Saturday, March 04, 2006


Yesterday I had a "phone screening". This is where a potential employer calls you up to determine whether it's worth bringing you in for an interview. A pre-interview if you will. I've never been "screened" in this way before. I take it things have come to this because of the sheer number of programmers out there looking. Basically the caller asked questions. I asked questions too, but she didn't answer my questions and to be frank -- I didn't have very good answers for hers either. She asked 9 questions, here's a list of the first 6:
1) [C++] Is the following a legal function declaration: static virtual void foo
2) [C++] What is the purpose of a virtual destructor?
3) [Win32] What's the difference between semaphore and mutex
4) [messaging] What's the difference between send and post?
5) What is a singleton pattern?
6) [COM] All COM interfaces are derived from what class?
The 7th question had to do with COM connection points -- I forget what it was exactly -- I was a bit flustered at that point. The last 2 questions were regarding MFC. I was surprised by the whole process in general. Especially the first question which I'd gotten as an interview question 10 years ago (it's a trick question and I have something more to say about it later -- not the tricky part though). Here's the thing, this was a screening for a programming position in C++ using MFC and COM. I haven't programmed a stitch of C++/MFC/COM in over 3 years. I had however for several years before and had done even more years of C++ programming before that. Many more. The point I'm trying to make is that even if I was immersed in this type of programming all week, I'd probably look up over half that stuff anyways. To give the caller the benefit of the doubt, I'm not sure if she was looking for answers to the questions or just general reactions, or maybe even a little bit of both. Whatever she was looking for, I shouldn't expect a call back. In my defense, I'm a seasoned programmer and am beyond stuffing my head with inane programming tidbits. You want the answers? Try Google. I'd like to think that I free my mind for things that are less tangible, more creative. That I can come up with programming solutions you can't copy and paste from an on-line database. In hindsight I wish I could have expressed that to her. But then if she's looking for specific answers, it wouldn't have mattered. It wasn't a total loss, the phone screening was good for practice, if nothing else. Now back to the first question. Ever wonder why programmers use foo and bar in examples for functions and variables? It comes from the acronym fubar, which pretty much summarizes my first "phone screening".


Zen Wizard said...

A lot of pressure--a call out of the blue to see if you can think on your feet.

Julie said...

It's really a poor interviewing technique, even in a screening situation. You probably don't want to work there anyway.

Vivian said...

The screeners are usually some HR people, and as we all know, they are full of ..... Good luck with the next call!