Make me understand this interview question

Name and describe a different Linux/Unix command for each letter of the alphabet. But also, describe how a common flush toilet works.

This question was asked in an interview, what does that flush toilet mean :thinking::thinking::sweat_smile:

If you are old enough, you may remember how non-flush
toilets worked!!!

We need to remember that flush toilets are not universal. Some locations use other methods. But the tough question is the 26 different Linux commands.

Funny. This is one of those interview questions that tell you that the interviewer doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. If you are looking for someone remembering 26 words that happen to be random Linux commands, you might as well be looking for monkeys that remember shit for a banana.


Depends what kind of job you are applying for.

  • If you are applying for a Linux related job, your focus should be on the commands.
  • If you are applying for a plumber’s job, your focus should be on answering how the flush toilet works.

These decoy questions are simply to test the attitude of the candidates. If you focus more on the toilet question, your concentration on the commands breaks. That’s the test (in my opinion) to see if the candidate is focused on his task or runs after irrelevant stuff.

You can answer the commands and then simply say that you don’t know how the flush toilet work. You never found the need to understand its mechanism.


However, even with this interepretation it is still not clear when hearing this question. What if the toilet flush is just a metaphora? What if understanding the toilet flush metaphora would show you that actually citing so many commands would be useless and this metaphora explains you why? Additionally, no real interviewer will want to waste their interview time among so many candidates just for hearing an applicant say 26 words for which he probably needs at least 2 minutes, if not 5 or more, while it being a quite inefficient task. Therefore, if I would’ve been the applicant I would’ve laughed and asked what this question is about. Because quite honestly, I couldn’t take this question seriously.

Understanding the engineering behind how a simple device like a flush toilet works, could demonstrate a keen engineering mind perhaps?

I aint no plumber, but I’ve fixed a few dodgy cisterns in my time… it’s pretty much about gravity and buoyancy of the floater dooziwhatsit (apologies for technical jargon)…

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