Joel On Interviewing Attacked

In Joel Spolsky's Guerilla Guide to Interviewing, he says he likes to ask candidates to: "design a house". The "design a house" question was imported from Microsoft and using it the way Spolsky does is a terrible way to interview.

He states, "I will not hire someone who leaps into the design without asking more about who it's for. Often I am so annoyed that I will give them a hard time by interrupting them in the middle and saying, 'actually, you forgot to ask this, but this is a house for a family of 48-foot tall blind giraffes.'...

Unless you are an architect, the only house you will ever design will be one for yourself. So what's wrong with assuming during an interview that the question referred to a house for yourself?

If you ask me how I pick out a pair of shoes, I will assume you are talking about how I pick out shoes for myself to wear, not that you are asking how I would behave if I were a fashion consultant to someone else.

Imagine this:

Interviewer: Joe and Tom have $21 total. Joe has $20 more than Tom. How much does Tom have?

Candidate: 50 cents.

Interviewer: No, it's 60 cents. This takes place in a country where there are 120 cents in a dollar. You should have asked me to clarify that.


If you are actually trying to hire the best people, using this question the way Spolsky describes won't tell you much of anything.
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