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C++ Interview Questions

by Curtis Krauskopf

When I am soliciting a prospect for a programming contract, many those customers interview me using traditional interviewing techniques: a resume, standard interview questions and job references. Others are more interested in a salesmanship approach in which I sell them on my abilities and show samples of prior work.

I work both as a contractor and as paid employee and I've even hired professional programmers. It doesn't matter to me which position I have because the money spends the same regardless of how I earned it. Most importantly, I have fun with the projects I work on.

In a recent unscientific poll on (a magazine for C++ programmers), 88% of the respondents are paid for their programming work through a corporation, as a private contractor or through government, educational and non-profit organizations.

Unless you're a hobbyist, at some point in your career you will be interviewed for a software development position. The best interviewing advice follows the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared". In addition to knowing the company, knowing their industry, knowing their products and practicing standard interviewing questions ("So why do you want to work for us?"), software engineers are expected to be able to communicate their knowledge of their art and demonstrate their skills on demand.

Charles Lewis puts this in perspective in a response he wrote on "As for the questions, it really depends if you are working on the hardware or software side. The questions they might ask a prospective embedded software/hardware programmer tend to center around subjects like interfacing between the two, while strict software questions often fall into common categories...linked lists, operator overloading, class implementations...".

I've prepared a list of common C++ interviewing questions. Some are ones that have been asked me; others I've asked as an interviewer.

Like most things, the questions tend to fall into categories:

  • Language Issues
  • Definitions
  • Acronyms
  • Efficient Programming
  • Practical Programming
  • Buzz Phrases
  • Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Brain Teasers
  • What's wrong with this code
  • Showing Skills with Short Programs:
  • Language Lawyer
  • Unfair Questions

Simulating the Interview

You could read this article and mentally check-off each question. But that wouldn't prepare you nearly as well as going the extra step: simulating an interview.

Interview Preparation

Set up a video camera and to record your interview. If you don't have a video camera available, an audio recorder will be sufficient.

Find a friend that can grill you on these questions. It's helpful if the friend is also a software developer because they will be able to correctly speak the acronyms and words that are peculiar to programming. Set up the rules for the simulated interview: the interview will be as close to a 'normal' interview as possible. The interviewer should not do distracting things like read a newspaper, or comment on your answers, or try to provoke you into an argument. The interview should be at most one hour long.

As an interviewee, you should likewise treat it just like a real interview. If you stumble on a question, practice how you would recover just like it had been a real situation. Everything you say, and all of your nonverbal cues, should be exactly the way you would do it in a real situation.

To help prepare for the part, dress for the part. Have your friend dress in something other than a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. Similarly, you should be in your best interviewing clothes -- including using that tie in your closet that you haven't worn in a couple years.

In American culture, interviews are usually face-to-face with a desk or small table between the participants. Telephone interviews should also be practiced. This can be simulated by facing away from the interviewer. I personally find telephone interviews to be more difficult because I receive many cues from the nonverbal communication of the person I'm talking to.

Keep the Interview Short

If you're not finished within an hour, save the unasked questions for a followup interview. The reason for limiting the interview to an hour is so you have time to review your recording and critically critique yourself with the interviewer to find out what you did right and what you can improve. Repeat this exercise until you are ready for a real interview.

Just so you don't accidentally peek at the questions before you're ready, all of the questions are on the next page. You can and come back when you're ready to simulate a real C++ job interview. When you're ready to start the interview click on the Start the Interview button.

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