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Answering (and asking) dumb IT job interview questions

Esther Schindler (16185) writes | about a year ago


Esther Schindler (16185) writes "Really, if I ever have to answer "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?" in a job interview, ever again, it'll be too soon.

And certainly there are equally dumb questions asked in an IT or developer setting, from arcane technical facts to "just to know how you think" questions ("If you were an animal, what would you be?"). The only thing worse than being asked such things is knowing that you have to give some kind of answer that does not eliminate you from consideration for the job. Which is why Andy Lester wrote Bad Tech Job Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them). So when you're asked for a "pop quiz" arcane fact, he suggests:

Whatever you answer, don't just give facts. The interviewer may ask you questions off a checklist, but you don't have to answer like it's a test in school. The interviewer should be finding out if you know how to do the work, but if he's not, then help him along.

For example, if the interviewer asks, "What is a reference in C++?" don't answer by parroting, "A reference is a quantity that holds the address of an object but behaves syntactically like that object." You can start with that definition, but then explain why you use references, and how you know when to use a reference and when to use pointers.

But in reality: It isn't always that easy to be on the interviewing side of the desk, either. There's a reason people ask less-than-ideal questions of candidates: They aren't sure what they should ask. Which was the motivation behind Andy Lester's companion article, What To Ask Candidates In Job Interviews (Without Being Insulting and Wasting Your Time). "Before you consider the questions to ask, you have to know what you're looking for. Going into the interview without knowing what you want is like starting a programming project without software requirements or user stories," he says.

Which dumb questions would you add to his lists? And how do you answer them (assuming you want the job)?"

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