I’ve come up with two additional categories of interview questions after having incorporated some feedback on my earlier post from colleagues and friends. Hopefully this list won’t grow any longer than it is…
Impossible Technical Questions
With a pen and paper, provide an implementation that would automatically normalize a database representation, generate the appropriate constraints and index tables based on SQL profiling information from runtime.
Yes, it’s a great idea and one the interviewer might be considering for a future startup, but it’s not practical to expect anything practical in an interview. You might discuss the design of this kind of feature, especially if you’re interviewing a talented database professional, but if you’re expecting any code…
Alternatively, the question might sound reasonable at first, but then the interviewer proceeds to add complexity such that it makes no sense to implement at all, not to mention in an interview:
Implement a function that backs up modified files to a network share. Oh, and make it configurable. And add a notification feature when something goes wrong. Ah, and address the condition when there’s low disk space on the network share and you’re required to balance the storage across multiple shares. Add an algorithm for redundantly storing and later reconstructing the store from these multiple shares.
(And so on.)
The Illegal Kind
Do you have any kids? Does your husband have any health issues? Have you done military service? Are you planning to get pregnant?
This is somewhat less of an issue in Israel (from my experience), but appears to have more significance elsewhere. One of my friends told me a story a couple of years ago about her not getting hired at a kids’ game construction company because she appeared religious and the interviewer didn’t like her telling him that she’s planning to get married soon.
Eventually, most of these irrelevant personal questions are downright illegal. With them being irrelevant, you should constrain your curiosity to a situation less formal than a job interview.