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Correct Answers

The problem with an interviewer saying, "No that is not the correct answer." is that it actually means, "That is not the answer I have, thus that is not the answer I am looking for, therefore I will tell you that your answer is not correct even though your answer may simply be in a different context."

This is a sad situation.  It's a matter of mis-communication between the interviewer and the interviewee.  It causes good candidates to lose out on potential positions and it causes good employers to lose out on good candidates.

Labeling a candidate as "good" or "answered my questions the way I wanted them answered" is simply not fair.

Did you, the interviewer, attempt to understand the candidates answer by giving them the same question with a different wording?  Was your question specific enough to enable the candidate to answer the way you expect them to?

I find interview questions to be very subject in nature and of course the interviewer will always the be the one that is "right".  Most of the time this is because of mis-communication.

If you are in a position of hiring, please take this into consideration when giving these "tests" to candidates.  Answers are not standardized and the candidates sure don't think like you or know >your< specific answer to the question.

I've seen better days.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

If you run into an interviewer who tells you "that's not the answer I was looking for" or "that's not the correct answer", and is not willing to listen to why you think it is a valid answer, then why would you want to work for them, anyway? The interview process is a two way street. Too many people think it's the company interviewing the prospective employee without realizing that it's also the opportunity for the prospective employee to interview the company.

MarkF
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Is this a real problem?  I've never had an interview where I was asked technical questions, then was rejected due to not giving the answer the interviewer expected. 

mackinac
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

"Is this a real problem?"

Yep, BTDT. Of course, I didn't care that I didn't get the job for exactly the reason stated above.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Sometimes when I've been interviewed and gotten silly questions I've answered and then asked the interviewer the same question.  This is an effective technique for deterring more idiot questions, especially if you take the initiative and drill-down a bit.  It's also an effective technique for eliminating yourself as a candidate.  Fun, though.

anon
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Good people are getting excluded, not because they are incapable, but because the fail to know the secret password, and the people asking only know to look for the answer given.  Sadly, I am seeing more of this and the questions are being asked by people who cannot understand your answer (HR, screeners, etc.).  They were told ask question and here is the answer. 

Real life example:
The last DBA position I applied for, a recruiter called with a series of questions. 
#1- List the five system tables in DB2.
When I attempted to explain there are more than five I was told: "No, they have all five listed right here."  Attempting to explain, I realized was a mistake.  In the end, I believe she marked my answer incorrect as I said more than five exist.  While I may be better off not working there, I wonder who managed the 70% grade and got the position. 

If your company is asking technical questions I strongly suggest you ask them of someone in that position.  If they cannot provide the answer, exactly as you expect, without prompting, the question is unrealistic.  If you need to be there to interpret, then lose the screeners and do the job of interviewing.

BigRoy
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Are there miscommunications?  Sure.

Are there idiot interviewers?  Oh, yeah.

Does this mean that asking technical questions is "unfair".  No, that's just silly.

I recognize that people are under pressure when taking tests like this, and I certainly don't expect perfection.  I do, however, expect you to know why destructors should be virtual.  If your answer is, "Meatloaf derived class airplane resource leak mambo only base class Amsterdam", I'd give you full credit.

If your answer is something like, "To make sure the virtual constructors all get cleaned up", well, in what possible "context" could that be considered correct?

And what does BTDT stand for again?

Grumpy Old-Timer
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

[ Does this mean that asking technical questions is "unfair". ]

I'm not saying that asking technical questions is unfair.  I hope you understand this.

I've seen better days.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

>>> And what does BTDT stand for again?  <<<

That's a super class of BTDTBTTS.  :-)

mackinac
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/laszlo_gabris/Smiley.txt

I think the person who started the recent C++ interview question thread was smart enough to enjoy when someone comes up with an unexpected but thoughtful answer.

tempfile
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

"It's a matter of mis-communication between the interviewer and the interviewee.  It causes good candidates to lose out on potential positions and it causes good employers to lose out on good candidates."

The assumption being that a good candidate (one who knows the correct answer) would be a better hire than a bad candidate.  Maybe the candidate who gives the same wrong answer as everybody else in the team is a better fit than the candidate who knows differently.

Danil
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

One of the guys who used to work here had a set of C++ interview questions, though he didn't know C++ himself.

One of them had the wrong answer on the answer sheet due to a misunderstanding of what *p++ would do (iirc it increments the pointer, takes the value pointed to by it and does absolutely nothing with it).

I wonder how many candidates he rejected because they got the answer "wrong".

Better Than Being Unemployed...
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Basicaly you all are saying that open ended questions are the way to go with interviews for programmers.

I can feel for that as creativity is a very important factor and you can ignore people who quote books and can't improve or be creative.

I'm a mcGyver kind of guy. If you come in my house you will see a lot of stuff I fixed with very primitive methods and saved big bucks.

I feel creativity is becoming more and more important then pure skills. With fast computers and virtual machines that abstract the machine from coding.  Look at citydesk or even other fog creek software. Its not about coding the fastest and most complex stuff but finding creative solutions for problems.

smurf975
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

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