DEV Community

loading...

What is the worst question you have ever been asked in a job interview?

Aza on June 10, 2020

Oh interviews! Some people are afraid of them, but I am always looking forward. It's the skill that you need to develop constantly. No matter how ...
pic
Editor guide
Collapse
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

You should have answered in James Bond style, "I eat dogs... Hot dogs!!"

Collapse
bigj1m profile image
Jim Plourde

"Is there any dog/kid/wife that could get sick and make you miss some work days?"

I was baffled, I ended the interview and told them I was not interested into getting involved with a company asking these kind of questions.

Collapse
val_baca profile image
Valentin Baca

OH MY what an awful question and glad you took that as a major red flag. In fact, I'm not a lawyer, but asking directly about marital status in an interview actually illegal in the US.

betterteam.com/illegal-interview-q...

Collapse
bigj1m profile image
Jim Plourde

It's very illegal in Canada too, and we have even stricter rules than US like no age, sex, religion, skin color, etc. At this point, I just wished them to go bankrupt and didn't want to spend anymore energy on them.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

oh wow! Does the cat also count?

Collapse
rohmishra profile image
Rohan Mishra

Hiring for JS and CSS and every question was about C# .net and random .net libraries.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Maybe the team didn't even know JS and CSS themselves and still they had to ask you something!

Collapse
val_baca profile image
Valentin Baca

"What is RAID?"

It allows multiple disks to be configured in a way that optimizes for speed or redundancy or a combination of the two.

"What is RAID 0?"

I don't have the specific types of RAID memorized. Rather if I need a specific need, like redundancy, I can google the kind that I need.

"....Ok....So what is RAID 1?"

Do you have any questions that aren't answerable with a google search?

"..."


Turns out they just wanted a DBA.

Collapse
alvagante profile image
Alessandro Franceschi

Don't want to play the smartass here as it's true that this information can be quickly found with a search, as almost everything, but not knowing the answer straight away actually DOES give a seniority indication, at least for sysadmins. Knowing the difference between Raid 0, 1 and 5 (the most used ones) should be granted for sysadmins and expected also from DBAs. my2c

Collapse
val_baca profile image
Valentin Baca

You're absolutely right that I would expect a sysadmin to know these off-the-cuff, but this interview was for a junior software engineer.

It was not advertised as for a DBA or sysadmin position. They also didn't change up the questions after realizing that they weren't going to get anywhere. Instead they just kept going down their list of "okay, what is RAID 2...RAID 3..."

Thread Thread
alvagante profile image
Alessandro Franceschi

Oh right, for a junior developer these are not required notions. And insisting on Raid 2, 3 and other quite uncommon levels was pointless

Collapse
ovinokurov profile image
Oleg Vinokurov

"What kind of car you drive?" They saw me in the video camera when I arrived. Year, model, color, etc.

Correct answer:
class Car
{
string color = "gray";

static void Main(string[] args)
{
Car myObj = new Car();
Console.WriteLine(myObj.color);
}
}

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

oh, so you actually had to guess that they want to code as an answer.

Collapse
ovinokurov profile image
Oleg Vinokurov

I guess so, but that was my answer. I didn't get a job ;)

Collapse
endymion1818 profile image
Ben Read

I went for an interview where the boss sat me down and told me to write a sort function on paper. I get very nervous at this kind of question and ended the interview as soon as I could. Not long after that I got a new job anyway, at the company they were outsourcing nearly all of their development work to.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Have been there. Once i was explained the database relationship of multiple tables orally and was asked to write down the query on piece of paper. I wrote the query but totally messed up the table names. Selective memory...but for this kind of questions a little handout with structure would greatly help.

Collapse
jsn1nj4 profile image
Collapse
marcusjohnson profile image
Marcus Johnson

And we have a winner. Yikes.

Collapse
dividedbynil profile image
Kane Ong

Interesting question! I have one to share.

My situation was, around 4-5 persons asking different questions, which are very broad (technically related, experience, tooling I used, etc, switching around very frequently). After a while (around 20 minutes) math question came out, and they mentioned that "waiting for me to give up", I did not give up and give them the right answer. Obviously their plan did not work out on me.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Did you get a job?

Collapse
dividedbynil profile image
Kane Ong

I rejected them, as this is one good example to show that it is a common tactic of company recruiters hiring developers by destroying their confidence in order to make interviewees accept whatever offer they give. That's one of the reasons why imposter syndrome is prevalent in this industry.

Nowadays I will be playful with recruiters psychology tactics.

Thread Thread
aza profile image
Aza Author

You did great!

Thread Thread
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

Oh, I am so glad you mentioned the imposter syndrome in this case. Because this is one of those very reasons why people who are much senior to us, don't allow us to learn and instead they very vocally express, "Huh, you don't even know that?" I mean, dude.. let me try to find an answer at least. I don't mean all of them are like this, but I don't like when someone does this. Now that I am aware of it, I don't react to such statements when I hear it from someone, but many beginners don't have a clue.

Thread Thread
dividedbynil profile image
Kane Ong

To all the viewers, be confident for yourself. The worst question may design deliberately to make you look inexperienced even though you are not. Don't take it to the heart. Anyway, be sure to improve yourself and be ready for all those questions.

Thread Thread
dividedbynil profile image
Kane Ong

@nerdycap007 I'm glad that you found the essence of my reply, those actions that make you feel worthless from others will not affect you anymore.

Collapse
steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

What is SOLID design principles? I was literally stuck in how to implement it.

Collapse
pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

I feel like this is pretty fundamental, really. I've certainly brought these up in design discussions with my team at work before, and they're something I think about frequently in my hobby projects, as well.

Collapse
steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Not really I think it's more of an opinion or best practices that the company might adopt. Which is similar to design patterns that might not be that common as well. Like you don't need it unless you are required to use it?

Thread Thread
pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

I mean, I suppose you're right in that you don't absolutely need them to write working software. But I think the same could be said about things like tests, or not littering magic numbers throughout your code. They aren't necessarily going to make your code work better now, but they've got a very high likelihood of making it more maintainable!

Anyway, I'm sorry you got stuck on that question! Regardless of the topic, getting stumped in interviews sucks.

Thread Thread
steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Yeah I'm not against it for code maintainable sake. Which I will usually chuck it as a nice to have thing. Over something like clean code, pair programming and TDD.

In fact it lead me in reading it more in depth to explore design patterns and SOLID more. It just makes me more smarter in future interviews to ask questions.

What are they are expecting for me roughly in a interview before I go for another one to prevent myself being caught off guard.

Thread Thread
pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

Hm. I feel like there are probably a pretty huge range of answers there, depending on who the interviewer is, what company they work for, and what department they work for (could be HR, a technical person from the prospective team, a technical person from a different team, a recruiter, etc.). I'm also not sure that I'm really the right person to answer - my interview experience is pretty limited. I have opinions on things like SOLID because I spend a lot of time thinking about, reading about, and practicing software engineering, both at work and in my free time. I've also worked in some pretty gross codebases, and I've seen what happens when people don't keep things organized and adhere to things like SRP.

My (limited) understanding is that interviewers are usually trying to gauge you on at least two axies:

  • Technical fit
  • Team/culture fit

Both of those have a pretty huge impact on how much value you're likely add to the organization.

I would also say that, if they're thoughtful about it, they're probably also trying to gauge your fit for the industry or domain you'll be working in: an engineer with an interest in ecommerce is going to be more valuable to an ecommerce company than one who is interested in game development, simply because they have spent more hours thinking about the domain. When they are given a problem to solve, they'll have more context that they cam draw on.

As for not getting caught off guard, I'm inclined to say there are probably two aspects to focus on: 1) building your knowledge in the relevant areas, 2) your ability to handle being caught off guard when it does happen.

Point 1 is something you can solve through Google, reading, practice, and just being generally curious about your craft. Generally, I would say be curious about the fundamentals.

Point 2 is equally important, though - you're going to get caught off guard, evem after years of experience, so being prepared for it and having a plan for how to recover is really crucial, I think. A lot of the time, interviewers are explicitly trying to test the boundaries of your knowledge. It lets them find out what you really know, and also how you handle not knowing.

For concrete areas, I'd be inclined to focus on things such as:

  • SOLID principles
  • Core design patterns (the problems they solve, what the costs of using them are, possible alternatives)
  • Requirements gathering and analysis, critical thinking
  • Underlying tech (HTTP, CORS, etc.)
  • Different solutions in your problem space and their tradeoffs (e.g., for web developers, what are the benefits, costs, risks, tradeoffs, etc., of using server-side rendering as opposed to SPAs or SSGs?)

Again, these are just bits and pieces I've concluded from my limited experience. Please take anything I say with a fairly hefty dose of salt!

Thread Thread
steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

It's a extensive list :) we all have our preferences and in the way we do things in the type of jobs, we are of interested in or has inclination with.

I just chuck it as experience and seek for other pastures. As startup has always been about culture fit. Which I just guess I do not fit them and its alright. Since there is tons of companies or jobs out there.

For me, I'm more of scrappy person to get stuff done. Even if I'm bad at it for the start. I will figure out a way to do it.

Which is why I'm not really that opinionated or dogmatic in my way. Sure sometimes I wish there will be certain expectations I see in others. but I won't be bothered with they are not having clean code, good test cases and easy to understand documentation. I just figure it out to deal with it along which sadly can not be verified through a short interview.

Besides I feel we should be a voracious learner to take on multiple mental models to solve a problem. Combine with interest in learning soft skills needed for us to be better communicator & developer, leading a team and dealing with people who might be less technical inclined to get something done.

Collapse
natriumdev profile image
NatriumDev

pretty common question imo.

Collapse
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

I am a frontend dev and once I was attending an interview for the same position. The guy asked me about how many family members do I have? I was okay with that question. But then the guy asked, "How good is your relationship with your father?" (It was a startup company and the guy was one the founders.) By that time I was thinking, "If that's the first time we are meeting, imagine how it will be when I would be working with him?" Anyways, I think my answer did not satisfy his standards 😅 cuz I did not get a callback for a technical interview.
Moral of the story: "Don't be a therapist, while you are interviewing someone.. 😛"

Collapse
sunitk profile image
Sunit Katkar

In the US you don't get such family related questions, but I've been asked some weird questions.

Collapse
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

Really? Like what? Because there must be some reason behind asking those questions, right? In my case, I still couldn't figure out why to ask a person about his relationships with his father? Did he want to know how much I am affected by my childhood and to overcome my insecurities, I will invest my life energies in improving my work?

Thread Thread
sunitk profile image
Sunit Katkar

Like 'What is your opinion on office flirtations and relationships?' This was out of the blue and then realising what an inappropriate question he had asked, the interviewer tried to make it sound like he was joking and gave reference of some episode of The Office tv series.

Thread Thread
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

Haha, people trying to be Micheal Scott from The Office.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Seems like a guy had problems with his father. Maybe, the answer "My relations su.. (are bad)" would get you a technical interview.

Collapse
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

That would be a great answer, lol. Interviewers try to take very weird approaches, but instead, it is not that difficult to find out if the person is really capable of the job or not.

Collapse
pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

Pretty sure questions related to your personal life are illegal in Canada. At any rate, that would be the point where I thanked them for their time and told them to look elsewhere.

Collapse
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

It may be possible, but here in India, I have seen interviewers from some companies act a little too much out of the normal, cuz there are no such laws here.

Thread Thread
pclundaahl profile image
Collapse
richardeschloss profile image
Richard Schloss

"We're looking to fill a role with someone who has 5-10 years of experience with [buzzword framework], do you have it?" (and in my head, I'm thinking umm...that framework has only been out for 2 years...)

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Very common question. Especially i like when people put this range 5-10 years of experience.

Collapse
lifelongthinker profile image
Sebastian

Yep. And don't forget: They only want to pay you as a junior dev. Some companies just don't know how much they shoot themselves in the foot with this kind of behavior.

The saying goes: If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Thread Thread
jsn1nj4 profile image
JSn1nj4‍‍👨‍💻

I think you mean code monkeys. 😎

Collapse
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

I think they are looking for the creator of that framework, but they are feeling shy to reach out to him/her directly, so they are hoping that he/she shows up in one of their interviews. #ultraoptimism

Collapse
radoslaven profile image
radoslaven

I think that this is a problem in general today, there are recruiters that are hired by companies and are given a list of objectives and requirements but of course the recruiters beautify them and if they are interviewing you there is a high change asking you question like this now knowing what they are dealing with. I am talking from experience, went on an interview, they asked me personal questions only and said that there would be a second interview with the tech lead but they never called me, idk why, my skills were never tested.

Collapse
johnelomas profile image
John Lomas

Hiring manager for a city IT department to me walking into the interview room: How much of you resume is lies?

I should have walked out at that point.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

What??????I would!

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

You won!
I would never think of something more stupid to ask.

Collapse
srleyva profile image
Stephen Leyva (He/Him)

Them: Please list all Possible Linux signals And their meanings
Me: Can I have a terminal?
Them: You should be able to answer without a terminal
Me: Are we not allowed to look at man pages for this job or....

Collapse
quasipickle profile image
Dylan Anderson

Not an interview question, but I had a professor in university with the same attitude as you. He thought there was no value in learning everything by heart because "You're never going to be on a desert island and the only way you can get off is by calculating the standard deviation of a data set by heart"

Collapse
srleyva profile image
Stephen Leyva (He/Him)

I agree! I think there’s value in learning how to find things outside of google but even then there are very few instances where you don’t have google. I’m not a huge fan of this trivia-like interview questions as it doesn’t prove application of knowledge.

Thread Thread
pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

+1! Being able to read and extract value from, e.g., a man page is a super useful skill.

Collapse
sylvaingirod profile image
Sylvain GIROD

I've been asked on flags that exist or not on a precise object of the android framework.

This kind of questions are pointless, as there is no value on knowing the doc per heart...

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

I agree, such questions/answers are pointless.
Unfortunately, some interviewers make a goal of showing that they are smarter than you, rather than looking for candidates for their team. Ego!

Collapse
wobsoriano profile image
Robert

This is very true. Oh well.

Collapse
val_baca profile image
Valentin Baca

How awful and disgusting of them. So sorry you got asked such a question.

Collapse
sunitk profile image
Sunit Katkar

This was many years ago. Was asked how to reverse a string. Showed the standard String to char array and for loop. Was asked any other way? So I said that for production code, I would use the JDK StringBuilder reverse method.

Interviewer was not happy as I didn't mention recursive method. He kept on harping and I quickly wrote the recursive method on the whiteboard. I told him it's not practical. I told him politely that I would use the for loop for just discussion and interview purposes, the recursive method for academic discussion and the StringBuilder reverse string method for production code.

He was not happy and I didn't bother to go for the next round.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Can you imagine working with him/her in the future?

Collapse
emtes profile image
Enmanuel de la Nuez

"So are you a citizen or do you have a green card..?"

Wanting to know if I'm authorized to work in the country or if I'll ever need sponsorship is one thing, but this question did not sit well with me. It's wasn't even a company that says you most be a citizen to apply for any of the roles. They even operate internationally.

Collapse
jselbie profile image
John Selbie

Asking if you are a "US Citizen or Permanent Resident" or visa situation (H1-B, etc...) is a perfectly fine question to be asked over the phone by a recruiter or screener to a candidate. But it's lame if they waited for you to show up at the onsite interview to ask that.

Collapse
emtes profile image
Enmanuel de la Nuez

Could you explain more why this question matters? I thought permanent residents and citizens are both authorized to work. There was otherwise no question about visa status. I've also only been asked this once and I've been talking to recruiters pretty frequently lately.

Thread Thread
jselbie profile image
John Selbie

Correct. But I think you are misinterpreting the question. They don't care if you are green card instead of US citizen. They just want to make sure you are EITHER of those two. You can simply say "yes" without more details if that's the case.

The conversation will either go like this

Interviewer: "Are you a US Citizen or permanent resident with a green card?"

You: YES

Interviewer: Thanks.


Or it will go like this:

Interviewer: "Are you a US Citizen or permanent resident with a green card?"

You: No, but I do have an H1-B that is still valid for 3 more years, and I'll need to apply for green card status before the end of that period.

Interviewer: Thanks. Let's discuss that process some more.


Or perhaps this:

Interviewer: "Are you a US Citizen or permanent resident with a green card?"

You: No, I'm currently on an L1 visa from my current company, and will need H1-B or similar sponsorship to work here.

Interviewer: Thanks. Since we are looking to hire for this position immediately, we may not be able to proceed.

Thread Thread
emtes profile image
Enmanuel de la Nuez

This makes sense! Thank you!

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

its not a common...its a first question that is asked. Most of companies can't sponsor the visa holders, that's why start with that question. (but that's not the right way to ask. I agree).

Collapse
emtes profile image
Enmanuel de la Nuez

In the US both citizens AND green card holders are authorized to work, though. Only certain government/federal positions require employee to actually be citizens and they're not one of them for sure! I even asked the employee that referred me :(

Collapse
kelvinmai profile image
Kelvin Mai

I once had an interview where they used incorrect vocabulary.
"Are you experienced in front office and back office development" and "We're looking for someone who could work with Amber and Mango DB". Suffice to say that company only had one developer and he wasn't part of the interview process.

Collapse
mrispoli24 profile image
Mike Rispoli

What does $$variablename mean in jQuery?

It doesn't really MEAN anything it was just a naming convention for variables that were known to be holding multiple DOM elements. Although in Prototype the $$ query was the proper one to use when you wanted an array of DOM elements and not just the first match.

Either way all this tells the interviewer is if you followed a specific naming convention. I always remember this as an example of the type of question not to ask candidates.

Collapse
jdmg94 profile image
José Muñoz

This happened on the 3rd world around one of my lowest points. I was looking for a job as a developer and I applied to a local pharmaceutical company.

Not only did they asked you to fill in your resume again on a form after they ask you to bring a printed copy of your resume, but the rest of the form where questions that got too personal, things like:

Do you have a car? (year/make/model/color)
Are you married?
Does your partner owns a car? (year/make/model/color)

I got up without filling in half the form and I gave it back to the secretary and told her this was not worth the $500/month they offered for the job.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Seems like they heard that interview must be held, but no one did a due diligence of investigating what questions need to be asked.

Collapse
jdmg94 profile image
José Muñoz

It was a terrible organization, I honestly feel like I dodged a bullet there 😅

Collapse
bhavaniravi profile image
Bhavani Ravi

Do you know how to do 'x' in 'y'?

x = technology I never used.

The interview feedback = Not industry ready.

I am now in a better job now.

Already used 'x' in projects now.

Don't let an interview define what you are capable of

Collapse
huncyrus profile image
huncyrus

"Do you know, this company could not offer high salary but a journey to make a great product?"
From a swedish company who:

  • Want to hire ppl below 30 with not much experience because that hurt others ego (most of the IT workers had 2-5 years max)
  • Had freshly invested money (10+ m eur)
  • Want to hire 50+ IT person (frontend, backend, QA, lead...)

"Mind us if we send you a personality test?" (what is ultimately a simple IQ test...)

Collapse
mikehale profile image
Mike Hale

I was applying for a WordPress plugin developer position and they asked "What's your favorite WordPress hook?" Uh... All of them?

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

i am not familiar with Wordpress but looks like a question: what is your favorite hand: left or right?

Collapse
varunbatrait profile image
Varun Batra

How come you type so fast?
Practice I guess?
You have a girlfriend?
Do I have to answer that?
Then it must be girlfriend.
That's practice on mobile. Right?

Hyderabad interview 2010

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

If you answered the girlfriend question, they might have asked "How good is your relationship with your girlfriend?" (see the above comments)

Collapse
nerdycap007 profile image
Aman Sharma

Haha yes yes... people say you should learn from your experiences, and if I were to learn from my interview experiences, I would definitely ask you, "How good is your relationship with your girlfriend?"

Collapse
nenad_cvet profile image
Nenad Cvetković

How would you test a water heater!?!?
Interview for Senior QA position in a company in financial industry.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Maybe they had a problem with water heater and the plumber was late...

Collapse
nerdharder615 profile image
Matt

I have had questions like that. I mentioned it was weird for a Linux system admin role. They then explained it to me that they were more interested in my thought process for troubleshooting an unknown problem. After that it made more sense why they asked it.

Collapse
nenad_cvet profile image
Nenad Cvetković

But this was senior role! To me, it was just embarrassing.

Thread Thread
redwanzia profile image
redwanzia

exactly!!!! ..... don't ... 'thought process' me!!! my god!!!

Collapse
davidyaonz profile image
David Yao

I got an interview back in 2011 for front end dev, the boss asked me to write a form validation system using at least five different languages and explaining them as detailed as possible which at that point I only could implement two. The worst thing is he doesn't even know one which made me really embarrassing.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

one of those questions where confidence in your voice would make a big difference!

Collapse
visigothsniper profile image
visigothsniper

I only ever applied to two internship positions until now, but my very first one was a sort of group interview where we had to introduce ourselves following a predefined presentation.

At some point it involved pretty personal stuff like health issues, religious affinities and who you live with (to which the HR interviewer frequently asked "Girlfriend/boyfriend? If so do you plan on getting married/live together?"). I don't know how standard those kinds of questions are, but in a room full of people I didn't know, it felt very invasive. I just skipped over that personal questions section and it might be why I never got to the second round of interviews.

Collapse
cmstead profile image
Chris Stead

I was asked to explain how floating point numbers work and why a floating point error would occur.

This was for a web application developer position, the person who asked was just trying to come up with a way to bully candidates.

He picked the wrong developer. My background is in mathematics and I took an entire sequence on numerical methods.

I almost walked out, but I needed the job because my entire dept was getting laid off.

Collapse
jselbie profile image
John Selbie

Why were you insulted? This sounds like a fundamental computer science question to me.

Collapse
freecoderzhaoshuai profile image
freecoderzhaoshuai

I met a interview question which is to say 23 kinds of design patterns

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

When the interviewer asks me n-number of smth, i always answer what i remember and start explaining those. Let's see who has more patience.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

Enlighten! what is that?

Collapse
peritract profile image
Collapse
otterb8 profile image
1712288

"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

Collapse
mateuszjarzyna profile image
Mateusz Jarzyna

"What kind of cartoons do you like" and "how often do you play a football table during workday". Maybe no worst, but pretty weird.

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

i would go with the most common cartoons: Tom and Jerry never failed me (even though i am not a fan).
Football table...hmmm...maybe "ready to learn" answer was expected?

Collapse
anchietajunior profile image
Anchieta Júnior

"What kind of conversations you and your team have about software engineering?"

Collapse
demetrakopetros profile image
Petros Demetrakopoulos

How much is 17x17 ?
They were really waiting for an immediate and accurate answer.

Collapse
tusharar091 profile image
tusharar091

What's your caste? Write it down on top of your resume after clearing final round
It was embarrassing and I said no , I cant and rejected the job offer

Collapse
aza profile image
Aza Author

what? no way! i am so ashamed that we still have this kind of stupid hierarchy in the societies.

Collapse
l7ucian profile image
Andercou Lucian

I was asked why did I leave one of my previous jobs and wanted to know why I wouldn't go back. Maybe it's not a bad question, but it felt a bit uncomfortable.