More Interview Stupidity

I’m still looking for a new job.  Here’s some more stupid things I observed.

One place gave me a multiple-choice C++ test.  I didn’t pass.  My policy should be to refuse to do these things.  They’re probably thinking “HAHAHA!!  We screened out that loser FSK with our test!”  Actually, their test was defective.

Here is a sample question.

if (a = 5)

Does the above C++ code compile?  True or false?

Well, that’s a trick quesiton.  It is legal to use assignment equality in an if statement, although it’s generally a stupid idea.

However, any decent compiler will give a compiler warning.  If you aren’t a clueless twit, your policy should be “All my code compiles and runs without warning messages.”

What answer do I give?  I have to estimate the intelligence of the test-writer and what they’re measuring.  Do they want me to know that assignment-equality in an if statement is legal C++?  Do they want me to know that it gives a compiler warning?

When employers say “Our policy is that everyone takes a technical skills test.”, I should reply “My policy is to refuse to take technical screening tests.  It’s an insult to my experience and background.”  It’s generally a stupid idea and a waste of time, but I’ve got nothing better to do.  I’ve been doing it.  It’s astonishing how often I take their stupid test, and don’t make the next round of interviews.  I know that I know my stuff.  The test is usually defective.

It’s pretty amusing.  These technical tests usually measure obscure language features that I don’t normally use.

For example, at my last job, a coworker got stuck on the STL.  The code didn’t work and he couldn’t figure out why.  I responded “That’s why I don’t use the STL.  It can be impossible to debug.  I always write my own templates.”  It might seem foolish for me to write my own template classes, but I only have to do it once and I know exactly what they do.

Here’s another excerpt.

Idiot: Have you worked with Java and Spring?

FSK: Yes, I have.

Idiot: What tool did you use to edit the framework code?

FSK: I manually edited the XML and source.

Idiot: We want someone who will edit the code with the GUI tool.  Therefore, you are unqualified.

That was pretty foolish.  Manually editing the code is harder than using the GUI tool.  I had to manually edit it, because the code had become not-synchronized with the GUI tool, and that was the only way to do it.

I wonder if he just was a jerk, and didn’t like me for other reasons but gave that as the excuse.

It’s pretty frustrating. I never noticed that in my previous jobsearches. All the employers and recruiters seem nearly completely clueless. It’s a symptom of a dying economy. I wonder if the cluelessness factor is increasing, or my overall awareness is increasing. I suspect it’s both.

5 Responses to More Interview Stupidity

  1. FSK, you opinion of testing for software development positions is similar to mine.

    I think there is a need for some testing, but the problems with the way it is done are as follows:

    1) Some companies take 1 – 2 days of your time for testing. This is excessive. Then after wasting 2 days of your time with their oral and written tests, you are rejected because of something on your resume that they knew at the beginning i.e. you only have 3 years of Java experience instead of 3.5 years or that you have used Buzzword 1.30 when they need Buzzword 1.35.

    2) Even if you score highly in their tests you are still rejected.

    3) The best way to do things is have a normal interview first and then if you pass that, then do the tests. This way you don’t waste 2 days on tests to get rejected for a “soft” reason.

    4) It is extremely tiring to have to spend 0.5 – 2 days in testing for each job you interview for. After 10 such interviews you will just give up. With high unemployment it is now commonplace to have to interview at 10 – 30 jobs before you get one job offer. More so if you are an older software developer.

    I spent two whole days with a barrage of written and oral tests. At the beginning of the interview process the chief manager said the company wants its employees to learn about all the underlying maths and finance the software uses and wants them to take part-time courses. Then in a later interview I said that in one previous job I was solely doing user-interface work and felt that I should have had the chance to do other types of programming which I have aptitude for as well. Immediately the interviewer said I was rejected as they wanted me for user-interface work.

    So I had wasted 2 days of my time on tests. Plus it contradicted what the chief manager had said about them wanting well rounded employees that knew things at many different levels.

    • There has to be some way to week out people who are unqualified and fakers. However, you should be able to do this with a 15 minute phone screen.

      Most of the tests are defective. It is offensive the people are asking me basic linked list questions, when I have a CS degree and 10 years of experience. It is silly, that all the C++ tests ask about obscure points of multiple inheritance and casting. I’ve never seen or written production code that uses multiple inheritance.

      • I went for an interview with a company that writes software for airline booking, near Heathrow Airport.

        In the interview the interviewer was talking about threads and locks. He then started to say thread locks are expensive in terms of time and that there should be better ways to do it.

        I then gave him my solution and he said it was too expensive. I told him straight that my method was guaranteed to work and if he tried to do something “clever” it would fail.

        He then went on to describe a stupid way to access shared resources using different threads. No built-in thread locking methods were used. It looked horrible.

        When I got home I asked a friend who directed me to a university paper saying that the interview’s solution was completely stupid and would fail for many different ways.

        So I was right in the interview. My method was simple and works. His method was incorrect. I told him so in the interview.

        However I did not get the job.

        Surely if you are writing software to book airline seats you don’t have to write with the same efficiency as games software. You just want the correct results. When writing airline booking software you should not write dodgy code just to save a fraction of a fraction of a second!

  2. In the United Kingdom it seems most jobs are obtained via recruitment consultants. Typically they don’t bother to read CV/resumes. They just look at the very first sentence of your very last job. They understand little or nothing.

    The vast majority of my programming experience is in C/C++, C# and Java. I have years and years of experience programming these languages. Even right at the top of my CV I state these are my main skills. However as I listed the work I have done in date order, the first sentence of my last job listed another type of work. Immediately below it said I was doing C/C++ work.

    The result was that recruitment consultants never bothered to read my CV/resume and I only got put forward for the wrong jobs. This combined with the fact I am getting a little older, meant that I totally missed out on getting hired.

    I now work for myself.

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