Having fun on a technical test
I guess it’s not a secret: I’m looking for a job, either short-term or long-term, so I put my CV on a few websites. I got called by head-hunters twice this week: once for a contract to start on Monday (I’m busy until the end of September/the beginning of October so I told ‘em I couldn’t start full-time until then) and one to start a bit later.
The second (first one to call, actually) is for a position that looks a lot like the one I have at Optel, but they wanted two references and wanted me to take a tech test on C++. That was fun.
I had 90 minutes to do the tech test they sent me by E-mail. The test was only ten pages, 12 questions, one of which was improving a piece of some of the ugliest code I’ve ever seen - uglier even than the code I put on the tech test I wrote for Optel (and that’s hard to beat) but with less diversity in its errors (so actually easier than the code I put on my tech test): the code simply had one fundamental flaw from which most others followed - and a few minor style errors that could be dangerous if overlooked.
There was another question on the test that was more fun, though: a description of a function muck like strtok, but not allowed to change the input string and, unlike strtok, it had to be re-entrant. Of course, there’s a whole slew of ways to implement that, so I picked two - one using boost::tokenizer and one not using it - and implemented them both.
Tech tests, IMO, are an excellent forum to show off. In fact, they’re one of the few forums where you should show off - the others being, um…, I’ll let you think of that. According to the description, I had ten minutes to write the code for the function. I wrote the version using Boost in two minutes, the version without Boost in four - so I wrote both within the ten minutes. If I had taken the four remaining minutes, I could easily have spit out another two versions - but there’s a limit to showing off.
Thinking back, I think I may have over-done it a bit: I was pretty pedantic on the first few questions of the test, sometimes going into the details of the language a bit more than was asked, and I made a point of using both english and french to respond to different questions - being an immigrant, people expect me to speak english but not french, so I showed off on that too.
Now, I’ll just have to go back to being my “humble” self again :)