Interview question: what is the first thing you do?

Thread Starter

bug13

Joined Feb 13, 2012
1,889
Hi guys

Just try to understand an interview question I got asked a while ago. The role is intermediate Embedded software engineer. One of the question I think I definitely got it wrong is:
What is the first thing you do when I assign you a task?
And I answered:
  1. Understand the requirements/schematic
  2. Setup up debug interface.
But I think those are not the answers they are looking for. What sort of answers do you think they are looking for?

Thanks guys!
 

KeithWalker

Joined Jul 10, 2017
1,301
Hi guys

Just try to understand an interview question I got asked a while ago. The role is intermediate Embedded software engineer. One of the question I think I definitely got it wrong is:

And I answered:

But I think those are not the answers they are looking for. What sort of answers do you think they are looking for?

Thanks guys!
I would ask "When must the task be completed by?".
Regards,
Keith
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
6,963
I would ask "When must the task be completed by?".
Regards,
Keith
But that may be implied by his asking what the requirements are?

Imho, this is is an interview question without a specific answer... What platform will this be implemented on? What languages can be used? What will this task need to interface with? What are the source of the inputs? What outputs are necessary? Etc...

There are dozens of “correct answers”. I like the TS response, but would have followed up with more questions!
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,304
Hi guys

Just try to understand an interview question I got asked a while ago. The role is intermediate Embedded software engineer. One of the question I think I definitely got it wrong is:

And I answered:
  1. Understand the requirements/schematic
  2. Setup up debug interface.
But I think those are not the answers they are looking for. What sort of answers do you think they are looking for?

Thanks guys!
I think it's probably a bit early for #2, but #1 is right on track.

I hate questions where you are having to guess what the person asking the question had in mind, but if they are any good they will keep an open mind and consider whether or not what you responded was reasonable regardless of what they were hoping for.

I would have said something along the lines of: The hardest part of solving any problem is usually understanding what the problem really is. So I would make sure that I had a firm understanding of the task, to include not just what the specific task was, but also, to the degree possible, what the bigger problem is that this task is a part of -- it could be that there is a completely different, but better, way of solving that bigger problem. Then I would make sure that I had a good understanding of what constitutes success in completing this task; how good is good enough? When does it have to be done by? What resources are available and what constraints must I live within? What aspects of it are the most important and which ones are less important? Who is the person that I can interface with that has the knowledge and authority to answer questions and make decisions about this task? Of course, the amount of time I spend gathering all of this information is going to depend on the scope and cost of the task.
 

KeithWalker

Joined Jul 10, 2017
1,301
I still believe that the most important thing about any task is knowing the expected delivery date. When you know that, you can determine what resources are required to complete the task in the allotted time.
For many years, I was a technical consultant and project engineer for Hewlett Packard Canada.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,304
I still believe that the most important thing about any task is knowing the expected delivery date. When you know that, you can determine what resources are required to complete the task in the allotted time.
For many years, I was a technical consultant and project engineer for Hewlett Packard Canada.
It's certainly a very important thing, but saying that it's the most important thing is a bit much. That's like deciding what the most important organ is in the human body or the most important part of an airplane or car engine is. There are numerous things that all have to work or be in place and so it's hard to claim that any one of them is somehow more important than all of the others.

Even in this case, the claim is that when you know what the expected delivery date is you can determine what resources are required to complete the task in the allotted time. Really? Okay, the task is expected to be completed and delivered on 30 June of this year. What resources are required?
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
6,963
IMHO, in a real task, the delivery date may not be known. It could be a task just to find out how long another task might take to deliver. In that case, there may not be a due date but rather a drop dead date. I’ve worked on projects just like that.
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
10,518
I have never been interviewed for such a job. Given that, I agree that response #1 seems fine. As for AlbettHall's comment (#4), I see nothing wrong with believing you are the best. Be prepared to back it up. For example. in another thread, the TS was complaining about being asked to program the Fibonacci series. To me ( I have a biological background), that is not a difficult series to do, if you recognize the name. Be prepared.
 

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
1,232
The correct answer: With an indignant tone, "Man, I'm not interviewing for your job! I'm here to get things done! I know the requirements, you gave them to me. I know the time-schedule: critical. You want it yesterday. You wasted your time and money on every other joker out there before you finally brought it to an engineer- and now I have no resources to work with. Typical. And the reason you're asking me is because you don't have a clue. The only question I have is- what are my constraints? No, I don't need you to tell me that, that's the first thing I determine. I'm an _engineer_, that's what I do. Make the implausible work in the impossible before you realized you needed it. Finding the constraints to your silly question so it can finally be solved. Now, do I have the job or what, or do you want to keep wasting my time and your money with silly questions?"

Hopefully that brings some humor to folks out there :)
 

Thread Starter

bug13

Joined Feb 13, 2012
1,889
The correct answer: With an indignant tone, "Man, I'm not interviewing for your job! I'm here to get things done! I know the requirements, you gave them to me. I know the time-schedule: critical. You want it yesterday. You wasted your time and money on every other joker out there before you finally brought it to an engineer- and now I have no resources to work with. Typical. And the reason you're asking me is because you don't have a clue. The only question I have is- what are my constraints? No, I don't need you to tell me that, that's the first thing I determine. I'm an _engineer_, that's what I do. Make the implausible work in the impossible before you realized you needed it. Finding the constraints to your silly question so it can finally be solved. Now, do I have the job or what, or do you want to keep wasting my time and your money with silly questions?"

Hopefully that brings some humor to folks out there :)
I think I will get my a** kicked off the office very quickly if I said that:p
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,304
The correct answer: With an indignant tone, "Man, I'm not interviewing for your job! I'm here to get things done! I know the requirements, you gave them to me. I know the time-schedule: critical. You want it yesterday. You wasted your time and money on every other joker out there before you finally brought it to an engineer- and now I have no resources to work with. Typical. And the reason you're asking me is because you don't have a clue. The only question I have is- what are my constraints? No, I don't need you to tell me that, that's the first thing I determine. I'm an _engineer_, that's what I do. Make the implausible work in the impossible before you realized you needed it. Finding the constraints to your silly question so it can finally be solved. Now, do I have the job or what, or do you want to keep wasting my time and your money with silly questions?"

Hopefully that brings some humor to folks out there :)
Answer: Nope, I don't want to keep wasting either your time or my money. Next! :D
 
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