Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
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Show Me Yer Technical Chops

Over the years, I've kept a list of interview questions for languages like Java and JavaScript, but I'd really like some all purpose questions that could answer:

  • How fast can he or she learn new technologies?
  • How deep (or broad) does he or she go?
  • How well can I work with this engineer?

Of course, these questions would have no right answer, but the ensuing discussion, should illuminate the shadow behind the resume.

How do you Implement XYZ?

A question like this (where XYZ is something somewhat relevant, like a "web server", "ping", or "servlet container") shows not only technical knowledge, but curiosity, as well.

I mean, we use web servers every day, but do we know what's under the hood?

As the candidate describes the components, data flow, and APIs, this should show off things like:

  • Is she detail oriented or more interested in the big picture
  • Is his knowledge and interest broad or deep
  • His or her communication skills

I highly doubt that anyone would remember every aspect (I know, I wouldn't), but this seems reasonable to ask.

What is the most interesting feature of…?

We all brag on our resumes about the hot, new language we were able to learn, but how well did the candidate learn Groovy, Scala, Haskell or CoffeeScript?

If you were to ask me about Groovy, I would mention the nice syntactic sugar, but bemoan the type laziness. This would show that I like structure and am not comfortable with ambiguity.

Also I really, want to love CoffeeScript, as the JavaScript syntax could really use an overhaul, but optional aspects just invites confusion and problems. For me, if something is completely optional, leave it out. If parenthesis are needed some of the time, require it all the time.††You might complain about the number of parenthesis in my beloved Scheme, but at least you knew what they are doing.

Going off on such a rant should be expected if the developer is passionate and excited about their work. And that's a Good Thing™.


I realize that our half-hour time slot is now over, but I want you to add to this list. What questions do you ask potential co-workers?

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