Saturday, November 21, 2015


I have been interviewing candidates for Java developer jobs for a full decade at this point. I have tried various approaches for the interviews: various tests about language and the APIs, whiteboard programming, bug hunting, homework assessments, etc. There is no best approach for the interviews - it merely depends on the expectations, candidate background, position, day of the week, weather, whatever else.

Despite all the details, I’ve found one interview question that works like a charm. It is almost the best question to start with. And it is quite efficient in filtering the candidates early enough if have to screen a lot of candidates.

Here’ it is:

What is the different between final, finally & finalize?

How is this even a question, you would ask? Asking about the difference of the things that cannot be compared!? Well, apparently, a lot of developers can't make a clear difference. Those who don’t - you just don’t have to interview them further :)

OK, you asked this and candidate answered this brilliantly, now what? Well, I did tell you that it is a very good question to start with, didn’t I? Next, you can take it to any direction of your choice:

  • final - you may take the discussion to Reflection API, for instance. Or you can discuss how the final keyword helps with concurrent programming in Java.
  • finally - talk more about the exceptions in Java and discuss some puzzles. Like the one below. What does it print?
  • finalize - the discussion about finalize() method is only useful to validate the nerd level of the candidate. Usually you’d check why one shouldn't use finalize() in first place. Maybe some rare candidate can tell about legitimate uses of finalize(). This most likely shows that he or she remembers what is written in Item 7 from Effective Java.

I hope you get my point now, why this strange question is a very good one for the Java interviews. Have fun!

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