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technical interview

I had a technical interview over the phone where I was asked some 25 technical questions in 50 minutes, where I had to do pseudocode, algorithms, data structures and design.
I think I did okay, but made a few silly mistakes.
Is this the standard way to do a tech interview over the phone?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I've newerheard of such a thing but it doesn't sound too outlandish. Really, you made out best on this one since it saved you a trip and they had to sit there and write down all your responses, which is less efficient for them than having you come in.

Tony Chang
Friday, December 12, 2003

Sounds excellent, assuming it wasn't just someone from HR writing down your responses to pass on to the technical team.

Steve Jones (UK)
Friday, December 12, 2003

We do technical interviews over the phone like that - we typically use them when there are a lot of candidates and we want to pre-screen them.  It's always a developer or technical manager performing the test rather than HR.

Friday, December 12, 2003

A pre-screen over the phone to cut down the numbe of in-face interviews is very common.

You can argue the merit of asking technical minutiae over the phone (or in person), though.

Brad Wilson (
Friday, December 12, 2003

I'd say it's fairly common. Last time I was job hunting, I did this several times. Most of the times, the questions didn't seem canned, but rather the interviewer just trying to get a "feel" for my technical skills.

Mark Hoffman
Friday, December 12, 2003

I had a tech interview over the phone where they asked me some SQL questions.  Asked me if I had ever used DTS - I said yes.  They said, "ever used RPQ" or something like that.  I said, "honestly, I haven't heard of that, but if you guys use it I'll be happy to learn it for the job."  Dude told me he just made it up, and throws that in there to filter the idiots. 

Friday, December 12, 2003

Sounds like one of my interviews for Microsoft.  I dropped my resume at a booth at a job fair at my school.  Later, they called and scheduled an extended (20 min) interview over the phone.

The person that called me was obviously not technical, and she waited on the phone while I solved the 'ah-ha' Microsoft puzzles and wrote down my answers.  Then later I got called back for an in-person interview in Seattle.

I didn't take the job by the way.  I didn't like the attitude of the people interviewing me.  (No offense to anyone that reads this and works at MS)

Andrew Hurst
Friday, December 12, 2003

I work in Seattle.  Microsoft has their particular style of interviewing, and a lot of local companies emulate it.  A 30 minute phone screen is the first step of the process.

I like that one interviewer who asked if the guy had ever used RPQ.  I have a feeling the industry should do this more often.  =-)

Friday, December 12, 2003

I wonder if they ask you real world stuff. I was interviewed by Amazon and I think it was on the third phone interview when I was asked what seemed like 1st year CS stuff (but I never when to 1st year CS) ... it was sort stuff and the job was for a Perl programmer and I've never needed to do any sorts other than using Perl sort function.  I had the impression the interviewer might have gone to school and learned some CS but was not an active programmer. I still say: read their code. I still wonder why this is not done. A programmer who doesn't write programs seems kind of odd to me. I'd want someone who enjoyed their work so much they just might do it outside of 925.

Friday, December 12, 2003

"I still say: read their code. I still wonder why this is not done."

Not all developers will have code available. If you want to see previous production code, then there are generally legal issues with that. If you want to see home code, well then you're excluding everybody who doesn't work at home on complex projects.

Maybe, if you want to read code, you should ask them to write code in the interview. I don't think there's anything wrong with having a pair session with someone to get a feel for their problem solving skills (especially valuable if you actually regularly practice pair programming, even part time).

You could also ask them to write something in advance, but that lends itself to cheating (you'd need some way to filter out the cheaters from the honest people, perhaps by doing an extremely in-depth code review, asking them to justify and defend their code).

Brad Wilson (
Friday, December 12, 2003

Am I reading you correctly that it seemed to be low level 1st year CS stuff to you, but you don't know because you didn't do any CS and didn't know the answer to the question and therefore the people interviewing you are stupid because they should have been looking at your cool code instead?

23rd yr CS student
Friday, December 12, 2003

I agree with Me. I've never been asked to recount the algorithms for bubble sort or quicksort. That's what libraries are for. And it IS first year CS stuff.

Brad Wilson (
Friday, December 12, 2003

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