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 a 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.

Three 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 arrogant mid-20s, head overinflated from picking and choosing ridiculously remunerated dotcom jobs, I’d probably have said something smart-arsed, dropped the mic, and made myself a better story. But I think it was around 2003-2004 time, when I was properly grown up and jobs were thin on the ground. So I suspect I said something like “I don’t know, but man ls will tell you.

I don’t remember if I was offered the job or not.

ruby -e "puts (('a'..'z').to_a - (%x(ls --help).downcase.scan(/^\s+-([a-z])/).uniq.flatten))"