Bad Interview Questions

Interviewing is not easy for either the interviewee nor the interviewer. There are rules and in some areas laws to abide by when developing questions yet the interviewer still needs to determine which candidate will be the best fit for the company. This includes technical skill, personality match with the current team, and longevity or meeting the company goals and vision.

“They’ve got to figure all this out in like an hour of talking to you.”

What Makes A Good Interview Question

  • Good questions should be concise.
  • Good questions should provide enough information so that you know when you’ve effectively answered them.
  • Good questions should not give out information you don’t want given out.
  • Good questions shouldn’t be used as a form of prejudice or to set someone up to fail (or succeed when they shouldn’t).

These are just a few of the most common types of bad interview questions you might see while interviewing. Remember that you are interviewing them as well so be on the look out for warning signs you might not want to work there. It’s up to you to make the determination whether you will like a job or not.

Episodes in the series

Episode Breakdown

14:10 Yes/No Questions

“Have you ever used Java?”

Yes/No questions don’t provide much in the way of useful information. The answer is binary. Yes/No questions don’t provide any opportunity to elaborate on the answer. Interviews full of yes/no questions come across as more of a checklist than a conversation.

To overcome yes/no questions, elaborate on the answers, even if you weren’t asked to do so. Ask for clarification in a way that indicates a deeper knowledge of the subject, as most things don’t truly reduce down to yes/no answers anyway. Ask open-ended questions of your own when you get the chance. You can show knowledge by what you ask them.

21:53 Leading/Loaded Questions

“Do you have any experience using a real programming language like C++?”

Leading and loaded questions don’t provide much useful information because they express a desired outcome. Leading and loaded questions often start by expressing an opinion, making it very difficult to express a contradictory opinion Interviews with a lot of leading/loaded questions tend to indicate that the interviewer has very strong opinions and may be difficult to work with.

“The people that do that invariably think they are clever.”

To overcome leading/loaded questions, figure out what the question is pointing towards and elaborate in that direction. If you are feeling particularly bold, try gently disagreeing and ask them questions about why they have a particular belief in their particular environment. The type of leading questions people ask give clues about their environment. Use them as a prompt to point out how you would be valuable in such a place.

31:06 Leaky Questions

“What was your last vacation?”

Leaky questions can reveal too much information about the interviewer or interviewee. They can often reveal information that biases the interview. They also can derail the interview into discussions that don’t really show your value to the client.

“People do like to make other people happy.”

To overcome leaky questions, turn your answers into a narrative. Instead of saying “I went to Vegas”, say “I went to Vegas after months of working on low level GDI+ programming”. Tell a story with your answer. Even though it doesn’t show your value, if it’s humorous, you’ll still stand out from the crowd. Turn it around on the interviewer. Ask where they went, as it allows them to talk about themselves (people like this) and gets you useful information to use to build rapport.

36:54 Stupid Questions

“How much experience do you have using client-side Java libraries like Angular?”

Stupid questions generally indicate a lack of expertise on the part of the interviewer. An uninformed interviewer can either mean that you are dealing with an HR drone or a non-technical manager. You have to figure out which.

“I have laughed at someone when they said something similar to this and they were being serious.”

If the interviewer is an HR drone, you only need to pass muster with them well enough to get to the real interview. If the interviewer is a non-technical manager you need to show that you can express the technical concepts in a way that they can understand AND that you can provide business value while doing so.

“I really hate that they called it JavaScript because it’s nothing like Java.”

Try to determine the intent of the question and answer that. Figure out who you are talking to and shape your responses accordingly. Answer with confidence, but not arrogance.

46:36 Unethical/Illegal Questions

“Have you ever been arrested? Do you intend to become pregnant?”

What constitutes an illegal question varies depending on where you are. What constitutes an unethical question doesn’t.

In general, unethical/illegal questions are designed to assist with some form of discrimination. In most places, asking questions about race, gender, sexual preference, age, religion, and the like is illegal in interviews.

“We are two white males from the south…this is something we have not experienced.”

There is no easy way to overcome illegal or unethical questions. Try to determine their intent. It may be salvageable if they are merely inexperienced or ignorant, but it is not if they are trying to discriminate.

DevSpace: North Alabama's Premier Polyglot Technology Conference

IoTease: Project

Controlling IoT from MineCraft

This is a mod for MineCraft that allows you to control IoT devices from within your game. It uses AllJoyn to control lighting and temperature in the real world while you are playing the game. You have to have AllJoyn devices or can add a library to work with other devices. The code is written in Java. Of course it only works with PC versions of MineCraft.

Tricks of the Trade

Don’t assume malice when stupidity is a sufficient explanation. Yes, people ask dumb, sometimes illegal questions in an interview. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you report them or complain. Sometimes they just don’t know better and some of those people can be the best people in the world to help out. On the other hand, if it is legitimate malice, you need to be able to discern that, or they’ll be the worst. Start from good faith.

Editor’s Notes:

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