What is your favorite interview question?

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We've talked about terrible interview questions:

Now, let's talk about your favorite interview questions. This can be answered both from the perspective of the interviewer and as the applicant.

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"Do you have any questions for us?"

This is the gateway for me to start interviewing them. Culture, expectations, leadership principles, priorities, organization goals, etc, etc.

An interview is a two way exchange; when I'm done it feels like it as well.

 

Yes! I'm always a little bit concerned if the candidate doesn't have any questions for me about the company, the job, my experience working there, etc.

 

This is my favourite bit as the interviewer too :)

 

My favorite, for either side of the table:

As the interviewer: "How would you describe yourself in one word?"

As the interviewee: "How would you describe in one word?"

It really gets to the heart of what people think and it makes them really have to dig deep to find what is the most important thing to them.

 
 

In a non-programming interview, I was asked a two part question:

1) What was the class that you found most challenging during school?
2) Now, explain a concept or idea that you took away from the course.

I found it to be a challenging and revealing question. Forcing me to honestly confront my weaknesses, but also giving me an opportunity to show (don't tell) how I still tried hard and took something away from material that I found difficult.

 

One of my favorites to ask as an interviewer: "Tell me about something you've worked on recently that you're excited about"

I've gotten a pretty wide range of answers, both technical and non-technical related. Getting candidates talking about something they care about helps to lighten the mood/stress of an interview and they're more likely to be able to answer any follow up questions I have about the project than if I were to ask them a more direct technical question on the fly.

 

"What's your least favorite technology to work with, and why?"

 

I always ask what people's favorite programming language is and why. Just want to see them get excited about something (hopefully) and their thought process!

 

Same here, love seeing how passionate the individual gets about their craft. I actually ask the same question with an added part, "What's your favourite programming language, and what is the one thing you love about it, and the one thing you hate about it.". Experienced folks always have something to grind about even if it is their favourite tool.

 

Design an elevator bank. The idea isn't to code anything, or make classes, or even a UML diagram. Just to talk through what it would look like/work from an operations perspective. it was a lot of fun!

 

I've heard a lot of variations of this! Like "Design a bicycle" or "how would you make a PB&J sandwich?" with the goal of seeing how they walk through the steps in the process. Are they detail-oriented or do they focus on larger concepts first/what kind of assumptions do they make?

 

I suspect it depends on the interviewer. In my case, I talked through how decisions would be made. I "homed" each elevator to the lobby when it wasn't in use. I had internal button presses override every other call, etc.

Then, the interviewer asked me for adaptations. Things like, what if you have multiple elevator banks? What if the building is 100 floors? Etc.

 

As the interviewee: "Why would I not want to work at this company"

  • Recruiters like this question
  • It is an easy way to get a view of the culture of a company (if you don't like to work agile) or what there biggest issue is (it can get very political) and so I can decide for myself if I like that or that it would be something that will eventually make me leave. If someone says they don't know, it's a red flag.

As the interviewer: "Why would you not work at this company"

  • To see if they understand the kind of company it is and what the challenges are, also I find the answers more honest and thoughtfull than asking: why would you want to work here.
  • So they will think why they want to work with us.
 

As an interviewer, I feel I always benefit from asking a prospect "What's the last thing you learned and how did you learn about it?"

This gives me some insight into the resources the developer uses, what's considered "new" to them and, most importantly, gives me a significant red flag if they can't name anything at all.

 

My pro tip is to ask them β€œdo you have any concerns about me not being qualified enough for this role.”

It’s perfect because if they really like you, aka your nailing the interview and they intend to proceed with you, they will rush to your defence. But if they respond honestly you know not to get your hips up!

 

"Tell me a problem you recently encountered, and how you fixed it" - What I am looking for is not about how awesome they did on saving $2.231.333 by patching xyz, but rather how they describe the problem/solution. Was it enough detailed? Too detailed? How did they get to know it was a problem in a first place? Did they seek support or let anyone else know? Was there a postmortem? If yes, why?

There is just something about that question that can go into 5-10min discussion and you get the feel for how the interviewee operates under problems that can occur in any given moment.

 

As the Interviewee:

  • If I pulled one of your rank and file, individual contributors aside for a beer, and we got to "real talk" about what the "problem" is around here, what do you think they would tell me?

This scares the crap out of some people and you get really interesting answers.

As the Interviewer:

  • Are you someone who pulls, asking for work when you have the bandwidth or someone who waits for a push to be told what to do?

This will trigger a conversation where you can suss out the work personality type pretty easily. Do you want someone wild and free that you might have to watch out for or someone you can expect to do what you say but nothing more.

 

"Tell me about a problem you encountered, and how you solved it."

 

Technical question:
" When you type a Domain in your browser and hit enter. What happens until the page is loaded to you?"

And the final one:
"Teach me something. Could be anything"

 

What were your last pain and how did you overcome it?

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