Better Interview Questions and Tests

Big tech companies are famous for their esoteric questions and other tech shops put developers through basic, but challenging, coding tests where they’re asked to write a routine to find the palindromes in a text and sort them by length in n log n time or something like that.

I have a better idea. For programmers and system administrators of UNIX-like systems, I propose the following tests (to be performed without consulting a man page):

  • Successfully create a symbolic link to a file.
  • Create a tar file for a set of files and extract it to a predetermined directory in one attempt.
  • Open a file in either emacs or vi, navigate to the bottom of the page, and exit without temporarily (or permanently) modifying the file.
  • Remove the third field in every row from a csv file without using perl or ruby.  If they opt for awk or sed, assess whether you want someone who sees things as awk or sed problems.
  • Name their current programming font.
  • Name a unix shell that’s not bash.
  • Name the package manager that you’re most familiar with.