Why Asking Google-able Questions at Interviews Is Just Fine, Really
I’ve recently encountered the position that it is bad form to ask interview questions which can be answered easily by using Google. Some examples include traversing a linked list, naming some important API, or describing the architecture of a popular framework.
I could not disagree more. The litmus test for interview questions should not be whether you can find the answer by researching the subject online. If that were the criteria, interviews would be ten hours long and consist of very difficult algorithmic questions – and of course you’d have to come up with these questions yourself!
There are perfectly legitimate reasons for asking questions that can be answered by researching online. Here are some examples:
- Traversing/reversing/otherwise manipulating a linked list demonstrates basic understanding of data structures, runtime complexity, and in unmanaged languages – pointers, which are misunderstood by too many developers, not only on the junior level.
- Naming important API demonstrates that you are working with it on a daily basis, and that you really know what you’re talking about. If you are a C# developer and cannot write a C# program that reads a few lines from a text file, you’re probably embraced too tightly by a framework (or three) and need to go back to basics once in a while.
- Describing the architecture or design of a particular framework you’re using illustrates that you don’t accept things at face value, and are willing to invest the time to understand a subject in depth.
Yes, these things can be researched online, and I don’t care. I will ask you for the answers, and I won’t let you Google while answering. This is not about the fact we all use Google, StackOverflow, and a myriad of other online resources in our day jobs all the time. This is not about being able to research a topic online and come up with a great implementation. This is about being a Developer, and not mashing up pieces of code with no understanding what they do.
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