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Ben Halpern for CodeNewbie

Posted on with Erin A Olinick

What's the Worst Question You've Ever Been Asked in an Interview?

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, and sometimes interviewers ask questions that catch you off guard, or that are just plain...weird and terrible.

What's the worst question you've ever been asked in an interview? And how did you respond? πŸ‘€


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Top comments (21)

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard • Edited

So I was doing Android programming at the time, and there is like a long running guerilla on what is THE BEST dependency injection framework. Dagger vs koin vs kodein vs hilt vs manual di vs god knows what. Kind of like editor wars vim vs emacs vs vsstudio code vs intellij, but dumber.

So the senior dev, who evidently never received any training in hiring, asked me what depenency injection framework I used, and I was naive enough to answer, and he didn't like my answer. And that was it.

I was infuriated the whole day after, like why the fuck are we doing this?

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cubiclesocial profile image
cubiclesocial

After you've been around the block a few times, you'll eventually realize that what you really want is to have the person interviewing you to be thrown completely off-kilter for your own personal entertainment. Interviewing is, after all, a two way street.

For example, if some interviewer were to ask me what text editor I prefer for coding, I would say Crimson Editor v3.70 2004 edition. That would throw them for a loop and running to Google Search. Then they would find the text editor's ancient website, wacky dog icon, and they'd look at me dumbfounded that the text editor hasn't been updated in almost 20 years, and ask if I really do run that specific version of that text editor as my primary coding editor. They are expecting a boring, vanilla, common response of vim/gvim/VS code/etc whereby they can instantly judge me. Instead, they get an answer that is not on their internal "approved" and "disapproved" mental list of text/coding editors. If Crimson doesn't send them running for Google, then I have a number of backup plans that certainly will.

Image description

Like Trip Tucker wearing a Hawaiian shirt on his way to Risa, you gotta stand out from the crowd as the weirdo dev with legit skills if you want to get noticed. Best way to do that is to confuse the people doing the interviewing by running mental gymnastics around them so that their heads spin. In short, messing with people is fun! And short lists you among their candidate choices. Caveat: You have to be able to actually do the job though.

Also, if you can't and don't have fun in the interview, then the job will also not be fun to do. Don't sign up to work with difficult/toxic people just because it might pay well.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard

Harsh but true :)
Thanks for your comment.

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fnh profile image
Fabian Holzer

Not that it makes the experience better, but at least you cleary dogded a bullet there.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard • Edited

It could well be a bullet doged, but I would not rate it higher than 50/50.

It's also likely that he was an ok-ish senior dev but a crappy interviewer.
The thing is that you cannot be good at interviewing without either practice+feedback, or a solid training, or ideally both.
Because there is a trap with interviewing, it's easy to fool yourself and think you are good at it.
That's how many interviewers at Google asked brain teasers like "How many windows are there in Manhattan?" for years without blinking an eye.

It's sad to assume that just because you can do lots of nitpicking on a pull request, you are also qualified to evaluate candidates.
It's a completely different job.

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fnh profile image
Fabian Holzer • Edited

You are right, being a bad interviewer is only a signal, you cannot know for certain. But I wouldn't want my code reviewed by somebody with a "my way or the highway" stance either. Someone can be very fluent and productive in any given technology stack and still be a complete PITA to work with.

But OTOH, unless I had more insights from personal connection, I would consider it reasonable to over-index on bad signal like this in the hiring process.

Having been on both sides of the table, I can only concur, interviewing and hiring is a skill on its own and difficult to do it consistently and right. Given how high its leverage effect is, that constitutes a rather unreasonable state of affairs.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

I was asked what my dream job would be β€” not a bad question.

But, when I answered that I was interested in writing the storyline for a video game, the interviewer (who was the CEO of the company) told me that games are a waste of time. He ranted for a good bit and I think was trying to get under my skin, which he kinda did. I responded that some of their biggest customers are game developers and perhaps they need someone on the team who can relate with these people. Epic was one of their big customers at the time and I pointed out that they were essential income to the business, so while gaming may feel like a waste of time, having someone on the team that can appreciate and communicate with game developers is a good idea.

I later learned that the CEO had once attempted to create a game, and when it failed to take off, he soured on the whole gaming industry.

I left that interview thinking for sure that I'd be rejected. A day later, I was offered the job. πŸ˜…

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dianale profile image
Diana Le

"What's your current salary?"

There are ways to turn this question around, such as talking about what range you're looking for based on your qualifications and the job description, or asking the range of the position and then re-framing your salary expectations there. However my interviewer ignored all my other answers and kept asking this exact question repeatedly 4 or 5 times in a row until I gave a number. That was a definite red flag.

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integerman profile image
Matt Eland

How are you at working with difficult people?

Turned out there were multiple difficult people on staff. I got to work with them.

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fpsd profile image
Francesco

That was a huge red flag, why you ended up working with them after that question?

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integerman profile image
Matt Eland

Shockingly, people at the beginning of their careers don't always have the same wisdom and knowledge as they do later on in their careers.

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fpsd profile image
Francesco

That's absolutely true, each hard lesson will teach us a lot, and sharing bad experiences as well as how to prevent them is always valuable, especially for people earlier in their career.

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adriens profile image
adriens

"Do you have young kids ?"

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syeo66 profile image
Red Ochsenbein (he/him)

When I was approached by a companies recruiter while I wasn't even actively looking for a new job, the first question in the interview was "Why do you want to work for us?"

My answer was: "Well, that's what you'll have to tell me."

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anderspersson profile image
Anders Persson

There is a service now that scans GitHub, LinkedIn od, to find candidates, and then sends a mail "peronal mail" it like to sound like a personal contact but its not.
And this can be fun.
Sade ok, to get a meeting and listen, but it starts with "Way did you apply to this work?"
Me: You send me a mail ask for a meeting !

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sunflower profile image
sunflowerseed

sometimes I feel they ask me a question just to hope to see my fail... why? Because I listed a really high GPA and a top 3 CS school on my resume. Sometimes I feel they just gave me the toughest question and see in fact they are better than me or something. So now, I don't list my GPA any more, and in fact, I do feel more friendly interviewers and I get an offer more easily than before.

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rohithv07 profile image
Rohith V • Edited

I was asked something like prove for any prime number p > 3, p^2 - 1 is always divisible by 24 in a technical interview.πŸ™‚

Interviewer was expecting the whole proof, not just by considering few prime numbers and prove it by example. He need a perfect math proof.

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viktoriabors profile image
Viktoria Bors-Pajuste

β€œHow do we know that you are ready to work as a developer and not someone who is still learning it?”

I mean it’s kinda legit question but isn’t it that web development is all about continuous learning?!

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fpsd profile image
Francesco

Why did they setup an interview with you if they were not sure about that? Didn't they check your CV or portfolio? (This happens a lot and get me mad each time...)

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canro91 profile image
Cesar Aguirre

Not an interview per se, but in my worst interview, the interviewer mentioned an IQ test to see if I was smart enough to work with them. The interview immediately finished for me at that point.

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fpsd profile image
Francesco

Silliest question ever "Is that a MacBook? We are a Windows shop here!"

And the saddest part was that I didn't want to interview with that company, worst use of my time ever...