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Discussion on: The Interview Study Guide For Software Engineers

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Bob Edmison

This x 1000. I interviewed with a Big Name Company once, early in my career, and was asked some question about implementing a AVL tree or some such. I asked the guy ( and it was a guy because they all were at Big Name Company, but that's a diff issue ) if he had ever, in his entire working life at that place, ever implemented an AVL tree, or any other primitive data structure from scratch. When he said "no", I asked why they were asking me how to do it. He said because they always asked that question. I said I'd answer when I had my data structures book handy. I got the gig anyway.

These questions are pointless. I'm a hiring manager now. I never ask interviewees questions about how to implement basic structures or algorithms. If someone is rolling their own now, they need to have a damn good reason for it. However, I will ask questions to tease out if they understand WHEN AND HOW TO USE different algorithms, structures, design patterns, etc, and the tradeoffs associates with those choices. I think that is fair game, and also a better indicator of what kind of software engineer you will be.

If you can code up a quick sort, but I don't ask you that kind of sort to use in a given situation , and then don't find out until after I hire you that you use bubble sorts for everything, me knowing you can code a quick sort is not terribly helpful.

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theodesp profile image
Theofanis Despoudis

You were asked for AVL tree? Jesus

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adarsh_menon_ profile image
Adarsh Menon

I was asked - what is the data structure that databases usually use to store data. I said B trees or B+ trees (we were discussing indexing, fan-out et.. ). Then he said ok now implement a B tree with all the crud operations. I told him I can explain the logic to you, but I don't think i can code that. Maybe I could, but it would take me a log time to convert the logic into code.