[JOB] Perl Software Developer and Database programmer

Ovid publiustemp-londonpm at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 22 16:10:58 GMT 2006

Oops.  Sorry for the empty email :)

--- "O'Shaughnessy, Jamie" <jamieosh at amazon.co.uk> wrote:

> This is exactly it, there are two reasons I would ask technical
> questions at interview:
> - to find out the depth of knowledge and experience of a specific
> technology
> - to find out how the person would go about filling holes in their
> knowledge

As a thoroughly depressing example, here's a sample question I throw at
people who apply for Perl jobs:

  Imagine we're building an app and it turns out to be slow.  We've
  profiled the code and reduced the problem down to this:

    foreach my $alpha ( @alphas ) {
        foreach my $beta ( @betas ) {
            if ( $alpha == $beta ) {
                push @results, $beta;

  1.  What is a likely reason for the performance problem?
  2.  How might we speed it up?

Even though the applicants are allowed to ask any questions they want
I've been dismayed to discover that most applicants cannot answer the
first questions and those who can are often stumped by the second. 
Heck, if you've never used Perl, the problem itself should be clear,
even if a "Perlish" solution is not (sort @betas and do a binary
search, anyone?)

Here's another one:

  Write a program that presents the following menu to a user:

    1.  Display a text file
    2.  Add a timestamped line of text to the file
    3.  Exit

  For the first two options, return to the menu after they're done.

  The text file can be anything you want.  Adding a line of data 
  should prompt the user for some input (any input is acceptable).

Now here's the kicker:  I would give them Perl books, access to the
Internet, freedom to use perldoc at will and tell them that any
reasonable interpretation of the program they come up with is fine. 
I'm looking for general coding style and I'm not being nitpicky.

I wrote the program in a couple of minutes just to make sure I didn't
miss something silly.  I gave candidates an HOUR and most could not
finish it.  Yeah, I'd like an OO god who has no problem using closures
and always writes tests, but that's a dirt-simple procedural program. 
Maybe Portland just has a bunch of really, really awful programmers.


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