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A View On Interviews

I got an email from a recruiter friend asking me to look at a list of questions they were using to screen potential mid-level .NET web developers. Most of the stuff was pretty standard stuff about controls, XML and the like. He wanted to know whether the list of questions was something that a developer should know or if it was too textbook-like.

I’ve experienced questions like these in phone interviews. I had a phone screen where the person quizzed me about the internals of the .NET Garbage Collector. 7 of the 10 questions were pretty standards ones that any competent .NET programmer should be able to recall. The other questions were really obscure and were only intended to find out how deep and how frequently I went into the internals of the framework.

But, that interview and those questions only proved that I could memorize something or that I had used that particular subset of the framework. It did not give the company any indication as to whether I could write reliable, secure, bug-free code. It did not tell the company whether I could take a business requirement, analyze it and produce a solution.

I tend to think that the language used is really just an implement for a talented coder. By that, I mean that I prefer hearing how someone would solve a generic problem rather than list of things a quick Google/MSDN search would yield for them. In our field, there is so much information out there that it’s hard to keep up with it. I prefer people who write strong code and strong algorithms and who can figure out complex problems rather than someone who can regurgitate the .NET Framework. Whenever I interview developers, I do throw 2 or 3 basic .NET fundamentals questions at them to set a baseline, but then I try to engage them in a discussion of how they have actually used those parts of the framework. What problem were they trying to solve? What were the business requirements? Being a strong developer these days is more about business value than anything else.

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