not even asking for the religion is illegal - in most parts of the world outside of the US. And it is great to have the possibility to ask such questions, the show a lot about a person.
Ralph Rickenbach
Prays for the souls of the damned while chainsawing them into little pieces?
Bill the Lizard
I could see asking what the developer likes to do in their free time as a good way to see how enthusiastic he/she is about development. If the person were to mention anything remotely technical (i.e. reading blogs) it shows their enthusiasm.
Dan Herbert
I gotta say that's a fantastic reason to keep branching away from the standard questions...
It's a legitimate sport...
This is funny because I know several people who could say the same thing. They donate firewood to single moms to heat their homes. :) But it is freakin' hilarious.
Lance Fisher
Damn, sounds like Phoebe's brother on Friends...
@annakata, pun intended?
DAMN you! I am in fits of laughter and I'm in the office for crying out loud!
Bernhard Hofmann
@Erik - (in US) it's not illegal, but it open the doors to potential problems. For example, if they say, oh I do work with (some legally protected class)-group. Then, if you don't hire you are open to claims that you didn't hire them because they are in (some legally protected class).
@JonB - Actually asking about hobbies makes me think: 'hmm, these people aren't good at respecting work/personal boundaries' In makes me distrustful of them, not comfortable.
What does he do first, I wonder...
@Erik (and other): as kenj0418 said: you can ask anything - nothing's illegal. It's just a matter of risk management in a litigious society.
Ben Collins
+128  A: 

In an interview not too long ago, I was starting off the discussion by giving my sixty second introduction to our group with a quick sketch of the major data flow components when the interviewee interrupted me with: "Too many words!"

I think I stared at him for a good thirty seconds before I was able to speak.

Bob Cross
Weird! +1 from me
Lol... wow. Where they a native english speaker?
Yes, he spoke English just fine. He literally wanted me to stop talking. It was the strangest interview that I've ever given.
Bob Cross
Maybe he was watching Dr. House a bit too often. :-P
+1. "Too many fun!"
Mitch Wheat
Ok this is so funny I laughed out loud the THIRD time I read it. WOW!!!
Dining Philanderer
LOL I'm laughing more today than when I discovered the "software jokes" thread... :)
Daniel Daranas
This is absolutely the best response ever.
Thanks - it struck me as pretty funny. Admittedly, that was about an hour later. At the time, my first thought was "Well, you just made my decision very easy. Thanks!"
Bob Cross
Wait, what? Too many words? A tl;dr in real life?!
Paul Nathan
I'll just have to comment and say that I actually laughed out loud as well. Not so much for the too many words but for your comment that you simply stared at him for 30 seconds. It just presents a great mental picture.
Well, perhaps this makes it even better: the people working around me have heard me give the quick intro spiel for interviews many times. Imagine what they were thinking when all of a sudden it just ... stopped... "Hm. I don't think that interview is going well...." ;-)
Bob Cross
tldl; Too long, didn't listen...
Adam Davis
If you want a real chuckle, try to imagine how our conversation went from there. I sat with this guy for another 20 minutes....
Bob Cross
This is just great!
You tell me too many words to know!
Brillant!! +1 ...Maybe he should consider marketing?? ;)
And, you're sure it wasn't a joke like from the movie Amadeus, "Too many notes."
"Lol... wow. Where they a native english speaker?" Are you?
@Nick, I can't actually ask things like "are you a native English speaker?" in an interview and I think it's illegal for me even to make a judgment (certainly in terms of hiring). Regardless, I am mono-lingual American English (aside from some French reading ability and Korean sentence fragments), have given quite a lot of interviews and have a pretty reasonable 60 second intro spiel (with pictures! ;-).
Bob Cross
@Bob, I was quoting ceretullis' comment from above, w(h)ere he made an ironic mistake.
@Nick, still, it's worth saying that language, dialect, vocabulary, etc., are all things that we all have to deal with (and really isn't crippling if people can get along). Out and out crazy is more of a problem....
Bob Cross
@Bob Cross...Too many comments!
@Stomp, I have to admit - a lot of the comments are funnier than my original answer. We still laugh about that day at work almost a year later.
Bob Cross
+15  A: 

My own answer.

I was interviewing for a position and after having gone through my five years of "professional" programming experience this is the transaction that occurred...

--(Paraphrased of course)

Interviewer: So what is it you would really like to be doing?

Me: Oddly enough... Art, 3d models and music creation.

Interviewer: You wont be able to do much of that here.

Me: Yeah. I know...


I still got the job as a Software Engineer, but I figure is was probably not a great answer.

Depends, I don't think it's that bad of a question and people should have interests out side of just their job. There is something to be said for "You don't live to work, you work to live."
For a programming position that was way a better answer than something like 'i want to end up as a manager getting paid for bossing people around'.
Sergio Acosta
Not a horrible answer in my book. Granted, it'd be great if all your developers live to code, but you can be a genius at it and still have other, stronger interests. Heck, you could easily care more than some of the other people we've been hearing about on this thread ;)
Well, there is the fact that it was, presumably, an *honest* answer. :)
Perfect answer! That would make them sure you are creative. Art=Creative, 3D modelling=Creative, music creation=Creative. Great interests for a programmer I think.
But the "Yeah. I know.." could have been more like "Yeah, but I think the programming I will do here are as much fun for me because its also about using my creativity and get challenges..."
You should be applying to work in the video game industry where these are actually useful skills in an engineer.
I did the same. Said that i want to study music. Actually, programming has quite a lot with arts.
Arnis L.
I've answered "Law School" to that question. Got the job.
Much better answer than the artificial, "my life dream is doing <description of job your interviewing for>"
Graphics Noob
+161  A: 

I can't tell you how often this happens in phone interviews:

Me: [asks interview question about a specific technology]

Them: [repeats question as I can hear them typing]

[short delay]

[I hear a "ding" from IE when Google gives them a list of pages, "click"]

Them: [reads from a web page]

Me: OK, well, thank you for your time. Don't call me, I'll call you.

Don't do phone interviews then?
Wouldn't you rather weed these people out over the phone?
I agree with you 100%: Never hire anyone who uses IE!
Never hire anyone who doesn't take care to turn off their speakers and use a quiet keyboard.
Rob Howard
@BoltBait: We've had interviews where that has happened. Never could hear typing, but still the very obvious delay + obvious reading of response.
Somehow I don't recall IE going "ding" when displaying a Google result page.
Tiberiu Ana
That was totally misunderstood! I was typing in remote commands to my microwave, it "ding"-ed when it was done, and the delay was me eating the hot waffle!
use video interview it's better, and don't hire someone who's not smart enough volume down it before the interview !
dr. evil
@ericson haha agreed
@MadKieth: so when you came back, did you shout "LEEEEROOOOOOOY"?
If the answer is correct why should you care? If a single query can answer your question then just ask a deeper question. Google is a valuable tool.
J.F. Sebastian
@Rob Howard: But what about us who like the old buckling-spring keyboards? :(
@Me: Er, grammar, you know. Pretend that I wrote that in a coherent manner.
I think I have to agree with J.F. Sebastian on this one. The interviewee clearly demonstrated they are capable of quickly finding answers to questions they may not immediately be familiar with.Now, if your question was "What is HTML?", then I'd agree...turn them away :)
Jonathan Sampson
I don't agree. If I would be interviewing someone I would like him to speak with me and not read me a website, I can do that myself and quicker. People should be honest in their interview, giving either what they know themselves as answer or "I would have to look that up, is it related to ...?"
@ypnos: If you can do it all yourself, then why are you hiring someone to being with? The point isn't "do you know something I don't know" but instead is "can you do the job I ask you to do?". Google-fu isn't something to be afraid of unless he was specifically told "off the top of your head".
Questions during phone interviews are designed to be as basic as possible. If you can't answer something like "what's the difference between a list and a map" without using Google, you're a bad hire.
Outlaw Programmer
Eh, part of being a good developer is using search engines effectively to quickly find what you want. This might not necessarily mean a bad candidate, I can't tell you how many times I've looked up something I've already learned in the past.
Mark Rogers
If you look closely at the CV's and weed out people who obviously can't write, or who list things like "Languages: C/C++, blah..." or "Languages: Visual Basic, Visual C++, ...", you end up interviewing candidates who aren't that bad, actually. Personally, I'd skip phone screens.
Daniel Daranas
@MadKeithV I wish I could upvote your comment :)
If it's a question that can be easily answered via Google, then Google's a perfectly good place for them to find the answer. It'll certainly be available to them on the job. Maybe you should ask them questions that can't be answered by a simple Google query.
@Daniel Daranas: I know this comment is way late, but I'm still curious... what's wrong with "Languages: C/C++, blah..." or "Languages: Visual Basic, Visual C++, ..." on a CV/resume? (unless, of course, the position is for work primarily in some other language that's not listed).
Michael Burr
@Michael: Yeah, this is later, but there is no language called C/C++. Anybody who thinks there is is ignorant of at least one of them, and is likely to do bad work in either. List "C" or "C++" or "C, C++" and you're potentially good at what you claim to be.
David Thornley
This exact same thing happened to me once when I was phone screening developers. I stopped and asked if they were looking up the answers, there was another pause, then they answered "yes". Maybe they had to look up that answer too. Seriously, phone screenings should be about getting to know their basic skill level of programming, not their googleing skills.
I think it is not harm for programmer job, in a short time they can find the answer of your question, even what tool they used , they are clever enough to be employed.
@David Thornley: Everyone who cannot parse / as a , needs his firmware updated.
Do you ever ask them about the Hollywood Principle?
At least they know how to use Google.
@EFraim: If a candidate lists "C/C++/Java", then I'd consider him or her. If a candidate lists "C/C++, Java", then that's one more resume you don't need to consider any further. Consider it a labor-saving device.
David Thornley
Roy: "Don't google the question Moss" (IT Crowd)
+19  A: 

Applicant for java ee programming job:

-What is JPA? AND What is HIBERNATE?

-It's in notebook, button to put it into sleep mode.

Hahah! I hope he was trying to be funny... I really do.
I also don't know JPI, JPA on the other hand i do know.
+205  A: 

I'll never forget it.

I said...

"So tell me a bit about yourself...

and he replied...

"I recently invented the div inside a span."

He had it listed on his resume too - just like that - invented it.

He and Gore should get together, they'll make BEEELIONS!
Erik Forbes
... wish I could give +1 for the comment. ;)
So, were you chaffed by the faux confidence or did the fact that he nested a block element inside of a inline element bug you?
He didn’t invent invalid markup – he just perfected it. ;-)
Konrad Rudolph
We need a name... :P
Call it the <dian></dian> tag.
I invented coffee
Martin Beckett
LOL - I'm going to put that on my resume now, just to see if it raises a laugh at my next interview, hehe. That's a classic talking point at the very least.
Soon, he'll try to patent it.
I prefer the partial div within the span personally: <span><div></span></div> - It's a semantic vin-diagram!
Jonathan Sampson
+74  A: 

Tell me what you know about Object Oriented Design and Development?

Yes I know all about that stuff. I studied that in my last year of college.

So tell me a little bit about what you learnt?

I learnt all that complicated stuff but it's far too complicated to go into right now.

Please go on.. Did he have a Coffee cup protruding out? Bald.. short.. glasses.. total slacker
To complete the story, he was one of four candidates interviewed for a C/C++ role. I said to my manager he was my last choice. My manager disagreed, saying he was well dressed, well spoken. She gave him the job. Four months later he was gone, having not produced a single line of code in that time.
That story make me big sad.
Was this written or verbal?
James McMahon
@jussij, well-dressed and well-spoken: he must have wooed her
Alex Baranosky
+23  A: 

Q: What is a virtual function?

A: You mean, like, virtual memory?

In all fairness, virtual function are not something you worry/think about in Java. So without knowing the context of the interview, I wouldn't know if this is a bad answer or not.
James McMahon
It was for a C++ programming job:)
+15  A: 

To someone who'd written SQL, Database, DBA and similar terms all over his CV:

"Could you write a SQL query that does <problem>?"

"Most of my query development has been in Access' drag-and-drop editor"

SQL is great for spotting lying weasels. I used to ask "How would you write a query to return all the orders where a customer name is 'Brian'" Nearly half of the people I asked started with "IF customer_name = 'Brian' THEN..."
Stephen Darlington
@StephenDarlington I often wonder if these people are liars or just horribly informed.
Maybe they are just confused about what SQL is, exactly. In any event, If HALF of your candidates made this mistake, you need a better screener.
+1  A: 

When interviewing people for a tech position (read "IT Position" - not for a developer position), I was going over the requirements with one guy. I told him that occasionally he might have to run some cable, to which his response was:

"Don't ask me to do that, cause I won't do it."

Jeff Schumacher
I don't think this is a bad answer, after all he was setting the expectations clear about what he was willing to do on the job.
Sergio Acosta
@Sergio - yeah, it's not such a bad answer, I just got a kick out of it. :) I'll give the guy this, he was honest.
Jeff Schumacher
That's a great answer. Either you can live with him not doing it, or you both know right away that the job's not for him. Would that everything was so easy. :)
Agreed, that's a great answer! I've had more than my fill of PHBs who think that all "computer stuff" is the same. I'm a programmer - if you need someone to run cable or type memos in Word, I'm not the guy.
Sherm Pendley
This is a good, honest, answer about the type of job he is interested in.
You want to pay me a software engineer's salary to be IT staff, fine.
+25  A: 

In the job description, I specified an understanding of GOF design pattern (not as a religious position, just to make sure that the applicant wasn't an indiscriminate hacker and had some concept of order and reuse)

When I asked if she knew about them, she actually answered

"Yes, I saw that on the description so I looked them up."

Me: "Oh, good, what can you tell me about them?"

Interviewee (looking proud): "I looked them up."

Me: "Anything else?"

Interviewee (still looking chuffed): "They are on the internet"

My boss insisted I hire her as she was cheap, she ended up costing the company heaps in lost time, huge bug fixes and 'mentoring' (for want of a much less positive word) time. Working with her was like pulling teeth.

sigh... I hope at least she was hot, wasn't she?
+28  A: 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I'll be retired by then...

(after negotiating on a quite large budget for personal training as well)

Really? That's great. Let me know where you end up working until then.
The important thing is at the other end of those elipses. How about "I'll be retired by then...because we are all going to make mega-bucks and move to Tahiti with the profits from all the great software I plan to create for you guys!"
Me in 5 years: In your company, where else?
Martin K.
John - I don't like the "make money then Tahiti"-kind of attitude. (But I know you're joking ;)
+6  A: 

Oh, this is a good one.

Recently I was interviewing people for a '.NET Architect' position. One of the candidates told me that he had worked briefly with VB.NET before 'specializing' in C#.

So I asked:

Can you name some C# feature that doesn't exist in VB.NET?

His answer:

.... uhmm, I really don't remember...

wait! yes I remember there was one....

but I think they fixed it already.

EDIT: Thanks everybody for the comments, but you are missing the point: the WTF is that the guy didn't even know what the meaning of 'feature' was. He thought I was asking about something that was wrong or missing in C#, like a bug or something. I would not think it is a bad answer if he had just said 'I don't know'.

Sergio Acosta
To be fair, I could not answer that question either. The other way round it's easy - XML Literals or Optional Parameters, but as someone who also only briefly worked in and specialized in C#, I would not know any "C#-exclusive" Function out of hand because I never felt the need to research.
Michael Stum
and he thought you meant bugs, which are really undocumented features....
I'm sure that an answer like "C# is more restrictive, so you can rather list features in VB that you cannot do in c#" is a good answer for this question. But I agree that it is easy to confuse ppl with this question.In VB.NET you can't initialize a variable in an expression, eg: Method(x = a + b).
Gaspar Nagy
I don't know the answer to this one...
The using () {} construct is still missing in VB9
Why it's the ; of course...
Using is there in VB .NET
The answer is: C# can get raw pointers and use them directly within an unsafe block.
I've got one. VB.NET doesn't support emoticons at the end of code blocks such as "winky" ;}
Sergio, I get the point.. but I'm answering the other commenters.. C# has iterators, while VB does not. @Joshua: VB can use pointers through the Imports System.Runtime.InteropServices namespace; @U62: VB9 has Using, it just doesnt follow the c# syntax.
The using(){} construct is present in C# only and not in VB...
+274  A: 

(From a very pleasant Nigerian national who came in for a technical interview)

"Would you like to hear about my implementation of a mass e-mailing program?"

I laughed.

I didn't get the funny right away. Good one!
So was he serious?
can't pick that up, explain a bit?
goodwill: Google for 419 scam or Nigerian scam
@maxam: yes, he was serious. We spent half an hour discussing it, how he might change it to improve throughput, how he might implement a priority system to allow more important mails to jump ahead of the general queue...
Freaking awesome!
Lol i've had nigerians try to scam me. +1
Tim Matthews
What a cliche. :)
Ray Booysen
Why didn't you say yes, then call the FBI?
Tim Tonnesen
I never had a Nigerian scam me face to face. Damn thats ballsy.
see my Nov 13 response - it spawned an interesting discussion on threading and priority queues...
Hahaha, that's awesome. Hire him, he'd be great for team morale if nothing else. That's some sense of humour.
How is this the worst answer? That is pretty funny!
Mike Daniels
If its his greatest accomplishment, I don't see the problem (ethics of scamming aside). I myself consider a mass mailing program I wrote for a large corporation to be one of my personal best accomplishments. I had to get around a multithreading bug in solaris DNS resolution by writing my own raw DNS libraries from scratch.
I am Nigerian and I do not think it is funny. It is spreading the false idea that all Nigerians are rogues- which is not true. Hey, I do not make fun of your culture and never will because I am better than that. I would appreciate similar courtesy.
Welcome to earth Phil; it is for the same reason that most Europeans think that all Americans are gun-toting oil-slurping uneducated war-mongering gluttonous materialistic morons.
So...did he get the job?
@snicker, arent we? Take it back before Ah pistolwhip yo' a** all duh way back to Sudi 'rabyuh! ;)
I'd upvote this but it's on 256 votes...
+116  A: 

I once asked a candidate "what do you consider to be your forte?". His reply: "I like variables".

What? Those things are sweet!
"I like those things that hold stuff and you can use them later in other things. Those are cool."
Come on that's funny. I mean really.. That would make me laugh.
lol it made me laugh
This is excellent. Don't leave your dev boards unattended :)
Dmitri Nesteruk
variables are my forte, strings, integers, you name it. :P
Come on! Variables are great! They hold values! You can put values in them! You can get values from them! What's not to like? Sheesh.
Obviously not a FP guru.
Q: "what do you consider to be your forte?" A: "Well, I like to keep it between my three-tay nine, and four-tay one"
Adam Davis
This is all I could think of... I'm laughing my ass off.
Stuart Branham
I'm still laughing at this - who was this guy? Can you send me his resume?
I don't think I can send his resume. :) But my wife (who is not technical) could even tell that this was a lame answer when I told her about it. She said "wow, that's like saying 'I really like the Enter key!'"
I love... lamp.
@Beska, that sounds just like pockets! And we ALL love pockets! can never have too many pockets, I always say...
@AviD: Excellent point. I agree. On my resume, from now on I'm going to put that I also have years of directly translatable experience in wearing capris.
... wait a minute--the "I like turtles" kid is old enough to apply for software engineering jobs? That video was only posted a few years ago!
+3  A: 

My own answer...

I was working for an outsourcing company (let's call it Helping Hands), and went to so many interviews I could do it in my sleep (by the way, great skill to have... when you're looking for a job, go to as many interviews as possible, even those you really aren't interested in). I wasn't looking to leave my job, but I needed to ace the interviews.

Many times the interviewer, unaware of the fact that I was interviewing for an outsourcing position, asked me:

"So why do you want to leave 'Helping Hands'?"

and I would retort with a smile:

"Who said anything about leaving them?"

At which point the interviewer would look at me all baffled for a minute, look through his/her papers and try to figure out what had just happened. All this time I would sit there smiling, which usually makes the interviewer even more nervous and confused. I knew that's a bad answer and a nasty thing to do to, but I couldn't help it...

Yuval =8-)

EDIT: Just to make things clearer, I wasn't going to these interviews for my health. Part of my job at the time was to go to interviews and be accepted to work on client projects, usually at the client's office. The process is similar to being accepted as a regular employee, and the interviewer wasn't always aware that I was interviewing for an outsourcing position. My answer above to the automatic question would shake them awake.

I have no idea what's going on in this question.
Bartek Tatkowski
(The next sentence is going to look weird, but using pronouns was confusing.) I think Yuval means that the interviewer is asking why Yuval wants to leave Yuval's company to take a job at the interviewer's company.
Lord Torgamus
@LordT Torgamus: that's absolutely correct. I edited the answer to make it a little clearer.
+4  A: 

Q: So, why are you motivated to work with us?

R: Because it is close to my home !

With gas at $3.99 per gallon, I think that's a pretty good answer. Give the person credit for being environmentally friendly, not wanting to drive much!
@Kyralessa> It was some years ago (2003 or 2004), when the gas was cheaper ;)@Ali> It is indeed a motivation, but he gives this answer as his first motivation...
If I was the interviewer, I'd follup up with asking why the candidate likes to live here. If I infer from the answer that he likes the area, then the job being close to home is a benefit for the company, as this candidate is less likely to hop to another job than somebody with a long commute.
Jan Goyvaerts
Good answer, Also means he theoretically will be more punctual and less stressed from a commute. Local employees are better than ones further out (at least on that score)
When company done nothing to promote itself within the industry as a great enviroment to work this question can be rather difficult to answer.
I think these sorts of questions are basically just "please lie to me" sort of deals. Many times people are interviewing with a company because they need a job to earn money. So this is more of a test of social skills with respect to polite, manipulate lying than anything else.
I can understand that someone wants to work close to home when he/she has children.
Good answer, from my view. I've always liked being close to home (you can bike to work).
@Bobby Shaftoe - right on!
what's wrong with this answer? i bet you wanted to hear "cause you are the bestest s/w shop in the whole world and i have been dreaming to work for you since I was 10".
I guess honesty isn't a trait you were looking for.
The problem was not that he wanted to work near his house. I can understand that ! The problem is that he was not able to give me any other answer!
romaintaz.. Did you give him any other reasons? Other than cash? What if he said cash? Perhpas like me he wants companyX to tell him why he should work with companyX.
I agree with baash05. To use the "Tell me what is so great about me?" question as a discriminator during hiring seems fairly egoistical.
The trouble is, being enthusiastic about working at a company doesn't necessarily get you a job. I could pick a company I'd love to work at, but that doesn't mean they'll be hiring when I'm looking. So a job search is always seeing what's out there *at that time*. And frankly, the stuff most companies do is pretty boring. We do it because it pays well, not because it fascinates us.
+9  A: 

Gave a candidate two lines of C and noting that he had put "wrote Pascal compiler" on his resume, I asked him if he could build a parse tree of the code.

"Um...not really."

+12  A: 

I interviewed a recent college graduate (her degree was in Computer Information Science) for a job developing VB applications back in the late 1990s. Here's how the exchange went.

Q. How do you get records out of a database?

A. You use the database thing, ADO.

Q. Ok, so using ADO, how would you just, you know, get some data?

A. Um, the Recordset object?

Q. Right, so you have a Recordset object, how do you get data out if it?

A. I think you can look inside it, you know, it has records in it.

Q. Yes, how do you do that? Would you use a loop?

A. I don't know what a loop is.

She still got the job, just with different expectations, and she grew into quite a good junior developer. But I'll certainly never forget that interview.

Robert S.
Looks > knowledge?
That thought also crossed my mind, Bill.
Um...that interview was going...not great, but not truly horribly either...until that last answer.
Except for that last question, this seems like a pretty natural response to a very vague question. I don't exactly see what that line of question was trying to elicit either.
I'll put your name under the "hire her for her looks" column.
Robert S.
+56  A: 

Q: What do you understand by the term "object oriented development"?

A: If you don't use object oriented development, you won't meet your objectives.

"Orientated"? Is that how they say it in England?
No, we use oriented but there seems to be a huge number of people that erroneously think it's pronounced orientated. I try to slap these people in the face when possible, most are suprised when I inform them orientated isn't a word.
Quibblesome like a word to me.
it actually is a word, just not one that I have ever seen used in that context by any programmer I have ever met
Not surprising that orientated is a word, considering that disorientated is definitely a word. I still think it sounds weird though, and disoriented/oriented are also words (that don't sound weird).
great answer!:)
+3  A: 
  1. Q: Are you familiar with design patterns?
    A: Yes, I am.
    Q: Tell me about some patterns that you know about.
    A: Singleton.
    Q: Anything else?
    A: Well, I didn't find myself in need of other patterns and forgot about them.

  2. Q: What's the difference between Session Bean and Entity Bean?
    A: Entity Bean stores its state in the DB while Session Bean stores its state in the web server's session.

Buu Nguyen
That is exactly how my response to the design pattern question would have been. I've never seen a need to know a list of named design patterns, because if you understand OO, it's not difficult to figure out what "pattern" you need without a cookbook.
...and the design patterns are exactly against these ad-hoc solutions. Especially if you have to discuss the solutions with others. When I say "visitor" or "template method" or "factory" everyone (whom we hire) knows what I'm talking about. I like to invent, not re-invent.
Gaspar Nagy
Oh, but he _did_ need singleton? :)
Daniel Daranas
I'm w/ recursive (and your interviewee). Singletons are damn useful as a somewhat better alternative to global variables. The rest is at best just a crutch and at worst an encouragement to solve problems with one-size-fits-all tools that really don't quite fit.
...that being said, if you work somewhere that "patterns" are the religon, it is perfectly reasonable to refuse to hire apostates.
"template method" is pretty much a non-pattern to me. It's just what you do with polymorphism.
+62  A: 

OK, this isn’t worth reading, but I was stunned by this guy, so here goes.

About 10 years ago I was doing all the tech interviews for a company hiring C++ developers. We were heavy server side lifters and were writing lots of abstract mathematical calcs for Actuaries, and we had some fairly obscure abstraction going on. I had a standard question on the lines of “You’ve an RDBMS storing a representation of road maps for Great Britain, each record has data for length of road, and its end points. Each end point is a name, latitude and longitude, so you can tell if the road goes North south / East west” (basically a simplified sat nav db, but something everyone can get their heads around).

The question I ask is “Design a proof of concept prototype, including what objects you’d need and the relationships they’d have, to calculate routes for from and to 5 different points”.

Basically I was looking for three things 1) problem solving ability and 2) basic OO knowledge 3) design patterns.

Now, I want to stress, I’d be stunned if in 15 minutes in an interview someone whipped out a full and concise design for this, but you can learn a lot from watching people flounder.

I had one guy, 5 years of c++, and he rated his knowledge as excellent. I had explained that we were mostly server side, pose him the problem. And he goes “Huh?, what do you mean?” I say something on the lines of “If you had to write this from scratch, what objects would you use, what kind of methods”.

Him : “Well, will the UI maintain the records”

Me : “There is no UI, you’ve to use the data to calculate the routes, and display the results to the console”.

Him : “Console?”

Me : “Yeah, in a command prompt”

Him: “Okayyyyyyyy . . .”

Me (being kind) : “OK, what objects would you need?”

Him: Well, what objects do you have to start with?

Me (pretending this is a normal question) : You don’t have any objects, you’re designing this from scratch

The guy then smiles knowingly and says “This is a trick question right? You have to have a class to inherit from, you can’t just, like, magically create a new class”, and sits back, all smug with himself.

I’m stunned, 5 years of C++ and he’s pleased with this answer. I’m still interested to see if there’s more than one developer in the room (his CV read really well) so I say “OK, lets pretend you can, how would you do it”. To which re responds “Look, this is purely theoretical and fairly nonsensical, and I don’t see the point persuing it. Can you give me something more real that I can do something with?”. I wasn’t sure I could, so terminated the interview there.

I found it hard to believe how he could be so dumb and arrogant at the same time.

MFC, the ruination of many a C++ developer

EDIT: Replies

Boofus: I'm not sure what you're saying dude, are you being sarcastic, ironic or straight up. Assuming straight up.

You can learn a lot about people by giving them an impossible task. We hired people that didn't "do well" with that question. Watching them work at it can tell you how they approach problem solving, do they think in terms of code, data or design. Do they freeze when under pressure, do they become aggressive or defensive, or - like the feckwit above, do they crash and burn spectacularly :)

The most interesting interviewers I've had have thrown curve balls, and these often lead to more challenging and interesting work.

Binary Worrier
You're killing us here -- you can't pose a programming problem (even a simple one) where there's no opportunity for programmers to solve it.
Boofus McGoofus
Yeah I'd be stumped too if someone gave me a db that contains 'latatitude' s ;)
@Roel: It's like attitude but with leeway, doesn't everying know that? (forgive a geek a typo will ya!)
Binary Worrier
I meant it along the lines of what happened here: where a programming problems was mentioned and EVERYONE felt a need to provide solutions instead of discussion.
Boofus McGoofus
@Boofus: Think I gotcha: We're hammers and all problems are nails?
Binary Worrier
@Binary Worrier: best reply ever, haha
Not sure how MFC ties into the ruin of us all. It's just another library. class Road{ CPoint start; CPoint end; CString name; bla bla bla..} MFC isn't the prob.. it's just this guy is a dumb @$$ :)
baash05: It's a tounge-in-cheek reference to the fact that to do almost everything in MFC you've to inherit from a base class. consider it a "joke" :)
Binary Worrier
I am curious how this candidate explains where the "class to inherit from" comes from. Maybe he thinks it's turtles all the way down...
That, or he thinks there's a Microsoft Tutrle(TM) waaaaaaaaaaaay down at the bottom, who knows? All I know is I didn't hang around to find out :)
Binary Worrier
This reminds me of The Printer Problem, a question we'd ask interviewees for the helpdesk where I worked at the time. It was a hypothetical, with the interviewer playing the part of the customer and starting with "I can't print." No matter what the interviewee suggested, we said it didn't fix the problem, usually throwing in new (and sometimes contradictory) symptoms. The purpose was to (a) see how much they knew — by the different things they tried — (b) see how they handled failure, and (c) to check their "bedside manner". Setting someone up for failure can teach you a *lot* about them.
Ben Blank
"You can learn a lot about people by giving them an impossible task." The Kobayashi Maru, eh?
dirtside: You know, I didn't think of that! Nice one pal :)
Binary Worrier
Mike Powell
I thought the story was going to end this way: The guy then smiles knowingly and says “This is a trick question right? You have to have a class to inherit from, you can’t just, like, magically create a new class”, and sits back, all smug with himself.He then went forth and created MFC.
Ben Collins
I about died when I read Mike Powell's comment.
@Mike Powell: the correct phrase is "tldr".
Xiong Chiamiov
I'd say even if he was a genius programmer, it was better off for him to not work at a company where this is your introduction to life at the company.. He dodged a bullet!
@Zak: Actually, I see it as the other way around, these questions help me dodge bullets :)
Binary Worrier
@xiong actually its tl;dr
@Will: Only if you're not as lazy as I am. Hey, saving a character's important!
Xiong Chiamiov
+29  A: 

Me: Are you familiar with any content management systems?

Candidate: (Pause...) Ruby on Rails? Is that one?

And I once fell for:

Interviewer: (Asks quickly, offtopic) What's half of 99?

Me: (Panics) 44 and a 1/2!

John McCollum
I had to read it twice to realise that it is not 44,5 :-) I would say the same in the situation.
heh.... fell for it too.............
me too. You are not alone.
took me a couple times too and then i started assuring myself that it was actually 45.5. hah
9. Nine is half of 99
@TrickyNixon: Right on!!
Software Monkey
I end up seeing if people can tell me what 2*99 is. It doesn't go well.
Matt Cruikshank
Actually it would be 49.5.
Josh G
lol tried to answer fast the half of 99 and i got it 44,5 as well :D
@Josh: really? no way
If its integer type its 49 :P
@Tnay really... try it yourself
It's always nice to throw back a question to them while you think. Which half of 99 do you want- the top or the bottom?
9 if 99 is a string, 50 if 99 is int, 49.5 if 99 is float, true if 99 is bool ^^But when I first looked at answer given I have to think a while what is wrong :P
@Thinker: wrong - it is 49 if 99 is int.
@MattMcKnight -- You're right! The top half is OO, and the bottom half is UU.
Chip Uni
... NULL if 99 is in a database...
Robert Fraser
+16  A: 

I was asked to join in for a panel interview with about 10 minutes notice so I scratched a couple of questions on the back of an envelope and waited for my turn. After the software architect, let's call him Bob, had finished with questions about OOP (what is is-a, has-a etc) and the candidate had done fairly well, I tried "Can you tell me what know about big-O notation?"

I say tried because Bob, the software architect at a startup building a database engine to handle terabytes, interrupted and said "well, I don't understand that stuff myself".

I left soon after.

Thank god you didn't get to NP-Complete, his head might of exploded!
Well crap, I have programmed computers for some 30 years, am considered *highly* skilled by my peers, but I still don't really know much about Big-O notation - and what I do know I learned sometime last year.
Software Monkey
There's a lot of awkward here.
Paul Nathan
Understanding is different to knowing about. I know about and of big-O, but I probably wouldn't claim to understand it until I did a CS degree.
The most important thing about big-O to understand is that "compare every item with every other" (`n²`) turns *really* bad when `n` goes up while things like "make a tree traversal with the first n bits" (`log n`) stay ok much much longer.
David Schmitt
+1  A: 

I often ask interviewees to be introspective. I ask them a question like, "If you had your last project to do over again, what would you do differently?"

What I usually expect from this question is for the person to identify some risk item that bit them severely. Sometimes when added to their other answers, you can establish a better idea of their team dynamic (do they admit mistakes, deflect blame, notice their surroundings, pay any attention at all to the project, etc)

About the third time I used this question in an interview, the candidate intimated to me that he would do nothing differently. He wasn't a candidate for much longer after that.

I guess I must have been more polite in my younger days. I'm pretty sure today I would have stared slack-jawed or laughed. Instead I asked a couple of perfunctory additional questions and thanked him for coming in.

Mmmm. Had you asked "Is there something you would have done differently in a past project, and why?" I would agree with you. However it could be the case that his previous project exceeded all expectations and performed fine.
If you had to do that interview over again, what would you do differently?
No follow up question? If someone was on a project that went smoothly and according to plan there might not be anything they can think of off the top of their head that they would change. Sadly enough though, very rarely do things going according to plan.
+1 just because I use almost the same question myself. Making people reflect on their past situations is surprisingly difficult for many!
I have to side with BlueNovember on this; this isn't a good question. Or at least your expectation for what the "right" answer to this question is--namely that good candidates will *always* want to do things over again--presumes a lot.
The problem here is that the interviewer is biased in the belief that something should have been done differently, and that the person being asked had the authority to do something differently if they wanted to. Neither is necessarily true and shows does nothing more than the interviewer pushing their opinion that there is alwasy something should have been done differently. This may often be true but is not a rule or necessarily within someones control to change.
I agree with Robin and BlueNovember -- it's entirely possible that the candidate's previous project was a simple, problem-free success, in which case, your loss!
A smart interviewee would think of some other mistake on a previous project if the last project was a total success. Seriously though, when was the last time you had a project go off without a hitch?
Ken Liu
+7  A: 

From an interview I was in as one of the interviewers:

Interviewee: "Is this job for such-and-such" (Note - this was an MS product)

Us: "Yes, this is a new version of that product"

Interviewee: "Ah, well in that case I'm not interested in working here then."

Us (confused): "Why?"

Interviewee: "I don't want to work on MS products. I don't want to be associated with MS."

Us: "Actually, it's being published by some-other-publisher."

Interviewee: "Oh, that's OK then."

Needless to say, the type of job he was after would require him to use Windows, Dev Studio, VSS (but I guess it's OK to hate that) and so on.


It's really ok to have VSS
Ravi Wallau
@Ravi I think you mean it's ok to hate VSS.
+26  A: 

I was invited for the interview to ask technical questions for a general web development post in a non-IT company.

q: "Have you done much development?"

a: "Yes. I studied computer science at X university"

q: "Great, how about web development?"

a: "Yes, I studied that too."

q: "What is your favourite web server?"


a: "Um.."

q: "Ok tell me about a web server you have used"

a: "Um.."

q: "Can you name me any web servers?"

a: "Um.."

q: "Ok have you heard of Apache?"

a: "Um.."

q: "Ok let's move on to databases.."

20 GOTO 10

boss: "Ok enough of this technical crap, your salary will be Y and you will start on Z..."

Ali A
Great, I like the surprising end.
What end? I'm still looping through...
Ólafur Waage
Why say databases then move back to servers. I think you need a variable here ;) nice post
"I'm still looping through" I think the boss runs in kernel mode and it interrupted the interview process.
When I read that, I thought the answer to his question was "10"
Chad Okere
@lagerdalek: I say "databases", you say "servers". "Databases!" "Servers!" "Databases!" "Servers!" "Woooo"... is about how I read your comment first.
Halting Oracle: This program does not halt.
+100  A: 

In interviewing for a entry level tech position, I was asking a candidate to point out various components in an open PC. When I tested him to see if he was guessing and asked him to show me the "flux capacitor", I was amazed he immediately found one! Sadly, it turned out to be a video card.

How many "jigawatts" could it handle?
@Beska: One point twenty-one jigawatts. Standard for any flux capacitor.
Bill the Lizard
When I worked in tech support, I used to tell clueless users that they had problems with their flux capacitors. I kept hoping someone would catch on, but no one ever did.
Jeremy DeGroot
I'd have responded, "Show me the DeLorean..."
Adam Davis
That's not cool, I didn't know that a flux capacitator was some meme-thing from a movie.
August Lilleaas
@august: you **really** need to see *Back To The Future* .
That's flippin hilarious. And Back to the Future is an awesome movie.
Alex Baranosky
I haven't heard of that meme and I guess I would've searched for a normal capacitor (--||--) on the board.
Maybe there was a capacitor on the graphics card
+36  A: 

Q: What is encapsulation?
A: I'm not sure. You start answering the question and I'll follow up.

Q: You haven't a clue.
A: No.

Nikola Stjelja
Is that what you swallow when you get sick? ;)
Q: What is encapsulation? A: I could tell you, but then I'd be letting you see my internals.
Matt Cruikshank
Q: What is encapsulation? A: Now, that's private!
Ive been programming for a while too and im not sure what encapsulation is off hand!
+170  A: 

Q: So write a method to convert a string to uppercase


double string;
int main{
         cout >> "Please Enter an uppercase string >>;
         cin << string;

....sadly I am not kidding and this is exact.

Really a crappy attempt. Although on another note, having specific memory of the ascii codes is really not something that is all too important...
Haha! Cheeky, but I would have given points for outside the box thinking
Solving a problem by not letting it occur in the first place. What a genius.
TM, I realize it is not important to have the ascii codes memorized, It is a softball opening question to allow the interviewee time to get comfortable. In fact if he had gotten to that point he would have been allowed to assume whatever ascii values he wanted.
And really.. you don't need to know ascii's magic numbers. if(buffer[x] >='a'
The stream operators are the wrong way around, and what's so hard about toupper?
If the guy *immediately* foloow up with "but seriously... toUpperCase()" I'd hire him on the spot
I would never hire someone because they know of an API call name. Any idiot can google up the right function name. More important is that they recognize the problem to solve and do the right research to find the right function for the task.
Richard Riley
You are writing toupper, not using toupper.
Among the zillion wtfs in the code, the string type is double!! That is awesome! I nominate this for interview column.
Jim Buck
@Jim, yes he actually stated that he chose double in case it was a really big string
Hey, now, in some places of the world it's cheaper to hire a data entry person to do the conversion than it is to rent the CPU time from EC2 to run it.
Adam Davis
Nor do you need a method (C):#define BETWEEN( a, min, max ) ( ( (a) >= (min) ) str[wtf]!='\0'; wtf++ ) { str[wtf] += ( BETWEEN( str[wtf], 'a', 'z' ) ) ? ( 'A' - 'a' ) : 0; } )
Wow, that code gets worse each time I look at it.
while (newstring1 ne newstring2){ newstring1 = AmazonMechanicalTurk.ToUpperCase(string, amazon token); newstring2 = AmazonMechanicalTurk.ToUpperCase(string, amazon token) } return(newstring1);
That is fantastically funny! Seriously, if the user is too lazy to input correctly why should I make any effort?
+17  A: 

Q: So what editor did you use for the PHP forum that's on your CV?

A: mmm ... I don't really remember the name

Q: Was it notepad?

A: (laughing) No it was definitely not notepad

Q: So what was it? Were you writing straight into the web server?

A: I am sorry - I really don't remember the name

Interview ended there.

This was a few years ago and sadly I was the one being interviewed, and the correct answer was Dreamweaver (my fellows from college I did the PHP forum with reminded me when I got back form the interview).

Oh well, keep your chin up!
Ali A
how annoying... you can forget things. I would have moved on to another question.
John Nolan
:| Why would they care about the editor?
I guess they were trying to understand if I was bluffing. I was not but if you don't remember the editor you used you're gonna be poorly convincing to say the least
Must be a pretty darn good editor if it haven't annoyed you enough to remember its name...
John Nilsson
MAKE SOMETHING UP!! Well, I hope I would have :P
I was trying to be honest - but anyway a PHP editor isn't the easiest thing to make up!
That's a weird question to fail an interview on. I'd ask about various features to see if they're just blowing smoke, or are really just forgetting the name.
They did not - anyway it was a long time ago and that was probably my worst interview ever. The company is now on the edge of bankruptcy, though, which makes me smile.
+1 for accepting it on a public forum!!
Shivasubramanian A
"The editor? That I used? I use a few different editors, and I don't know which one I used for software I wrote a year ago - it might have been several different editors. For PHP right now I generally use XYZ editor, sometimes I hack it with, yes, pico or nano over ssh. Does this company care?"
Adam Davis
This, like a lot of posts on this thread, is really an example of a bad interviewer as much as a bad answer. The interviewer could have easily followed with "well, what editors do you know that you might have used on this project." In my experience, it's not uncommon for good programmers to have panic issues in interviews when they search for the "perfect" answer, rather than a good one.
I had something similar. My CV said I had done performance analysis. They asked what tool did you use, and my mind went completely blank on the name (not something I used every day). I couldn't make something up either as there's not that many of those tools around. Made me feel really stupid...
+4  A: 

When asked what his goals were he said:

"I'm just looking for a paycheck."

When asked if he was willing to work extra hours sometimes if there was an upcoming deadline:

"I worked 50 hours in a week once and got really stressed out."

But then the kicker (not really a question but still), when I described a co-worker as "hacking" something. He proceeded to tell me I shouldn't use the term "hack" because I did not know what it meant and it had "negative connotations. When I tried to explain the difference in definitions he flat out told me I was wrong. I guess he didn't want the job.

First answer was dead honest. Second answer was I suspect honest too. If the upcomming deadline requires extra hours then you need to plan better. Not over work your coders. Sorry some of us can work 60 but adding more hours does not always add more. I am shit useless after about 8pm.
I hate it when I'm asked if I'm prepared to do overtime work. The problem is I get the feeling that it's common practice in this company rather than an exception and if it is, there can't be too many reasons why, and all of them are bad.
+1  A: 

Have you ever heard the Jerky Boys, the one were he's interviewing for a mechanics job?

I had a candidate show up for the interview start to drill me (the interviewer) about what he wasn't qualified for. "He clearly met all the requirements listed in the job description" (in his mind). He was very confident in himself and assertive, but...

All I could hear in the back of my mind was the Jerky Boys' "..I'll be here tomorrow with my tools, I'll work circles around you, cupcake!..."

Never heard of them, have you got a link?
Jerky Boys? Classic prank phone calls from the late 80's/early 90's. As always, wikipedia knows all:
Mark Renouf
+22  A: 

Interviewing an experienced programmer and one of the questions was "How would a typical day go at your previous job?" Answer: "Got coffee in the morning as I'm not much of a morning we would mainly just talk about the project or whatever. I'm not much good at night either as I get tired. I'm really good only between 11 and 3. Plus I like to golf so I would want some afternoons off."

Darian Miller
Good for government job in India
Manoj Doubts
Damn, you just described me on most days. Trick is not stating this in an interview as if you expect these terms officially. Start your job, produce great work, and the work schedule will be looked at less critically.
Mark Renouf
+2  A: 

I interviewed a guy to fill out the position of Django developer once online over IM. The interview was general in nature, and at one point not too late in the interview, the following happened:

Me: "Have you ever toyed with ModelForm in Django?"

Him: "brb"

... and that's it! I guess I was asking for it.

I really don't think you can interview someone over IM. I think that is contrary to the meaning and spirit of "interview."
+10  A: 

I asked an interviewee to declare a data structure that he would use as a phone book. He first writes the usual C++ class PhoneBookItem with a couple of members, and then:

PhoneBookItem phonebook[100];

Me: Um, ok, but what if I wanted to have two hundred contacts in my phone book?

Him: That's really easy, you just change this number here, and put 200 instead of 100!

Well, that's true, isn't it?
Indeed. Surely in some circles (embedded, for example) it is desirable to allocate all the memory when the program starts. But when I asked if other possibilities exist, he simply didn't have a clue.
If you "wanted 200", then the response would have been true :) But that's your problem for wrongly wanting 200 ;) Hehe.
Jonathan Sampson
"Dude, I know you don't have that many friends. I was actually being nice when I put down 100, but if it makes you feel better let's put down 1,000, ok?" ;-D
Adam Davis
lol @ Adam, hilarious - that'll be saved up for an interview response at some point :P
No one likes dynamic arrays - face it! xD
Arnis L.
Ah. Finally someone who understands YAGNI.
Stephan Eggermont
+90  A: 

We once had a student here who had about 5 different programming languages on her CV. I started asking design questions, but she knew nothing. So I asked simpler and simpler questions, until I finally asked "Why do you have Java and C# on your CV when you cannot write a single line of code?" She stared at me and finally said "I did not write that I have experience!" So all her knowledge about programming was that there exist 5 programming languages that she could name.

Ah that is superb! I'm going to put Russian, Swahili and Japanese on my CV!
Alas. I have had managers encourage us to do just that: "Oh yeah, you kinda worked with that technology a little bit, absolutely put it on your resume!"
+2  A: 

I think the worst interview answers I've had have been non-answers.

I've asked candidates tough questions, not with the intent that they get the answer right, but that they talk through it, and apply their knowledge, making progress towards understanding the problem and getting closer to an answer.

But in several cases, the interviewee just locked up, stammering, "ummm.... wait.... umm.... I think..." and never saying anything more.

Really, if you're being interviewed, and can't give the answer, start saying SOMETHING. Basic statements of fact, simple observations of the problem, statements of what won't work, are all better than saying nothing at all.

Well it's obvious. Most programmers aren't exactly the most socially skilled people in the world. Add that to the fact that they are in a situation where anything they say can, and will, be used against them. Being nervous and trying not to say anything stupid is not the easiest thing.
John Nilsson
I agree, I think some of this sort of thing is very biased against personality types that are fairly common among brilliant programmers.
Add to comments by putting the money that's going to feed thier kids and you've got a programmer in fear. Put a gun to your head and see how you feel answering questions that can't be answered.
"Add that to the fact that they are in a situation where anything they say can, and will, be used against them."Yeah-- like right here in this thread!
+5  A: 

After going through all of the .NET technologies we were using heavily (threading, remoting, reflection, etc) and the guy didn't answer a single one correctly it was painfully obvious to both of us that there was no way he was going to get the job. So .... he started talking about how he didn't really know anything about what we were doing, but don't let that make me think he wouldn't be good for the position, and he's a really hard worker, and a really fast learner, and if you just give me a chance I can prove that I'm really a good fit, and ......... AHHHHHH! STOP TALKING! (or as another said before "Too many words!").

I wanted to say "Dude, you're NOT a good fit. Get over it."

Well. Here I can say you might have missed the boat. I'm a c++ coder who was once asked to write a prototype for a blackberry. It had to thread with sockets. But all in Java. Three weeks later I had my first java app in my hands (threads and sockets) Not knowing is part of being a coder. HUNT_ON!
Did the guy claim to be experienced? This sounds like the kind of answer I would've given early in my development career, when all I had done was VBA. * eager puppy dog look * "I'm a fast learner!"
+10  A: 

After asking a question I happen to really like, and have asked a number of times, after puzzling on it for several minutes without making real headway, a senior candidate busts out with:

"I think I'm bored with this question."

And as it turns out, I was bored with his answer, so we were in complete agreement. It's a good thing you can only work on the problems that interest you when you work at a startup.

Needless to say, not someone we hired.

Scotty Allen
I'm dying to know what the question was!
+3  A: 

Interviewer asked me " why do you think constructors don't have return types ?" i answered " why should they?" ( still believe it is apt answer, got rejected though :D).

I know you know the answer, but I guess the interviewer wanted a more explicit explanation.
Eduardo León
Someone who had no clue would have said this as well.
I think constructors DO have a return type: it's the class of the instantiated object
@Devio: Actually, it's an *instance* of the object class.
Software Monkey
@Software Monkey: and the *instance* is of the *type* of the class
In Ada, they can. Heck, in C++ they can, if you want to count reference and pointered parameters. It's just a syntactic issue.
they are called in the creation process, so they have to do they're initialization stuff
+10  A: 

We once had a candidate who had failed to answer any of our questions convincingly through the interview. At the end, we gave him a last chance to shine and asked if there was some part of his CV we had overlooked, anything he was expert on that we hadn't touched upon.

He thought for a minute and answered that what he was really good at was "thinking outside of the box". Naturally, we then followed up by asking for an example of where he had thought laterally to solve a problem, but unfortunately he couldn't think of one.

:-) <-- Me laughing out loud (in 32-bit stereo surround).
that's because the answer was in the box
+42  A: 

My favourite is interviewing contractors and you pose them a programming question to write some code.

At least 60% in our experience will reply with "Sorry, I don't give free consulting". Ummm, so now what? Goodbye. ;)

Ray Booysen
I have been at an interview, explained at length a solution to a problem - and heard no more from them. Then I interviewed for another part of the company a month later, they mentioned the same problem - I gave the same tour and their reply "we tried that last week".
Martin Beckett
Hurray for no-spec work!
Adam Davis
I am giving this a +1 for MGB's comment.
James McMahon
@mgb - that is AWESOME! +1
82 upvotes - I should have out that as an answer!
Martin Beckett
@Martin Beckett - if your solution had worked, maybe they would have hired you.
Sam Meldrum
@Sam Or maybe they were too clueless to implement it properly... we'll never know.
Nikita Rybak
+13  A: 

Q: How many constructors does the SqlCommand class have? (ADO.NET)

Me: (in my mind : why the f... should I know their count?!) More than one :P

Andrei Rinea
I would have thought the same.
Eduardo León
haha, I thought about it for a second and then got the answer right :\ (it's 4 FYI)
I think the correct answer is to politely thank the interviewer for there time and tell them it is not a good fit and get out of there.
That's probably one of the worst interview questions ever.
@Slace : Congrats but this question is like fighting on the internet (know that joke?)@All:Maybe the interviewer wanted to see if I can see the forest from the trees or not?
Andrei Rinea
Been asked one just like that. Glad I didn't end up there!
Correct answer: 1, with a few overloads. No such thing as multiple constructors :)
+8  A: 

The worse answer I've ever received was:

"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh............." and then silence.

In all fairness you question was vague
+57  A: 

This happened a month ago:

Q : How do you rate yourself in JavaScript (out of 10)?
A : 8/10?

Q: Great! Could you write a function to validate an email address?
A : (... few minutes ...) Well, I would rate myself as 3.

Do not ask how to validate an email unless you have the answer in hand. Hint: if you think you have it you don't.
Is he to rate himself in javascript, or regular expressions? :)
Jonathan Sampson
) We knew the answer. This guy was 2+ year experienced and he didnt even say that he can use regular expression. He was silen for few mintues than said he would reduce his rting.
Your regular expression is probably wrong.
The email address format is defined in section 3.4.1 of RFC 2822. It is a bit too complex for an interview question.
Wim Coenen
I needed to read the question twice as I thought at first it was asking to validate an email account instead of just the format. You can't do that unless you send an email to it, and I doubt you can do that in JS?
er... validate an "email" or an "email address"? because technically JavaScript is sandboxed, so validating an email wouldn't be allowed because it would fall outside the bounds of that environment... on the other hand, validating an email address would be less of a struggle. Also, if it was an email address does it just need to be validated for format or for complete validity? the two situations require completely different approaches.
This is just a short version of the question. The actual question was the validate the format of a email address. ;-)
The smart thing to here would be to google a regular expression on the internet...
I would shamefully admit that i don't remember correct regex. :/
Arnis L.
This is one where showing your process counts . . . it probably doesn't matter if the guy gets exactly the right regex, but he should know that he could use a regex, and be able to say "Well, it needs to have an @ in it, and a period somewhere after the @, and some other characters before and after the @, etc. . . ." And then hopefully he could write a regex that checks those conditions, even if they aren't entirely the right conditions . . .
Tim Goodman
+123  A: 

A colleague of mine interviewing someone:

  • "Do you know ActiveX ?"

  • "Yes, I do."

then my colleague started having doubts about the sincerity of the interviewee, so he improvised this question :

  • "Do you know ActiveZ ?"

  • "Yes, I do."

He didn't get the job.

Olivier PAYEN
Cruel, but funny.
I use ActiveZ all the time, but I really prefer ActiveY.
I think they make gender-specific versions now: ActiveXX and ActiveXY... (here comes the bad joke)... Unfortunately, ActiveXX overflows for a few days every month and ActiveXY tries to mount drives it shouldn't.
oh my god gnovice.. that is so funny I cried.
It is like we have been laughing at one of I-know-it-all nontech managers after we have convinced him to switch from Base64 encoding into "new version" Base65.
Base65 uses = signs to pad the end right? That's the 65th character in the set, right, right?
+8  A: 

I have written about my funny experiences here. The best one was this

Me : You said you are working with VS 2003. How do you rate yourself in .net?

Candidate : 7 out of 10

Me : Great! Why are you not using VS 2008 which is the lastest verion?

Candidate : What? we have VS 2008? I thought 2005 is the latest version.

It's worse when you're the interviee and the company doesn't realize this.
There's a vs2010 beta1 already.
Arnis L.
+14  A: 

Q: "Oh, interesting. Your resume says that you've used .NET Remoting. So, how did you use it? What was your project like?"

A: "I have never used .NET Remoting."

Dave Markle
If you were going through a recruiter, be careful about throwing people out for stuff like this. More than one recruiter has, in my experience, done some creative keyword enhancement on a candidate's resume without their knowledge.
+1 for this comment
@JohnFx: This guy was clueless, and he definitely knew what was on his resume. True about recruiters, but IMO upon a revelation like that, one would think that the candidate would ask for a copy of their resume for their examination, and be on the phone with the offending recruiter ASAP!
Dave Markle
Very true, Dave. Of course the original answer didn't give that much detail about how the candidate reacted. He might have been playing it cool until he got out of the interview...
@JohnFx: God, I wish you could have experienced the total experience of this particular interview. Upon further examination, I really did not do it justice.
Dave Markle
@JohnFX: ...and this is why I always recommend sending PDFs to recruiters. They're still editable, but I'd imagine most wouldn't think it worth their while if they could manage to edit them at all.I had my CV significantly changed once.. never again. Recruiters should work for you and the prospective employer, even if they don't want to, as such, if they want their commission they can take a read only CV.
Wow, I had no idea this kind of stuff went on. Good to know for when I get out of school and probably go through recruiters.
I once got interviewed by a company that asked me if I knew technology X, no I didn't, what about Y, no I didn't, what about Z, no I didn't. None of these technologies were on my CV. Some didn't even appear to be relevant to the job.
Colin Mackay
+35  A: 

This topic reminds me of an old irc joke:

Myrf> I was giving some guy a job interview today, and it turned out he didn't know who the Beatles were.

Myrf> So, of course, I had to turn him down :P

bozz> wtf, a bunch of people don't know who the beatles are

bozz> whyd you have to turn him down just because of that

Myrf> Dude, I work at a RECORD STORE.

What about a record store that only sells classical music?
ROFLMAO - hi-lar-i-ous!
Must be an old joke- no one works at record stores anymore. Maybe he was working at iTunes- no Beatles there.
@MattMcKnight - I think they're coming into fashion again (records). Anyways, in my part of the world (Croatia), we still have record stores (that sell records). They sell cd's as well, but they also have records.
or at Apple(not the software company)
Roman A. Taycher
+23  A: 

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Outta rehab, for sure!

(I didn't hire him, but we both had a good laugh at his answer)

Got to give him points for honesty...
You didn't hire this guy?! Think of team morale already.
+52  A: 

Note: These questions were asked back-to-back

Q: What are the benefits/reasons for normalizing the database used by an application?
A: Performance. The application will run faster against a normalized database.

Q: In what situations should denormalizing the database be considered?
A: When you need more performance, the application will perform better against a de-normalized database.

Q: So which is it? Does normalization help or hurt performance?
A: I'm not sure, but everyone knows that normalized is better.

Q: Why?
A: Because it performs better.

This actually sums up most advice I've received on database normalization.
James McMahon
I'd like to upvote nemo's comment ;)
That's pretty much why I use this line of questions. It helps me determine whether the candidate just accepts things they read as a universal truth or try to understand the underlying concept so they can apply the advice appropriately to real world situations.
@James McMahon that's because database normalisation is esoteric and takes a lot of mental discipline. People don't naturally think of relationships in 3NF or higher so many apps I've seen have just been denormalised because the developers decided they didn't want to take the time to break the relationships down as far as they would go.
@James McMahon: Performance is not a reason to normalise a DB. The reason is to avoid storing changeable information in more than one place, since as soon as you do that, it's possible for the various copies to get out of sync when you update one but forget to update the other, and suddenly you don't know which one is "right" anymore. "A man with a watch knows the time; a man with two watches is never sure."
+22  A: 

Background: Recruiting a QA candidate that made the mistake of claiming during the interview that he did a lot of programming in his spare time and hoped the position we were hiring for would lead to a developer job.

Q: So what programming languages do you use/like best?
A: Windows?

Q: [Thinking I had been unclear] No, I mean specifically what programming LANGUAGES are you familiar with, not the platform.
A: Uhm. Unix?

Q: [Trying one more time]. I am really trying to ask about programming languages, not platforms. You know like Java, C++, or C#?
A: Yeah, that's the one I use.

What about C-pound?
Joe White
Should have switched the programming languages to whitespace, lolcode or brainf**k. The answer: I like whitespace best, done lots of huge projects in whitespace.
I think the whitespace was between his ears.
+13  A: 

When asked to explain Object Oriented Programming:

"A bunch of subroutines or computer code that does something".

Then tried to explain that OOP is bad because different objects don't combine well together, giving the example that you can't use multiple javascript libraries together.

Later, when asked about testing:

"I never had any code come back...that I wrote..that failed any kind of unit test"

Hahahaha, I laughed pretty hard at this :-)
It's pretty easy to never fail unit tests if you don't write them. :)
Robert P
Especially considering that the correct answer in reference to unit tests is that all code should fail unit tests at first. So if you're writing code that's not failing unit tests, you're doing it wrong. And the best devs write code that will break unit tests at some point.
Lloyd Cotten
The "What is OO?" question is really a must in an interview, to see if they know what it is (if they're junior) or to see if they bash it (if they're "senior").
Daniel Daranas
@Lloyd: That's the correct answer if you do test-driven development. Not everyone follows that particular development strategy though. :)
@Herms- good point, I was about to make the same
+15  A: 

Interview #1

"I haven't really worked with events"

Promptly followed by one of our developers slamming down his notebook, getting up, and leaving without a word.

Interview #2

When I realized the candidate was Googling/BS'ing all the answers I threw him this gem:

me: "Have you ever worked with the XnetCookieManager class, if so, what do you think of it?" candidate: "I've used it before, it works pretty well"

This is an in-house class that he could not have ever seen before

Chris Ballance
You should have accused him of espionage! :p
Or ask where he used it and then told him you are going to sue that company...
When i started to work, i truly believed that some code made by co-workers are part of .NET framework. Cause i didn't get inheritance at start...
Arnis L.
+2  A: 

My favorite was I had a candidate for a "Senior Software Engineer" position tell me unprompted and openly that he loves to UML diagram his work in Rational or whatever, and have it auto-generate all the code, and that he always does this on all his work.

Um, no thanks... that's fine for your own personal project, but not in a team environment where we have our own style guides and templates etc... and definitely not at a "senior" level.

I also had a candidate that was obviously googling every answer as we talked to him over the phone. We thought there was just a 4-8 sec phone lag or something, until the 'thank yous & good-byes' when replies started coming immediately.

If your asking questions you can google and answer if 4-8 seconds, maybe you aren't asking the right questions. Just a thought.
James McMahon
OTOH if the interviewee can understand the question and formulate a research plan in <8s, maybe they'd be good ;)
Graham Lee
The missing part of the story is the answers were kind of off anyway: "Do you have any experience with Swing, and explain how it was used ona project" Reply: "yes, Spring is an Inversion of Control and Dep Inj. framework." ... Anshers were 'definitions' not 'how they relate to my experience.'
I meant to type "spring" not "swing" in my above comment. oops ;)
What is so wrong about using UML diagrams and creating code from it? It saves a bit of time and with some CASE tools you can customize the code style.
That's only "fine for a personal project" if you have 10's of thousands of dollars to blow on your own personal copy of Rational Rose.
+6  A: 

I asked a candidate for a programming position what he knew about database to which he replied "Oh no, that's not my job. That's the DBA's job. I don't do dumb stuff like that." Needless to say he never got the job.

Bad answer.. Rude and such.. But it could be accurate. Think the guy who wrote the kernal for your OS give a thought to a DB. Doubt it crossed his mind.
Wow! I know several DBAs and I wouldn't regard their job as "Dumb stuff"
Colin Mackay
+11  A: 

Question to a slightly gray-haired interviewee:

"So what keeps you still interested in programming?"

"Programming? Umm.. I am here for the sales manager position"

This happened to me as I was interviewing candidates for a junior developer position and didn't know that the sales dep. also was interviewing so I grabbed the first candidate I saw. Yeah yeah I was new at it. :)

Anders K.
-1 OP was looking for "worst interviewee answer", but IMO that was the best possible interviewee answer at that point, to stop you when you didn't know what you were doing.
for me it was the worst inverviewee answer :)
Anders K.
If he was good at sales he would have sold himself to you, no hire.
+14  A: 

I once referred a friend of mine to a position where he was being interviewed by someone on our team. Unfortunately, the interviewer didn't really know much about about web developing even though she was employed as a web developer. I told my friend about this and in the interview he was asked about AJAX and if he'd used it.

He said "yeah, I've used it, what about you guys?", she says oh yeah we have and he inquires as to what they've done with it, to see if she even knows what AJAX is. She says "oh you know, sort tables and stuff" heh. A bit odd since he was the interviewee, but funny nonetheless.

+27  A: 

good looking girl came in

me: "hello - tell me something about you"

girl: "I work at a local 7-11"

me: "okay - do you have any experience in developing software?"

girl: "no"

me: "have you ever worked as a developer? or with computers?"

girl: "no"

me: "okay - so why are you here?"

girl: "I want to work 20 hours a week and receive a full month developer loan"

me: "!?!?!?!?!!??!!?!?!"

that really happened to me ... I was a bit perplexed ;)

Sign me up for that.
James McMahon
That can't be true :) What was she thinking?
she thought looks > knowledge!
hasen j
I hope you hired her anyway
The sad thing is, that this probably did work for her once since she appeared to be quite confident.
+8  A: 

Me: I see on your resume that you have been using NUnit for nearly two years.

Interviewee: Yes, I even mentored a number of developers at my last job and introduced them to unit testing.

Me: Oh, excellent. Can you name some of the asserts that NUnit provides?

Interviewee: Uh. Hm... I don't remember.

I can see that being a case of interview brain-freeze, though. Better is to start by asking for the general ("Describe how you do unit testing with NUnit.") and then moving to the specific. That gives the NUnit part of the candidate's brain a chance to boot up.
+8  A: 

Me: "You say you have 2 years experience in Java?"

Interviewee: "Yes that's right"

Me: "Can you explain to me the concept of object inheritance?"

Interviewee: pauses "Well it wasn't exactly Java..."

She didn't actually know the first thing about java. Or javascript. Or programming...

" was Java*Script*. *Basically* the same thing."
+9  A: 

I asked someone who listed himself as "expert" in OO-design on his CV:

Me: What is the dependency inversion principle?

Him: The depen... Come again?

Me: The dependency inversion principle.

Him: Is that where you can run multiple versions of the same assembly by putting it in the GAC?

That's an awesome interview question!
Cameron MacFarland
Actually not a bad guess for someone who really has no idea.
Wanted to disagree with Cameron, but that would be wrong, cause interviewee listed himself as 'expert'.
Arnis L.
+4  A: 

Interviewer: Explain your approach to designing software.

Me: I see software design as an art...

I didn't get the job. Four years later, and I can now confidently answer the question!

Actually me as well I see at as an art. What's the catch|?
It really isn't an art I'm afraid! There are many principles that guide you, and when following them, there is very little room for creativity!
There are just as many principles for art: color, form, line, etc. I still see plenty of room for creativity in my code.
Google: "Hackers and Painters"
Jon Romero
Thanks Jon Romero, great read.
hasen j
It certainly IS an art. Just as any art form has it's constraints (paintaing has a canvas, sculpture has materials), so does programming. Do you leave behind code that makes people angry when they have to upgrade it 2 years later? I inherited code from a strict mathematician that was, to say the least, NOT flexible - but the function needed new features. I had to practically re-write the whole thing.
Judging from these responses I think that I need to ask this question more often when I interview! Or maybe I should be direct and ask whether software design is an art!
The only problem about working with a software 'artist' (myself included I admit) is that they only work hard when inspired. Many organizations would rather have a code monkey that works at a know (perhaps low) quality always when required.
Sergio Acosta
+57  A: 

I once went for an interview at the European Commission in Brussels. Towards the end of the interview, which seemed to go very well, they asked me how I felt about learning another language. "Great!" I said, "I would like to learn Java." (I was programming Perl and VB at that time.)

The two interviewers looked at each other with bemused/amused expressions, which I realised as I left the building was down to the fact that they were referring to a natural language (all Commission employees are supposed to speak three European languages).

Haha, that one is great - I would've probably answered in the same way as you.
+29  A: 

This was a little while ago, but I still remember it well...this was an interview for a server administrator, specifically for our externally facing website server (in-house), so security and how to handle/configure dual-firewalls and hosts was required.

Now, this was a BIG guy, not fat, but the sort you wouldn't want to go up against in Rugby...I'm no lightweight, but he towered above me...

Me: I see here that you've been a sys admin for 4 years, is that correct?

Guy: Yes, mainly NT4 server, I know everything there is to know about NT4

Me: raises eyebrow I see, so you can tell me what the hosts file is and what it does, yes?

Guy: The what, what hosts file, I've never heard of that.

Me: It lives in c:\winnt\system32\drivers\etc, there's a hosts file and a sample hosts file (hosts.sam)

Guy: I don't understand the question.

Me: It's quite simple, there's a file called hosts and it does something with IP addresses and names...have you come across the term "localhost" before?

Guy: Yes, it maps to

Me: thinking 'finally some progress'* Ah, so now can you tell me what the hosts file is?

Guy: Look getting agitated, leaning forward I really DON'T like your interviewing style, I don't understand the question, can you re-phrase it?

Me: (not wanting to look like a wimp) I've already re-phrased it twice.

Guy: You think you're funny do you?

Which reminded my of Goodfellas a bit and he leaned right over and I swear he was about to grab me by the throat.

Me: No, not at all...not at all... which point I made my excuses and left, telling a security guard that I wanted him escorted out of the building.

I ordered panic buttons for all interview rooms shortly after that...

Mister Bee
+1 for panic button!
hasen j
Matthew Whited
He already did answer the question-> he didn't know what it was. No need to keep going on that question.
Well, yes he answered the question - and usually when candidates don't know the answer, I tell them what it is. He asked a question back, which I answered. I genuinely thought he was confused by the question, so tried to re-phrase it.
Mister Bee
He didn't say he didn't know what it was. He said he didn't understand the question. That's a significant difference.
@recursive he said "I've never heard of that". the interviewer then gave the answer and the interviewee took that to be a question, which he didn't understand.
+2  A: 

Q: What data structure would you use to implement a list of words for a spell-checker?

A: Linked list?


He's optimizing for interview time, not for performance :-)
Nathan Fellman
nice. It actually got me thinking of a possible answer and how I can use arraylist/tree to do this.
We actually did that in a data structures class. We used a combination of a hash table with separate chaining and a linked list.
@Johan: The classic hash table implementation includes a linked list for each bucket to handle collisions. Is that what you mean? That would have been a good answer. Linked list was not a good answer.
@recursive Yeah, that's right. Hash table with separate chaining for handling collisions, but we also used a linked list with pointers into words in the hash table for those words incorrectly spelled. (To be able to output a list of those words)
+8  A: 

[Me] - We see you currently work in a different state. Are you willing to relocate to this area?

[Them] - I have a restraining order taken out against someone.

While I'm glad they were trying to leave a bad situation, a simple "Yes" would have sufficed.


As an aside, I have nothing against someone trying to leave a bad situation, and the candidate was not dinged for their statement. Rather, it was the "unasked for answer" to the question - we were looking to see if they were willing to relocate, not why they wanted to relocate. The fact that their answer only invited questions that we legally could not ask in an interview is what makes it such a horrible answer to a question.

Matt Jordan
Seriously. Too much information starting ... now!
Bob Cross
+11  A: 

I was looking for good all-round Linux engineers at one point. One guy came in, we made nice, then I cut to the chase and asked him to describe his Linux experience. He gave me an unknowing look and I showed him the bits on his CV where it said X years of Linux programming experience. He looked a bit puzzled and then said "Oh, you know what? My brother must have written that in to get me more job interviews."

He was a bit surprised that I lost complete interest in resuming the interview.

None of the above is in any way a fabrication. I was even nice enough to suggest some community resources if he really wanted to learn something and to call me again in 6 months.

Upvote for being so nice. :)
Arnis L.
+25  A: 

In an interview for a mid-level firmware position, we started asking about memory mapped I/O. As the candidate had listed several embedded projects on their resume (in C and assembly), we figured it would be a softball question.

His answer was kind of shaky, so we asked if it would be easier to explain on the whiteboard.

He went to the board and stared at it. His hands got shakier and shakier, he started to sweat so much it was dripping off his forehead and he was hurriedly wiping it with his hand. I really can't convey how radical the change was - the man went from calm, happy, and collected to a complete wreck in just a minute or so.

Honest to goodness, 10 minutes at the board produced a function name and an open curly brace. The room was disturbingly quiet. We became concerned and tried to help, asking for just pseudo code, trying to form smaller questions, asking about bit masking, etc. Eventually one of the other interviewers asked how you could get the memory address of a variable in C. The candidate turned around, sat down, and said, "I won't be able to do that." From the time he went to the board until he left the meeting room, he never looked at any of us.

After the interview was over, the other interviewers and I were very confused. I talked with my supervisors about trying to come up with a better way to interview him. Turned out that, despite a strong resume, they couldn't get any sort of technical read on him via e-mail or phone, so they had decided to fly him in. Considering the flight cost and the poor interview, they didn't want to invest any more effort in him.

Jeremy Murray
Wow. I voted this answer up for the bizarre factor. It isn't funny as in "haha", it is funny as in "seriously strange".
A. Levy
Poor guy. It sounds like it was much impossible to tell whether he was cheating with his resume or just really terrible stage fright.
David Berger
LOL! Seriously, this is the funniest story (and possibly the "worst answer") in the whole lot.
This, right after "I write the Java codez" was quite a change. Poor guy.
I feel sorry if it was just some strange mental stage.
Arnis L.
+74  A: 

Me: "What are some differences between static and dynamic type systems?"

Him: "Look, I never needed to know that in my career, so I'm not going to answer that for you now. You ask me how to make money for you and then we can talk."

Me: "How would you make us money?"

Him: "I write the Java codes"

Me: "Thank you for your time."


Were you interviewing Homer Simpson?
Peter Perháč
I want to see the Java code which earns money by itself! Reinvite him to write this money making code ;)
Martin K.
dafei gets an interview ...
Noon Silk
You DO know that religious topics are a no-no in interviews.... :->
Chip Uni
+9  A: 

I once had the following conversation in an interview:

Q: So have you ever written a sort?

A: No

Q: Ok so how would you put a list of integers in order?

A (on whiteboard):
for (i = 0; i < MAXINT; i++)
for (j = 0; j < sizeof(array); j++)
push sorted_array, i;

Q: Uh.. Ok can you see any way to make this more efficient?

A: No

I don't understand why MAXINT is involved.
Dim newArray = oldArray.Sort :)
ummmm, does that create an array that just cycles through integers up to sizeof(array) and then repeat itself MAXINT times?
David Berger
@David Berger: yes, and in the most efficient possible manner.
@david: if that piece were legal in any language it would probably create an array of `sizeof(array)` zeros, followed by `sizeof(array)` ones, and so on...
David Schmitt
It's the most efficient because it's C. Duh.
+3  A: 

This happened just last week (keep in mind the resume of this candidate showed 7 yrs of experience)

Q: How would you call an Oracle stored procedure in your java code?
A: I would use JDBC technology to call the stored proc.

Q: Could you please elaborate on the exact steps/code how would you do it in Java?
A: Well, I will write a Java program and there I will write a 'main' method and from the main method I will use the JDBC technology to connect to oracle and call the stored procedure.

Q: Don't you think this is a very generic answer? Would you like to elaborate a little more on exactly how would you do it?
A: I will use Java 1.5 and JDBC 2.0 to connect to the database and call the stored procedure.

Senator, may I remind you that you are under oath!
+8  A: 

We'd reached the "what can I tell you about us?" point of an already shaky interview and he asked "Will you hire my girlfriend when I start?"

This from a guy interviewing at KPMG Consulting for a customer-facing position in flip-flops, dirty t-shirt and corduroys with what looked like battery acid holes in them.

showing up for a "customer-facing position in flip-flops, dirty t-shirt" was only "shaky"??!?!?
Were you assuming he was an absent-minded genius?
those holes are from 'hot-rocks' falling from his joints.
+8  A: 

Two good ones, different people:

Q (Me): So what was your first programming language?
A: (In a very, very confident manner) Oh, HTML!

Q (Me): So I noticed you wrote JavaScript as a skill on your resume. Can you tell me what this means?: document.getElementById("someId").
A: Oh see that's JAVA. I don't know JAVA.

Both interviews pretty much ended after that.

While HTML is not a real programming language, it is a "computer language" and the first thing I learned to code. It does teach you a little about describing EXACTLY what you want to the computer and following the required rules. Also a good stepping stone for getting into javascript.
+7  A: 

In an interview for a junior ".NET Developer" position:

Me: "What would a function look like that checked that a string was a valid postal code?"

Interviewee: "Well, I'm not really a programmer."

Me: "Ok..."

(Turns out they were actually a rather talented young DBA, but still.)

That resulted in a heated (but productive) discussion with the HR department.

Scott Whitlock
+5  A: 

[me] On your CV you say you have experience of J2EE. Can you elaborate?

[interviewee] I wrote a JSP page.

+7  A: 

Question: "Describe how you think an IT department should be perceived by the organisation?" (Or something like that)

Answer: Long rant about how he has gained weight, how fat people are lazy, how IT people are usually lazy/fat, and how he isn't lazy"I live just around the corner. I've gained a lot of weight recently. If I get the job then I can work out at the gym before, during, and after work. It would be really convenient for me. So yes, I would love to work here."

I should note that he didn't once mention anything about the job, only about the perk of having a free gym, and that he looked fine. Given his attitude about laziness & IT, I was happy to see him go.

So in summary - he should have just answered the bloody question!

+38  A: 

This is the worst and the best answers I got from an interviewee.

I was searching for a web programmer, so I did a couple of interviews.

One of them had the experience and scholarship needed, but there was something about him I didn't like. At some point the interview went something like this;

Me: What's your favorite programming language ?

Him: You mean the one I'm the best with ?

Me: Not necessarily, let's say you have a personal project at home.. which language would you chose ?

Him: Why would I want to work at home ?

Me: You never code at home ?

Him: No, why ?

Me: Well, hmm .. okay..

I wasn't impressed at all with the interview, but I decided to hire him anyway since qualified candidates seemed to be a luxury around here and I was overwhelmed with work to do.

Days passed but I never stopped searching somebody else because I was appalled by his level of ignorance and ineptitude. I have never studied about anything close to computer, let alone programming. I have learned it all by myself and yet, I felt like I was light years ahead of this guy, who supposedly had more work experience and scholarship than me.

Then one day another guy walks in for an interview. He had not a single programming experience nor he studied in this domain. He was just interested in programming and started playing with it at home, you know.. just for fun.

At first I didn't take him too seriously, but hey you never know. So I gave him a chance and it went more or less like this;

Me: What's your favorite programming language ?

Him: You mean the one I'm the best with ?

Me: Not necessarily, let's say you have a personal project at home.. which language would you chose ?

Him: Well probably LISP or Python

Me: OK you start on Monday.

When I showed him one of my biggest problem I had to resolve at the time, he said he was not sure he could tackle it. I replied I knew he could and within a week my problem was completely solved. The first guy was fired shortly after and two years later we still work together.

I'd go as far as to say that we are now friends and a helluva team.

I understand looking at someone sideways who doesn't dabble with code at home. The best developers are also the ones sick enough to enjoy it.
@moffdub: Well, I'd reword that statement a little. All the developers I know that are hobbyist developers are also excellent professional software engineers. Not ALL the great developers out there are hobbyists.
I don't like the whole "if you don't code in your spare time you are a hack" line. If I worked a 20 hour week, maybe. But someone that does 50+ hours a week of programming at work then goes home to do more needs a little diversity in their life.
@johnfx - diversity is good... i develop 50+ hours /wk in .net, and screw around with app engine on the weekends.
Dare I say that your hiring technique could use a little work?
Robert Harvey
I don't like this macho attitude many companies have where unless you code at home you are no good. Ever heard of people with friends/families?"The best developers are also the ones sick enough to enjoy it." - Yes that's why I have a job developing: because I enjoy it.
@danio - It's not about machismo at all. What is pertinent to me is if the person has a genuine interest in programming or if he sees it as a chore. I have friends and family too .. and spare times too. However some of this time is spent on programming projects that are not necessarily lucrative, but that makes me learn a lot and enjoy programming even more. And like it or not, generally people that do not code at all at home is a good give away their poor programming aptitudes. I'd like it to be otherwise, but that's not what I've witnessed so far.
@Robert Harvey - I wouldn't go as far to say it's a "technique". That said, it's a little trick that happens to give a pretty good assessment of the programming aptitudes or potential of someone. In that particular case I chose the hobbyist with no experience over the scholar and that bet has proven to be a very good one.
+8  A: 

This was a woman who was friends with the production manager. The interview was for Flash developer position. Apparently she had "been learning" ActionScript and I asked her the same questions I asked all applicants. She didn't make it past the first question.

Name three different types of loop in ActionScript.


Ok, just tell me one type of loop.

Well... I know I know this one... Just give me 10 minutes with a book and I know I can tell you...

(Puts conference call on mute. Everyone in room busts out laughing)

Ok, just send us a sample of your work. Kthanks.

She followed up with a file that wouldn't even compile, and was full of unintelligible code. Lesson learned, personal friends of employees aren't always the best bet.

Maybe she solves everything with functional programming.
I've had some very positive results from hiring based on a recommendation. However, in each case the recommendation came from someone who was already technical.
Colin Mackay
+5  A: 

Q: How did you learn at university?

A (cross oneself): I'm graduated and Thanks God!

I could answer the same thing, basically.You didn't ask 'What ...?', did you?
Lectures go in ear, hamsters run in circles, learning happens?
Matt Beldyk
+4  A: 

I once was asked a quite nice question from a lady in the HR department while being at an interview with her and the CTO:

HR: "I will not ask you what you think your biggest weakness is. I will ask you another question: What will a good friend of yours say when I ask him what your biggest weakness is?"

CTO: "Yea, that's really a completely different question."

ME: "And that was the answer ;-)"

All of us started to smile.

+24  A: 

The line "You said this was a Technical Lead position, how dare you expect me to program?" is still something of a personal winner.

Close second was the guy interviewing as a Senior Developer who couldn't explain what an if/else clause did.

Ah yes, I had that too. In fact twice, and one of the candidates stormed out of the interview when I started asking developer questions.
I'm curious, how much are those guys answering job interview questions like this?
Arnis L.
+9  A: 

I was interviewing a guy who had 5 years Smalltalk experience for a Senior Smalltalk developer position.

Me: What's the difference between = and == ?

Him: I don't know so I always use == .

I don't know which was more horrifying -- that he didn't know the difference or that he knew he didn't know and never bothered to look it up.

In Smalltalk = tests equality and == tests identity. They are definitely not interchangeable.

This cannot be true. That person was lying about his qualifications.
He was employed as a Smalltalk programmer at a well-known company but it was at a time when Smalltalk programmers could hop from job to job leaving a trail of ugly code behind them. We threw them some softball questions to weed out the ones who really didn't know what they were doing.
+9  A: 

I had a candidate tell me he had been programming in C# since 1999.

(To all you Gen-Y'ers - version one was released in 2001)

Andrew Shepherd
He has flux capacitor.
Arnis L.
Actually, V1.0 was released in 2002 (although it was possible to obtain the beta in 2001)
Colin Mackay
I had a candidate who used to work for Microsoft. He didn't say if he'd been programming in C# since 1999, but if he had said I would have believed him.
Windows programmer
+12  A: 

Q: What are your top 5 programming books that you reference and/or liked to read? [keep in mind we didn't have internet at this site]

A: HTML Bible, and the Bible

Hmmm...Can't count to 5 and I'm fairly sure the Bible doesn't have any programming languages in it. I'm guessing you could pray for your code.

Richie Rich
A lot of graphics programmers refer to the OpenGL Redbook as "The Bible". I would have him clarify if he meant that bible or the one with talking snakes.
I'm a little late to respond to you Adisak, but yes, he was referring to the Good Book.
Richie Rich
The Bible has the most effective programming language in history. It's programmed billions of people so far!