Let us take an example—rate yourself on a scale of 1–10 in SQL, one being that you do not know SQL and 10 being an expert in SQL. Say interviewees rated themselves a 3. How do you interpret that? How about 7? Frankly, I have no clue what anything on that scale would mean. If someone says 10, does that mean they can write a 100 table join query? Could they read a query plan? Could they improve the query based on a query plan? Could they implement a query engine? Do you see what I mean? The levels could be completely different. I believe this question is incomplete. You need to provide context and details of what each level means to answer this question correctly or make it effective.

Many people treat this as a confidence level. But your confidence level would be irrelevant if you don’t know what they are asking.

There are experts [ on the internet ] explaining how to answer this question. Just search for "on a scale of 1 to 10 interviews."

And you will find endless videos explaining how to answer this question. I watched some of them. The rule of thumb is to stay between 7-9 and avoid rating 10 or less than 7. I am not surprised that none of these experts think that there is anything wrong with the question. They do admit that this is a tricky question, though.

Job sites like Indeed and many others also host such content that describes how to answer such questions. Take this example-

Interviewers need to think about the effectiveness of this question before asking it.

The other side of the story

People now know that this is one of the most commonly asked questions. They have taken it to the next level in their resume.

Take a look at this repo: https://github.com/sharu725/online-cv

This repo provides a resume template where you can specify your skill levels on a resume.

I am not sure what to make of this representation of proficiency. Python 98%, JavaScript 98% How you interpret these percentages also depends on your knowledge of that subject. If someone puts in Cryogenic Engine: 76%, I wouldn’t have a clue about what the candidate knows about them. I don’t know a dime about cryogenic engines. It is rocket science!

To understand the gravity of this online resume template, take a look at the analytics.

This repo has been forked by 4300+ people. That means 4300+ people thought this representation was OK and there is nothing wrong with it. This number is representative and not accurate. There are hundreds of thousands of people who would not find this a lack of representation.

One more sample

https://github.com/mldangelo/personal-site / https://mldangelo.com/resume

This author is at least being honest that he thinks these are silly representations, but everyone seems to have them, so here it is.

I think instead of these cool looking graphics, if candidates described their experience with that technology in bullet points, that would be really helpful.

For example (let us extend the SQL example )


  • written complex queries with five table joins.
  • used materialised views.
  • can effectively read a query plan.



  • designed a query engine for an in-memory database.
  • I worked on the SQL parser, checker, and plan cache.

"Do you have any other methods to make this question effective? Have you ever asked such a question while interviewing someone? Have you answered this in any interview? I would like to hear your thoughts."


Found one more incorrect representation -

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