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Adam Davis
Adam Davis

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What's the best question you've been asked in a job interview?

A bit of scrolling through tech communities on Twitter or Reddit can reveal a bottomless pit of complaints about the questions asked in job interviews.

From whiteboarding obscure algorithms in linear time to solving cryptic riddles, most people who've been through a few tech interviews have a horror story of something that caught them wildly off-guard.

But what's less-often discussed are the high quality questions — the ones that really help you differentiate yourself or communicate something about the priorities of the role.

So what's the best question you've been asked in an interview? What did you like about it?

If you conduct interviews, what's your favorite question to ask?

Discussion (22)

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brewinstallbuzzwords profile image
Adam Davis Author

In an interview for a data engineering position that involved frequent communication with colleagues with non-software backgrounds, I was given short snippets of code and asked to find any bugs and explain why the code didn't work in a way that anyone could understand.

I thought this was a really good question for the role since it tested both my technical knowledge and my communication ability. It came across to me as a condensed version of the type of work I would've been doing there on a daily basis.

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kmack profile image
Kevin Macksamie

What have you done in your current position that you want to brag to me about?

I liked this one because it allowed me to indirectly speak to what I feel is worthy of being bragged about. There's no wrong answer, but depending on your experience, you may be able tailor your answer to the position you are interviewing for. The time you were appointed to save a nearly dead project and were successful in doing so. Rewriting a Java back end service in Rust. Etc. It's a fun one.

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rammina profile image
Rammina • Edited on

What are your hobbies?

I like this one because it allows the candidate to show their personality outside of coding.

What are your weaknesses?
What is a recent failure you experienced and how did you respond to it?

This allows the candidate to display humility and it shows self-awareness. A lot of egotistical people have trouble answering this without lying.

I highly dislike discriminatory questions like:

  • Are you planning to start a family?
  • Do you have any medical problems?
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brewinstallbuzzwords profile image
Adam Davis Author

Yeah I also like questions about hobbies and weaknesses. I was once asked to list 3 strengths and weaknesses when I had only prepared one answer for each. It caught me off guard a bit, but it prompted more introspection than is usually expected of me in an interview.

Also, I'm sorry that you've been asked those last couple questions. No one should ever ask that in a job interview. Depending on where you live, those questions may even be illegal

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scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

“How would you test this?”

It’s astounding but in over a few dozen interviews I can only remember being asked this twice.

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brewinstallbuzzwords profile image
Adam Davis Author

I've heard that some interviewers will intentionally not mention testing when asking a coding question to see if the interviewee will bring it up themselves and prove that they actually consider testing when they write code.

When I'm writing a function in an interview, I like to start out by defining what some unit tests would look like (not actually writing tests, more of a mapping of the expected outputs given certain inputs). Not only does this show that you're thinking about tests, but it gives you a chance to confirm that you understand the intended functionality before you write the code

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scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

I love your approach with starting out by defining what unit tests would look like.

Please encourage anyone you meet who thinks that not mentioning testing in an interview to see if the interviewee will bring it up to knock it off. That's obnoxious and an example of a toxic interviewing habit IMO. Here's just a few reasons why. First, how do they know that the interviewee is not doing the same thing, and specifically omitting mention of tests to see if the company they are interviewing for tests anything? That's a zero sum game when both walk away thinking the other doesn't test for no reason other than that they are bad communicators. Second, interviewing should never be a guessing game. There's (usually) only 45 minutes with each other and there's far more content to cover than the time allows. If testing is important it needs to be a focus. Finally, interviewees are in a situation with a huge power imbalance and even the most experienced person can overlook one thing or another in the moment.

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brewinstallbuzzwords profile image
Adam Davis Author

Oh I totally agree. There should be clear communication about the expectations in an interview, and it's a bit of a red flag when there isn't.

Unfortunately, job interviews can often become a platform for people to exercise their own personal psychology theories.

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kyleapex profile image
Kyle Hoskins

“What’s your passion?”

It’s more of a disqualifying question because you’ll eliminate people who don’t have drive

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scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

What if someone's passion is arduino or soccer? Do you disqualify the candidate if they're a good software engineer even if they have another overriding passion?

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kyleapex profile image
Kyle Hoskins

Software/“the job being interviewed for” is rarely the candidate’s passion. The question is meant to examine how someone expresses their passion.

If it’s soccer, do they organize a group to play or watch matches? Do they coach or volunteer at a soccer related organization? Usually people have a good answer, because it’s their passion.

However, you do get people who say the equivalent of “soccer is my passion,” and then if you ask basic follow ups about the last time they played or even watched a match, they don’t have an answer or they’re not remotely excited. When someone can’t communicate anything about their “passion,” they likely either lack communication skills or have very little drive

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scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

Ah got it. This made me think of a time I met a passionate interview candidate. There was a dev we interviewed a couple years back who wrote novels in his spare time and self-published them on Amazon. He pitched his latest book and tried to sell each person on the interview loop a copy. 😂 During the hiring committee meeting afterward, we all realized that he had done this for everybody—all five people! We had to admit that the guy had passion ... but we also declined on the very same basis. Most people felt it was inappropriate and used up interviewing time. 🤷

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brewinstallbuzzwords profile image
Adam Davis Author

Lol I'm glad they care about their book, but I can't imagine trying to sell a book to an interviewer 🤣

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JoelBonetR

Context: No coding in the interview, just deciding how the architecture and the building blocks should look like and interact.

Interviewer: Do you know Uber eats or GlovoApp?
Me: yes
Interviewer: Ok, start.

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aminmansuri profile image
hidden_dude

Simple:

"Describe your past projects and how their experience is relevant to the job you are applying for"

In the end that is what matters most. (Kinda stinks when you're too junior though)

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Matt Curcio

The best question (best being highly subjective here) I got was, 'What type of animal would you be if you had to choose?'
The second best would have to be, 'Are you ambitious?'

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dougaws profile image
Doug

Oh good grief. If an interviewer ever asked me "What type of animal would you be if you had to choose?", I would respond with "What? Are we in 8th grade?".

I like something like "What's the best non-tech job you've ever had and why?".

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naruaika profile image
Naufan Rusyda Faikar

As for me, "Have you contributed to an open source project?" Even thought I couldn't answer that myself, I got so much interested in the question.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇬🇧🇪🇸🇨🇴 • Edited on

Ideally, what would you like to do and how?

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jzombie profile image
jzombie

No joke.... "What do you keep in your fridge?"

The hardest part about that was trying to figure out exactly why I would be asked this question in the first place for a tech interview.

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brewinstallbuzzwords profile image
Adam Davis Author

Did you ever figure out why it was asked?

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jzombie profile image
jzombie

I did, but I was a little bit let down after I figured it out, so I'd prefer to just leave that a mystery for anyone else wondering.