An Embarrassing Job Interview

[INTERVIEWER]:  How would you test a clock?

[INTERVIEWEE]:  I would adjust the hands to see …

[INTERVIEWER]:  Wrong!  It’s a digital clock.

[INTERVIEWEE]:  Oh.

[INTERVIEWER]:  How would you test a fan?

[INTERVIEWEE]:  I would make sure that the blades move by turning the fan on and off.  I would …

[INTERVIEWER]:  Wrong!  It’s a Dyson Fan.  It doesn’t have blades.

[INTERVIEWEE]:  Oh.

[INTERVIEWER]:  How would you test a printer?

[INTERVIEWEE]:  I would put paper in it to see if it prints something…

[INTERVIEWER]:  Wrong!  It’s an experimental 3-D printer developed by MIT Media Labs.  It doesn’t print on paper, it prints out material, like tiny buildings.

[INTERVIEWEE]:  Oh.

[INTERVIEWER]:  Are you seeing a pattern here with my line of questioning?

[INTERVIEWEE]:  Yes.  I think so.  Never make assumptions.  Always ask questions first.

[INTERVIEWER]:  That’s partially true, but I’m really here to embarrass you.  Oh, and just to let you know, we’re not actually hiring.  Just because we invite you here doesn’t mean we’re hiring.

[INTERVIEWEE]:  I guess I should have asked that question too.

[INTERVIEWER]:  Yes.  Have a good day, Mr. Anderson.

 

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What is White Box Testing?

Source:  The International Obfuscated C Code Contest (Hines)

[QUESTION]:  What is White Box Testing?

[JOHN’S ANSWER]:  First you ask me about black box testing, then you ask me about white box testing.  Why don’t you just call it white trash testing?  Why can’t this world just get along?  Why do we need to judge boxes by the color of their cardboard?  It’s all about character, not color, I say.

[CORRECT ANSWER]:  It’s testing something that you expect to work in a certain way and have detailed knowledge of how it actually works inside.  A good example would be gaining access to the programming source code of a product that you are testing.  A tester may identify potential bugs and vulnerabilities in the product by reviewing the source code.  Without such access, these problems would be harder to find.

[JOHN]:  Oh, I see you what you mean.  The code above is a great example of what you are talking about.

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What is Black Box Testing?

Source:  Kansas Geological Survey, The University of Kansas

[QUESTION]:  What is Black Box Testing?

[JOHN’S ANSWER]:  It’s testing a box that happens to be black.  I really don’t why people keep asking me this question.  How complicated is a box and why does is always have to black?  Is this a racial thing?

[CORRECT ANSWER]:  It’s testing something that you expect to work in a certain way, but have very limited, if any, knowledge of how it actually works inside.  For example, you could be a genius mathematician given the job to test a calculator.  You press the right keys and you get the right answer in the display.  You know that it’s the right answer because you calculated the same problem by hand with a pencil and paper just to make sure.  You don’t need to know anything about the circuitry inside the calculator to determine whether the calculator works.

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Why Are Manhole Covers Round?

Source: Library of Congress

I interviewed at Microsoft maybe three or four times and not once did they ask me this question.  There are many different ways to answer this question and that is probably the point of it—to see how you think.  An engineer will talk about geometry, a designer will talk about artistic symmetry, and a manager will talk about how he would answer the question without ever answering the question.  Manhole covers are round because the manhole itself is round.  The manhole is round because of Prohibition (see photo above).  This is how you answer the question the next time you interview at Microsoft.  Tell them that John sent you—they know who I am.

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Love to Code, Hate to Test

Source: http://www.leclairegenealogy.com/

I once interviewed a test developer who loves to code, but hates to test.  When I asked him questions about software development, he answered them adroitly.  When I asked him questions about test development, he answered them maladroitly.  He wasn’t some new college graduate who secretly aspired to be a software developer yet was willing to settle for a temporary test position just to get his foot in the door at the company.  Instead he was an experienced professional.

Not everyone is suited to be a software developer.  Software developers work very long hours coding new features and fixing old bugs. Some of their work is very complicated and tricky to implement.  Test developers work very long hours too in the shadows of the software developers.  Test developers are the ones who test the new features and find the old bugs.  The two teams work hand-in-hand, but most agree that that those who code for product are not the same as those who code for test.  So what about that I guy I interviewed?  He must have been in a place somewhere in between—kind of like a coding purgatory or limbo with one foot in heaven and the other in hell.  For him, heaven is the programming and hell is the testing.  He must of thought of me as the devil himself when we interviewed.

During the wrap-up session that followed the interviews, everyone on the team wanted to hire him except me.  My recommendation was to at least wait for a few other candidates before making any decisions.  Unfortunately, the window to hire someone was quickly coming to a close, so we had to decide immediately.  I told the other team members that although I understand how hard it is to find an experienced programmer, we must not forgo the fact that he dislikes testing.  I predicted that he will leave the first chance he gets as soon as we pull him away from his programming duties to do some critical manual testing.  The other team members laughed at me.  They said that it didn’t really matter what I thought since the position the man was applying for was that of my own.

So on that fateful day, the team hired him and fired me.

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