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Thoughts on Technical Interview Questions

Steve Jones shares some thoughts:

Redgate had a discussion recently among our developers about our interview process and questions. There has been a standard question asking candidates about 2D arrays, but as one developer pointed out, we don’t use these in our code base. So, why do we ask candidates about this topic?

The developers came up with a different question, actually a series of questions that ask about a class and then how to test parts of this class. We mostly work in C# in a DevOps culture, so this seemed like a good idea. They proposed a scenario with a few questions and then asked current developers to solve the questions and give feedback on the language, structure, and difficulty of the problem.

Read on for Steve’s thoughts. It’s been a minute since I’ve given an interview (a plus side to having a really stable pair of database teams the past couple of years) but one of the things I enjoy doing is taking screenshots of Management Studio in various phases of work and ask “What do you see here? There are no right or wrong answers.” I say the latter because I don’t want you to enumerate through every string you see on the screen; I want you to explain what information of importance you’ve caught.

One big tip for interviewers: instead of algorithmic or gotcha questions, show actual code at the 25th, 50th, 75th, and 95th percentiles of difficulty within your code base, focusing on things a person could understand with about 20-30 lines of code and zero context. “Difficulty” can mean that this code was tough to write, is tough to maintain, or that you have included common (and sometimes uncommon) errors to an otherwise real segment of code. For database developers, that might include things like invalid NULL checks, incorrect assignments, etc. Ask the person to perform a code review and point out what they see that is interesting. That way, you get an opportunity to check their technical bona fides in a realistic but relatively low-pressure scenario by simulating the activities that a person actually would do in the job.

I have more advice but I’ll save that for another day.

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