[kwlug-disc] how would you interview potential linux employees?

Insurance Squared Inc. gcooke at insurancesquared.com
Tue Jan 27 15:08:01 EST 2009


A point of clarification; I was looking for a developer.  And most 
importantly the point of the quiz wasn't to solve the problem - it was 
intended to create a starting point to discuss things like 'why did you 
approach it that way'.  I wouldn't use that sorting question question 
with someone looking for linux admin skills.

I got the idea from a friend who hires engineers.  His quiz has about 10 
questions.  I've taken it, and can actually 'get' most of it; because 
it's not about technical prowress or even some type of technology 
specifically.  The questions are very general in their nature and 
intended to be answered generally by technical people.

One question I do recall he uses on his test was to convert from binary 
to hex or vice versa.  I laughed when I saw it because that's obvious 
right?  Turns out a lot of engineers can't even begin to do something 
like that.  (a bit of a crucial skill for the types of jobs he's hiring 
for).


unsolicited wrote:
> Khalid Baheyeldin wrote, On 01/27/2009 11:40 AM:
>>
>>
>> On Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 11:32 AM, Insurance Squared Inc. 
>> <gcooke at insurancesquared.com <mailto:gcooke at insurancesquared.com>> 
>> wrote:
>>
>>
>>     For example, the last time I hired a developer, I presented them
>>     with this:
>>     - you have a list of 100 items in a file.  how would you sort them
>>     in reverse alphabetical order.
>>
>>     A number of folks I interviewed fumbled.  Some came up with huge,
>>     robust technically correct answers.  And the fellow we brought on
>>     board did a 10 line bubble sort.
>>
>>     Give them say 5 minutes to do the quiz (you can do maybe 10
>>     questions) and assure them there are no right answers.  You can then
>>     use the answers - and how they approached the answers - as a subject
>>     for further discussion.  The contrast in my above example was that
>>     all the other folks I interviewed were struggling for the pretty
>>     answer, the one that uses the least amount of CPU time and so on.
>>      The other fellow explained that there was only 100 items in the
>>     list,so he'd have the bubble sort written in 5 minutes and job done
>>     - and it wouldn't make any real difference in terms of speed between
>>     having an elegant answer (except the elegant answer would take a lot
>>     longer to write than 5 minutes). For me, it was the correct
>>     'business' answer.
>>
>>
>> Nice assessment there and I agree. "Correctly crafted", "elegant" 
>> ...etc. are all nice, but getting the job done fast with minimal code 
>> is a virtue. More code is often worse than less code (think 
>> complexity, maintenance, ...etc.)
>>
>> If I was looking for the ideal non-programmer candidate, it would be :
>>
>> $ sort -r filename
>>
>> Does the trick using existing tools. No new code needed.
>
> Our initial thoughts weren't too different. However, I assumed the 
> context of Glenn's question to be in the middle of a program that does 
> other things.
>
> My first thought was something like 'sort (&mydata)'.
>
> Yours was scripting.
>
> But I do like the story. Aside from everything else, it points out to 
> look to see if the person fits within the organization, whatever their 
> technical skills may be.
>
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-- 
Glenn Cooke
Insurance Squared Inc.
www.insurancesquared.com
1-866-779-1499

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