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Question for Interviewers: How effective are textbook interview questions ?

 
Greenhorn
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Yesterday I had an interview at a top online stock brokerage firm and all the questions asked were of a similar format as the ones below:

What are the different types of jdbc drivers?
How do you call stored procedures?
What does registerOutparameter method do?
What is the difference between aggregation and composition?
What are the different ways of starting a Thread?

I came away thinking that the interviewer just picked up a bunch of questions from one of those '100 Java Interview Questions' you find online. My point being that textbook style questions like definitions and differences would never reveal the caliber of a programmer.
You cannot tell if the person had crammed these answers the night before or actually 'lived' through the experience.

Having worked with plenty of programmers during my 10 years i often find that those who can rattle off definitions and theory can be inept at writing code that wont fail its intended purposes. In one of my first java projects we hired this guy who had co-authored several books on the latest java technologies. However it soon became obvious to us that he was incapable of putting together even a simple jsp and map it in struts. He would have made a fine technical advisor/analyst but sadly we wanted a good programmer and had to let him go.(Note: im sure this is not common and plenty of authors are great programmers)

When you are interviewing for a programmer what is the right strategy/questions you would employ to determine if the person is a good programmer or not?
For example, I often find that when I interview candidates it helps to have the person talking about their experiences and how they solved a particular problem. This would tell me a lot more about their skills than if i just asked them 'What is the purpose of the finally block'(yea, i got asked that at quite a few fortune 500 companies)

Lastly I apologize if this sounds like a rant. I really want to get your opinion on what you think is the best approach when you interview someone for a programming position. Hopefully, this can help make better interviewers out of all of us.
 
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Mark,
I try to avoid stock questions as much as possible.

I personally believe the best way to interview a programmer is a combination of:
1) Let them talk about their experiences so you can see what they claim to have done
2) Ask scenario type questions to see how they think and that they can communicate about architecture and the like
3) Have them write some code.
 
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What are the different types of jdbc drivers?
How do you call stored procedures?
What does registerOutparameter method do?
What is the difference between aggregation and composition?
What are the different ways of starting a Thread?



mmm we do use stock questions for an interview but only during the phone screens. The point is that if you cannot answer the stock questions, why would you be a good hire. Stock questions however tend to only help identify if theoretical knowledge is good. Stock questions by themselves can be twisted to give a new flavor.

Phone screens are usually followed by fact to face interviews and these focus on implementation problems. For example given scenario X how do you make this class thread safe. Given scenario Y, how do you solve it efficiently given time and space constrains.
 
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As Deepak Bala and Jeanne are suggesting, an interview should be well-rounded.

  • Open-ended questions to judge experience, technical skills, soft skills, and personal attributes. These questions have more than one answer and no right or wrong answers. This also includes behavioral questions like what you did in a particular situation...?
  • Technical questions to ascertain the level of technical knowledge and technical skills. These are straight forward technical questions and answers. Occasionally ascertain a candidate's confidence in the answer by challenging his or her right answer with “Are you sure about your answer?” and “What gives you the confidence in your answer?” type questions.
  • Scenario based questions to judge experience, engineering skills, and technical skills. This is another way to get a candidate to think outside of the box without giving him/her questions that can be answered straight forwardly. This will demonstrate a candidate's ability to know what, when, where, why, and how to apply the technical and soft skills.
  • Coding questions to evaluate coding skills, logical thinking, motivation, and most importantly the right attitude – for example, openness to constructive criticism and willingness to change the code without the “I know it all” or “I wrote it therefore it is good” attitude.
  • Impossible or stressful questions to test analytical thinking, creativity, and personal attributes like ability to handle pressure and sense of humor.

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    Ranch Hand
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    Well said everyone!

    Can I request everyone to put some example questions also to support & help everyone understand the point more clearly?
     
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