TSQL Tuesday #93: Interviewing Patterns & Anti-Patterns

Happy TSQL Tuesday and thank you to Kendra Little (b|t) for hosting.


It depends: Interviewing anti-pattern

“It depends.”

Such a good and frequent DBA answer. Short, succinct and as frequently used as “best practice”. Also, it’s an interviewing anti-pattern. When left alone or paired with a complaint about not having enough information it is a sign of intellectual laziness and a bad mark in my interviewing grade book. It’s fine as the start of a discussion, but not as an answer.

In the last interview panel I was part of my co-worker gave his favorite Fermi question. How long would it take a bowling ball dropped off the side of a boat to reach the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean. I’ve heard this question in the past and most interviewees give an “It depends” or other similar “not enough information” answer. While true as there are unknown factors and they probably don’t have all the information they need to answer, it is not a good sign if they aren’t willing to try working through the problem. Our latest hire (he started this week) took a bit to think and then began to puzzle it out, using some estimates for the rate of fall and the depth of the deepest part of the ocean. After a bit of pen and paper calculation he gave us an answer. Now it wasn’t 2 hours and 20 minutes, but that doesn’t matter. We weren’t looking for accuracy here, we were looking for though process and he nailed that.

Now if only he had instead answered with the possibility of bowling the single most improbable strike of all time.


3 thoughts on “TSQL Tuesday #93: Interviewing Patterns & Anti-Patterns

  1. Kendra Little August 8, 2017 / 6:46 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I love your statement that “it depends” should only be the beginning of a conversation.

    I also am fascinated by the bowling ball question. I’m wondering if objects fall through water at different rates based on depth — because maybe the salinity of the water is different? I think with this type of question I would be great at listing out all the tests I’d like to perform, and I might eventually be able to substitute guess values in for the sake of coming up with an approach… and then I’d be like, “OK please tell me how this really works! I must know!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • timothydpeters August 8, 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Wow! I hadn’t thought of the salinity changing depending on the depth. That’s another factor to consider. Mr. Munroe hadn’t thought of that either.


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