Technical Interview Questions for Equal-Opportunity Employers


We had an engineering candidate come in for an interview yesterday. My coworker asked the following programming question:

Write a function that calculates the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand on a clock for a given point in time.

It’s a straightforward problem, but the kid didn’t know how an analog clock worked. Half the interview was spent teaching Junior how to tell time.

I’ve been on both sides of a lot of interviews. None of my questions ever involved analog clocks. The experience made me realize that tech company interviewers implicitly bias against qualified older employees when we fail to use relatable references.

Age discrimination is unacceptable. From now on, I’m framing all my technical interview questions in a way that demonstrates equality in employment opportunity:

  • Using a 2400 baud modem, how long will it take to download 2 gigs of porn if your mother picks up the phone to make a call every hour? How long will it take if your mother employs exponential backoff?
  • How many 5.25” floppy disks would you need to distribute a 1.65 MB installation of LotusWorks 1.0?
  • NBC broadcasts at 199.25 MHz. Your TV antenna is a 14-inch dipole and your house is located a quarter-mile east from an overhead power line. Where should you make your baby brother stand to minimize coupled noise during Knight Rider?
  • A rotary phone has a dial diameter of 10cm. Write a function that computes the total distance your finger must travel on the dial to call Jenny’s number.
  • David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is 38:37 minutes long. You depart San Francisco in a Chevette, traveling southbound on 101 at a speed of 55 mph. Using a pencil, how long will it take to rewind Ziggy Stardust by hand because your tape deck doesn’t have a Rewind button and Ziggy’s B-side sucks?
  • You have thirteen Sears Two-channel Walkie Talkies, each with a range of a quarter mile. What is the maximum area your army can occupy while maintaining Byzantine fault tolerance?
  • Elaine’s Chevy Nova has a battery capacity of 45 Amp-Hours. After leaving her 50-Watt headlights on overnight, how fast does Elaine need to run to push start the car on a 60-degree morning?
  • Write a function that computes the subset sum of an array in polynomial time. Present your solution in Hollerith Card Code.

If you excel at these questions, please consider applying for a job at Abra, an equal-opportunity employer.


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