‘I’ve never interviewed anyone, but I always thought it would be good to ask the person to play Minesweeper on intermediate mode. Tell them that you only want them to make moves that they are certain about - if they can correctly state that there are no certain moves remaining, that would be considered winning.’
I think I could win it before my first move. – Steve W
You would be wrong :). Windows’ minesweeper is guaranteed not to give you a bomb on your very first click. You have a fairly good chance of terminating after that first click, though (especially if you click toward the middle).
I have to say to the military guy: that’s kind of a tough difference, because guessing – that is, estimation given imperfect knowledge – is pretty much central to any field of engineering*. You get real data when it is reasonable, and you estimate when it isn’t. And determining whether getting real-data is reasonable is a sort of meta-estimation in and of itself. That’s why I think how many x (are there/can there be) in y type questions actually have real, germane relevance. I guess maybe it’s the opposite for most military scenarios, but there it is.
The linked article about the guy walking out of the how would you move mount Fuji interview tells me two things:
- The interviewer doesn’t pass because the interviewee asked back a question that is really similar in nature. Why would you move mount Fuji. If you have to be able to answer How, why shouldn’t you be able to answer Why with just as much BS. Maybe an eccentric billionaire has contracted your company because the view from his Fuji-facing mega-tower is blocked. Maybe it’s a scheme to realign the earth’s magnetic field and spin characteristics.
- But it all turned out okay in the end because the interviewee was too much of an obstinate asshole and it clearly wasn’t going to work.
I don’t think completely abstract puzzle questions are really the best way to go, and I’ve never been asked in an interview to answer a question that wasn’t either a real problem (even if well-known and previously solved) or just 1 fairly-obvious removed from a real problem, but I guess it does weed out a few people who have their strong opinions strongly held. Still, I wonder how common these people are in the real world, and how many people who even comment about just leaving are really just bluffing and full of anonymous bravado.
As an exercise to the mind, I like puzzle questions. To some extent they really do tell me something about a person, but I don’t know that it correlates very much at all to successful developers.
*Yes, I know, not every programmer is an engineer. Some are, and those are the ones that can justify those questions.