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The internet is full of suggestions on systems programmer questions. System programmer interviews can be challenging, especially given the wide range of skillsets out there. A recent Quora post offered some suggestions, and here are three you may want to consider for your next system programmer interview.

“What happens when you type ‘1s’?”

Keith Adams says an entire generation of VMWare candidates were hired on this question, going on to say “You can’t really snow your way past it if the interviewer is calibrated on this question; keep drilling down until they admit they don’t know how some layer works, and ask them to reason about how it would have to work anyway.”

“Ask them to describe things they did in the past and see if they ever point out hardware limitations in their designs. Ask them about how different hardware choices would alter their designs.”

Kostadis Roussos, a principal engineer at VMWare likes this question because “A good systems programmer will be able to answer the questions quickly and thoroughly. A poor one will struggle trying to connect the dots between the changes in hardware and his design choices.”


“What is the hardest race condition you have debugged?”

Kartik Ayyar, an engineer at Google and formerly at NetApp, likes this question for a host of reasons, including that it lets him ” flush people who pretend they are “systems programmers” just because they checked in some code into a kernel, when in reality they worked on the low complexity portions of a product.”



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