Job Interviews for Java Developers: Attention to Detail

Someone has read my post about interviewing where I wrote about String reversal, but got it totally wrong. Ironic. He didn't show much attention to detail, took quotes out of context, put things into my mouth that I've never said and concluded "Want a job? Reverse a string. The sad state of job interviews today." This post even got to DZone. So my post could also be titled: The sad state of DZone today.

Most of my interviews are 1h to 1.5h and sometimes 15 minutes of the interview is about reversing a String. This is mainly to get into the thinking of the candidate, see how he deals with fringe cases (null values as arguments) and if he chooses a JDK reverse method or not. Jonethen didn't pay much attention to detail, so for a starter he got my name wrong, it's Stephan not Stephen. A minor detail but a sign for what was to come later in his post and the comments.

Jonathan is angered by my mentioning of the recursive version of reversing a string. Although I wrote why I think it's interesting to discuss a recursive solution, he ignores my arguments and writes

".. only that he would be much more impressed if someone did write it out."

I didn't say that.

"He would probably give higher preference to someone who did use that technique,..."

No I won't and I didn't say that either. I said "The best implementation in Java is to use the reverse method of the StringBuffer class in the JDK." I specifically pointed out that the reverse version is impractical in Java for the immutable String class alone, not to mention the surrogate pairs problem. So to make myself clear again, the best solution is to use the reverse method of the StringBuilder class. Any candidate who uses this method has already impressed me, because from my experience very very few developer know this. Most would write some kind of array swap method. But it's not the cause I ask this question. It's to see if someone can write code (which doesn't need to be compiler ready, he's no IDE in the end) and get into a discussion about programming, unit testing, fringe cases, how to handle errors, quality assurance and other topics. And if someone has read this blog? Or another blog? And knows the answer? Well good, the answer is just the beginning. And considering that very few developers read blogs and articles to learn something new, I'm happy to interview a candidate who reads blogs in general.

Without getting personal, I look for more attention to detail in the candidates I have than Jonathan did when he did shred my post. And I look with far more attention to detail into candidates than Jonathan did use when reading my post. Ironic.

One poster in the comments of Jonathans post suggested using StringBuilder instead of StringBuffer, because StringBuilder is not synchronized and faster therefore. I think modern VMs can use escape analysis to detect synchronized blocks or methods which can be optimized away, as in the local usage of StringBuffers. There should be no difference between StringBuffers and StringBuilders in modern Java VMs. But it doesn't hurt to use StringBuilder.

Ending his article: "If a interviewer wants to talk about my past projects with me, then it should not take him long to realize that I am a competent." Or read a blog, as Jonthan suggested in Blogging gets people hired.

Hopefully he doesn't read your blog.


PS: I wish I don't sound the least bit like Hani 😉

Stephan Schmidt Administrator
CTO Coach , svese
Stephan is a CTO coach. He has been a coder since the early 80s, has founded several startups and worked in small and large companies as CTO. After he sold his latest startup he took up CTO coaching. He can be found on LinkedIn or follow him in Twitter.
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