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Job Skills Programming interviews: is it bad to study every possible question?

  1. Jun 7, 2009 #1
    Ok so for me, a job interview is still a while away, and im not even sure if i will major in CS.
    But anyways, i've heard from my TAs that in their job interviews with microsoft and such, they are usually asked strange programming questions mostly involving linked lists, and riddles.

    Now, ive basically googled and ive found comprehensive lists of questions that have been asked at microsoft interviews. Im sure everyone knows the classic one: "how can you tell if a linked list is circular" type of stuff.

    But anyways, would it be bad to study them as much as possible and then at an actual interview answer each question blazingly fast? At first i thought it would be a really good idea, then i also realized that then the interviewer will know that you prepared, and that defeats the purpose of the interview and the whole purpose is to see how well you can think on your feet. And you aren't thinking on your feet if you have studied for 2-3 years.

    What are your thoughts on this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 8, 2009 #2
    I wouldn't bother studying all of them. I've taken many programming tests at interviews.

    The whole purpose of these is to test your ability to think on your feet and how you will approach a problem. NOT whether you know what XXXX is or how to do XXXX or even the solution. Most of the questions M$ asks have very basic programming concepts. (If you don't know what a linked list is, then I don't know how you got an interview in the first place). It's your problem solving techniques they are going after.

    I now work in the SE field. There are MANY problems that arise that I will never be prepared for, so I have to solve it and fix it right there and then. It defeats the purpose of these tests, if you know the answer ahead of time.
  4. Jun 8, 2009 #3
    haha i ve actually never had an interview. IM just a sophomore in college majoring in EE, but after taking some required programming courses, i am heavily considering switching or double majoring.
    My TA in one of my intro classes who is a senior shared some types of linked list questions asked in interviews.

    But then, if studying them is not a good preparation, what is a good way to prepare?
    Because not coming up with any answer at all doesnt seem to appealing either
  5. Jun 8, 2009 #4
    Well, it's nice you know that you want to show some degree of critical thinking to the interviewer but I don't see the harm of knowing stuff 'blazingly fast'. You won't get the interviewer saying "wow, he knows his stuff pretty well. that's going to hurt his chances.". So, just prepare by learning the stuff you are interested in and leave room for the popular interview questions.
  6. Jun 11, 2009 #5


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    It should be obvious you got two worst case scenarios
    for a) you studied
    did a few of them blazingly fast maybe not so fast on a few other problems

    b) you didnt study you look at the interviewer with a blank stare throughout the interview

    which one is better?
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