101 Most Common Interview Questions with Pass or Fail Answers

Following the recent post “10 Favorite Job Interview Questions for Linux System Administrators“, here is a more generic, but a much more comprehensive resource – “101 Most Common Interview Questions with Pass or Fail Answers“.  It’s not as technical, but it provides a good summary of common interview questions, from the generic ones like “Why do you want to leave your current company”, through brainteasers like “How many gas stations are there in the United States?”, to stress and communication ones like “What did you do when you had a boss you didn’t get along with?”.  The good thing is that you’ll find not only the questions, but also the suggestions on how to answer them.

Altogether, it’s a great resource to go through before your next interview.  Most of these questions are very common, no matter which position you are applying to.

10 Favorite Job Interview Questions for Linux System Administrators

As someone who interviews a lot of people (mostly for the web development positions though, not system administration), I’m always looking for more ideas on what to ask the candidates.  Today I came across “10 Favorite Job Interview Questions for Linux System Administrators“, which has a few of bits that I liked.

First of all, this GitHub repository is super awesomeness.  It also links to a few other resources with more questions and ideas.  Not only for sysadmin interviews.

Then, this one is funny, yet somewhat challenging:

2. Name and describe a different Linux/Unix command for each letter of the alphabet. But also, describe how a common flush toilet works.

It also checks that you know the alphabet.

9. Print the content of a file backwards.

“I like broad questions where each person could give a different answer depending on their depth of knowledge. My personal answer is 8 characters not including the filename.” – Marc Merlin, Google.

This one caught me by surprise.  My immediate thought was “tac some_file“, but that’s obviously not enough.  tac only prints the lines in reverse order.  Which is not the same as reversing the file.  Perl to the rescue, but I wonder what’s the most elegant way to do it without the scripting language.

As always, interview questions are not only useful for the interviews.  They are a good measure of your own knowledge gaps and habit pitfalls.  This time was no exception.

The Slashdot Interview With Larry Wall

Slashdot runs the interview with Larry Wall, the creator of Perl programming language.  There is a wide variety of questions.  Some are technical – about Perl 6, comparison to other programming languages (Python, PHP), Perl in the browser, etc.  Some are more generic – what kind of tools Larry uses, and what are his thoughts on English being lingua franca of the computer world.  The answers are often funny, yet very insightful.

10 Years of Git: An Interview with Git Creator Linus Torvalds


Linux.com reminds us that git is celebrating its 10th birthday this year.  An interview with git creator Linus Torvalds sheds some light on to how and why it happened, and how long it took.

You can actually see how it all took shape in the git source code repository, except for the very first day or so. It took about a day to get to be “self-hosting” so that I could start committing things into git using git itself, so the first day or so is hidden, but everything else is there. The work was clearly mostly during the day, but there’s a few midnight entries and a couple of 2 a.m. ones. The most interesting part is how quickly it took shape ; the very first commit in the git tree is not a lot of code, but it already did the basics – enough to commit itself. The trick wasn’t really so much the coding but coming up with how it organizes the data.

So I’d like to stress that while it really came together in just about ten days or so (at which point I did my first *kernel* commit using git), it wasn’t like it was some kind of mad dash of coding. The actual amount of that early code is actually fairly small, it all depended on getting the basic ideas right.

Very impressive!

And, of course: HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIT!  The world is a much better place with you.

Joe Rogan talks to Chris Hadfield about life, the Universe, and everything

Chris Hadfield, the retired Commander of the International Space Station, is interviewed by Joe Rogan, who questions everything, in this video podcast.  They talk about all kinds of things – space, science, technology, environment, social matters, etc.  It’s an hour long, but it’s worth every minute of it.

It’s fascinating in a variety of ways.  I particularly enjoyed the bits about stars and light pollution, humans living on a tiny crust, and his feelings during the flight up and coming back down.  As a side note, I couldn’t not notice how clean his language is and how well he expresses himself, and how educated he is in a variety of areas.  Joe Rogan is by far not an idiot, and yet, the contrast is still there.

In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal

In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal

Very interesting interview with Laszlo Block, senior vice president of people operations at Google.  Here are some of my favorite bits.

Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.

So, it’s not just the recruiting agency you work with.  It’s pretty much everyone.

We’re also observing people working together in different groups and have found that the average team size of any group at Google is about six people.

I find teams of five-six people to be the most efficient as well.

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Oops.  I’ve started to use brainteasers in the interviews years ago.  I think I actually learned about them while being interviewed by Google.   Contrary to Google findings, I think they are useful.  That might be because I’m in slightly different line of work usually.

Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.

No t always applicable, but yes, when it is, a very useful way to find out more about the candidate.

We found that, for leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want.

That is good to know.  Especially when I suck so badly in consistency department.

One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.

I can easily agree with the absence of correlation between grades in college and candidate’s talent.  But I prefer to see at least some education.  I don’t insist on it however, as I’ve worked with a few people who had no formal education in the field but were exceptionally good – learned from the experience.