[Haskell-cafe] Haskell, Microsoft, and interview questions

Andrew Wagner wagner.andrew at gmail.com
Wed Jun 25 16:14:21 EDT 2008

This post borders on being off-topic, but it seems like people on this
list would be interested.

First, some of you know that I had the distinct privilege of flying
out to Microsoft this week to interview for a Software Development
Engineer position on their Live Search team. So I want to first tell
you about their reaction to my Haskell experience, and then give you
some interesting coding problems that they asked me to solve, which
could be good practice to tackle in Haskell.

So the first task I was given to do, long before my in-person
interview, was to complete a technical assessment. This consisted of
two fairly simple algorithms to write. I chose to do so in Haskell. On
the basis of this assessment, they decided I was worth a phone
interview. When I got on that interview, one of the first things the
interviewer said was "So, one thing that jumped out immediately was
that you did the assessment in Haskell. Tell me a little bit about
that." It led to a good discussion about why I like Haskell and
functional programming. When I actually flew out there, several people
made comments about me being "that guy who writes Haskell". The
recruiter even said something along the lines of "anyone who knows
haskell is certainly worth our time to talk to." Moral of the story:
Haskell rocks, and even Microsoft knows it!

That said, here are some interesting problems to work through in
Haskell, if you'd like:

1.) A "rotated array" is an array of integers in ascending order,
after which for every element i, it has been moved to element (i + n)
mod sizeOfList. Write a function that takes a rotated array and, in
less-than-linear time, returns n (the amount of rotation).

2.) You are given a list of Ball objects. Each Ball is either Red or
Blue. Write a function that partitions these balls so that all of the
balls of each color are contiguous. Return the index of the first ball
of the second color (your result can be Red balls, then Blue balls, or
the other way around). In haskell, you'll probably want to return a

3.) Live Search is a search engine. Suppose it was to be tied into an
online store. Now you're given two lists. One is a [(SessionId,
NormalizedQuery)]. That is, when a particular user performs a query,
it is turned into some consistent format, based on their apparent
intent, and stored in this logfile. The second list is a [(SessionId,
ProductId)]. This indicates the product bought by a particular user.
Now, you want to take these two (potentially very long) lists, and
return some structure that will make it easy to take a query and
return a list of the most popular resulting purchases. That is, of
people who have run this query in the past, what are the most common
products they've wound up buying? The interviewer said that this is an
instance of a well-known problem, but I didn't catch the name of it.

4.) You're given an array which contains the numbers from 1 to n, in
random order, except there is one missing. Write a function to return
the missing number.

5.) Write a function to reconstruct a binary tree from its preorder
traversal and inorder traversal. Take into account that the traversals
could be invalid.

6.) You have a [(WeatherStationId, Latitude, Longitude)]. Similar to
#3, write a function which will, off-line, turn this into a data
structure from which you can easily determine the nearest Weather
Station, given an arbitrary Latitude and Longitude.

7.) Write a function for scoring a mastermind guess. That is, in a
game of mastermind
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastermind_(board_game)), given a guess,
and the actual answer, determine the number correct, the number wrong,
and the number out of place.

8.) Implement a trie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trie) data
structure. Write a function add, which takes a word, and a trie, and
adds the word to the trie. Write another function lookup, which takes
a prefix and a trie, and returns all the words in the trie that start
with that prefix.

9.) Write an algorithm to shuffle a deck of cards. Now write a
function to perform some kind of evaluation of "how shuffled" a deck
of cards is.

Hope you enjoy!

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