The World's Worst Interview Question
28 September 2017

Everywhere I work, whenever we interview new people, I end up telling this story. So I might as well write it down.

About fifteen years ago, I was being interviewed for some sys-admin job or other. There were two people, my prospective manager, and some techie. I remember nothing of the manager’s questions, so they must have been pretty standard. Then over to the techie, who asked me, with some gravitas, the single most stupid question I’ve ever been asked at interview.

Four letters of the alphabet are not valid options in GNU ls. What are they?

The story kind of breaks down here, because it’s so long ago, I can’t remember what I said. If it had been the late ’90s, me in my 20s, head overinflated from picking and choosing ridiculously remunerated dotcom jobs, I’d have said something smart-arsed, dropped the mic, and made myself a better story. But I think it was around 2003-2004 time, when being able to build clustered E10ks commanded £17.50 an hour. (Really. I was offered that.) So I suspect I said something like “I don’t know, but man ls will tell you. I regret that now.