Python coding test problem for interviews

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@Kal Handling emoticons vs other punctuation can be made non-trivial if you plan the question well.

I specially like we dont care what people have memorized

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Thats one of the things we do now. But it turns out to be too easy in Python.

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Ive tidied up the question a bit. See the original linked above along with my answer. It tests a number of things, and there are different ways of tackling the problem. They can also get a half-solution out that first disregards the emoticons and punctuation aspect. Just finding the emoticons is another sub-problem that can be solved separately. And so on…

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permutations of a string is built in in Python. Also, a good python programmer will, in many circumstances, prefer a non-recursive solution.

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Ive asked candidates to write code to implement bowling scoring before, which is readily comprehensible but contains enough wrinkles that most people have to iterate their approach a couple times to cover all the edge cases.

We have a problem which we use for Java coding tests, which involves reading a file and doing a little processing on the contents. It works well with candidates who are familiar with Java (or even C++). But were running into a number of candidates who just dont know Java or C++ or C or anything like that, but do know Python or Ruby. Which shouldnt exclude them, but leaves us with a dilemma: On the one hand, we dont learn much from watching someone struggle with the basics of a totally unfamiliar language. On the other hand,the problem we use for Java turns out to be pretty trivial in Python (or Ruby, etc)- anyone halfway competent can do it in 15 minutes. So, Im trying to come up with something better.

That would make sense if this was a test of their knowledge of Python, but thats not the goal. We want to see a design, watch it evolve and get debugged, etc.

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I can literally do FizzBuzz with my eyes closed in python using emacs. Its super trivial

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That sounds close enough to our Java problem that I suspect its going to be too easy unless the requirements get pretty complicated, which is not ideal.

Heres aquestion I answered on SO recentlythat might be the start of something suitable:

Cant you let them do your Java question in Python?

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Surprisingly, Google doesnt show me anyone doing something like this, unless Im just too dumb to enter the obvious search term. The best idea Ive come up with involves scheduling workers to time slots, but its maybe a little too open-ended. Have you run into a good example? Or a bad one? Or do you just have an idea?

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Im not looking for a tough algorithmic problem- there are other sections of the interview where we do that kind of thing. The point of this section is to sit and watch them actually write code. So it should be something that makes them use just the data structures which are the everyday tools of the application developer – lists, hashtables (dictionaries in Python), etc, to solve a quasi-realistic task. They shouldnt be blocked completely if they cant think of something really clever.

@macrog He stated that the Java thing is really trivial in Python etc.

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Good analogy needed: Sec issues due to different coders implementing the same features in different ways for the same app

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Given a stringO João foi almoçar 🙂 ., split it into a list of words. You must strip all punctuation except for emoticons. Result for example:[O,João, foi, almoçar, :)]

I also suggest searching through thepython+interview-questionsquestions posted on SO. There are some good ones, and you may even want to broaden your search to skim allinterview-questionsposts if you have time.

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@Kal then asking them to define a class that did some file I/O might be a good idea.

You can always just give them a few more questions on top of the Java one, like ask them to do the Java task, then ask them to define a class, then ask them to doFizzBuzz. That should be about as rigorous as your Java task.

A lot of the problems at which are taken from ACM competitions, are also suitable for your use. I used them to familiarize myself with python syntax and language features. A lot amount to straightforward application of standard data structures; some are more focused on algorithmic issues. If you sort through them Im sure youll find several that fit your needs.

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Sadly that link is now dead. Old question I know, but still top so maybe select a different answer?

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The tagged search (interview questions + python) returns nothing, as does interview quetions by itself. 🙁

Im trying to come up with a good coding problem to ask interview candidates to solve with Python.

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Theyll have an hour to work on the problem, with an IDE and access to documentation (we dont care what people have memorized).

Dont be afraid to ask a series of questions. Maybe you can even ask them to write a few one-liners to make sure they get the finer points of Python (write a list comprehension, how do you define a lambda, etc.)

@Ivo Missed that part. @Kal Can you tell us the Java question so we know the level youre looking at?

+1 For list comprehensions, let them do FizzBuzz in a list comprehension, that can be done in under 2 minutes. And then some other non trivial comprehension stuff, or iterators and such.

You could extend it to asking about emoticons adjacent to other punctuation, adjacent emoticons, overlapping emoticons, defining emoticons in:)form but also searching for those of the form:-). You could also turn it into a frequency count problem instead of just splitting to somewhat line up with your Java question.

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@Kal Well if you want have them to design something. Give them a more complex application barebone, tell them you want features X, Y and Z. Let them read the code (obviously shows you how long it takes them to understand the existing application), ask them how they are going to add the features to the existing code (shows you how theyre thinking when it comes to extend existing code), you can then see how the interact with the code etc. Put in a bug or two in the existing source to have them debug it.

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I dont know about Python specifically, but I found that interview questions which involve recursion are a very effective filter. I have asked candidates to produce all the permutations of a string (and think about how to test it), and I have been asked to pseudo-code the Longest Common Subsequence.

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