Recently I saw that a lot of interview question threads on SO are being closed. This hasn't always been like this. I wonder if there's any official policy on this matter.

Personally, I think that discussing interview questions is a good idea. Being able to search, for example, [interview-questions] [c++] to see a list of C++ interview questions is useful. Is this discouraged?

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6 Answers

My personal list of stuff that I usually vote to close/downvote/roll my eyes at:

  • If the question deals with a logic/math puzzle or a riddle to get people thinking, and has no connection to actual programming, it doesn't belong. (Example)
  • If the question is just asking for a list of possible questions to ask someone they're interviewing, then it's probably too open-ended or subjective for SO. (Example) If it's CW, it's presence is more tolerable. (Example)
  • If the question is just discussing the interview process in general, then it's probably very subjective and not programming-related. (Example)

Other than that, most everything else is usually fine. (Example)

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Very interesting list. Yes, ultimately, it is a question of quality or the types of questions being asked. As a blanket category, then, we can't know apriori if it's a good interview question or a bad one... Until we see it. You gave some great examples. –  Mike Rosenblum Jan 15 '10 at 16:28
    
Regarding the second point, community wiki is no longer regarded as a free pass for questions. –  Gilles Mar 17 '12 at 23:54
    
4/5 of the links provided by you have become - "Page not found". And my personal feeling is that examples are a vital part of your answer. –  eeerahul Nov 20 '12 at 10:30
    
@eeerahul: They have been deleted, but are still visible to users with 10k+ rep. However, the fact that most of them have been deleted by now lends credence to the argument that the sorts of questions I describe above are generally unacceptable. –  gnostradamus Nov 20 '12 at 15:27
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I don't know what the policy "is", but I think it would be a real loss if they were discouraged or closed by default.

These questions:

  1. Involve us all in some way: we're all programmers. Some of us are hiring, others are employed or hoping to be hired.
  2. The questions are usually interesting and often involve actual code, or at least a high-level algorithmic discussion. They are all programming related in some way.
  3. As a potential hire, it really is good practice to get a feel for the kinds of questions that could be asked.
  4. Many of the questions are from interviewers who are asking for feedback along the lines of "Do you think this is a good interview question for me to ask?" Quite often, they are not -- they are esoteric at best -- and the replies include commentary on how to improve the question, or why to avoid this kind of question.

I believe that these discussions are excellent ones for a programmer community such as this one. They should be marked as a 'Community Wiki', because they typically involve opinions and/or are open-ended discussions, but I think it is a huge benefit to the Stack Overflow members that a group of talented programmers can get together and have high-level discussions such as these.

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My personal line-in-the-sand is whether the question could have been asked at any other non-programming site, or answered successfully without any programming content.

If so, it's not suited for this site - there are hundreds of forums on the internet for interview information, and simply saying, "What's your greatest strength - for programmers" is no reason to have it on this site.

But technically there is no "policy" - the site is community moderated, and the "policy" may change from month to month, day to day, and even hour to hour depending on who's on the site at a given time.

If one wants to post an interview question, they'll quickly find that if it's not allowed, it's definitely in a gray area, and will receive a lot of negative and positive attention as people vote to close and open it.

Generally, it's best to stay away from gray areas, and simply post objective and real programming questions, rather than subjective job-search questions.

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The policy-changing-fluidly-depending-on-whois-online problem you're describing is a really unpleasant aspect of SO. We programmers don't like unpredictable behavior –  Eli Bendersky Jan 15 '10 at 16:17
    
Perhaps, but if you define the "policy" so clearly and finely so that every situation can be determined, you end up with a policy that rivals the US tax code. And it still won't be followed. You have to punish moderators who "fall out of line", start auditing close and open votes, etc, etc. It cannot work that way. So programmers have to learn to go with the flow. –  Adam Davis Jan 15 '10 at 16:43
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But the reality is - IT ONLY MATTERS IF YOU ASK A QUESTION IN THE GRAY AREA - this bears emphasis. People who like to live in the nebula can't complain when they are hit by a meteor. –  Adam Davis Jan 15 '10 at 16:45
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Well, to me, they come under the heading of 'subjective and argumentative', just like other management questions. But they rarely appear in my personal tag cloud, so I don't make a habit of voting to close them.

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That type of question will often get closed if it isn't asked as a Community Wiki, or if it is poorly worded.

They will also often get closed if the question could easily apply to non-programmers.

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In some cases these questions can be ethically questionable, as Rosinante points out. Some companies give "take home" interview questions; in other cases SO works so well that it could be used during a phone interview. Even if the question is asked after the interview, if you don't know design patterns learning the answer to one question does little to further your education.

I don't think they're unethical in every case, but it makes me wonder about the poster.

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