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Would you be this honest in an interview

A Bhattacharya
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Joined: Oct 22, 2007
Posts: 125
Sometimes in interviews they ask a qn, and ask you whether you have heard it before. If you have (and knew the answer without having to exert your grey matter), would you admit it?
Going a level further in honesty, would you admit you have heard a question without them asking you whether you have heard it? And if you do admit it, and so they waive that question and ask another question for which you can't able to answer (and lose the interview), would you bang your head on the wall after you go home?
[ May 12, 2008: Message edited by: A Bhattacharya ]
Joanne Neal
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  15
That sounds like a good idea, but probably not in the way you meant. If you get asked a question for which you have no idea of the answer, you could say that you've been asked that before and hope that they then ask you a different question


Joanne
A Bhattacharya
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Joined: Oct 22, 2007
Posts: 125
I've thought of that strategy but the problem is that you would usually spend a few minutes trying to solve that problem before declaring you have heard it before and the interviewer would wonder why you took so long to declare that.
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
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  66

Originally posted by A Bhattacharya:
Sometimes in interviews they ask a qn, and ask you whether you have heard it before.
Invariably, this means that they're about to ask you a brain teaser. I refuse to answer brain teasers. It may have cost me a few opportunities throughout the years, but if an interviewer can't come up with a better question than "how does the pirate get the gold rope", it's probably not someplace I'd be happy working anyway.


[Asking smart questions] [Bear's FrontMan] [About Bear] [Books by Bear]
Mark Spritzler
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    6

Originally posted by Bear Bibeault:
Invariably, this means that they're about to ask you a brain teaser. I refuse to answer brain teasers. It may have cost me a few opportunities throughout the years, but if an interviewer can't come up with a better question than "how does the pirate get the gold rope", it's probably not someplace I'd be happy working anyway.


I'm with you. I am done playing games. I would say, yes I heard that one before and move on. I would offer it even if they didn't ask me if I heard it before.

I would much rather everything be 100% honest and know that both sides feel the job is a match or both sides say earliest on when it isn't a match. In many cases some of the questions that they ask also tells me whether it is a match for me, and if they want to play games, I don't want to work there.

I think this thread should be in the Jobs Discussion forum as it seems to have a little more meaning that a drivel forum.

Mark


Perfect World Programming, LLC - Two Laptop Bag - Tube Organizer
How to Ask Questions the Smart Way FAQ
A Bhattacharya
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You are wrong. The questions are not always indicative of the nature of the job. They more often reflect the color of the interviewer than the color of the job. Many many job interviews ask pirate, rope burning, bridge crossing, minimum number of weighings, and what not.
Ben Souther
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Originally posted by A Bhattacharya:
You are wrong. The questions are not always indicative of the nature of the job. They more often reflect the color of the interviewer than the color of the job. Many many job interviews ask pirate, rope burning, bridge crossing, minimum number of weighings, and what not.


The fact that the company is using an interviewer who asks these types of questions says something. If these types of questions consistently cost companies good candidates, either the questions or the interviewers would be replaced.


Java API J2EE API Servlet Spec JSP Spec How to ask a question... Simple Servlet Examples jsonf
Bear Bibeault
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  66

Originally posted by A Bhattacharya:
You are wrong.
Wrong? You cannot say what is wrong or right for me.

And I am, of course, saying this as a senior-level candidate. Sometimes, when interviewing people right out of school with no experience, it's hard to come up with relevant questions. Though I'd personally still never resort to brain teasers as a measure of how "smart" someone is.

Originally posted by Ben Souther:
The fact that the company is using an interviewer who asks these types of questions says something.
Indeed. If a company cannot match me up with someone who knows how to interview, that tells me that it's not going to work out.
Nicholas Jordan
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It's like Ben say, along with the others. You asked a question, and your original wording makes clear what it is you are asking. When one needs a job, one's mind is in a different frame. Too often, we see this Company, oh mighty Company - all Right / all Might......

But after you have tried to run a company, one sees the issue you asked in both it's original form and the counter example from such a totally differing context that one realizes that a company that has to hire an interviewer who has to fabricate questions that have nothing to do with 6,000 lines of code just is not fully up to needing the interviewer in the first place.

Probably what they should do is replace the interviewer with the coder.


"The differential equations that describe dynamic interactions of power generators are similar to that of the gravitational interplay among celestial bodies, which is chaotic in nature."
A Bhattacharya
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Joined: Oct 22, 2007
Posts: 125
By the way, I lost an interview *because* I had heard of the question but I didn't notice the question had been modified from its original version. It was the Russian Roulette problem and he had interchanged the number of holes and bullets and I gave the answer 1/2 which was for the original version (and that too, after pretending to think for a while). Downside of preparing too much for an interview.
Mark Herschberg
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Posts: 6037
To answer the original question, I have been in that position and I have said, without prompting, that I have heard the question before. It happened probably about 3 times and most of those times they said "well, give me your answer anyway" in which case I didn't just give the final answer but explained how I derived it.

Originally posted by Bear Bibeault:
Invariably, this means that they're about to ask you a brain teaser. I refuse to answer brain teasers. It may have cost me a few opportunities throughout the years, but if an interviewer can't come up with a better question than "how does the pirate get the gold rope", it's probably not someplace I'd be happy working anyway.


I strongly disagree, but before I explain why, what questions would you ask?
(I don't know the pirate and gold rope question so can't speak to that one specifically.)

--Mark
Nicholas Jordan
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
(...snip...)I strongly disagree,...(...snip...)


Why?

{ note for both: It is obvious to me why, I am trying to save both of you a snarl.}
Bear Bibeault
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  66

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I strongly disagree, but before I explain why, what questions would you ask?
Actually, didn't we have this discussion a few years back?

I expect questions to be relevant to my experience (with over 30 years, there's got to be something better to talk about than transporting chickens across the river).

I know you and other may disagree, but I don't think brain teasers are a good tool for judging a candidate, especially one with experience under their belts. It's not a case of "I'm too good for brain teasers", -- I just don't find them useful. I know many people who are great at their jobs, myself included, who do poorly on them. Does that make me dumb? A poor choice for a position that I will excel at?

Mostly I find, as posts in this thread bear out, that they are a measure of how many friends one has that are also interviewing and that have related the question, and how good the candidate is at dissembling and pretending to work through the answer.

Unless my job is going to entail counting coins without being allowed to count, don't ask me how to do it.
Nicholas Jordan
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Okay, this is what I expected. It's kind of like Mark's thesis - design a control system without having any proof or audit trail that one can verifiy manually ( by self, by being there ) [Very, very close to what I am writing on another screen right now.] But such that it CAN be audited.

What happens here is we get into a reporting issue, there are some subtleties involved that do not resolve well.


{ message edit: }


[ May 12, 2008: Message edited by: Nicholas Jordan ]
[ May 12, 2008: Message edited by: Nicholas Jordan ]
Pat Farrell
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    5

Since I only talk about senior jobs, I'd probably suggest they move back to something applicable. Trick questions just yell to me that the interviewer is a bozo.

I have had one place where brainteasers were appropriate, but that was the oral defense of my PhD comprehensive exams, and there, anything goes. A great example of it is in "The Cuckoo's Egg" - by Cliff Stoll, where the committe asked him "why is the sky blue" and with each answer, said: "can you be more specific"
Mark Herschberg
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Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Bear Bibeault:
Actually, didn't we have this discussion a few years back?

I expect questions to be relevant to my experience (with over 30 years, there's got to be something better to talk about than transporting chickens across the river).

I know you and other may disagree, but I don't think brain teasers are a good tool for judging a candidate, especially one with experience under their belts. It's not a case of "I'm too good for brain teasers", -- I just don't find them useful. I know many people who are great at their jobs, myself included, who do poorly on them. Does that make me dumb? A poor choice for a position that I will excel at?



Maybe... I can't find a thread on it though.

As a side note, I put brain teasers into two categories. One type is an "aha" where you get a key insight (e.g. the three light bulbs with 2 switches, placing coins on a table, timing 45 minutes on two 60 minute non-uniform burning candles, etc); I think those are a dumb idea because you either get it or you don't. The other type are logic problems (sometimes more common forms of math) in which the candidate demonstrates her ability to think. I believe those are very appropriate because I hire people for their ability to think, and this is a good way to see how they think. It is one of the software equivalents of a case study.


[Flame on] ;-)

You said you don't find them useful. Fair enough, but that's your preference and not your interviewer's. The job of the interviewer is to determine who is most qualified, if this tool works best for him and not for you, who are you to say otherwise?

Now obviously if their technique was to ask you your favorite flavor of ice cream, I'd join you in the criticism. So then the question is do you feel this is just an absolutely wrong way to go about it (like using ice cream preference), or simply a low correlation (I'm a front end guy, why am I being asked data structures?). If the former, we'll just have to disagree; if it's the latter, we'll also disagree but I'll try to change your mind. :-)

I suspect your argument is the latter and akin to the one against SATs--it's not a perfect test and there are many smart people who just aren't good test takers. In this respect my response (not personally to you) is: so what? As I've said before hiring can be likened to the engineering triangle: time, cost, quality. I want to hire a good developer quickly and for not too much money. There's the famous story of a man who is handed 400 resumes from his boss and told to create a short list of candidates in 30 minutes. The man promptly takes 200 resumes and throws them in the trash. His friend asks him why he did that; the man replies, "I wouldn't want to hire anyone who has such bad luck." The point is in different circumstances different tools make sense. I don't agree with some of the coding tests some big companies use, but when you have 200 qualified (on paper) people for a role, it's a cost effective way to weed people out. For me, such brain teasers are a "cost effective" (in terms of time) way to filter people. It's not my only criteria, but it works well. No doubt I have or will have missed someone because of it, but my job isn't to find every top candidate, it's to find the best candidate at a reasonable time/cost.

One household name software company used to ask candidates three questions in an initial HR given phone screen. One of them was "What's 2^10?" and if the candidate didn't give an answer in 5 seconds they didn't pass. I'm sure they lost scores of people, but this company has likely thousands applying for each opening, so they needed a quick way to filter and this worked.

[/Flame off]


Now to be fair, I've criticized plenty of hiring practices, and no doubt I'm drawing arbitrary lines here (not arbitrary to me, it's consistent with my logic but arguably my values and opinions are no better or worse than yours) but you know me, I'm opinionated and will argue.

Wait a second, what am I saying? Of course my values and opinions are better than yours. :-)


--Mark
[ May 12, 2008: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
Nicholas Jordan
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Posts: 1282
[afterburners]
In the school of business, it is de-rigor ( as in rigor-mortise ) that one leaves school b4 completion of doctorate level work. In Mark's field, doctoral skills may needful to do the caliber of work. Bear's don't need that, they just crush things. ( see code post ) Suddenly, we have Bears with Fried Chicken. I fail to see how Brain Teasers are of use when Business is not Teasing. If ( a person generally ) rests on this as a substantiation, it may be that Ice Cream gets you creamed, that is what the customer not only wants and demands, it is as well what brings customers in. Why would you want to change his mind, Mark? You - ( we ) - don't want the customer in the vault, nor the Chamber of Souls. The Souls are for sale, cheap.

The arguments against SAT's are fabricated ruse's by the vendors of SAT to get everyone drawn into the us / them dichotomies, without which they could not sell Superior Arial Targetting, that Patina of Katrina...[/afterburner]

Let's see some heat, throwing resumes in the trash is something I worked around ten years ago. Let's see some iw.
Bear Bibeault
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  66

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
You said you don't find them useful. Fair enough, but that's your preference and not your interviewer's. The job of the interviewer is to determine who is most qualified, if this tool works best for him and not for you, who are you to say otherwise?

See, it works! From this it is clear that you see an interview as a one-way street for the sole purpose of the interviewer. The needs of the interviwee don't matter.

You are clearly not looking for me, and I am clearly not looking for you. You're looking for chess pieces, I'm looking for companies that don't treat employees like chess pieces.

This impedance mismatch will come to light at an early point as soon as you start asking me how to get the pig across the rope bridge.

No flames necessary, we have different goals and different approaches. Luckily, the industry is big enough that we'll never be forced to try and match up.

P.S. This applies equally when I am the one doing the hiring. If I can't figure out how smart someone is without having to resort to non-technical questions and brain teasers, shame on me.
[ May 12, 2008: Message edited by: Bear Bibeault ]
Mark Herschberg
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Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Bear Bibeault:

From this it is clear that you see an interview as a one-way street for the sole purpose of the interviewer. The needs of the interviwee don't matter.


Bear, I think you've read enough of my postings to know that's not true. And I don't know how you read that as "one way." I see interviews as two ways, but only talked about one way.

I've had immature developers ask me a bunch of questions in the interview I don't consider very relevant--but it's important to them, so rather than dismiss their questions I answer them. I go further try to understand why it's important to them because it helps me understand them.

If I'm hiring a team of 6 people I hand pick everyone. If I'm hiring 200 entry level developers in 6 months, you can be sure I do see some as interchangeable during the interview process. One man cannot do this withing 6 months if he has other responsibilities. Likewise a college cannot process 15,000 applications for 1,000 slots without using some basic filters like SAT scores and GPA for initial filtering.

This thread is a great example. Abdul, Ilja and I have three different lists. Onsite opportunities aren't on my list (ok, I live in US :-p) but neither is job security. Is Abdul wrong for wanting job security? Am I wrong for not putting it on my list? (I actually like things that tend to cause insecurity, which is why it's not on my list.) Neither of us is wrong for doing what's right for us.

When we make technology decisions you can always go multiple ways... PHP, RoR, groovy? Which to choose depends on skill sets available, cost of hiring, size of project, lifetime of project, tool support, etc. Two people can look at the same requirements and propose different technologies. While building a cool website in COBOL may be universally considered bad, it's not always clear whether RoR or PHP is better for a situation. In fact, the decision for someone building a personal website in 3 days might be "I know PHP but not RoR" so that's what I'll use to build it; is that wrong?

Likewise someone people find brain teasers a useful tool for determining ability. Are you so sure that they're wrong for using them?

--Mark
Akhilesh Trivedi
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Originally posted by A Bhattacharya:
Sometimes in interviews they ask a qn, and ask you whether you have heard it before. If you have (and knew the answer without having to exert your grey matter), would you admit it?
Going a level further in honesty, would you admit you have heard a question without them asking you whether you have heard it? And if you do admit it, and so they waive that question and ask another question for which you can't able to answer (and lose the interview), would you bang your head on the wall after you go home?

[ May 12, 2008: Message edited by: A Bhattacharya ]


I never practise brain-teaser before the interview, if I did then i actually cheated myself and i cheated the interviewer.

I will not bang my head if I was stunned by a brain-teaser or if my "face-to-face" interview was hoaxed with a preliminary analytical reasoning, but i would sure retrospect for having failed at questions like,

"We do not keep anything on paper but we do expect our people to continue longer, how long will you be with us?"
[ May 13, 2008: Message edited by: Akhilesh Trivedi ]

Keep Smiling Always — My life is smoother when running silent. -paul
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Nicholas Jordan
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[Akhilesh Trivedi:]I never practise brain-teaser before the interview,   You probably went to school, thus you followed a disciplined, supervised form of practice. Brain Teasers may be an oversimplification - but the work is abstracting away such things as 'pigs fly' ( yes, they don't - that just flows better ) ... In that setting, one sits for hours then goes to engage physical activity. The contrast between dodge-ball at recess, telling that they call it recess, vis-a-vis loading 20 metric tons of Bocephus' Ossified Sus scrofa, often used for budgetary planning, is so vastly differing from dodge-ball at recess that we have an off-by-one in the perception field. ( apriori )

DEK opines in Vol4 fascicle 0 that what I take to be largely the same area of our science has been and will continue to be a rich area of inquiry. An oral defense of PhD comprehensive is not unlike a job interview, thus some form of abstracted - possibly irrelevant - posit may well reveal thought skills that are relevant. Mark's positioning has already revealed the operative keyword. When a stressor is applied, the functionality of the interviewee is revealed. Bozo interviewers who parrot intractable lemma have no place placing senior power-points. In a The Cuckoo's Egg, you have headless monsters running through invisible doors. Placing a laminted lock or a stainless round lock on the van-body doors can be detected by observing, a broken lock on the floor is not something we chat about at a Beltway Social. Jimmy Carter moaned about the Beltway in his bio, but that is how The Corporation works. There actually is such a thing, an ad-hoc networking of friends, just as Mark will ultimately defend or Bear will ( as he has already ) dismiss a measure of how many friends one has as not relevant to transporting chickens across the river.



Maintaining a vault temperature of 34 - 37�f is served by keeping interview questions on the front carpet, a'la Beltway Style and is not dissimilar to keeping passengers in the fueslage and keeping them isolated from baggage conveyors. What we have here is one with chess pieces and one with over 30 years experience.

There are intrinsics there that do not lend to doing Trick questions except where the field of endeavour and the number of raw hours in the field of endeavour share factors in common.

If not, we get what we have here, I am the one that has to provide reporting. This is funny to me, not funny ha-ha and Not Funny ( ! ) - it is EXACTLY my field of expertise.

Explain to me how:
(you) cheated the interviewer

I bet you cannot do it any more than Bad Mitten, the Smitten Kitten can.
[ May 13, 2008: Message edited by: Nicholas Jordan ]
Ilja Preuss
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Originally posted by A Bhattacharya:
By the way, I lost an interview *because* I had heard of the question but I didn't notice the question had been modified from its original version. It was the Russian Roulette problem and he had interchanged the number of holes and bullets and I gave the answer 1/2 which was for the original version (and that too, after pretending to think for a while). Downside of preparing too much for an interview.


No, downside of trying to cheat, of not being honest. If you hadn't pretended to think, but admitted that you had already heard about the problem, you probably would have been given a second chance by the interviewer.


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Ilja Preuss
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Honesty is one of my most important values. If I can't get a job by being totally honest, I wouldn't survive in that job for very long, anyway.
Nicholas Jordan
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Joined: Sep 17, 2006
Posts: 1282
Originally posted by Ilja Preuss:
(...snip...)Honesty is one of my most important values.(...snip...)


Define Honest. Use illustrative contexts in as varied a fashion as you can provide reasonable basis for.
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4659
    
    5

Originally posted by Nicholas Jordan:
Define Honest.


Go to an interview with the CIA, when they ask:

Have you ever been a member of an organization working to overthrown the US government?

Say "no" but I sure wished someone would back in 1971 when Nixon was president.
Akhilesh Trivedi
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Joined: Jun 22, 2005
Posts: 1527
Lets take very simple math, you write on a paper

13*5 =?

and distribute it to three candidates.

1. Immediately jumps out whispering to himself, "thirteen fives are..." and scribbles on paper.

2. Is busy working out,
"13+13=26
26+13=39
39+13=52
52+13=..."
obviously on rough sheet that dont go with answer-sheets..

3. is busy working out,
"5+5=10
10+5=15
15+5 = 20
..."

and time is up.! You have answer-sheets yes only answer-sheets now...

1. 65
2. 52
3.---

What do you do? weed out two or select one! !!

There are puzzles, there are patterns. I would definitely go with Mark if he was doing a thermostat system and asked me at what temperature farenheit and celsius become equal? Else i would keep arguing, selecting the candidate and eliminating the candidate may not always be the best complement.
Ilja Preuss
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Posts: 14112
Originally posted by Nicholas Jordan:


Define Honest. Use illustrative contexts in as varied a fashion as you can provide reasonable basis for.


Honestly, I'm reluctant to put the energy into following this request without knowing the motivation behind it. How would knowing my definition of honesty help you or the original poster?
Nicholas Jordan
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Joined: Sep 17, 2006
Posts: 1282
Originally posted by Ilja Preuss:
Honestly, I'm reluctant to put the energy into following this request without knowing the motivation behind it. How would knowing my definition of honesty help you or the original poster?


Perfect. You HAVE answered the request. The explaination of how and why diffracts like ( ?... do not have word here ) - What you did is you answered honestly, you thus served both OP's - though they will differ on their evaluation of your response.

I am interested to see if and how either either responds to your action or changes their wording, style or manner subsequent to your response. The one I am interested in actually is working on a security issue, and my purpose is to garner material that others may use by watching the response of that worker. The crypto of data protection has been admitted by publicly cited masters to be largely effective - it is the human mind that remains to be mapped into the cryptologics.

Keeping the customer on the front carpet and out of the equipment room is known by insurance history to be good practice(s). How we do that may be different for the field of computer science. I told my Team Lead when speaking to ( someone I told him to speak to ) that: "You have created headless monsters running through invisible doors." I hope to do additional work by providing fodder for one of the original poster's work. The other one pretty much has the situation nailed.

Thank you for your response. ( ! )
Ben Souther
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Joined: Dec 11, 2004
Posts: 13410

Hi Nicholas,

Please don't hijack the original poster's thread with other questions, studies, experiments, etc..

Thanks.
-Ben
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4659
    
    5

Originally posted by Ilja Preuss:
Honesty is one of my most important values.


Its supposed to be sincerity. Sincerity is the key.
Once you learn to fake that, you are set.
Rambo Prasad
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Joined: Feb 23, 2006
Posts: 628
I feel puzzle and brain teaser interviews are much better than interviews which test your API Knowledge....I once attended an interview where each and every question was basically an API question.What is the interface that this class should implement...?What is the vi command to do this,that etc..All the questions asked where this sort of questions...

After the telephonic interview I was called for the second round,but I felt the second round will be too much of a torture and said I am no longer interested.


Helping hands are much better than the praying lips
Kj Reddy
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Joined: Sep 20, 2003
Posts: 1704
Originally posted by Rambo Prasad:
I feel puzzle and brain teaser interviews are much better than interviews which test your API Knowledge....I once attended an interview where each and every question was basically an API question.What is the interface that this class should implement...?What is the vi command to do this,that etc..All the questions asked where this sort of questions...

After the telephonic interview I was called for the second round,but I felt the second round will be too much of a torture and said I am no longer interested.


That may not happen every time or in every round of interview. I had similar experience. In the first round of interview I faced bookish questions ( probably the interviewer prepared a list of questions from a book or faq)and I tried to answer most of the questions even though I got irritated. They called me face to face 2nd round interview which I liked for the way the interview is driven.
 
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